The Early History of Kenosha

The Early History of Kenosha
by M. Frank
As published in
"Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin"
editied by Lyman Copeland Draper, L.L.D., Secretary of the Society
Vol. III, Being a page-for-page reprint of the original issue of 1857
Under the editorial direction of Reuben Gold Thwaites, L.L.D., Secretary and Superintendent
Published by the Society, Madison, 1904, p. 370

The history of the western country during the memorable period of 1836, also a few years immediately preceding that time, is proverbial for adventurers and enterprises, many of them partaking of extravagance and wild speculation. The Great West, its boundless natural resources, and its many advantages, for the speedy acquirement of wealth, at that period, more than ever before, became a subject of absorbing attention, throughout the Middle and Eastern, States.

In the month of December, in the year 1834, a gentleman in the town of Hannibal Oswego county, N. Y. invited a number of guests to, an entertainment at his residence. At the supper-table, the West, its beautiful prairies, productive Soil and bright skies, became the engrossing theme of coversation. The enthusiasm of tbe party rapidly increased, as each of the leading spirits present rehearsed the glowing descriptions of travelers, who, had explored the country west of, the Great Lakes. During the evening, the party mutually resolved upon a plan, to organize, an association to settle a colony in the West, in which those becoming members should be aids to each other, and mutually share profits and losses in the enterprise. To strengthen the undertaking, and carry the purpose of the originators into effectual operation, it was determined to call a general meeting, with the view of submitting the proposed plan of organization, and inviting the co-operation of all who desired to embark in the enterprise. A public meeting was accordingly held, at which a, Constitution, prepared by the Rev. Jason Lothrop, was presented and discussed. The meeting was largely attended, and, the object under consideratioia met with more general favor than was, anticipated. At a subsequent meeting, held on the 20th of February, 1835, an organization, was finally perfected, under the name of the "Western Emigration Company." Rev. Peter Woodin, a respectable Baptist clergyman of the town of Hannibal, was elected President of the Company, and John Bullen, Jr., of the same town, Secretary.

By the Constitution of the Company, it was contemplated to raise a cash capital of $8,000, by subscriptions of stock in shares of $10 each; the funds so raised, to be invested in real estate suitable for a town site, and the share-holders to be entitled to the proceeds arising from the rise of the property. About four hundred shares were, subscribed and paid for. The stock of the Company promised, to be lucrative, and many persons of small means, who desired to find a new home in the West, became share-holders. Old men, and young men, and even unmarried females, who were employed as house servants, in some instances appropriated, from their earnings sufficient to purchase a share, in the hope of realizing large profits.

Among the most active individuals in the interests of the Company, in its early formation, may be mentioned John Bullen, Jr., Charles W. Turner, Waters Towslee, James Scott, Dr. R B. Cary, Jason Lothrop, Hudson Bacon, Peter Woodin, Alfred Foster, Orlando Foster, William Bullen, George Bennett, and Sidney Roberts. In the spring of 1835, the Company appointed a committee to, explore the distant and then comparatively but little known regions of the West; the exploring committee were Waters Towslee, of Hannibal, Sidney Roberts, of Clazenovia, Charles W. Turner, of Sterling. The explorers left Hannibal on the 19th of March, 1835; the day of departure was one of considerable interest; the leave-taking was such as is usually witnessed between parents and children, husbands and wives, when a long and perilous journey is about to be undertaken. The instructions to the committee of exploration, were explicit, and reduced to writing. The explorers were required to examine the country along the western shore, of Lake Michigan, with the view of finding an eligible situation, for a commercial town, with lands in its vicinity adapted to agricultural pursuits. Milwaukee was fixed upon as the first point of the committee's destination, that being the only place then definitely known, between Chicago and Green Bay, as settled by white inhabitants. From Milwaukee, they were directed to explore, either north or south, along the shore, as, they might judge best. The, committee took $2,800, of Company money with them, with which, to make investments, and were allowed one dollar a day, while on actual duty, and traveling expenses.

On leaving Hannibal, the committee took the route by way of Lake Erie to Detroit,, and from thence across the country to Chicago. At Chicago they ascertained that there, was no road to Milwaukee; the journey to that place being, at that period, usually performed by following Indian trails, Sometimes on foot and sometimes on horseback, and occasionally by water, on a small schooner. The explorers set out on their journey by land, following mostly along, the beach of the Lake; after having accomplished a part of the distance in this way, they descried a small sail craft coasting along the shore towards the north; they embarked on this, and made a successful voyage to Milwaukee. At Milwaukee they found a small collection, of buildings, mostly of a temporary character., and a mixed population of whites and Indians. Nature, however, had marked the location as one of great prospective importance, and town lots were, already run up to; comparatively high prices. The committee soon ascertained that the object of their mission could not, be obtained at Milwaukee; the, means within their control were, too limited to make a purchase of real estate sufficient for a colony.

