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

Town of Ellington. - This town like others in the county owes its first settlement to the great pine timber with which the slopes in the vicinity of Wolf river and Bear creek were covered and the further fact that there was a creek of sufficient power to operate a sawmill The history of the building of the mill is obscure. The government survey was no more than completed when the land was entered, but whether the mill was built before or after the land was bought is a debatable question. Certain it is the mill was there in 1847. H. J. Diener who saw it in 1848 describes it as appearing several years old, and settlers of 1850 found stumps of big pine on their land, so old the bark and sap wood had rotted away. It is related too that settlers found logging in progress on lands they entered in 1848. One chronicler, the late Ansel Greeley, gives a date, 1841, but the land entry was made October 7, 1845, by Francis Gilbert, covering the site of the mill in section 20. It is said that nine days later L. Thompson purchased a half interest in the tract and put up the mill, but the record shows that patent issued to Gainor D. Aldrich and Francis Gilbert, assignees of Gilbert.

This mill was on Bear creek, over a mile from its junction with Wolf river. It was operated for William Bruce by G. D. Aldrich until the summer of 1849 from whom it received the name, Bruce's Mill, by which it became generally known, but about 1847 Francis Pew worked in Thompson's Mill and an early map of the region formerly possessed by Patrick H. Pew marked the site Thompson's Mill. The mill passed into the hands of Stephen D. Mason who operated it until the coming of John Stephens. Thomas D. Kellogg got it about ten years later. Originally of the old "up and down" sliding sash type it was afterward equipped with circular saws. As the woods were cleared away the waterpower became insufficient, and owners of land overflowed by the mill pond requested its removal. A steam saw mill was established on another site and the old mill was abandoned.

The first white family in Ellington was Lewis Thompson's. who were at the mill probably as early as 1846 or 1847. The first settler to engage in fanning was Thomas Callan, 1847, who with his brother. John, lived about two and a half miles south of the center of town. George Huse, a Mexican War veteran, on his land warrant secured a part of section 4 which he began clearing, 1849. He was unmarried but did not long remain so; his marriage to Elizabeth Farnham being one of the earliest if not the first in town. In 1856 he removed to Stephensville, and three year later to Black Creek.

In the spring of 1848, James Hardacker and James Wickware located land in what is now town of Greenville. coming from Waukesha county for that purpose. Reaching Ball Prairie, they secured a guide and begun a land looking tour. When asked where they wished to locate they made the stipulation that it be "beyond bad white men and whiskey." After much investigation they located tracts in section 5, township 21, range 16. On the Wickware tract they built a cabin in readiness for their coming in the autumn.

"In this house the families, eleven persons, lived and of course kept every weary traveler that came along looking for a new home. Among the number was a little fellow that came January 6, 1849, and we named him Lewis A. Hardacker. He is remembered now as the first white boy born in the town of Greenville."

Others who came in 1849 were Henry Kethroe, Patrick H. Pew, Owen Hardy, John R. Rynders, Thomas Hillson, William McGee, Charles Grouenert and Frederick Lamm. Henry Kethroe lived in section 31 until 1866 when he removed to Hortonia. P. H. Pew did not at once begin farming but worked at logging and in the saw mill until the fall of 1850 when he returned to New York state, married and returned to Ellington, settling on the school section. In 1858 he established the Pew Hotel, the first in Ellington. John R. Rynders came about 1847. He bought land the next year and in 1849 became a resident. His two sons and a son in law, Dobbins, came 1854. Thomas Hillson came late in December, 1849, or first of January following and settled on section 5; his brother in law, Ahiel Pooler, came a year or two later. Henry J. Diener in 1848 traversed the length of the town, going to Shawano with a lumberman's oxen, returning the following year. He was favorably impressed with the locality and secured in 1852 a part of section 3, later removing to section 9. Frederick Breiruk and M. Smith were residents early in 1850.

Eliab Farnham had settled first in Freedom but came to Ellington late in 1849 or early the following year J. D. Van Vlack opened a store at Bruce's Mill He also taught school.

After the beginning of 1850 settlement progressed rapidly. Among these coming that year were Abel Greeley, Julius Greeley, Amos Johnson, O. D. Pebles, J. B. Lamm, Peter Schmitt, J. Pew, Rodney Mason, William McGee, John Welch and a Mr. Daniels. Julius Rodney lived on section 9. He was more hunter than farmer and found his living mainly in the woods,

The supervisors of Brown county, Wisconsin. created March 12, 1850, a new town comprising the three congressional townships 22; 23 and 24 north, range 16 east, to be called Ellington; so named at the request of John R. Rynders after the town of his nativity. The first town meeting was held at the house of Chauncey Aldrich, April 2, 1850. Seven electors appeared. and fourteen offices were filled as follows: Chairman, justice of peace, assessor and treasurer, John R. Rynders; supervisor and justice of peace, James Hardacker; supervisor, town superintendent, sealer of weights and measures, justice of peace and assessor, George Huse; justice of peace, Thomas Hillson; constable, Frederick Lamm; Henry D. Smith, clerk. There is doubt as to the clerk and constable qualifying in office. The minutes and records are signed by "James Hardacker, clerk;" shortly afterward Henry Kethroe and Owen Hardy were elected constables "in place of Frederick Lamm, removed." At the first town meeting they voted to raise $300 for incidental expenses. Seven mills on the dollar for road and three mills for schools, and school districts were voted.

