Oconto County Time Line

Posted on: July 27th, 2014 by


Acknowledgement is given to the Oconto County WIGenWeb Project, for the initial idea of this page as well as much of the information.

1668  Negotiations between the Potawatomie and Menominee averted an almost certain war. French-Indian fur trader, Nicolas Perrot mediated settlement of the crisis. His partner was Tousignant Baudry.

1669  Father Claude Allouez founded the first mission in northeastern Wisconsin at the present day city of Oconto and named it St. Francis Xavier Mission. An estimated 600 Native Americans lived in the nearby village of “Oak-a-toe” now Oconto.

1787  Oconto County area becomes a territory of the newly established United States of America in the Ordinance of 1787 as part of the Northwest Territory.

1827  John Penn Arndt built the first dam and sawmill at today’s Pensaukee, beginning the first settlement in Oconto County.  He was the first to have a written land deed.     map Coordinates: 44°47′37″N 87°56′51″W     Wikipedia Source

1844  Colonel David Jones, with sons Tarleton and Huff, from Wellsburg VA, built the first successful dam and mill at the site of today’s city of Oconto at “Susie’s Hill” near the large Menominee Village. Earlier attempts had washed out, including the first in 1842 by George Lurwick. The Jones family manufactured the first wood for general sale. The Jones family eventually settled nearby in 1847, after living several years in the comfort of Fort Howard near Green Bay.

1846  Thomas Lindsey and family came to the mouth of the Oconto River from Milwaukee by boat as the first permanent settlers in the city of Oconto. They built an “over-night place” for travelers. Thomas Lindsay family, first permanent settlers of City of Oconto. Lived at first in a tent. They were followed shortly after by the Harts & Richard Berry.     map Coordinates: 44°53′15″N 87°52′13″W

1846  John and Almira Volk come up the Oconto River as far as the falls by boat as their possessions could not be taken along the Indian trails, the only land routes of the time. They traveled from Chicago to settle and build a saw mill at Oconto Falls.      map Coordinates: 44°52′29″N, 88°8′34″W     Wikipedia Source

1848  Wisconsin gains statehood status

1849  Peter Pecor came from New England and married Angelique Courchaine. Together they founded “Frenchtown“, now a part of the city of Oconto.     map

1850  Thomas Howard Couillard, Sr. and all his children and their families, along with Lavina Couillard, married to Benjamin Woodman with her family migrated to Milwaukee. Thomas Howard Jr. continued on to the Oconto Falls area & returned to Milwaukee in late 1849, early 1850.  Jacob Couillard, son of Thomas Howard Sr., moved by ox drawn covered wagon to Oconto County to an area on the Oconto River later called Couillardville.     map

1851  Oconto County is formed from the northern part of Brown County. It extends the entire western length of the Green Bay and Lake Michigan to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula border. Oconto Mills is chosen as the county seat.  It was the largest county in the state and had 5,000 square miles of unbroken wilderness.

1851  Gustavus A. Grosse and his four sons camped on the river bank where the family cemetery now stands near Little Suamico, along the Little Suamico River. Gustavus , his wife Caroline Wilhelmina, and sons John, William, George, and Charles left Germany in 1849 for Green Bay. They were the first permanent settlers to the area.     map Coordinates: 44°42′55″N 88°2′45″W

1852  Brookside The first settler into the area which became a rural cross roads community was William W. Delano, a bachelor, who was in the area by June 1852, when he was elected the first surveyor for the newly established Oconto County.  With minimum necessities to maintain him, this single individual established his homestead in an area of virgin forest.     map Coordinates: 44°48′17″N 87°59′52″W

1852  George Beyer had traveled from Germany with his parents to the US some years earlier. In this year, the industrious young man came to Oconto County.

1853 Shawano County created from Oconto, Waupaca, and Winnebago Counties     Atlas of Historical County Borders

1854  Richard B. Yeaton built a sawmill on the Pensaukee River in 1854 and called the settlement West Pensaukee.  It was renamed Abrams for W. J. Abrams, a railroad investor, state representative in 1860s, and Green Bay mayor in 1880s.  He owned land where the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Western rail line built a depot in 1881.     map Coordinates: 44°48′27″N 88°4′20″W     Wikipedia Source

1854  Organization of new Town of Howard     State Source

1856  Organization of new Town of Pensaukee; Alteration of the Town of Howard & the name changed to Stiles     State Source