While at Milwaukee the committee learned, that there were several points on the Lake shore, towards Chicago, capable of being rendered of commercial importance, which were yet unoccupied by claimants; they accordingly proceeded south, carefully exploring such points, as seemed to afford any natural advantages for the construction of a harbor. The first locality which claimed their favorable notice, was at the mouth of Root river, afterwards called Racine; but here the lands, bordering on the river, had already been claimed by Capt., Gilbert Knapp, Mr. Barker, Mr. Hubbard and, others. These gentlemen had already made preliminary arrangements for laying out a town, but were disposed to sell out their claims. The committee finally entered into an agreement with Capt,. Knapp, by which they were to pay $2,7OO for the claim to the lands on which the principal part of the city of Racine now stands. A misunderstanding, however, occurred before the bargain was legally consummated; much unpleasant feeling too., was subsequently manifested between the parties to the contract; difficulties also arose between the individual members of the committee, which were afterwards a source of much embarrassment to the Company's operations. A tendering of the money to Capt. Knapp for the Root river claim,, was put into, the hands of Judge P. D., Hugenin, who, after holding it for some time, and seeing no prospect of its being accepted, deposited it in a bank at Chicago. The committee being unable to perfect the agreement with Capt. Knapp, two of their number (Towslee and Roberts) returned home to consult with the Company as to further proceedings, while Turner remained at Racine, to look after the unsettled purchase. The Company called a meeting of the stockholders at Hannibal, to hear the report of the exploring committee, and to determine upon future action. Dissatisfaction, real or pretended, led the meeting to resolve upon the removal of the exploring committee, and the appointment of John Bullen, Jr., sole agent of the Company. An attempt was subsequently made to hold Capt. Knapp to his agreement to sell to the Company, but this having failed, all ideas of a location at Root River, (Racine,) was of course abandoned.

After the failure to effect a purchase for the Company at Racine, an examination of the country farther south, was made under the direction of Bullen. On the 6th of June 1835 the exploring party came to Pike Creek.* -- *Pike creek, (now city of Kenosha), was the name by which the locality was known to Indian traders and early adventurers west of Lake Michigan. It was afterwards called Pike, taking its name from the first Post Office established in the year 1836. In 1837, a meeting of the inhabitants of the place was called to fix upon a new name, at which time it was voted to call the place Southport, because of its being the most southerly port in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. In 1850, the place was chartered as a city, ahd named Kenosha. M. F.-- Although this locality had, been partially noticed before, by some of the party in the employ of the Company, yet its advantages, especially for the construction of a harbor, had been almost entirely overlooked. It was now a season of the year when Nature puts on her loveliest attire; the wild flowers appeared every where in profusion, and filled the air with delightful fragrance. The Island lying between the two branches of Pike creek, (since called Washington Island,) was clothed in richest verdure and seemed to invite the traveler to its shady repose. Pike creek, which at this period spread out to, the width of a large river, with a channel of sufficient depth to float a ship, at once suggested the idea, of a commodious harbor for the prospective commerce of Lake Michigan. In short, everything at this point seemed favorable for the location of a town, and it was resolved to lay claim without delay to the lands. Accordingly claims were made for the Company by John Bullen, Hudson Bacon, and J. G. Wilson, all on the north side of Pike creek. The land on the south side of the creek was subsequently claimed by David Crossit.

Pike River

Before proceeding further with the history of the Emigration Company, and its movements at Pike creek, it is necessary to a proper understanding of succeeding events, to give a brief history of the settlement at Pike river. The village of Pike River has long ceased to exist; every vestige of the place has disappeared, and nothing remains to mark the spot where this boastful little town once stood. But it must not be forgotten, that there was once a town one mile north of the present harbor of Kenosha, and which, during a period of three or four years, was a formidable and troublesome rival of Southport. Pike River once had dwellings, stores, mechanic shops, warehouses, &c. Among the buildings in the place, was one erected by Wm N. Seymour, one hundred and twenty feet in length; this building was taken down in the year 1842, and removed to Southport, where its materials were used in the construction of several dwellings. Most of the other buildings at Pike River were, during the same and the following year, taken apart and moved, or were moved standing, to Southport.

