Milwaukee Reverberations

16 Addresses Before the Old Settlers’ Club

From James S. Buck's Pioneer History of Milwaukee (1876-1886)

These addresses before the Milwaukee Old Settlers’ Club are from two early white settlers, representing a motivated mixture of history, memory & also forgetting of the city’s intertwined early white settler & Indigenous histories. Enoch Chase settled in the city in 1835, & Andrew Miller circa 1836.


July 4th, 1872.

Gentleman: I feel highly honored in being called upon to address you today. I congratulate you upon your hale and undegenerate appearance, which bespeaks your temperate lives, and the salubrity of our Wisconsin climate. When we consider what Wisconsin was thirty years ago, and what it now is, we may well be surprised at the wonders which a generation has wrought. Thirty years ago railroads were almost unknown, and it was eight years later before the first mile of track was laid in Wisconsin. To the labors of some of you we are indebted for the impulse which led to the construction of a thousand miles of railroad in the State. Others of you founded our commercial enterprises; built these rows of stately business palaces that line our streets; established our schools and churches; reared up our vast manufacturing interests; formed the early ranks of the learned professions here, which are a noble credit to the Northwest, and planted here on these lovely shores the various elements of our municipal greatness. Under the benignant and guiding influences which you created, you have seen Milwaukee become the first primary wheat market in the world, the fourth pork packing city in the Union, the second commercial city on Lake Michigan, the seventeenth in population, and, according to Dr. Johnson, the healthiest American city. Gentlemen, you may well be proud of these results of your labors. The worker is better than the speculator; others sold corner lots while you founded a city. Long may you yet live to behold the greatness of which you have planted the fruitful germs. But the main object of this address is not congratulatory, but to preserve some fragments of the history of the first settlers in Milwaukee, to which we will proceed.

Soon after the close of the Revolutionary War, Mr. Mirandeau and John Vieux left Quebec for the Northwest. Mr. Mirandeau was an educated French gentleman, belonging to one of the first families of Quebec. He was a Catholic, and studied for the priesthood, but, on the eve of taking orders, came with Mr. Vieux to the Northwest, as an employee of the American Fur Company. They traded some years about the Lake Superior region, and afterwards on the Wabash, and finally came to Milwaukee about the year 1795. Mr. Mirandeau brought with him his wife, a Chippewa woman whom he had just married. He resided here till his death, in 1820, and raised a family of ten children, of whom Mrs. Victor Porthier, the wife of Joseph Porthier, was the sixth, and was born in the year 1805. He was a blacksmith and received pay for his work in game and furs, selling the latter at Mackinac. He was a tall, fine looking man, with crisp, curly hair. His house occupied the site of the old Milwaukee House, and was his home for twenty-five years. He raised wheat, corn, potatoes, beans, &c., on the land along Huron street and south of it. This land was then tillable, as the water in the lake was some four or five feet lower than it now is, and the marsh along the Kinnickinnic, east of Dr. Weeks’ garden, was planted in corn. He appears to have been a religious man, as he had prayers in his house every evening, and was in the habit of reading religious books to his family. He had quite a large library, and spent all his leisure time in reading. He was a great favorite of his wild neighbors, who promised him all the land between the river and lake as far as the North Point when they made the treaty for the sale of their lands; but he died before that treaty was made, and Mr. Juneau succeeded him as the chief white man in Milwaukee. He was buried near the intersection of Broadway and Wisconsin Street. His widow survived till 1838 and was well known to many of the early settlers of Milwaukee. Full and half blood women made true and faithful wives to the traders, but would tolerate no infidelity by their liege lords. The mother of Mrs. —- was driven from the house of her sister in Green Bay in mid-winter, as Hagar was driven from the tents of Abraham, and she was compelled to go on foot to Sheboygan, thus proving that human nature is the same in all ages and among all races.

