History of Black Creek, Wisconsin
From: History of Outagamie County, Wilsonsin
Thomas H. Ryan - Editor in Chief
Goodspeed Historical Allociates, Publishers
Chicago 1911

Town of Black Creek. - More than two thirds of the area of township 23, range 17, was voted by the government swamp land, and so forbidding was the aspect of the territory the settlement of the town did not begin for several years after Osborn and Bovina, its neighbors on either side. While Bovina was scarcely more inviting, settlers were earlier attracted by reason of the Wolf river road rendering it accessible at an earlier date. The first settler in this town, so far as we can establish identity, was George Welch, who in 1857 purchased a tract in section 32, but lived in southeast, northeast 31. This section, though evidently stub land, was, during the early period of development, more thickly populated than any other in the town. There was no road in Black Creek at this time, the first of which we have knowledge being the "state road," which was established by the town of Center; then including Black Creek, October 21, 1858, as follows: commencing eighty rods west of the southeast corner of section 10, township 22, range 17, thence northwest as nearly as best grounds will admit, to the northwest corner of section 4 in same town, thence northwesterly to the northwest corner of section 32, township 23, range 17, thence north on best ground to the northeast corner of section six Town of Center agreed to pay only so much of the survey of road as was in township 22. The following year the Felios, John, Sr., and his sons, John, Jr., Joseph and Eustis, came in, and settled just south of Welch, and June 2, 1859, application of John Felio and others was granted for a high= way between section 32, township 23, range 17, and section 5, township 22, range 17, thence west on section line to town line of Ellington. Said road is located between Center and what is called Black Creek, and also the section line running north and south between sections 31 and 32, township 23, range 17. Although at this time we are unable to locate but two families in its territory, it would seem that a name had already been provided for a new town. That there may have been another family or two appears probable from the fact that in no other town of the county have we found so many changes of ownership in the early period as in this Careful investigation, however, does not reveal their identity if there were others here. Charles W. Hopkins appears as the next settler, September 15, 1859, and settled in section 32, on the state road. This was the first settlement on the state road above the southwest corner of section 11, township 22, range 17, long known as Battey's Corners, and though the road was ordered in 1858, C. M. Brainerd tells us it had' not been cut out through Black Creek in 1865. T. P. Bingham came a little after Hopkins and built a little saw mill north of Hopkins in section 29. George Huse was also a settler in 1859. Ten years earlier he had come, an unmarried veteran of the Mexican War, and settled in Ellington and assisted in the organization and early development of that town. On the northeast quarter of section 20 he built the first cabin in that part of the town, away beyond the sound of ax of the other settlers. School district No. 5 of the town of Center was formed the following year, May 9, 1860, which included all of townships 24, 23 and a portion of 22, range 17. This placed a school only about five miles from Mr. Huse.

The town of Black Creek in 1857 embraced town 23 north, range 17 east. At this date it was still atached to the town of Center. In the east, west and north parts it had extensive timber tracts. A wide belt of swamp land lay in the south. It had some of the best land in the state. Black Creek was about ten rods wide, with an average depth of four feet, and was a meandering stream. A ridge of land half a mile wide formed an admirable crossing and roadway through the swamp to the north line of the township on sections 6 and 7. On this crossing T. P. Bingham selected the site for the future village. A vote for a new bridge across Black Creek was taken at the last session of the legislature. The Outagamie and Shawano road was organizing, and was expected to cross Black Creek soon. That road was designed to pass northward to Osceola, then being laid out on section 7, town 25 north, range 17 east; by George H. Bacon. The timber in this town was mostly hardwood, with here and there strips of pine Small streams of pure sparkling water were abundant. The soil was exceedingly rich, and an abundance of good fanning land was yet to be had for from $3 to $6 per acre. Town 24 contained more pine and yet as a whole was as well adapted to fanning as town 23. An improvement company owned nearly all of the choice and valuable tracts of land in town 24 and held them at from $2.50 to $6 per acre.

At the November session (1861) of the county board of supervisors, the following petition was received:

"The undersigned inhabitants or landowners of the town of Center, Wisconsin, respectfully petition your honorable body to divide the said town of Center, creating a new town to be called Black Creek, said new town to consist of townships 23 and 24, range 17, and the first meeting to be held at the dwelling of C. W. Hopkins. Dated at Center the 11th November, 1861. (Signed) C. W. Hopkins, C. H. Fowle, Joseph Felio, John Berthier, Jerome D. Berthier, Frederick Packard, John Felio, Y. Felio, Wilson P. Berthier, George Welch, W. H. P. Bogan.

