History of Egg Harbor, Door County, Wisconsin
From: History of Door County, Wisconsin
The County Beautiful
By: Hjalmar R. Holand, M. A.
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago 1917


Once upon a time a young Chippewa Indian from Washington Island was hunting with his dog on the hill overlooking Horseshoe Bay in the present Town of Egg Harbor. As he was cautiously stepping forward amid the tall trees and occasional open glades he spied two bear cubs comfortably dozing on the sunny side of a big windfall. Being, like all Indians, fond of pets, he silenced and restrained his eager dog and crept forward intending to capture the cubs alive. When near them he laid down his gun and suddenly pouncing upon them he seized them both. Immediately there was much squirming and yelping but he managed to get a good hold in the fur of the neck and after a brief struggle arose with one cub in each hand. No sooner was he on his feet, however, before he heard a ferocious growl behind him. Turning instantly he saw a huge bear, the mother of the captive cubs, advancing upright on her hind feet. His gun was on the ground some distance away, so dropping the cubs he pulled his tomahawk and his knife to defend himself. He had only time, however, to raise his arm to throw the tomahawk when the savage beast was upon him and giving his arm a tremendous blow which broke it like a pipe stem she sent his tomahawk flying through the air several rods away. Then she seized him in a terrible embrace and he felt his ribs cracking.

Still clutching his knife in his other hand he was able to give his huge adversary several ugly slashes in the abdomen. This, however, did not bother her much and he would soon have been crushed to pulp if it had not been for his valiant dog. So fierce were the attacks of his faithful ally that the bear felt constrained to turn her attention to the dog. This gave the Indian his opportunity. He jumped for his tomahawk and resolutely advancing he drove it with a sure stroke to the hilt into the skull of the bear which fell dead.

By this time the little bears had disappeared in the forest and he had to give up their capture. His companions who were not far away set his arm and with their help the big bear was skinned. For this exploit he received the name of Big Bear and later became a famous chief.

Egg Harbor seems to have been a great place for bears. Old settlers tell of them invading their storehouses to steal their bacon and drink their milk Once in broad daylight it even happened that a child was carried away by a bear. This happened at the home of Fred Kracht in section 32. It was on a morning in May, 1876. The father had gone to Baileys Harbor. The mother, eager for a piece of gossip, had left her little two year old boy undressed in the yard while she strolled down to a neighbor woman some distance away for a chat. Soon the dog which was chained was heard savagely barking and the child screaming in terror. The mother and the neighbors hurried to the house but the child was nowhere to be found. A general alarm was sounded and scores of men turned out to search the woods and the fields thoroughly. Nothing was ever found of the child, however, only some big fresh bear tracks leading into the swamp.

There is some doubt as to the origin of Egg Harbor's unusual name. In April, 1862, Hon. Henry S. Baird of Green Bay contributed the following article to the Door County Advocate for the purpose of throwing light on the origin of this name. Mr. Baird writes as follows:

"In looking over the list of towns in Door County, I observe that one of them is named `Egg Harbor.' This name calls to mind an incident which occurred many years since - before Wisconsin had a habitation, or name - and from which event, `Egg Harbor,' undoubtedly received its appellation. At all events, the relation to the circumstance alluded to, may be of interest to the inhabitants of that part of the state, as a reminiscence of the 'early times' in Wisconsin, and exhibits the contrast between the facilities and mode of travel in the `fast days' of the world's progress and the slow and primitive locomotion of the days of yore. At the period I allude to, `Green Bay Settlement' was the oldest of two places - then - the only white settlements in the limits of Wisconsin. The only highways, then existing, were the lakes and rivers; and upon those the journeys, or rather voyages of the travelers, were made. The communication between Green Bay and Mackinac, Detroit, and the lower lakes, was principally by sail vessels for at that time there was but one (possibly two) steamers on the lakes, and their visits to Green Bay were `few and far between'; perhaps once or twice a year. The travel on the rivers was by Mackinac boats or bateaux, and bark canoes and very frequently these bateaux and canoes made voyages to and from Green Bay from Mackinac and other places, even Montreal. This was done by coasting along the eastern shore of Green Bay, to its mouth, making in the language of the voyageur - `Traverse' of the bay, and thence coasting along the north shore of Lake Michigan, and through the 'straits' to the Island of Mackinac. In making the voyage, the traveler was obliged to lay in a sufficient quantity of the 'creature comforts,' to serve him to the end of his journey; for there were then neither `hotels or taverns' - and no inhabitants save the original owners and occupants of the country.