At the beginning of 1850 there were but two houses on the present site of Stephensville, one a house of hewed logs, the other a frame, built by Wm. Bruce. There were as yet no public roads. The first corners cut the underbrush and logs and cleared them away, enough to get through with their teams winding among the trees, avoiding the hills and swamps; later comers following the same track until there was a fairly plain trail from Hortonville and toward the junction of the Shioc and Wolf rivers. A road had been laid from Appleton to Bruce's Mill, and there was an old Indian trail leading toward Green Bay which might be traveled on horseback or afoot. As soon as the town was organized, road districts were established, routes were "looked out" and straight roads along section lines were established, and later where the character of the country required roads at an es from the cardinal points of the compass, routes were surveyed an public highways four rods wide were laid. One of these having a general easterly trend from Bruce's Mill was called the Wolf river and Green Bay road. The Greeley road extended from the north line of section 4 to intersect the Green Bay road near the middle of section 16, while the Green Bay road following practically the route of the Indian trail was surveyed January, 1851

In June 1849, a road had been laid by the supervisors of Grand Chute, of which Ellington was then a part, extending in a southerly direction from Bruce's Mill to intersect a road from Appleton to Hortonville established at the game time. The sawed timber required for the building of Horton's mill was conveyed the distance from Bruce's mill, 1848 and 1849, opening a way between those points which with some changes was made a highway now called Hortonville road.

W. D. Jordan, Martial Wenck, Benjamin Davis, Noah Mitchell, David Matteson, Sylvanus Mitchell, George Ketcham and Salem Bunker lived in Ellington in April, 1851, and during the year following Stephen D. Mason, Randall Johnson, James B. Night, Earnest Grunert, John Lamm, D. B. Mires, John Coffman and Milo Coals became residents. Rodney Mason, whose family consisted only of himself and two grown daughters, did not remain long in the settlement. The six Schmitt brothers were early, John coming in 1848; Peter, Matthias and Nick coming two years later, Nicholas 1852. and Dominick, who had a family, came about 1856. They all settied on or near section 33. Matthias, George, Mike and Lawrence Werner came early. Matthias, the eldest, settled in the eastern, the other three in southeastern part of town. Michael Miller came in 1853; Jared Scott the year following with his family, four sons and four daughters; Aury H. Burch and family; John Goettzer and John Canavan in 1855 and N. B. Draper in 1857; Ansel Greeley and William Truax came 1853 or the following year, John Stevens bought the mill property and in 1856 platted eighty acre&

It having been announced that a village would be laid off in the town of Ellington, the citizens were asked to vote upon a name for such. village and "Ellington Center" was chosen.

Evidently this did not suit many of the citizens there who thereupon suggested the name of "Stevensville." The following names were signed to the paper asking that the name should be changed from Ellington Center to Stephensville: J. D. Van Mick, Peter Prunty, George Huse, Elisha Bissell, Dave Matteson, George F. Nye, Walter Rynders, Richard Brown, John W. McWain, John Ferrell, W. T. Hardacker, Patrick Prunty, James Carle, William T. Traux, P. McKeefry, Joseph B. Barnum, J. G. Daniels, Herman Grunert, Hugh Moore, John McKeever, William McGee, Michael Pure, Julius Greeley, H. J. Diener, Patrick Newcomb, P. H. Pew, B. M. Gurnee, Thomas Caller, Eliob. Farnam, Horatio Heath, Henry Kethroe Isbon S. Smith, W. R. Manley, S. D. Mason, O. P. Peebles, John Nicholas, Jehiel Paxton; Lewis Hare, Ansel Greeley, Edwin Arnold, Edwin Barnes, Ernst Grunert, Charles Grunert, John Welch; Anthony Wallace, Bernard Newcomb, Sloah B. Carley, Henry A. Cooke, Owen Hardy.