The committee on ordinance having reported favorably, by an ordinance of the board the prayer of the petitioners was granted, ordinance to be in force and effect from and after March 15, 1882.

Of the signers of the petition for separation, the Berthiers had come into the town. about 1860 and, not remaining long, little is known of them. The same is true of Fowle. Frederick Packard was with Hopkins and did not become a settler. W. H. P. Bogan bought his land in section 20 in 1849, was a lumberman, aside from which we fail to identify him with the development of the town.

Some settlers were in the southeast corner of the town, who came in the early '60s. Michael, David and Frank Herb in section 36. Joseph Steffen, a brother in law of the Herbs, lived in 25, and George Zimloch, who moved out again in 1862. Hiram Jones lived in the western settlement, G. M. Davis in section 33 in 1861-2.

The principal object in separating from Center was to secure an adequate system of roads and schools, and to that end the settlements in the southeast and southwest corners were in harmony. As directed by the creative ordinance the organization was effected April 1, 1862, by appointing T. P. Bingham, chairman; C. W. Hopkins, clerk; George Huse and George Zimloch, inspectors. From the minutes we learn it was resolved to elect one assessor and two constables; that the sum of $150 be levied for general expenses, $500 as - a special road tax, and that "each town officer shall be entitled to receive the compensation allowed by law for the several offices which he may hold." This provision was necessary, since the limited number of residents made it necessary for some to hold several offices.

A canvass of the votes at this town meeting showed that twelve electors had voted and that each of the candidates had received the total number of votes cast, and was duly elected as follows: C. W. Hopkins, chairman; George Huse and Mike Herb, supervisors; T. P. Bingham, town clerk; C. W. Hopkins, treasurer; Frank Herb, George Huse, G. M. Davis and John Felio, justices; Daniel Herb and Hiram Jones, constables; Joseph Steffen, assessor; George Welch, sealer of weights and measures.

The principal object of the town being road making, the board of supervisors met April 14, 1862, and established two road districts, No. 1 to comprise the eastern two tiers of sections, with Mike Herb overseer; and No. 2 the western four tiers. of which George Zimlock served as overseer until his removal, November 3, when George Huse was appointed in his stead. As yet no school had been held, but March 12, 1863, School district No. 1 was formed, comprising the western four tiers of sections in both townships, the clerk to give verbal notice to the inhabitants of the district of a school meeting March 19, at which to elect a director, treasurer and clerk of the district. The records are silent as to further action in school matters, and exact data is unobtainable from the few settlers of that period remaining, but by inference we take it the matter was held in abeyance for a year.

Meanwhile the second annual meeting was held April 7, 1863, at which seven votes were cast. Evidently the officers chosen at the first election had given satisfaction, the entire list being re-elected with the exception of one or two who had removed from town. The meeting increased the amount to be raised for general fund to $200, voting another $500 for special road tax, and by a resolution ordered that "the personal tax paid last year be refunded." This latter action is explained by the following: "Town board of equalization met July 6, 1863. No one appeared with any grievance and board completed its task and adjourned 7:30 p. m., there being no personal property taxable in the town of Black Creek."

If any additions to the settlement were made in the interval they are unrecorded and forgotten, but at the election held November 3, 1863, eight votes were cast and the poll list bears three new names, viz., John W. Terwilliger, of whom we have no further information; Christian Petran, who lived on town line south of Binghamton, and John B. Berner, who lived in southeast 29. Milton Farnham, a brother in law of George Huse, came about this time, and a German family, Peotter, in section 1. Settlement during this war period was slow and the records of the annual town meeting give us the name of but one who identified himself as a settler. This was Joel Snyder, who was elected supervisor and who further identifled himself with the town by marrying the first schoolma'am and settling in. section 17.

The first saw mill in town was a water power mill; just northeast of Binghamton, built by T. P. Bingham, operated by C. W. Hopkins. The little Bull Dog creek, on which it was built, could furnish but little power and the output was largely consumed in the vicinity. The next was a steam mill on the same site owned by Randall Johnson, which after a few years was burned. On rebuilding a feed mill was attached. Shingle and lath machinery was added to work up short and refuse stock, and when timber became scarce in the vicinity the mill was sold and removed to Deer Brook, above Antigo.