The town of Pike River had its origin in consequence of a difficulty among the members of the Western Emigration Company. Charles W. Turner, who was one of the exploring committee originally selected by the Company, and who was superseded, by the appointment of Bullen, became dissatisfied with the turn of affairs, and resolved to have no further connection with the Company. He concluded to make an exploring tour on his own account, and henceforward to look after his personal interests. Accordingly he crossed over the country westward from Milwaukee, to Rock river; he followed down that stream to Dixon's Ferry, now village of Dixon. During his journey thus far, he met with only a few white persons, until his arrival at Dixon. From Dixon, he crossed over the country eastward to Chicago. Having made no discoveries, on his route, to suit his purpose, he concluded once more to explore the western shore of Lake Michigan. On his way northward, along the shore of the Lake, and while attempting to cross Pike river, at its mouth, on the bar, his horse mired in the quicksand, by which accident he was thrown into the water. After considerable struggle of horse and rider, in the miry pool, both fortunately succeeded in getting on to the dry land. Turner had intended to reach Racine that day, but as it was now nearly sunset, and as he was dripping wet, he determined to camp down for the night. Having turned out his horse to feed on, the wild luxuriant grass, he kindled his fire, prepared his evening meal, and made his bivonac under the bright canopy of stars. This was on the 9th of June, 1835.

On the following morning Turner discovering an Indian canoe lying near the shore, the idea at once occurred to him to explore the river upward, with the view of ascertaining its magnitude. Seated in the canoe, by the aid of a pole, he sounded the depth of the water for a quarter of a mile up the stream. The shores were bold, and upon a casual survey of the land adjoining, he found it apparently well adapted, for a town site. His mind was now fully made up, that he had discovered an admirable location for a commercial city. He proceeded to Racine, and having procured an axe, and a few other implements, returned the next day to Pike river and marked off his claim. In a few days, he had succeeded in erecting upon it a small log house, which he covered with bark. Having arranged things to establish his claim, which he deemed essential in compliance with claim laws, it became necessary for him to return to Oswego county, N. Y. to settle some affairs before laying off his proposed town into lots. As it was a requisite of claim law, that some person should keep possession during his absence, he arranged with Dr. Bushnell B. Cary, of Racine, to stay in his cabin until his return. Turner was unexpectedly detained in the State of New York until the following spring, and upon his return was greatly astonished to find his agent, Dr. Cary, had been forcibly ejected from his cabin; besides, Pike river had no longer the appearance of a wild, unbroken wilderness. The place during his absence had been surveyed out into streets, and lots, and quite a number of persons were on the ground, who refused to recognize him as the rightful claimant; moreover, he was plainly told that his presence was undesirable, and that if he persisted in remaining at Pike river, unpleasant consequences might ensue.

The cause of this revolution in the affairs of Turner, was simply this: The agents, of the Emigration Company, had, during his absence, examined the locality he had chosen, and were strongly impressed with the importance of its, situation; they accordingly, without delay, proceeded to take possession of it, alleging in justification of the act, that Turner had no right to disconnect himself from the Company at the time he did; that he was lawfully a part of the Campany at the time he made his claim at Pike river, and therefore the claim made by him must of right belong to the Company. Turner perceiving that it would be of no avail for him to contend, single-handed, for the recovery of his claim, against such a strong array of force, proceeded to Milwaukee to procure aid. At this period, Wisconsin formed a part of the Territory of Michigan, and a sheriff had been appointed by the authority of Michigan, residing in Milwaukee. By the advice of friends, Turner procured a sort of writ of ejectment, by virtue of which the occupants at Pike river would be ousted at once. This document was put into the hands of the sheriff, who, having provided himself with a suitable number of attendants to enforce his authority, set out for Pike river. On his arrival, he found the cabin of Turner strongly fortified, and garrisoned by a half-dozen or more of men; the sheriff demanded them to surrender their fortress; the besieged replied by uttering terrible threats of violence upon the first man who should presume to enter the enclosure. Whereupon, the sheriff made a speech, in which he strove to impress the resistants, with the important legal prerogative of his office, and the fearful consequences of disobeying one so high in authority as himself. This had the effect to cool very considerably the courage of the men in the cabin,. After a long parley, it was finally stipulated, that the possession should be given up to Turner for the time being, and that the parties should abide the decision of a properly constituted claim tribunal. This being arranged, the men in the cabin, capitulated, marched out, and Turner entered in, and found himself once more fully installed in his little, castle. The matter of dispute between, the parties, was finally adjudicated, when it was determined that Turner was the lawful claimant. Turner subsequently purchased the property at the Government land sale in May, 1839, and continued to hold and reside on the premises to the time of his death, which occurred, in 1851.