I have known the history of Mr. Mirandeau for thirty-six years, and have been surprised that his name is never mentioned as the founder of Milwaukee. John Vieux spent his summers in Milwaukee and his winters in Green Bay. Stanislaus Chapeau, Lauscut, Filey, and several others are mentioned by my informant as occasional residents here, but Mr. Mirandeau was the first white man who ever moved here, spent his married life here, died and was buried here. I think this entitles him to the honor of recognition as the first white settler of Milwaukee. All his children who survived him went to Kansas, except Mrs. Porthier. She, her three children and four grand children, the immediate descendants of Mirandeau, still reside in this county.

The settlement of new countries is nature’s plan for improving the human race. The more enterprising, vigorous and intelligent leave the thickly settled eastern world and the homes of old civilizations, and come to live in the broad West. Here the blood of the different races is crossed, and a superior population is produced by the process. The Saxon, the Celt, the Teuton, the Scandinavian and Sclavonian here mix together as inevitably as the Missouri and Mississippi flow into a single channel and produce one mighty flood. Intermarriage and the consequent intermixture of the races who occupy our soil is a continuous process. In 1870 there were born in Milwaukee county 2,715 children of foreign fathers and native mothers, or of foreign mothers and native fathers. At the same time, there were in the State 47,073 children whose fathers or mothers were of foreign birth, the other parent being a native. The healthy emigrant women, who do not fear either work or the breeding of children, will be mothers of the future rulers of the United States. They bear to the world healthy sons and daughters, healthy morally and intellectually, who will form an imperial, dominating race, fit for the highest achievements in civilization, in progress and empire.

In the month of June, 1835, a Methodist preacher, whose name I have forgotten, arrived here, and preached the first sermon in Milwaukee in my log house at the mouth of the river. He and Mr. Barber, a Congregationalist, preached occasionally afterward in the same place. Mr. Clark, the presiding elder, visited the place and preached once during the winter of 1835-36.

The first white child born in the place was Milwaukee Smith, born in October, 1835, daughter of U. B. Smith, still a resident of this county. I was the only physician in the place, and attended to such few cases of illness as occurred until the arrival of Dr. Barber, in the Spring of 1836, when he assumed my practice, such as it was. The most important case which I attended was that of Dr. B. B. Carey, of Racine, who had been shot through the lungs by a desperado whom he ejected from a claim made by him at that place.

B. Finch made and William Sivyer laid the first brick in Milwaukee. U. B. Smith was the first tailor; Edward Wisner the first shoemaker; George Reed the first lawyer; Daniel Richards the first printer; Samuel Brown the first carpenter; and B. K. Edgerton was the first surveyor who settled in Milwaukee. William Strothman was the first German emigrant. Hon. A. G. Ellis published the first newspaper published in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Intelligencer, of which the first number was issued in December, 1833.

Milwaukee was the favorite summer resort of several tribes of Indians, among whom were the Pottawotamies, Winnebagoes, Chippewas, Menomonees and fragments of the Sacs and Foxes. They lived in bark houses which they built along the bluffs, and subsisted mainly on fish, sturgeon, trout and whitefish being the principal varieties caught. According to my informant more than two hundred of these bark houses were built for the accommodation of these aboriginal lakeside loiterers, who numbered at least two thousand, and returned year after year till driven away by the white population. According to Catlin, the Indians, before being contaminated by the white race, were moral in their practices, and though yielding to superstitious beliefs, were really a religious people. They had the same reverence for the Great Spirit as the white man has for the Deity which he worships, and they probably led as pure lives as are led by the majority of Christians. They have almost passed away, and the feeble, vagabond remnants of the great tribes which remain about us appear to serve only as reminders that the savage races, when brought into contact with civilization, acquire its vices without its virtues, which become simply the means of their destruction.