The first store was a small general store opened by C. W. Hopkins about 1865 at Binghamton; another was started later by J. M. Waite. Both were discontinued after the coming of the railroad and establishing stores at the new village of Middleburg, now Black Creek.

The first school in the town was held in the house of C. W. Hopkins, probably in the spring and summer of 1864. Miss Annie Batley, daughter of one of Center's early settlers. was the teacher. Her salary was $12 per month, out of which she paid fifty cents per week for board.

The first school house was built probably in the fall of that year, since a special town election was held in it March 25, 1865, and the regular town meeting in April, after assembling as usual at the Hopkins home adjourned to the school house.

The object of the special meeting at the school house was, to fill vacancies in offices of chairman and treasurer, occasioned by the absence of C. W. Hopkins in the army. Volney Simmons was elected chairman, and Gilbert Watson treasurer. Both were newcomers within the year, Simmons settling the southwest quarter of 16, which he later sold to Stutsman. Watson lived in section 31, was a man of considerable ability and was a leader among the Mormons who came about that time and settled in section 31 and vicinity. Among them were Emery Downie, who lived north of Binghamton, in 31, afterward in 33, where Herman lived later. Peter Harris, a Mormon preacher, lived in northwest 31; J. M. and George Waite. These people were said to have come from Nauvoo, Ill. Two other new names appear at about this time. M. D. Strope, who lived in 31, among the Mormons though not of their faith, and J. J. Baer, who located in section 32. Mr. Baer was a minister of the Winebrenner branch of the United Brethren Church.

At the annual meeting $250 was deemed necessary to meet the general expenses of the town, a general road tax of seven mills and a special tax to raise $300 for roads and $300 for school purposes was voted.

An appropriation of $300 for school purposes in a town only three years old was unusual in this county, but a second district was formed June 3 and other schools started. In the fall of 1865 C. M. Brainerd blazed a way to his tract in section 28, which he developed from a wilderness into a productive farm. In the fall of 1865 Capt. J. M. Baer joined his father in the settlement, and at once began an active part in the affairs of the town. Though the town was more than three years old roadmaking was yet in its infancy, due in part to the hardships imposed by the war period and in part by the physical characteristics of the town's area. One half the area was in the beginning well nigh impenetrable swamp, much of which is even yet unfit for cultivation. Added to this was a considerable area which has since been made tillable but which in the earlier period bore a most forbidding aspect to the road maker The first comers had made a foundation upon which others following could expend their energies in building and in the six years after the war and before the corning of the railroad settlement was more rapid and progress remarkable. Among those who came during this period were the Burdicks, who came about 1866 and lived east of George Huse in 21. John Sherman to southeast 28. P. O. Cornel about this time joined the Mormon colony in 31. John T. Pierce lived in 29. Ransom B. Hamm, northwest 29. Henry Stutsman, his brother Michael and their father, Michael, Sr., came in 1866 and bought out Volney Simmons in southwest 16. They were first of the Washington county Germans who in the later '60s and early '70s came in numbers Joseph G. Batley came from Center about this time but was at first engaged in lumbering, later settling in the town, now living in the village. C. R. Burch lived in southwest 28. O. C. Smith lived on state road in southeast 18. O. P. Worden, though not a Mormon, settled in section 31, but did not remain long. Nathan Rideout settled in the fall of 1867 on the creek in section 8. and Kinzie about the same time came to section 10. At this time there were no houses on the present site of the village. Cyrus Widger came in 1868 to northeast 9. John Casey settled first on state road between Baer and Hopkins, afterward removing to southwest corner of section 31. M. J. Bolinger lived on state road in southeast 7 John Welsh lived near Binghamton. A. H. Bates, about 1867, located in northeast 29. Charley Gruenert in 33, Lyman Cook lived in southwest 29, since known as. the Sassman farm. John Little was his neighbor in same section Sante11 also in southwest 20. Bacon in northwest 20 on state road. August Kluge in 22. Valentine Wolf in northeast 21, 1868. Peter Wolf in northwest 22 about 1870, and the same time George Bast in northeast 16: John Henning in. early '70s to southwest 15. Christian R. Seitz, 15.