Pike Creek Resumed

As has already been stated, the Western Emigration Company fixed upon its location at Pike creek (Kenosha.,) in June, 1835. As soon as the news reached Oswego county, of the selection of this place, immediate preparations began to be made by stock-holders, to emigrate to the newly chosen home. About fifteen families, mostly from the town of Hannibal, came on during the sununer and fall of 1835. A part of these, however, were not members of the Emigration Company, and on their arrival made claims on lands in the vicinity of Pike creek, for the purpose of pursuing the business of farming. Eight families, members of the Company, settled at Pike Creek, viz: David Doolittle, Waters Towslee, I. G. Wilson, Hudson Bacon, David Crossit, Amos Grattan, Samuel Resique, and Michael Van De Bogart. These, with the members of their households, thirty-two persons in all, comprised the population of Pike Creek during the first winter of its settlement. Their habitations were rude shanties built of logs, and covered with bark. N. R. Allen and John Bullen erected a frame building in the fall of 1835, being the first frame building erected in the place; this building, however, was not completed until the following year; it was located on the Lake shore, near the present south pier of the harbor.

The early inhabitants of Pike Creek, were not indifferent to religious and educational privileges. Through the efforts of Rev. Jason Lothrop, a school was established in December, 1835, and maintained through, the winter. A number of families residing on the prairies, in the vicinity, availed themselves of this opportunity to send their children to school. About this time also, meetings for religious worship began to be held occasionally; Rev. Abner Barlow preached the first sermon, in the house of Waters Towslee, near the place now known as Beard's brick-kiln. The inhabitants at this period also organized a Temperance Society, and nearly the entire adult population of the place, and the surrounding country, became members of it.

The residents at Pike Creek were not, however, permitted to enjoy quiet in their wilderness home; scarcely were the first settlers comfortably lodged in their cablins, before they were annoyed by intruders upon their rights. The country, at that period, was traversed, in almost every direction, by adventurers and speculators, some seeking homes for their families, others intent only on money making. Only a few of the many exciting incidents of those times, can now be related. The controversy known as the "Resique war," which began in August, 1835, and ended in the summer of 1836, was a source of much disturbance. The origin of the Resique war was as follows:

In the month of July, 1835, two adventurers,, Samuel Resique and John Noble, left Chicago on an expedition to make Claims in advantageous locations, with the view, of selling them on speculation. They followed the Lake shore north from Chicago, until they unexpectedly came upon the settlement of the Emigration Company, at Pike Creek. The usual marks, such as furrows made through the woods and openings by a plough, indicated that the lands in the vicinity of Pike Creek were already claimed. The prospect for making any speculation here, at first appeared rather dubious; still the place had many natural attractions, and they lingered around a couple of days, to enjoy the quiet scenery. Washington Island was then, in its primitive glory; the, groves of young oak upon it had never yet been disturbed by the woodman's axe. Attracted by its inviting beauty, they passed over to spend an hour in this primeval forest. Resique, and Noble were experienced squatters; their quick perceptions soon discovered, that if the Island had a reputed Claimant, he was not in fact a legal one, according to the squatter code.; several important particulars had evidently not been complied with. There was no shanty on the land, and no resident squatter on the Island. Resique and Noble at once came to the conclusion to lay claim to the entire Island, and for this purpose, immediately proceeded, by the help of a hatchet, to erect an encampment, and otherwise make a proper claim demonstration. Having completed their cabin, Resique returned to Chicago, to procure a supply of provisions and other necessaries, while Noble remained to keep possession of the Island. As soon as it was ascertained by the Pike Creek squatters, that the two strangers seriously intended to take possession of the Island, Noble was ordered to leave the premises without delay; this he resolutely refused to do. It was next proposed to eject him forcibly; but the more discreet rejected this proposition, as not being compatible with squatter law. It was finally concluded to proceed against Noble by a sort of technical movement. Accordingly, on the morning of the 25th of July, six men, armed with axes, were seen crossing over in a boat towards the Island. Noble saw this formidable force advance, and was overwhelmed in conjecture as to its probable intent. Upon landing on the Island, instead of offering him any molestation, the men, immediately began cutting down trees and brush, and commenced building a fence; they continued their labors, until they had entirely enclosed one acre, or more, leaving Noble and, his domicile in the centre thereof. Noble nerved his courage, and maintained his position. In a few days, Resique returned from Chicapap, with some laboring men, and a good supply of provisions. The fence aforesaid, which at first, looked so, formidable, soon began to disappear by piecemeal-particularly in the night time, until it was altogether missing.