"In the summer of the year 1825 Mr. Rolette, then a very prominent and extensive Indian trader, arrived at Green Bay, from the Mississippi, with three or four large Mackinac boats, on his annual voyage to Mackinac, with the returns from his year's trade. There being at that time no vessel at Green Bay, Mr. Rolette kindly offered a passage on his own boat to Mt and Mrs. Baird, then `young folks' who resided at the bay and were anxious of visiting Mackinac. On a fine morning in June, the fleet left the Fox River and proceeded along the east shore of Green Bay, being well supplied with good tents, large and copious 'mess baskets,' well stored with provisions of all kinds, especially a large quantity of eggs. On the second day at noon the order was given by the 'Commodore' (Mr. Rolette) to go ashore for dinner. The boats were then abreast of 'Egg Harbor,' until then, without a name. On board the 'Commodore's' boat, there were besides himself, Mr. and Mrs. Baird and nine Canadian boatmen, or voyageurs, as they were styled. On another of the boats were two young men, clerks, in the employ of Mr. Rolette - one of whom was a Mr. Kinzie - now of Chicago and a like number of boatmen. It was the etiquette on those voyages, where there were several boats in company, the principal person or owner of the 'outfit' take the lead in the line; sometimes, however, a good natured strife would arise between the several crews, when etiquette was lost sight of in the endeavor to outstrip each other and arrive first at the land; and this was especially more likely to occur when eating or encamping was near at hand. Mr. Rolette was an eccentric and excitable Frenchman, and had many eccentricities which were often imitated and ridiculed, behind his back, by the young men in his employ, and by none more frequently than Mr. Kinzie. At the entrance to the harbor the boat in charge of Mr. Kinzie came along side the Commodore, with the evident intention of taking the lead. Mr. Rolette ordered it back; but instead of obeying, the crew of the boat - urged on by Mr. Kinzie - redoubled their exertions to pass the 'Commodore,' and as a kind of bravado the clerks held up an old broom; the Commodore and his companions could not stand this; the 'mess baskets' were opened and a brisk discharge, not of balls, but shell, was made upon the offenders. The attack was soon returned in kind. It then became necessary to guard and protect the only lady on board from injury, which was accomplished by extending herself on the flat surface of the packs of fur, which composed the cargo, and covering her over with a large tarpaulin or oil cloth. The battle kept up for some time, but at length the Commodore triumphed, and the refractory boat was obliged to fall back. Whether this was the result of superior skill of the marksmen on board the Commodore's boat, or the failure of ammunition on the other, is not now remembered.

"After landing the battle was renewed. The boats and men presented rather an 'eggs' appearance, and the inconvenience was rather increased by the fact that some of the missiles used by the belligerents were not of a very savory or agreeable odor. The fun ended in Mr. Kinzie having to wash his outer garments and while so employed, some mischievous party threw his hat and coat into the lake. All enjoyed the sport, and none more so than the merry and jovial Canadian boatmen; and the actors in the frolic long remembered the sham battle at 'Egg Harbor,' and it is believed that to this circumstance may be attributed the origin of the name of one of the towns of Door County."

According to Jacob E. Thorp, one of the earliest settlers in the Town of Egg Harbor, the name has a different origin. He writes as follows:

"Mr. (Increase) Claflin named most of the places and islands from Sturgeon Bay to the Door. Horseshoe Bay he called by that name, because he found his horses there, when they were on their way back to Little Sturgeon after he had moved to Fish Creek, and one of the horses had lost a shoe at that place. The place has gone by that name ever since. Egg Harbor he so named because of the harbor there, and on going in he found a nest full of duck's eggs. Hat Island he said was the shape of a hat. Strawberry Islands he named on account of the amount of strawberries that grew there. Eagle Island he named because he found an eagle's nest there. Sister Islands because they were so near alike."1 Mr. Thorp was Mr. Claflin son in law and lived with him for five years and therefore had excellent opportunities for hearing Mr. Claflin's recollections of the beginning of things in Door County.

Jacob E. Thorp was the second settler in the Town of Egg Harbor, building a house on the beach half way between the two present piers. His son, Roy, was the first child born in Egg Harbor. He had come to Fish Creek in 1850 to look after his brother, Asa Thorp's, interests, and to work as a cooper for Increase Claflin. When Asa Thorp in 1855 settled in Fish Creek, Jacob and his brother, Levi Thorp, the same year settled in Egg Harbor where they bought about sixteen hundred acres of land including and surrounding the present village. A pier was soon built by them. After a few years Levi Thorp bought out his brother's interests and did a big business shipping cordwood and cedar.