From 1870. the settlers were mostly German speaking people from Washington county, or that section of the state. Among them were the Sassmans, Henry in 18, John in 21, Louis in 20; the Kitzingers in 20 and 21; Herman Wolf in 33; the Shimmelpfennings in 35; Bartman and his sons; Nick Rettler in 16; Fred and William Mau in 22 and 27. The first comers in Black Creek were almost without exception English speaking and first improvements throughout the town may be said to have been made by them. The German settlers carrying on and expanding the work so begun, some of the German people found land in the wild, but by industry and thrift have made good ffarms of what had been considered waste land.

In aid of the Green Bay & Lake Pepin Railway the town of Black Creek issued $12,000 bonds.

The town of Black Creek retained its original boundaries until 1871, when the citizens of the northern half of the town asked for division and separation of that portion to organize a new town. This petition was granted by an act of legislature, 1871, and thus by the creation of the town of Cicero, Black Creek lost one half her territory.

In November, 1879, Joseph Steffen, his son, and Charles Herb went hunting deer in the town of Black Creek. One of them wounded a deer, when, under a mistake, Mr. Herb shot and wounded both Steffen and his son, the latter dangerously. Dr. Levings attended the wounded.

On February 27, 1904, a meeting was held in the town hall of Black Creek to vote on the question of incorporating the village of Black Creek. In all 93 votes were cast, of which 88 were in favor of incorporation.

A Farmers' Institute was held at Black Creek early in December. 1896. Those taking part were George C. Hill, C. H. Everett. A. L. Hatch, Theodore Mark, Thomas McNiesh, C. P. Goodrich and others.

In July, 1899, a veritable tornade swept across Black Creek; a path 100 or more feet wide was swept clean as a floor. It moved from southwest to northeast. Damage was done at Tine,s house; one timber, 24x18, was carried 60 rods. The house of Charles Saxes and the house, barn and granary of James Mullin were destroyed. Mr. Louden lost his barn, and Mrs. Sepler her home and barn. The tornado swept through the Oneida reservation. The farmers 'turned out to assist the losers to restore their property; it was marvelous that no lives were lost, though there were narrow escapes. A mild tornado at Combined Locks soon afterward tore up trees by the roots, tipped over freight ears and sucked water from the river.

The original plat of Black Creek village, or Middleburg, as it was named, was laid out by Thomas J. Burdick about the time of the building of the G. B. & L. P. railway.

As soon as the railroad was completed a village rapidly sprung into existence. The mills having shipping facilities at hand were started and began manufacturing lumber in great quantities. Stores were at once started, a postoffice was established and Black Creek asserted itself a formidable rival of its neighbors Seymour and Shiocton.

The first building in Black Creek village, it is said, belonged to Henry Herman. The first mill at the village was built by him about 1872. A few years later Appleton and Letter established their mill. Dietzler and Knoll started a store and hotel, 1870. The building is now used for a drug store and is the oldest building in the village. Carl Curtis put up the next building, a saloon, still in use. The first postoffice in town was at Binghamton. C. W. Hopkins was the first postmaster and the office was at his home. After the railroad came through a postoffice was established at the village and a Mr. Herman was postmaster, Henry Peters was next. Both had stores, which were the first regular stores in the village, both carried general stocks, Peters, being most extensive. He sold to Strassburger, who in turn sold to Hunt. Gabel,s stock was next, and quite large. He afterward sold to Kessler.

This is another of the thriving villages in the northern part of the county to which the building of the G. B. & M. R. R. gave life. Considering the times there has been considerable building done here during the past year. We subjoin a list of those erected: R. A. Loope, frame store; J. Mueller, cabinet shop; G. Horning, store and barn; J. Lelage, store and blacksmith shop; Burdick Bros., blacksmith and wagon shop; F. Fanchon, dwelling; H. Peters, stable in the village also barn and stable on his farm across the creek; J. J. Curtis, frame barn; T. McNeish dwelling one mile west; D. M. Hammond, addition to barn; H. Knoll, stable and ice house; F. Hilger, granary and work shop.

Letter and Appleton do the leading business in the manufacturing line in Black Creek. They have a saw and flouring mill with first class facilities; have ten hands steadily employed. Randall Johnson does an extensive lumber business. His mill is located near Binghamton postoffice and was established seven years ago.