In the common course of events, my dear and time honored friends, our human forms will be laid beneath the clods of the valleys, and the tears of affection will moisten the verdure that grows above us. What we have done that was good and what we have done that was evil in our lives, will then stand in judgment against us, to our honor or to our dishonor, not only among men, but before the Author and Judge of our being. Three of our number have died during the past year; more will probably pass away during the year before us, for, at the ages in life which the most of us have reached, our tenure here is a feeble and uncertain one. Men live happily, and their days are long in the land, in the proportion that they obey the laws of life, and their memory is blessed as is the measure of the good deeds, whether small or great, which they leave behind them. From what I know of you, and by the age that is yours, I judge that your years have not been misspent, but are fruitful of the good that crowns useful lives, that bears beneficent fruit in the community where you live, and that will make your names fragrant in the remembrance of mankind when you are gone. I shall hold you in kind remembrance, and you will be ever present in my benedictions, as I trust I may be in yours.



Men who voluntarily left the comforts and associations of their native homes, to make new homes, and lay a foundation for a new government, in the far west, were public benefactors. They were courageous and self-sacrificing men, worthy the respect and homage of those who enjoy the rich results of their enterprise and labors.

The old soldier loves to talk about his captain, his colonel, his regiment, and the battles he fought. The old settler is happy in the evening of his days, in telling of his journey westward, of his claim and purchase of government land, of his first log cabin, of his first garden patch, of his first yoke of oxen, of his first crop of wheat, of his first neighbor, of his wife and little ones, and of their ultimate prosperity. Men advanced in age, and of experience, happily speak of the times that tried their energy and courage, as lessons of encouragement to their successors in business. With such feelings and emotions, the Old Settlers’ Club of Milwaukee county was organized “for the purpose of reviving old acquaintances and of renewing the ties of former years.”

Incidents connected with pioneer life are interesting to the actors of the “olden time,” and should be equally so to their posterity. Old settlers cherish in their memories many interesting circumstances connected with the improvement of this country, which they love to unfold to each other, and to their friends and neighbors. The personal experience of each settler, in the aggregate forms a vast fund of useful knowledge. We may indulge in mutual congratulations, that our lots were cast in this Canaan of the Northwest which we came to possess, and have successfully improved and enjoyed.

There is no money in this Club, but there is reputation. The place and date of the birth of every member, the time of his arrival in the territory and of his decease, are recorded in well bound volumes for preservation and reference. The records and proceedings of this Club may be appreciated by after generations, as evidence of the good deeds of its members individually, and of the reputation of the first inhabitants of this county for industry and integrity.

It is not expected that this Association is to terminate with its present members. Provision is made in the Constitution for the admission of new members annually, after a residence of thirty years in Milwaukee county, whereby there may be a continual increase of members, corresponding with the growth of population. Each successive generation of members, having knowledge of events transpiring in their own days, should follow the example of the present members, in recording their experience, for the benefit of their successors. The State Historical Society at Madison annually receives and publishes our printed addresses. In fact, this Club is auxiliary to that society.

During the lives of the pioneers it is eminently proper, that the Annual Address of your President should mainly consist of facts connected with the early settlement of this county. I shall therefore confine this address to transactions occurring prior to, and during the Territorial Government of Wisconsin, even at the risk of relating common place matter, in the estimation of some, who do not appreciate the local history of those times. The device of an Indian wigwam, and a log cabin, on our badge, suggests a prominent portion of the following remarks.

The American Indians have been a subject interesting to philanthropists since the first colonial settlements. Savage and untutored races of men, at all times have retired before the approach of civilization and improvement. In the territory of the northwest, wars have been succeeded by treaties of cession of Indian territory to the United States, by surveys by the government of the ceded lands into sections and fractions of sections, and by their settlement and improvement. Such followed the Indian wars of Southern Ohio and Southern Indiana. The like followed the war of 1812, with England, in Northern Ohio, Northern Indiana and Michigan. The like also succeeded the Black Hawk war, in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. The United States have not treated with the Indian tribes as sovereign or independent nations, but rather as quasi wards of the government. The United States, by cession from the State of Virginia, became the undisputed owner in fee of the Northwest Territory, subject to the unsettled claims of the Indians. The government as the sovereign owner of the territory formed peaceful treaties with the Indian tribes, upon principles of humanity, providing for a consideration, in money and means of subsistence. It was more becoming a great nation to remove the Indians by peaceful negotiations, than by military force.