1857  Rodney Gillett, born in Albany, New York in 1833, buys the Henry Tourtilotte homestead in what is now the village of Gillett.  He marries Mary Roblee in Clayton the next year and she becomes the first white woman to live in the area.     map Coordinates: 44°53′23″N, 88°18′23″W     Wikipedia Source

1859  Organization of the Town of Suamico, the Town of Peshtigo and the Town of Marinette    State Source

1859  Village of Oconto incorporated     State Source

1866  Land annexed to the Town of Marinette from the Town of Oconto     State Source    

1867  Chase was originally established on April 15, 1873 as St. Nathans.  The name was changed to Chase on March 20, 1890.  Chase was named for Chase & Dixie Sawmill in operation along the Little Suamico River by 1867.     map Coordinates: 44°42′25″N 88°11′17″W     WIGenWeb     WIGenWeb Logging     Wikipedia Source

1869  Oconto Mills is officially chartered as City of Oconto.     map      City of Oconto incorporated.     State Source

1870s  Originally known as the Maple Valley settlement, Lena owes its location to the railroads. The first white settlers in this vicinity arrived in the late 1870s and consisted primarily of French Canadian immigrants. As was common in other areas populated by French-Canadians during this era, most of the Maple Valley residents engaged in small-scale logging, concentrating their work and their homes along Jones Creek, a tributary of the Little River. By 1879 the community had become large enough to support a post office and, since the name “Maple Valley” had already been assigned to another Wisconsin post office, the recommendation of a new name fell to Oconto Postmaster George R. Hall. Hall submitted the first name of his future wife to the federal postmaster, and the choice was approved.     map Coordinates: 44°59′7″N 88°3′22″W

1870s  Kelly Brook/Kelly Lake An Indian Trail was the only route from what is now the city of Oconto, through the center of today’s Lena and into Kelly Brook, which was named after an interesting early resident, Pat Kelly.  Nearby Kelly Lake, also named after Pat Kelly, was originally called Christy Lake.     map    WIGenWeb     In 1875 when the C. Bartletts, who were survivors of the Peshtigo Fire, moved from Hart’s Switch to Kelly Brook there were few settlers, but among them were the James Marlett, the Stanislaus (Dennis) Martineau, the Jeff Tessier, the Abe Tourtillot, the William Morrison, the J. A. Schweiberg, and the Wolf Babka families.           Taken from Recollections of Oconto County, printed by the Oconto County Historical Society, 1954.

1871  Peshtigo fire     map

1872  Town of How is separated from Town of Washington, Shawano County     map Coordinates: 44°59′58″N 88°25′38″W

1873  Organization of the Town of Maple Valley     State Source

1876  Organization of the Town of Langlade     State Source

1876  Order defining the boundaries of the several towns of Oconto County: Little Suamico, Pensaukee, Langlade, Gillett, Stiles, Oconto, Maple Valley, Peshtigo, Marinette     State Source

1877  Order changing the boundaries of certain towns in Oconto County. Little Suamico added to LangladeOconto added to MarinetteStiles added to PeshtigoOconto added to Stiles, and Stiles added to Gillett     State Source

1877  The Pensaukee Tornado reduced the once large and prosperous town to total ruin, from which it never fully recovered.     map Coordinates: 44°47′37″N 87°56′51″W

1877  One of several stopping off places used to feed teams and hungry loggers in early Oconto County history was Mountain. Fifty miles north of Jab Switch (now the city of Oconto), and on the banks of the north branch of the Oconto River, Thomas Mc Allen, his wife and six children built the first permanent home in 1877.     map Coordinates: 45°9′17″N 88°26′20″W

1879  Marinette County and a new county (now Langlade County) established from Oconto County      map     WIGenWeb Source     Atlas of Historical County Borders

1879  Town of How was moved from Shawano County to Oconto County.     Atlas of Historical County Borders

1880s  Morgan The Town of Morgan was originally a part of the town of Pensaukee. It is located along both sides of the north and south branches of the Pensaukee River and inland of The Bay, 15 miles. This was a rich, dense forested area.  In the years following the 1877 Pensaukee Tornado, families began migrating to the rich and fertile land on the upper branches of the Pensaukee River.     map  Coordinates: 44°48′26″N 88°10′40″W

1880s  Breed was named for the first postmaster of the village, George M. Breed.  The first settler was James Knight who took a homestead.  People came on foot along Indian and animal trails as there was not a road through Oconto County until 1860.     map Coordinates: 45°4′34″N 88°24′53″W