Resique and Noble kept possessicn of the Island, with only occasional skirmishing, until the summer of 1836, when the contest was renewed, with manifestations of hostility, which, for a time, threatened the most serious consequences. Judge William Bullen attempted to take possession of that portion of the Island lying within the limits of the N. R quarter of section 31, by virtue of a claim originally made by an agent of the Western Emigration Company. Resique marshalled a force to maintain his position; for several days armed men were employed, and the most warlike demonstrations were exbibited on both sides. The dispute between the hostile parties was finally compromised by allowing Judge Bullen to come into peaceable possession of a part of the Island.

It is proper to remark, that during some, two or three years after the first locations were made at Pike Creek, Washington Island, which covers an area of some thirty acres, was regarded the most valuable portion of the projected town site. It was believed it was destined to become the chief commercial point of business, and that every foot of its surface, would eventually be as precious as gold. It is said that Mr. Garrett, a wealthy capitalist of Chicago, in the fall of 1835, offered $17,500 for a good claim to the Island. Other capitalists and speculators made liberal offers for portions of this now almost deserted spot. Next to, the, Island, that portion of the town Iying north of the creek, was held to be the most valuable. For several years, the lands on the south side of the creek, now comprising the first ward of the city of Kenosha, were not esteemed very desirable.

The difficulty known by the early settlers as the "'Woodbridge quarrel," was also, a source of many unpleasant disturbances in the fall of 1835. The progress of this dispute, and the many exciting incidents attending it, would require too much space to, be here narrated. This quarrel originated in a Claim made by Woodbridge, which lapped over on, the claims of the Emigration Company. It must not be inferred, that because many disputes and collisions, occurred in these early times, that the settlers at Pike Creek and vicinity were disposed to be contentious and quarrelsome. There were no legally constituted courts; the only tribunals for the adjustment of difficulties, were the Claim Unions formed by the settlers; and, these even were, not, fully organized in this, section of the country until the year 1836. Besides, the public lands were yet unsurveyed, consequently there were no legally defined boundary lines-hence it can be perceived, that clashing interests would naturally occur. A circumstance which took place in the early settlement of Pike Creek, will illustrate the ingenuity and strategy, which were sometimes resorted to by rival claimants, to over-reach each other:

An early settler held a claim on a piece of land, now included within the limits of the third ward of Kenosha. One morning this claimant, while passing over his claim, near the present residence of Judge Samuel Hale, was overwhelmed with astonishment to find a piece of his land enclosed with a fence and within the enclosure the ground cultivated, and corn growing upon it. The matter was inexplicable; the possible loos of his clamin made him feel extremely uncomforable. His supposed pssession by virtue of claim law, had, to all human appearances, passed into the hands of some more successful squatter. The unhappy man immediately notified the Committee of Arbitration of the state of the case, and solicited their attention forthwith to this strange affair. The Arbitrators came, and sure enougb, there was the fence, the cultivated ground, and the young corn some four inches in height, apparently thriving luxuriantly. The claimant made his statement, alleging that he had, within the past week, walked over this very piece of ground, and saw no fence or signs of improvement. The Arbitrators were greatly perplexed, and sat down on a log to deliberate. The case was discussed for some time, but no satisfactory conclusion being arrived at, the conversation relapsed into silence-each seemed involved in his own contemplations as to the instability of human affairs, especially in the matter of claim titles. At length one of the Arbitrators sprang suddenly upon his feet, apparently having seized hold of a new idea; he proceeded to take down a portion of the fence so as to remove the bottom rail; this being done, he burst forth into an exultant laugh-the revealment of the mystery now flashed across the minds of all present. The grass, which had been pressed down by the bottom rail, was still fresh and green, demonstrating that the fence had not been built more than twenty four hours, and disclosing furthermore, the probability that the corn had within the like period, been, transplanted to its present location. It was subsequently ascertained that the corn was brought from a field on the neighboring prairie, and carefully planted here. This ingenious contrivance to jump the claim of a Pike Creek squatter, was unanimously declared by the Arbitrators to be a piece of outlawry, and the complainant was adjudged to be rightful possessor of the ground. The claimant, who had been greatly alarmed, since his discovery of the mysterious corn field, now breathed freer - went home to his cabin in a happy mood to greet his wife with the news of his triumph.