The Menomonee tribe was peaceful and friendly, and in consideration in part of benefits received of government, they ceded to the United States the lands described in the following treaty:

“The Menomonee tribe of Indians, in consideration of the kindness and protection of the government of the United States, and for the purpose of securing to themselves and posterity a comfortable home, ceded and forever relinquished to the United States all their country on the southeast side of Winnebago Lake, Fox River and Green Bay, described in the following boundaries: Beginning at the south end of Winnebago Lake and running in a southeast direction to Milwaukey or Minoawakey River, thence down said river to its mouth, thence north along the shore of Lake Michigan to the entrance of Green Bay, thence up and along Green Bay, Fox River and Winnebago Lake to the place of beginning, excluding all private land claims, which the United States have heretofore confirmed and sanctioned—and also all the islands in Fox River and Green Bay are likewise ceded, the lands ceded comprising, by estimation, two millions five hundred thousand acres.

This treaty and a cession from the Pottawotamies and other tribes included the lands covered by this city. The mouth of the Milwaukee River was the extent of the Menomonee’s lands on the south, the lands of the Pottawotamies, and other tribes extending from that point south and west. The cession of the friendly Menomonees was made in 1831, the year before the Black Hawk war. The cession of the Pottawotamies and of the Sacs and Foxes, which tribes were warlike, was made in 1833, the year after that war.

The very early settlements of Solomon Juneau and George H. Walker, at Milwaukee, made this point a favorite place of Indian resort. They visited the trading tents of these gentlemen from all quarters. Indian trails stretching out in every direction from this point were visible, for years after the removal of the Indians. The trail between Milwaukee and Green Bay was the high road for travel, until the military road was opened in the year 1841, pursuant to an act of Congress. The time required for traveling between those points was four days.

Port Washington, Sheboygan Falls, and Manitowoc, were the only intermediate stopping places. The postman traveled the trail on foot, delivering the mail at the terminus of his route on the fourth day. Returning from holding court in Green Bay, in October, 1839, a beautiful Indian Summer day, between Sheboygan Falls and Milwaukee, I met the mail carrier on foot, who was the only white man I observed on the trail that day, but numerous Indians enjoying their hunting season.

The trail of the Indians under Black Hawk, extending toward Bad Axe, on the Mississippi river, was pointed out to me in the capitol grounds at Madison by Gov. Dodge, in December 1838. The capitol covers the trail. The lands of the Menomonee cession were very soon after the treaty, surveyed and brought into market, but those Indians visited Milwaukee annually for years, from their northern possessions, with marketing, such as game of all kinds, and wild berries of every description. They continued to hunt in the forests, between Milwaukee and Green Bay as late as 1841. The last dance of the Menomonees in Milwaukee, was in October, 1841, on a bluff in Jackson street, immediately south of Wisconsin street.

As late as 1840, fresh Indian graves were discovered, at several places in Milwaukee. The lake bluff between Michigan and Huron streets, fifty feet above the level of the water, was their favorite place of interring their dead. They seemed inclined to bury their dead braves, at a point overlooking the great lake. Patches of corn hills in several localities in and about Milwaukee, remained distinct until destroyed in process of improvement. Low, loomy grounds, easily cultivated with the hoe, were the points of agricultural operations of the sq***s. Working was made the duty of the women. Hunting was the occupation of the men. The brave Indian is a much too self-important individual to make use of any other instruments than his rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife. It was remarkable, the regularity in which the corn hills appeared. They were about of the same size and in straight rows crossing at right angles.