Levi Thorp, who for many years was the principal business man north of Sturgeon Bay, was a very capable and experienced man. He was among the early gold miners of California, where he was successful in washing out $6,000 worth of gold. On his way to California he went around Cape Horn, stopped at the Island of Juan Fernandez of Robinson Crusoe fame and returned across the Isthmus of Panama. The imposing house on the hill in the Village of Fish Creek was his home. By 1879 he had 160 acres under cultivation and was at that time the biggest farmer in the county.

For a few years the population of Egg Harbor consisted chiefly of Indians and Belgians that the Thorp brothers employed in cutting cordwood. They could talk no English but they could cut wood. The cordwood was all cut with axes in those days - no saws were used no matter how big the maple was - and wagon loads of big chips left by the choppers could be picked up anywhere in the woods all ready for the cook stove. The men received 50 cents per cord for chopping. The wood was frequently sold for only $2 per cord.

Among the earliest settlers of Egg Harbor were Wm. G. Manney, Wm. Turner, Russell Baker, Sr., and M. E. Lyman. The last three settled on the point west of the village. Baker and Turner came from Washington Island where they had settled as fishermen in 1852. Baker had previously lived. on Beaver Island, the domain of the famous Mormon king, John Strang, whom he had helped to depose. Milton E. Lyman was the first settler in the town, locating there in 1853, being then thirty two years old. Mr. Lyman was a man of education and intelligence and what prompted him to seek a home so far from any neighbors is not known. Moreover, the land that he selected was very poor being even today considered of little value. Mr. Lyman was a popular and companionable man, esteemed and dreaded for his wit and sarcasm. He was the first county Judge of Door County, holding office from 1862 to 1866. He was also at the same time clerk of court and county superintendent of schools. After this he was for many years justice of the peace in Egg Harbor and as such was great at drumming up business. He was assisted by a little following of constables and pettifoggers who were ready to offer their services the moment a row broke out. Down to his little house on the flats the procession of pettifoggers, plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, constables and others would wend their way and here scores of heated trials have been held. The result was interminable feuds and hard feelings. During his career as justice Mr. Lyman united no less than seventy three couples in marriage. At each of the accompanying rousing wedding celebrations he was usually a noted guest, respected for his pungent wit.

The wood business proving profitable, William Le Roy and N. W. Kirtland in 1865 built another big pier at Egg Harbor. It was not completed at once and great fear was entertained that the ice would crush it in the spring. However, the ice left it clear in the spring and Le Roy & Kirtland heaved a great sigh of relief. A few days later, however, the ice returned, jammed into the harbor with great force and smashed the pier. Not daunted by this the new firm got out material and built another big pier the following year. This one was completed and 450 cords of wood were piled on it. When spring came the ice demolished this one, also.

In the meantime Egg Harbor had received an important addition to its population in the southern part of the town. These were the two brothers, Thomas and William Carmody. They came from Limerick, Ireland, and lived for a time in Pennsylvania. In 1857 they came to Door County. At that time entire townships lay vacant, waiting for their first settlers. Most of the best land near Sturgeon Bay was still open for preemption. Thomas and William Carmody, however, chose to go as far back into the timber as it was possible to get at that time and settled ten miles north of Sturgeon Bay. Here, far beyond any roads, trails or neighbors, they settled on some rather low lands just north of the present Carlsville which are even now considered of little value. Their purpose was not farming, however, but to get out cedar. Whether this was found profitable is not known. But here they lived year after year without schools, churches, markets or neighbors. It was in the heart of the wilderness. No daily or even weekly mail came to tell them of the world's progress. Beefsteak was not often on the bill of fare but bear meat took its place and the boys found wolf hunting better sport than pool playing.

Both Thomas and William Carmody had a number of husky boys and girls and the Carmody family is now numerous in Door County. Thomas had five sons and two daughters. These were Jack, Thomas, Michael, Dennis, Patrick, Mary and Olive. William had five sons and four daughters. These were John, James, Dennis, William, Henry, Mary, Bridget, Ellen, and Johanna.

After twelve years of life in their cedar slashings Thomas and William Carmody moved north to what is now called Carmody Prairie - then a big forest. Here they found other Irishmen and quite a settlement of Irish was formed back in the woods of Egg Harbor. These other Irish were Martin Maloney, Michael Hayes and Andrew Hanrahan.2 When the Town of Egg Harbor was organized in 1861 Mike Hayes was candidate for side supervisor. Jokingly William Carmody asked him why he wanted to run for office seeing he had no education. "Oh, gwan wid yonse," was the reply. "If I have no eddication, can't I get a prostitute?" He meant a substitute.