1882  Florence County created from Marinette County including part of Oconto that was transferred to Marinette on the same day     Atlas of Historical County Borders

1882 Joe Suring, with his wife and six children built a home along the Oconto River and purchased the land that is now the city of Suring for $215.     map Coordinates: 45°0′0″N 88°22′28″W

1886  Oconto County lost area to Forest County Atlas of Historical County Borders

1886 World’s first church for Christian Science Worship was erected in the city of Oconto.

1887  Ordinance creating the Town of Oconto Falls     State Source

1891  Ordinance creating the Town of Armstrong     State Source

1892  Brazeau Named for the Brazeau family, who were an early family of settlers in Oconto County in the 1840s.  They were originally of French-Canadian heritage and had substantial land holdings in the County.     map Coordinates: 45°6′31″N 88°12′39″W     Ordinance creating the Town of Brazeau     State Source

1893  Ordinance creating the Town of Spruce     State Source

1893  Ordinance creating the Town of Lena     State Source

1893  Act to organize the Town of Underhill from the Town of How and the Town of Gillett     State Source

1895  Sobieski Named in honor of King John Sobieski of Poland, the Polish immigrants who settled here bought the land for farming with the few precious dollars earned by hard city labor. The land was owned by logging baron J.J. Hoff who opened the first land office in Sobieski to sell the cut-over property for farming at $15 an acre in 1895. Prior to that time, there had been a few sawmills along the Suamico River, which were manned by local Native Americans and a few white managers, but no permanent settlers as far as is known.     map Coordinates: 44°43′15″N 88°04′19″W

1897  Lakewood Platted by the Western Town Lot Co. in 1897 and appropriately named for the lake in the nearby woods. Information provided by Deana Hipke.  The Tourtilotte family operated a trading post at Waubee Lake in the mid 1800s.  This was sold to Mr. Langlois and then became a resort under the ownership of Hick McConley.  The 60 lakes and 200 miles of trout streams with the 6 mile radius of Lakewood attracted John Anderson, thought to be the first white settler in Lakewood, who bought 80 acres of land that was later occupied by the Lowery family.     map Coordinates: 45°19′11″N 88°26′53″W

1900  Village of Gillett incorporated     State Source

1903  Ordinance creating the Town of Morgan     State Source

1903  Village of Oconto Falls incorporated     State Source

1905 Town of Wheeler created from the Town of Armstrong     Oconto County Reporter

1915  Village of Suring incorporated     State Source

1916  Town of Townsend created from the Town of Wheeler     State Source

1917  Bagley Now known as Bagley Rapids, it was originally a logging camp that became a small settlement. The logging outfit was owned by the Bagley family, and worked along the upper Oconto River on the North Branch. After the logging days, the Bagley family went into the wood milling business in Marinette, making windows, doors, blinds, and sashes. Information gathered at Farnsworth Library, Oconto, WI.     map Coordinates: 45°3′44″N 88°16′56″W     WIGenWeb Source     Town of Bagley created from territory detached from the Town of Maple Valley     State Source

1917  Town of Abrams created     State Source

1919  Incorporation of the city of Oconto Falls     State Source

1920  Incorporation of the city of Oconto as Class 4 city     State Source

1921  Town of Riverview created from the Town of Armstrong     State Source

1921  Village of Lena incorporated     State Source

1922  Town of Doty, Wisconsin, created from the Town of Armstrong     map Coordinates: 45°12′17″N 88°36′53″W     State Source

1922  Territory detached from the Town of Armstrong & attached to the Town of Townsend     State Source

1944  City of Gillett incorporated     State Source

1951  In 1951 Dan Baldwin, an Oconto youth, was sledding on a hill which was then part of the Charles Werrenbroeck farm.  To his amazement he found a leg bone.  After considerable investigation it was determined it was the bone of a Copper Culture Indian and the property contained a burial ground of the Copper Culture Indians.  An archeological dig was conducted in 1952.  After the verification it was decided the property should be declared a state park in honor of these first known inhabitants of the area.  The property was purchased by the state of Wisconsin and is now the Copper Culture State Park.  Burial ground of North America’s earliest metal users, the Oconto Site is the oldest dated cemetery in eastern North America.     Copper Culture Source

1958  The Town of Wheeler changed to the Town of Lakewood     State Source

1960  The Menominee Nation is united under county status, from Shawano and Oconto Counties, one of the very few Native American peoples to remain on ancestral land.

1997  Change of town name from the Town of Armstrong to the Town of Mountain     State Source