Soon after the cession of these lands, they were surveyed into sections, as commenced by the government in Ohio, allotting the sixteenth section in each town for school purposes. A land office was established at Green Bay, in 1834. The lands embraced within the boundaries of Milwaukee were purchased at that office. Solomon Juneau purchased the lands situate on the east side of the Milwaukee river, Byron Kilbourn, on the west side of the river, and George H. Walker, on the south side of the river. By an act of Congress, approved June 15, 1836, the Green Bay land district was divided, and the Milwaukee district established. The first sale of government lands, at Milwaukee, was in February, 1839. At that time the lands in Milwaukee and adjacent counties were partially settled upon. The settlers occupied their claims under rules adopted by themselves for their mutual protection. Contracts of purchase and sale of claims, under these rules were enforced by the courts. In this respect history repeated itself. In Pennsylvania and other States, improvement rights of first settlers were protected by the laws.

The census taken in 1836, was the first census of Wisconsin. It appears, by the returns of that census, filed in the office of the court clerk of Milwaukee county, that the population of this county, including that part now Waukesha county, was five thousand, five hundred and seventy-three. Of this number there were in what is now Waukesha county, two thousand, one hundred and eighty-two persons – and in the present county of Milwaukee, three thousand three hundred and ninety-one. In the village of Milwaukee there were thirteen hundred and seventy-one persons, in the east ward of the village seven hundred and seventy-eight, and in the west ward five hundred and ninety-three. And in the towns of Milwaukee county there were two thousand and twenty. Of this population of five thousand, five hundred and seventy-three, there were persons under five years of age, nine hundred and ninety-nine; between five and ten years, six hundred and eighty-six; between ten and fifteen, four hundred and eighty-nine; between fifteen and twenty, four hundred and eighty-nine; between twenty and thirty, thirteen hundred and eighty-five; between thirty and forty, eight hundred and eighty-one; between forty and fifty, three hundred and forty-one; between fifty and sixty, one hundred and sixty-three; between sixty and seventy, seventy-nine; between seventy and eighty, fourteen; and between eighty and ninety, five; and forty-six free colored persons. That portion of the population between twenty and thirty years of age, comprised one-fourth of the whole number, and those between thirty and forty years of age, were nearly one-sixth of the population. Those between twenty and forty years numbered thirty-two hundred and sixty-six, four hundred and eighty over one-half of the whole population of the county. There were about one-third more males than females. This may be considered a fair representation of the population of the territory in the year 1836, except the old military settlements at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. With few exceptions, persons over fifty years, were not settlers from choice. Their children brought them. Newly married sons and daughters brought them.

Milwaukee county was divided, and Waukesha county organized pursuant to an act of the Legislature, approved February 2, 1846. The city of Milwaukee was incorporated in January of the same year. As before stated, the population of the village of Milwaukee, in 1836, was 1,371, and of Milwaukee county, within its present boundaries, including the village, 3,391. In 1850, the population of the city of Milwaukee, was 19,963, and of the county including the city, 31,077. In 1860, the population of the city was 45,140, and of the county, including the city, 62,518. In 1870, the population of the city was 71,440, and of the county, including the city 89,930.

By the census returns of 1840, there were in Milwaukee county, two weekly newspapers, one of a capital of twenty-five hundred dollars, and the other of sixteen hundred dollars, employing four men in one, and three in the other. There were three grist mills and four saw mills in the county; and the amount of manufactures was 11,350 dollars, by eight men employed, and the capital invested was 12,800 dollars. The total capital invested in manufactures in the county, was $23,100.

The proprietors of Milwaukee, commenced platting their lands into village lots in the autumn of 1835, and they completed the plats and filed them in the court clerk’s office in 1837. In 1836, speculation ran high, and town lots commanded enormous prices even while there were no marks designating their boundaries, or the lines of the streets, but the surveyor’s pins. The small number of buildings erected in the years 1835, 1836 and 1837, were mostly of wood, and very few exceeding one and a half stories. In 1836, the old frame Court House was built, fronting the square, dedicated to the county by the honest and large hearted first settler, Solomon Juneau, whose memory we venerate. The first brick block of stores, on the west side of East Water street, was erected in 1842. In 1847 there were not exceeding six brick dwelling houses of any importance in the city. The natural surface of Milwaukee was very broken and uneven. The bluff at the lake shore, north of Huron street, was fifty feet above the water, and increased in height as it extended northward. The government light house was first erected on this bluff, in the center of Wisconsin street, and was for a time, about the principal public institution in the village.