One of the first settlers in the northern part of the town was Dr. David Graham. He orignally settled south of Fish Creek in 1858 and moved into the town of Egg Harbor in 1867. He was chairman of the town for many years and was a very popular and highly respected man He died rather suddenly in 1882. Speaking of his death the Advocate writes: "It is no disparagement of the living to say that the departure of no other man could have occasioned such profound and general sorrow throughout the county as has been caused by the death of David Graham. In the northern towns there are few households in which the event is not regarded as a personal calamity; so thoroughly had the good doctor endeared himself to the people who knew him best. For nearly a quarter of a century he had been the guide, philosopher and friend of his acquaintances, always generous, helpful, benevolent and kind. Although not a regular graduate of a medical school, his natural inclinations led him to give so much time to the study of the healing art that he was able to successfully minister to the sick. He was let to do this, not from mercenary motives, but because his sympathies prompted him at all times to allay suffering or distress of any nature whenever possible." His funeral was a remarkable manifestation of the high esteem in which he was held, Not less than 400 mourners were present from Gibraltar, Sevastopol, Baileys Harbor and Sturgeon Bay, while nearly every family in Egg Harbor was represented at the funeral.

Another very popular and efficient town officer of Egg Harbor was Frank Wellever, the present genial clerk of the court, For almost a quarter of a century, until he finally took up his residence in Sturgeon Bay, Mr, Welleyer was in charge of the affairs of the town, successfully piloting it through every crisis and deftly managing to harmonize its various warring elements. If Mr. Wellever had remained in the town there is no doubt he would by this time have achieved the honor of holding the record of longest service as chairman in the county,

Prominent among the famous men of Egg Harbor is Dr. H. F. Eames who came to the town about 1875, Doctor Eames has a large practice but being a man of insatiable appetite for work he has added to his duties the responsibility of operating the largest farm in the town, He is a very extensive fruit grower and also owns a pier and a drug store, All this, however, is insufficient to fill the doctor's energetic cravings and he is always ready to take part in matters of public policy or political controversy, In conversation his tongue flows with epigrams and bristles with sarcasm, His mind is an unusual mixture of extreme kindliness, pungent wit and irrepressible optimism.

West of the Carmody prairie a couple of miles lies Horseshoe Bay, once a thriving little village, Andrew Anderson, still living there, built the first pier about 1870, He bought and shipped cordwood and kept a store. In a few years he sold out to Albee & Taylor and they pushed the business energetically. They had a mill and vessels daily came and went from Horseshoe Bay, A cooper shop, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a school and a dozen dwelling houses were soon erected there. All roads led to Horseshoe Bay and business was booming. Later Fetzer & Young bought the property and employed many men, In 1890 an ice company made up of Sturgeon Bay people started cutting ice there, employing about sixty men. The ice harvest farther south was poor and the Horseshoe Bay company were confident that the price would go high up and all would make much money, They therefore held the ice, that is, that which did not trickle away. Little by little the ice melted. When the ice speculators were ready to sell the ice had turned to water and their dreams of gold had turned to dross.

That was the last exploit in the Village of Horseshoe Bay, The mill was closed. the schoolhouse was moved away, the buildings fell, into decay and the grass and brush grew up in the roads, Soon almost every one forgot that there had ever been such a place as Horseshoe Bay where the schooners in olden times dropped anchor,

Once more, however, Horseshoe Bay has come forward, The lands around the beautiful bay have become the property of the Horseshoe Bay Country Club, made up largely of Green Bay people, They have here erected a commodious and elegant club building, the finest of any in the county intended for the entertainment of transient guests, Many large and beautiful cottages have also been built, streets are being opened up and lawns are being made. In a few years Horseshoe Bay will be one of the most beautiful places in the county.

Egg Harbor is one of the most enterprising towns in the county, taking a leading part in the construction of good roads. In fact in this field it has probably outdistanced every other town in the county, It was the first town to complete the macadamizing of its entire stretch of main county thoroughfare traversing the town - a distance of more than ten miles, The last link in this highway was the road down the big Egg Harbor hill - a rare monument of excellent road construction, The town has now begun to macadamize its branch roads,

The people of the town have also distinguished themselves in such a co-operative enterprise as church building, In the Catholic Church at Egg Harbor we have a church edifice whose beauty, solidity and pleasing lines are seldom equaled in rural houses of worship. The congregation that built this church is not a large one, numbering only about sixty families.

This superabundance of energy lately so commendably manifested in the construction of fine churches, schools, modern homes and good roads in olden times frequently found an outlet in a manner not so complimentary, Egg Harbor for many years had the reputation of being a boisterous town full of clamor and carousings. Fun was frequent and so was fighting, Perhaps other towns at times were quite as bad, but at least they were not so frequently heard from as Egg Harbor. Something was "doing" there every little while, The following account culled from the columns of the Advocate, gives an interesting picture of how the old folks used to amuse themselves.