Although the settlement at Pike Creek during the fall of 1835, was quite small, there was considerable business stir in the place. Among the public wants, was a tavern for the accommodation of strangers. Travelers frequently stopped at this point, and found indifferent quarters. Judge Peter D. Hugunin visited the settlement in July, 1835; he was directed to the house of John Bullen, as affording the best accommodation of any in the place. Bullen resided in a small log building, with a bark covered roof, on the north side of the creek. It so happened, that a family of emigrants stopped at the same time with the Judge, to, obtain a night's lodging. The sleeping arrangements were as follows-the Judge and the children were closely stowed in the cabin on one side and the women on the other side; the remainder of the company slept outside on the ground. The Judge's experiences in western travel were next day (July 4th) at Racine; here he learned that an Independence dinner was to be eaten at one of the principal places of entertainment in the place. The Judge liked the idea of a patriotic dinner in a new country; so at the appointed time, he went to the dining place, and sat down with six other patriotic citizens. Three savory dishes graced the board-pork, rice, molasses. To these were added bread, and the usual condiments, of pepper and salt.

To meet the wants of the settlement at Pike Creek, Samuel Resiqne, in August, 1835, opened a tavern in a small log house on the Island. Resique's tavern, though kept in an insignificant looking building, soon became very popular. But few men, knew better how to cater to, the appetites of their guests than Resique; his table was provisioned with the best wild game the surrounding country could furnish; and the economy with which he was accustomed to stowaway his numerous guests on a given area in his little garret, was truly astonishing. Resique's success was so unexpectedly great in the line of tavernrkeeping, that he, concluded to enlarge business; accordingly, in the following month, he opened a store in an adjoining cabin, under the, firm of Resique & Noble."

During the season of 1835, there were a few trips, made by steamboats between Detroit and Chicago; no, steamers, however, that year, stopped at Pike Creek; three sail vessels anchored off the place during the season, and sent boats ashore. In the season of 1836, the steamer "Detroit" came to anchor half a mile from the mouth of the creek and landed passengers and freight; a number of sail vessels stopped during that year. In the following season, 1837, the town had become more generally known abroad, and the number of arrivals of steamboats and vessels was largely increased. (From a commercial record kept by A. D. Northway, it appears, in the season of 1837, the number of arrivals was, 61 steamboats, 80 schooners, and 2 brigs; in 1838, 72 steamboats, and 88 schooners; in 1839, 102 steamboats, 47 schooners, 3 brigs and I ship.)

The method of landing passengers and freight from steamboats and vessels, was such as is generally practiced on lake or sea coasts, where no harbor or wharf facilities exist. A "lighter," capable of carrying several tons weight, was built in the spring of 1836, and kept on the beach of the Lake; whenever a steamer or sail vessel anchored off shore, for the purpose of landing passengers or freight, whether in the day time or night time, the lighter was launched from the beach and manned. The. lighter being heavy, it required a large portion of the able-bodied men of the town to handle it. Among the most active on such occasions, to man the lighter, was Judge Hale. Many of the citizens of Kenosha have still vivid recollections of hearing his stentorian voice, at midnight hours, calling for men to launch the lighter; when his voice did not suffice to awaken the sleepers, a heavy kick against the door never failed to bring them to a sense of wakefulness.

For the convenience of navigators on Lake Michigan, it was found necessary to have some beacon, answering for a light-house, at Pike Creek. To supply this want, a large oak tree, on the bank of the Lake, some twelve rods south of the present harbor, was cut down so as to leave the stump ten feet high. On the top of this stump was put a layer of stones, and on this foundation a fire of wood was kindled every evening at sundown, during the season of navigation. Several Citizens of the place volunteered to perform the duty of lighthouse keeper, alternately, one week each; among the most active of these was Geo. Kimball, Esq. This contrivance for a beacon light served until the year 1840, when an improved light-house was built, by subscription, costing $60, which sum was chiefly raised through the exertions of J. M. Stryker. It consisted of four posts, twenty-four feet high, on the top of which was placed a sash lantern, three feet square. Some two years after this, the Government light-house was built, which relieved the people from further trouble and expense of this sort.

The want of proper rules and regulations for the adjustment of difficulties, especially those arising from land claims, was much felt by the early settlers. Accordingly, in February, 1836, a meeting was held, and a code adopted for mutual protection, called the "Claimants' Union." Soon after, a convention was held at Racine, at which a more extensive combination was organized, entitled the "Milwaukee Union." (*For the Constitution by which this Claim Union was governed, the reader is referred to Rev. J. Lothrop's "Early History of Kenosha County," in the Second Volume of the State Historical Society's Collections. M. F.)

The survey of the public lands in this part of the country, was completed about the first, of February, 1836. In, May following, Thomas Marr, under the direction of the Western Emigration Company, surveyed the village of Pike Creek, into lots, blocks and streets. On the plat of this survey, a liberal number of localities were designated for public buildings, squares and market places. A new survey of the village was made in 1839, directly after the lands were sold by the U. S. Government. This last survey was under different auspices, and a less liberal policy prevailed in the width of streets and appropiriation of grounds for public uses. The survey last mentioned, is the now legally recorded one, governing the boundaries of lots at the present time.

