Milwaukee Reverberations

10 Pioneer Settlement of Sheboygan County

By Hon. John E. Thomas (Wisconsin Historical Collections, vol. 9, 1882)

This source provides insight into some of the immediate aftermath of the treaty in the region, in the form of relations among early white settlers, the Chippewa at Sheboygan, & the Indian Agent at Chicago & one of the federal commissioners of the treaty T. J. V. Owen.

Those who have traveled the road from Sheboygan Falls to Sheboygan, will remember the old millsite at the foot of the hill before reaching the covered bridge, at the first rapids of Sheboygan River, about three miles from its mouth. The mill erected there was completed in 1834 or ’35, and was built for Payne and Crocker. William Payne died a few years since, in Chicago; and Col. Oliver C. Crocker, long a resident of Binghamton, N. Y., re-visited Sheboygan in the Summer of 1879.

Crocker helped to score the timber for the mill; and, when erected, considerable lumber was out there, and sold at the mill, and in Chicago. During the erection of the building, a laborer named Rudsill, a Vermonter, broke one of his legs; and as there was no surgeon nearer than Milwaukee or Chicago, Crocker set the limb, and the man recovered the use of it. This was probably the first surgery performed in the County.

Col. Crocker related an amusing instance of the manner in which justice was administered in an early day. He had sold lumber to a Chicago man on sixty days’ time, and the debtor was very dilatory; and, in fact, neglected to pay as he had repeatedly agreed to. Col. Crocker finally got into an altercation with the delinquent, and in self-defense gave him a good thrashing. As soon as the job was done, the Colonel, fearing that he might suffer at the hands of some court away from home, upon the complaint of his adversary, at once repaired to the nearest Justice, whose name was Casey, and entered a complaint against himself. That judicial functionary asked Crocker to state the facts, and to say whether he had “licked” the other fellow, C. H. Chapman, thoroughly. Crocker replied that he had tried to do a good job, and rather thought he had succeeded. “Well,” said Justice Casey, “I thought that I would fine you; but if you ‘licked’ him good, I will treat;” and he did. No appeal was ever taken from this judgment.

The partnership agreement between Crocker and Payne was drawn by Judge Goodrich, still living in Chicago; and although many years have elapsed since that document was drawn up, yet during the present Summer Judge Goodrich met his early client in that city, recognized him and invited him to dinner. Both readily admitted that Chicago had changed somewhat since 1834 – a period of forty-five years.

Col. Crocker, when here, showed us the identical old wallet in which he carried his wealth and papers, when he came to what is now Sheboygan, then called Sheb-y-a-gun. He is now a thrifty farmer, and a prominent citizen, of Binghamton, N. Y., and his visit here was a source of pleasure to him, and a marked gratification to many of our citizens.

The following letter of introduction from the Indian Agent at Chicago, was presented by Col. Crocker to the Chippewas at Sheboygan prior to his commencing work upon the mill:


Your Great Father, the President of the United States, purchased of the Menomonees all the country in the neighborhood of Sheb-y-a-gun river. This purchase was made at Washington City five or six years since.

My children – I know you claimed this land, and told me that the Menomonees had no right to sell it, and you told us the same thing at the trade held last Fall at Chicago; and although your Great Father had bought it of the Menomonees, yet your Fathers, the Commissioners of the Chicago treaty, purchased your rights to it again last Fall.

My children – The bargain you made with the Commissioners of your Great Father, is not yet agreed to by the wise men of the East, but I am sure it soon will be.

My children – The white men who take this letter to you are good men; they do not want to meddle with your fields or your hunting grounds; all they want is to build a mill on Sheb-y-a-gun River.

My children – I hope you will not interrupt these men, as they will be good friends to you; they will do none of you any harm. If any of you are dissatisfied, come and see me, and I will make all clear to you.

My children – You had better come and see me, if you are not satisfied with the talk I send you.

Your Father at Chicago,

T. J. V. OWEN.

June 5th, 1834.

[* Perhaps Che-che-bin-quay, who, with Wa-mix-i-co, signed the Chicago treaty, Sept. 26, 1833, of which Mr. Owen, the Indian Agent, was one of the Commissioners. Lyman C. Draper (Corresponding Secretary)]

This land is referred to at article 3d of the treaty.

In Snyder, Van Vechten & Co.’s Historical Atlas of Wisconsin, it is added, that Payne and Crocker built a log cabin about half a mile below their mill, at the mouth of Follet creek, which is still standing; and that when the Indians became aware of their preparations to build a dam, some four or five hundred of them, notwithstanding the conciliatory letter from their Agent, assembled to protest against any such obstruction, as they regarded it, to fish ascending the river, and thus cutting off one of their important sources of livelihood; but after long and tedious negotiations, their consent was finally obtained, and the dam built, and the mill erected during the fall of 1834 and following Winter and Spring. But the mill, like the honey bee, is a sure precursor of the advent of the white man, and the gradual withdrawal of the Indian.

John E. Thomas, “Pioneer Settlement of Sheboygan County.” Wisconsin Historical Collections, 1855-1915, vol. 9 (Wisconsin Historical Society, 1882): pp. 389-396.