"A farmer living a few miles from the Village of Egg Harbor invited his neighbors to come and spend a sociable evening at his home. It is not at all likely that his hospitable offer would have been refused even though no other attraction than a dance had been promised, for amusements are always welcome in that locality so that the giver of a party is not obliged to send out a press gang in search of guests, as was the case of the gentleman whose marriage feast is recorded in the New Testament. But having backed up his invitation with the assurance that there would be plenty of beer for women, children and other temperance people, and lashings of whisky for those who preferred to get drunk with neatness and dispatch, it is hardly necessary to say that he had a crowded house with 'standing room only' for those who arrived after 7 o'clock.

"It will be readily understood that under the inspiriting influence of abundant grog the evening had not far advanced before there was such a tremendous sound of revelry that had there been any police in the vicinity they would have 'pulled' the house and brought the entertainment to an abrupt conclusion, But there being no legal impediments to the festivities, they were conducted upon such a free and easy scale as would have astounded those who lived in a more civilized community. Long before midnight the fun became boisterous and decency received the grand bounce, It was while affairs were in this interesting state that one of the men, who was possibly a little morel tipsy than the rest, laid the foundation for a first class row. The whisky he had drunk excited his affectionate instincts to such a degree that regardless of his surroundings he made advances of a decidedly indelicate character to one of the women, who immediately proclaimed the fact by a squeal that drowned all other noise in the house. Whether her displeasure arose from offended virtue, or whether she was enraged because her amorous friend had not chosen a more appropriate locality for his demonstration, is an unguessable conundrum. At any rate, the fair creature raised such a tremendous bobbery as to draw upon herself and her admirer the attention of the whole party. Among these was the woman's son, who had no sooner learned the cause of the trouble than he struck out from the shoulder with such vigor and precision that the offending man took a tumble under the table, where he lay for a few minutes trying to discover how many of his teeth had been loosened.

"It might be supposed that a man who had committed such a gross offense against the moralities would have no sympathizers, and that the verdict of the crowd would be that he should be kicked as long as kicking was good for him. This would doubtless have been the opinion of the guests if they had been sober, but being drunk they took a different view of the matter. It should also be remembered that up to this time there had been no fight, and that all hands had taken just enough whisky aboard to make them itch for a scrimmage. The consequence was that within two minutes every man in the room was endeavoring to put a head on his neighbor. No one appeared to know or care what he was fighting about, the chief aim of each belligerent being to put in his knuckles where they would do the most good, It did not take the ladies long to realize that the men were conducting a riot with so much skill and energy that the assistance of the fair sex was entirely unnecessary. In order, therefore, to give the combatants abundant room, and also to get themselves out of harm's way, the women bundled themselves and the children off to the rooms upstairs. The terrific uproar below caused several of them to go into hysterics, and when their condition became known in the lower regions some of the men went up to their relief. The additional burden thus put on the chamber floors was more than they could support and the joists gave way with a crash, precipitating men, women and children and furniture upon the heads of the pugnacious gentlemen on the ground floor. For about five minutes that floor presented an appearance to which no description can do justice. Many of the ladies were standing on their heads, their limbs sticking out of the heap in every direction like the spokes of a busted cart wheel, while their striped stockings waved in the air like signals of distress at the masthead of a water logged scow. The children screamed, the women shrieked, and the men swore as in their efforts to disentangle the squirming mass of humanity they found that a woman was being pulled out of the heap in different directions, When at last order was restored everybody was surprised to find that nobody was either killed or seriously hurt, The fighting party had escaped the falling floor, and the people from above were none the worse for their tumble, The accident had at least one good result. It brought the row to an end, and now all hands were as ready to bind up their neighbor's 'wounds as they had lately been to inflict them, As soon as the women recovered from their fright they began to count noses to learn whether any one had been lost. The inventory showed that one of the children was missing, and for a short time the mother was distracted. The young kid was finally discovered in a flour barrel into which it had fallen when the floor gave way, and was restored to its mother's arms along with several pounds of 'double extra' breadstuffs that had powdered the infant from head to foot,

"Having almost torn the house to pieces, pounded each other for about an hour, and nearly succeeded in killing the women and children, it was mutually agreed that there had been enough fun for one night, The guests therefore collected their wraps, took one more drink all around in token that they bore no ill will towards one another, and departed assuring their host that they had spent a most delightful evening and that his party had been the most successful affair of the season."

1 From I. E. Thorp's letter quoted in Martin's History of Door County, page 95.

2 Hanrahan lived just across the line in Sevastopol where he settled in 1860.

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