From the bluffs flowed springs of pure water, supplying the people, there not being wells. The bluffs were abrupt. A bluff extending from Broadway along Michigan street to the lake terminated the high ground southward. ‘The whole of the Third Ward, south of that street, was a duck pond. A bluff at the crossing of Broadway and Wisconsin street, was cut down twelve feet. In East Water street, near the City Hall, there was a bluff much in the form of a mound, nearly twenty-five feet high. A bluff on the summit of Spring street, was impassable by teams for several years. West Water street existed merely in name, being covered with water for years, from north of Spring street southward to the Menomonee river, and up this river for two miles, extended a wet marsh. One half of the fifth ward was a marsh. Not much work was done on the streets prior to the organization of the city government. The city authorities very soon entered upon the grading process, and reduced the bluffs into inclined planes, and filled up the marshes.

The Milwaukee and Rock River Canal Company was incorporated by the territorial Legislature, in 1838, and the same year Congress granted lands along the route of the contemplated improvement, to enable the company to prosecute the building of a canal between Milwaukee and Rock river. A dam was constructed in the Milwaukee river, in 1842, which by means of a canal, created water power, to the essential benefit of the city. The canal has not been extended further than the dam, and probably never will. In 1840, there was not a church edifice in Milwaukee. The Congregationalists and Presbyterians at first united in worship in a small building on the west side of the river. In 1841, they occupied an “upper room” of a building on the corner of Spring and West Water streets. In 1842, they divided, and commenced building churches, the Congregationalists on the west side of the river, and the Presbyterians on the east side. The Episcopalians worshipped in the court room. The Methodists worshipped in a small building on the corner of East Water and Huron streets. St. Peter’s Catholic church was commenced in 1839, and partly finished that year. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1844. These churches have been enlarged to double their original size. A Methodist church on the corner of Spring and West Water streets was erected about the year 1845. This church was burned, and from its ashes have arisen two beautiful church edifices, on Spring and Van Burn streets. The Catholic Cathedral was consecrated in 1853. In 1850 the erection of Plymouth Church was commenced.

In 1840, there were no means of passing to and from steamboats anchored in the Bay, but by lighters and batteaux. In 1842, a bridge pier was extended from the foot of Huron street; which in a short time was followed by another. These piers have not been used since the harbor extension from the river into the Bay. The Milwaukee river was crossed by means of two rope ferries, at the foot of Wisconsin and East Water streets, until the erection of a bridge in 1840, from Division to Chestnut streets. The construction of this bridge excited the local jealousy and prejudice of the residents of both sides of the river, which continued with much bitterness until the organization of the city government. At the present time, eleven bridges span the Milwaukee river, and seven the Menomonee, within the city limits, including two railroad bridges. The rivers being navigable from the lake, navigators of vessels have a paramount right over land travel, hence the necessity of constructing bridges with draws.

The first German colony, in number about eight hundred men, women and children, landed at Milwaukee late in the summer of 1839. They brought the necessary housekeeping utensils, and encamped on the lake shore, south of Huron street. They immediately commenced in a business way, to carry out their object in coming to this new country. They examined the government plats in the land office, and having ascertained by all the means in their power, where lands well timbered and watered could be purchased, they entered lands bounding on the Milwaukee river and on the division line between Milwaukee and Washington counties. A small number of that colony remained in the village, but the most of them employed themselves without delay, in clearing and cultivating their lands. These pioneers formed the nucleus of the very extensive, influential and wealthy German element of the population of this county and state. By their practical sense and industrious habits, they have largely contributed toward the growth of this city, and the wealth and improvement of this county and state. The German portion of our population are the proprietors and occupants of one half the territory of Milwaukee city and county. They are prompt tax payers. They perform the duties of good citizens, and they are faithful in the discharge of the duties of offices of public trust. The male members of the first colony, without delay, declared their intentions to become citizens of the United States, and in due time, they were naturalized in the territorial court, in Milwaukee, every man to the number of seventy in one day, signing his name to his petition. The first German paper in this county was published in 1844, by Moritz Schoeftler, who continues the publication of the Banner and Volksfreund.