The Western Emigration Company, the history of which has been in part detailed, was dissolved in December, 1836; it proved a losing opperation to most of the stock-holders. The finality of this Company, will be found in Rev. J. Lothrop's History of Kenosha, County. During the year 1836, eight additional families settled within the limits of the village. The place, it will be recollected, was known by the name of Pike Creek or Pike, until 1837; after that period, Southport, until 1850; since which last mentioned time, Kenosha. The following statistics, taken from JR Frank's, "Sketch of the Early History of Southport," published in 1844, gives the progress, of the village from its first settlement to 1840:

1935 8 32
1837 16 84
1837 26 144
1838 33 186
1839 43 246
1840 56 337

Early Efforts to Build a Harbor

The construction of a harbor was, from the first settlement of the town, always looked upon as a work of necessity, and of certain and near accomplishment. So early as the year 1836, the settlers were unwilling to admit, that more than three years would elapse, before this important improvement would be made. In the year 1837, the first vigorous, effort was made by the inhabitants to procure an appropriation from Congress; Hon. Charles Durkee was deputed by the citizens to proceed to Washington, for the purpose, of interesting members Congress on this subject. Mr. Durkee succeeded in procuring a special pre-emption bill to be passed through the Senate. This bill granted the right to make a pre-emption to about a section of land, within, the present corporate limits of the city of Kenosha; each settler being allowed to, pre-empt two village lots. These lots were, by the provisions of the bill, to be appraised and sold, for a sum not less than the appraisal; the proceeds to be applied to the building of a harbor. When the news of the passage of this bill by the Senate came, intense excitement pervaded the whole population; it was regarded as settling the question beyond contingency of the harbor. The bill required that each claimant, in order to make a valid pre-emption, should have his lots enclosed with a fence, within twenty days after the passage of the law. This made it a very busy time for a few days; the work of fencing lots progressed night and day; every where people were, seen running with rails, stakes, or, wbatever material could be found, wherewith to make an enclosure. Some valuable lots, on the north side of the creek, had for some time been in dispute, as to title under the claim law. One morning the people were greatly surprised to find these lots all completely enclosed the work having been done the preceding night. While the business of fencing lots was, earnestly progressing, news came from Washington of the defeat of the bill in the House of Representatives; thereupon fencing operations suddenly stopped; the people sat down to rest, and to calculate their gains and losses.

The first preliminary survey to a harbor, was made by Capt. Allen, of the United States Topographical Engineers in the summer of 1837, at the expense of the citizens of the town. Capt. Allen estimated the cost of building a harbor at $87,000. In the year 1839, Capt. Cram, of the U. S. T. E., under the direction of the War Department, made a harbor survey at Southport, also at Pike River and Racine. The Report of the surveys and estimates of Capt. Cram, was officially published in January, 1840. On the publication of this Report, great indignation was felt by the citizens of Southport; as it estimated the construction of a harbor at the south mouth of Pike Creek (Southport) at nearly $200,000, and at Pike River about the same amount; while at Racine, the cost of building a harbor was estimated at less than $50,000. Capt. Cram was, at this time, said to be a real estate owner at Racine, and was charged with a deliberate intent of prejudicing the Department at Washington unfavorably to a harbor appropriation at Southport.

A public meeting was held by the people of Southport, on the 10th of February, 1840, to devise means for counteracting the influence of Capt. Ciam's Report. Hitherto much jealousy had existed between the property holders of Southport and Pike River, and but little friendly intercourse existed between these two places; but the. Pike River people looked upon the Report of Capt. Cram as particularly intended to disparage their harbor location, -hence, on this, occasion, they, for the first time, joined with the people of Southport, to make common cause against a Government official who it was believed, had conspired against the interests of both Pike River and Southport. The meeting was organized early in the morning, at Seymour's tavern, continued its deliberations through the day, and did not finally close its labors until late in the evening. The result, of the meeting was the passage of resolutions strongly condemning Capt. Cram, and expressing a determination to represent the unfairness and mischievous intent of his Report to the War Department, and demand his removal from office. A committee was also appointed to proceed to Milwaukee, to obtain the co-operation of the citizens of that place in the effort to remove Capt. Cram; it being understood that the Milwaukeeans were on no, friendly terms with the Captain. These resolutions, which breathed much spirit and determination, finally ended, as such matters often do-in smoke.

In March, 1840, the mechanics of Southport held several spirited meetings, and entered into an organization to build a harbor by subscriptions, to be paid in installments of work and money. The enterprise was zealously discussed for several weeks, but, the pecuniary ability of the mechanics for an undertaking of such magnitude was found to be quite unsufficient, and the project, was abandoned.