Chauncey Smith settled in section 16 in 1851-2. John H. Jenne and family came in 1854; Byron M. Gurnee bought land in 1853, but it was two years later when he "cut the first tree and mauled out the rails to fence the first eighty." David and Caleb Matteson entered land in 1848 on which they afterward lived in section 29; Patrick Newcomb came about 1854; Francis Weissenberg and the family of Michael Wunderlich in 1857; William R Manley settled on section 19, removing later to section 28 in 1854. Robert and Henry Manley came about the same time and were probably the first shoemakers Phillip Zimmerman, an infidel, had considerable influence with his neighbors in the southern part of town until he left in the '60s. Nelson B. Draper settled in 1857 on section 27. Michael and John Bungert came about 1854. Charles Thiel and family came 1859. The Lairds came about 1855 to section 1. Jabez B. Rexford and family came to section 4 the following March.

As originally constituted, Ellington embraced townships 22, 23 and 24, range 18, but by the creation of Bovina, 1853. its area was reduced to township 22. Stephensville in 1857 had, already been started. At the water potter on Bear creek a saw mill was in operation and an excellent grist mill was nearly built. A good schoolhouse, a couple of taverns, a store or two and a few other establishments were already there. Bear creek ran through the center of the town and afforded a fair water power. Some choice bottom lands were near the banks of this stream.

In the fall of 1867 the village of Stephensville was growing rapidly: It had two saw mills in operation, a grist mill nearly ready, several stores; one excellent hotel conducted by William McGee, and several mechanics. The German and Irish population around it were enterprising and industrious. The Germans and Irish united in building a catholic church there. The frame work was already up by the middle of November. Stephensville grew more rapidly in 1867 than during any year of its early existence. It was claimed in 1868 that more business was done in Stephensville than in Hortonsville. It seemed to be a growing village with excellent future prospects.

The settlers gave early attention to the education of their children; immediately after the town was organized a three mill tax was levied for school purposes. The two southern tiers of sections were made School District NO. 1; the two middle tiers of sections formed District No. 2, while District No. 3 embraced the remaining two tiers of sections in township 22 N., R. 16 E. That year Mrs. Patterson taught school three months in her own house. An apportionment from the state appropriation for schools could be obtained for five months' school session, so Jane Wickware taught two months in a chamber of James Hardackers' house. Three Kethroe and five Hardacker children attended these schools. This became and is yet school No. 1. A frame schoolhouse was erected in which Mrs. Mary Smith taught the first term. The next school was organized soon afterward and by 1855 school No. 8 had built a house in which the first session was taught by Sylvester Gurnee.

The first settlers received mail at Green Bay or Oshkosh until in 1849 a postoffice was established at Appleton. In 1851 a weekly mail route between Green Bay and Portage with postoffices at Freedom and Bruce's Mill was established. Over this route. 105 miles mails were carried afoot, the round trip occupying a week. Stephen D. Mason was the first postmaster. Religious meetings were held in the homes of the settlers before schoolhouses were built; probably the first Protestant service in Stephensville was held at the house of Stephen D. Mason. The first Catholic service at P. H. Pew's. Evangelical Lutheran ministers followed the German settlers into the town; from the efforts of these mission priests and preachers have grown two Catholic., two Evangelical Lutheran and one Methodist Episcopal and a German Methodist church in Ellington. Parochial schools are maintained by the Catholic and Lutheran congregations. The first death in town was probably that of a man employed in Thompson's mill, who fell into the mill pond. was helped out, went to get dry clothing but died soon after reaching the house. Mr, Johnson, the first settler, on the west side of Wolf river, was drowned early in the '50s, trying to rescue some Indians who drunk and quarreling had fallen into the river.

A burying ground south of Bruce's Mill near the center of the south half of section 20 was used several years, but was discontinued after the establishment of cemeteries in other parts of town, one of the oldest of which is the Rexford cemetery in section 4 on the northern line of town, and that of the Ellington Cemetery Association, which was platted in 1861.

The Indians had burial places near the village of Stephensville, one about forty rods west of the village, another was east of the road entering the village from the south not far back from the old dam. Two graves, one in each location, seemed especially venerated by them, and after the coming of the first settlers offerings; of tobacco and a sort of flag were placed there.

The first doctor in Stephensville was Dr. Tabor, who came after the war. Before his coming physicians, from Hortonville and earlier still, from Appleton, attended, patients in Ellington.

The first frame house was built by Courtwright and Sawyer for Bruce, and Bruce dug the first well in the settlement. Pew's Hotel was the first in the settlement but Mr. Pew says, "whoever run the mill had a boarding house and every settler's house was a traveler's home."

As the lumber industry developed in the upper regions of the Wolf and Shioc rivers, the route through Ellington became a much traveled highway and the entertainment afforded by Stephensville made it a favored stopping place. Any night an impromptu dance or party could be arranged and revelry and frolic abounded. These dances with log rollings, cabin raisings and later, spelling bees. quiltings and singing schools formed the entertainments of the settlement.


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