In our primitive days in this country, every log cabin by the wayside, was a country tavern. Travellers rode up to a log cabin with as much confidence of a cordial reception, as if they observed on the door: “Entertainment for man and horse.” The best the establishment afforded was soon made ready, by the host and hostess. Frequently by night-fall the cabin became crowded, when the query passed around, where are these persons to sleep? Supper over, that query was readily answered. In the first place, the only visible sleeping establishment was divided up, giving to each one a little, as far as it was capable of distribution. Ladies were deposited in a corner of the cabin loft, behind a temporary screen. To each man a portion of the ground floor, or of the loft was assigned, with the privilege of selecting the softest plank. If a presumptuous person appeared to be one of the crowd, he soon became the butt, and had to submit to hard treatment, as a creature without friends. The wives of the settlers pleasantly conversed of their paternal homes, their youthful comforts and happiness, their school days and early associations, all of which they surrendered for the love and affection of their husbands, whom they loved, and aided in making for themselves and their children, habitations in the wilderness. They did their full share in improving this country.

Prior to the day of railroads, the most travel from the East was on steamboats, which arrived almost daily from Buffalo. During the season of navigation, business in Milwaukee was satisfactory, and the population rapidly increased. After the close of navigation, times became dull. We had only a tri-weekly mail, taking ten to twelve days in bringing mail matter from the East. The tediousness of the winter was, in a great measure, relieved by the social habits of the villagers. The ladies did their part in this respect. Scarcely two families were connected, but the people favored mutual intimacy and friendship, and indulged in innocent amusements. Tea drinking and dancing parties were generally observed throughout the winter. Class distinctions in society were ignored. There were not many public places of resort, or amusement. Families in comparatively comfortably circumstances were wont to dwell and receive the jovial visitors in very small houses, very scantily furnished. If we had not realized the disposition and habits of the people in those days, we should wonder to hear of the readiness of the young wives, to enjoy life in their new homes of discomfort. But they were equal to the emergency; they were help-meets, indeed.

From the census returns of 1840, it appears that families consisted of about five persons. Of the population of the present Milwaukee county, there were about six hundred and seventy men. There are enrolled as members of this Club, one hundred and seven, who settled in Milwaukee county before 1840, about one-sixth of those the heads of families. Three of our members are over eighty years of age, several are seventy and upwards. The youngest member is thirty four years of age, who, with four others, are natives of this county. Omiting those five, the average of the ages of the pioneer members is sixty three. Ten members have departed this life, the average of whose ages was sixty four.

The pioneers of this county were not of that class of men “who left their country for their country’s good.” In the prime and vigor of manhood, poor in purse, but rich in courage, industry, faith and enterprise, and moral principles, they bid adieu to their native homes, their friends and associates, and their early associations, for this western wilderness. They made their pilgrimages westward in the usual modes of travel in those days. Some traveled on steamboats, some on sail vessels, some with horse teams, some with ox teams, and many on foot. They came to this western land to possess and enjoy it, and by the blessing of God they have witnessed its great improvement. From comparative poverty, they have become rich in all the blessings of life. They are blessed with peace and plenty, blessed in their homes and families, blessed as founders and builders of this beautiful city, and great state, blessed with free schools and liberal laws. And many are favored with days of rejoicing, in the prosperity and happiness of their children and their children’s children.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

James S. Buck, “Addresses Before the Old Settlers’ Club.” Pioneer History of Milwaukee, volume 1 (Milwaukee News Co., 1876-1886): pp. 253-268. Original Source: New York Public Library.