H. Herman does a successful lumber business in Black Creek. He has a first class mill, steadily in operation, employs twelve hands and does custom sawing.

F. W. Fairchild manufactures broom handles, owning a planing mill in connection. During past season built a dry house, a valuable addition to his facilities. H. Peters carries a large stock of general merchandise, buys wheat and does a heavy business in both lines. H. Homrig deals in general merchandise, though started only a month, is getting extensive trade. G. H. James deals in drugs. A. E. Burdick is engaged in wagon making and blacksmithing. J. Pube builds wagons to order. J. Breitenback has few superiors at the anvil. J. Le Sage has just opened his blacksmith shop. Peter Kamp manufactures durable harness. G. Webfer is a good shoemaker. J. Schlegel deals in stoves and general hardware. H: Jarelow makes satisfactory shoes. F. Ingleking deals in furniture. J. Voge, shoemaker. D. M. Hammond entertains the traveling public. H. Knoll conducts a hotel, ice house and saloon. C. C. Cordes runs a hotel and saloon. Mr. Nagelstock is one of the leaders in general merchandise in the northern part of the county.

"Black Creek business for the year, $61,500." - (Post, 1877.)

The first church in Black Creek was St. Mary,s Catholic Church, whose congregation organized about 1873 and erected its first church, 1874, and the pastor,s residence was bought by Rev. Bastian. The first resident pastor was Rev. Georgd Pasch, in 1903. He was succeeded by Revs. Colby and Ripp and by Rev. Francis Linder, the present pastor, in 1906. Having outgrown the old church it was sold and the present large and handsome structure erected, 1901.

Evangelical St. John,s congregation was organized by Rev. Siegmann of Appleton with a membership of about nineteen families. The church, a handsome cream colored brick building, was erected in 1877. The first minister was Rev. Haag. A parsonage was built in 1885, the present minister,s residence in 1892. This is the parent church of St. John's Congregation in Cicero and St. Matthew in Center, both served by Rev. W. Blasberg, present pastor of St. John,s in Black Creek.

The Evangelical Lutheran Parish of Black Creek comprises three congregations, St. Peters, in town; Black Creek, about three and one half miles southeast of the village; St. Paul,s in Binghamton, and Immanuels, in the village. Of these St. Peter,s is the oldest, organized about 1874 Immanuels, organized 1902, bought the church and built the parsonage about the same time, and the school house was bought and moved onto church ground in 1903. St. Paul,s congregation has twelve members with their' families; St. Peter's, thirty five, and Immanuel's, forty, all served by one pastor, Rev. Herzfeldt, residing in the village

The third church organization, the Methodist Episcopal, of which Rev. Shaw was pastor, built its church in 1878 and rebuilt in 1903. Its present pastor, Rev. Starkweather, resides in Seymour, having under his charge both congregations.

The Congregational Church of Black Creek was organized June 28, 1905, with twenty four members. Services had been held during the preceding six months by W. H. Griffith of Seymour and prior to that occasional services by various ministers. This church is still affiliated with the church at Seymour. Rev. Griffith was succeeded by C. A. O,Neil and the present pastor is Rev. Fred Dahlberg. The Sunday school dates its existence a year earlier than the church, when it was organized by Mrs. Dr. Phillips.

The Bank of Black Creek was organized December 23, 1903, with William Strassburger, president; Peter Ryser, vice president, and G. H. Peters, cashier, and directors, G. A. Zuehlke, August Strassburger, Charles Hagen, Henry Peters and B. J. Zuehlke. This directorate has since remained as at organization except G. A. Zuehlke, whose place on the board is now held by William Strassburger. The capital is $10,000 and the surplus $5,000.

The first officers of Black Creek village were C. J. Hagen, president; Ernst Bergman, supervisor; F. D. Weisenberger, clerk; J. N. Mick, treasurer; T. J. Schumacker, Silas Pierce, justices; Garrell Smith, constable; John Kessler, assessor; Peter Ryser, J. Schneider, J. G. Shaw, John Herman, Jul. Breitenbach and J. A. Koehler, trustees; John Priebe, marshal; Aaron Shaw, street commissioner. Ten bonds, in amount $2,500, were issued in 1906 and a village hall and engine house was built.


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