The inhabitants of Southport did not fail to petition Congress every year for an appropriation to build a harbor, besides employing other means to bring the attention of Congress to this subject. In January, 1842, Gen. D. Hugunin was deputed to proceed to Washington; his acquaintance with some of the members of the Cabinet, it was believed, would gain for him a favorable hearing. Other individuals, in after years, were dispatched to Washington on the same mission. The people, however, were doomed to disappointment from year to year; Congress seemed deaf to their reasonable demand, and very many of the settlers, who had relied on the building of a harbor as a means of giving permanent value to real estate, became discouraged. Finally, on the 25th of June, 1844, intelligence came that an appropriation bill had passed, granting $12,500 for the construction, of a harbor. This news was received with demonstrations of joy; a public dinner was gotten up, speeches made, toasts drank accompanied with music and the firing of guns. Real estate, which had for some time been depressed, suddenly went up; many new buildings were immediately commenced, and the business activities of the town were greatly revived.

The good news of a harbor appropriation had its invigorating effect only a few weeks, when a new turn was given to affairs. It was ascertained that Col. Abert, of Washington, who was designated by the War Department to locate the harbor, and direct the expenditure of the appropriation, regarded the terms of the act of Congress such, as to make it discretionary with him to locate the harbor at the South mouth of Pike Creek (Southport), or at Pike River, one mile North; moreover, it was affirmed that Col. Abert had been heard to express the determination to make the location at Pike River. This new aspect of the case, very naturally created a great panic; the work on every new building, with only one exception, (store of J. H. Nichols, corner of Main, and Park streets) was discontinued. Many improvements which had been commenced, were relinquished; real estate, suddenly fell; many were anxious to sell out, but there were no buyers. The destiny of the town now seemed suspended on the decision of Col. Abert. On the 26th of August, Col. Abert arrived, and fixed his quarters at Boardman's tavern, corner of Market and Exchange streets. It was understood his decision in the matter would be given without delay; this was a day of intense anxiety to every lot holder. Soon after the arrival of Col. Abert, he was waited upon by the Hon. C. Durkee and two other gentlemen; when Mr. Durkee presented him with a paper which he desired him to read. (The paper given to Col. Abert, called his attention to facts, which very naturally might have escaped his attention. People abroad, often labored under a misapprehension as to the distinction between Pike River and Pike Creek. There was a phrase put into the act, especially designed to apply the appropriation to the South mouth of Pike Creek, but which would not be likely to be so construed by any one not personally acquainted with the localities of the two places.. M. F.) Col. Abert took the paper, and looked it over, seemingly with much attention. In the mean time, the party waiting upon the Colonel watched his countenance with anxious, interest; a decision, was pending which would settle the question, whether Southport was to be, or not to be. At length Col. Abeft said, "Mr. Durkee, do you know the statements contained in this paper to be correet?" Mr. Durkee replied in the affirmative. "Then," said Col. Abert, "there is no alternative, the location for the harbor must be fixed at the South mouth of Pike Creek." The news of Col. Abert's decision spread rapidly through the town, and was received with expressions of delight. The next day the sound of the saw and the hammer again began to be heard, and every department of business proceeded with more than usual energy.

In March, 1845, another appropriation, of $15,000, was obtained from Congress. Since that period, the work on the harbor has been prosecuted, more or less every year, by money borrowed on the credit of the corporation, and by tax levied on the real estate of the town.


The establishment of a newspaper began to be agitated in the summer of 1839; in the following wlnter, there was much excitement on the subject, arising from the rival feeling between the people of the north side of the creek, and those on the south side. The south side claimed the location of the press on the ground of having the greatest population. The north side claimed it, because it had more wealth and business influence to sustain a press. In January, 1840, Judge Bullen proposed to guarantee, to Hon. C. C. Sholes, five hundred subscribers, and a sufficient support, provided he would establish a paper on the north side. This raised a storm; the south side, people called a meeting, and resolved not to patronize the proposed paper. In the meantime, the interests of the south side continued to strengthen, and in June., 1840, the "Southport Telegraph," edited by C. Latham Sholes, and M. Frank, was established. This paper has ever since that time, continued its regular weekly issues, and is now, with perhaps one exception, the oldest newspaper in the State. The north side did not, however, abandon the idea of a newspaper, and in September, 1841, a paper called the "Southporf American," was established on that side of the creek, edited by N. P. Dowst. It continued to be published on that side, until the mercantile and other business was mostly transferred to the south side, when the paper was also removed to the south side.

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