University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Port Washington centennial, 1835 - 1935 : one hundred years of progress
(1935)

Historical highlights of "Old" Port Washington,   pp. 5-6


Page 5

Historical Highlights of
"Old" Port Washington
In the very early days when Port Washington
was known as Wisconsin City, Franklin Street end-
ed in a swamp. The swamp was near Sauk Creek.
At that time Franklin was not the main street
it is today. Instead, Pier Street had the honor.
It was the busiest street, had two hotels and made
connections with the large wooden trade pier.
Sauk Creek got its name when a violent and
bloody battle between the Sauk and Chippewa In-
dians was fought on its banks. The Sauks were
victorious.
Records in the archives of the Jesuit Fathers in
Canada show conclusively that Father Menard in
1663 was an active worker among the Indian tribes
along Sauk Creek. It is also a fact that Father
Marest erected a large cross somewhere in the
vicinity of Port Washington.
One of the first lake boats ever built in this
city was the "E. R. Blake." The Blakes of pier fame
built it. The keel was laid right on the beach.
Timbers and planks were whipsawed out of solid
oak. After the launching, the "Blake" carried grain
to Great Lakes ports.
The now populous West Side was once called
"Ashery Hill" and was the scene of a wood-burning
pot-ash-making establishment. There were several
other "asheries" in the town.
As early as 1848 when heavy forests still crowd-
ed the narrow roadways, Port Washington was con-
nected with Sheboygan and Milwaukee by stage
line. The late Charles Altendorf often recalled how
he drove with his father for the Wisconsin Stage
Lines. Either the Ulao or the Green Bay road
would be taken depending upon the weather.
Port Washington had its cattle fairs too. On
Mondays the farmers would gather to sell and buy
at the place where Roob's Theatre now stands.
The first paper in the town was the "Democrat.'
It was published by Flavius Mills. Other papers
came later and not so long ago there were five
weeklies in the town.
Oddly enough, the first brewery was started by
an Englishman. Arnet was his name. He sold his
brew for three cents a pint.
The oldest stone building is the Dodge, cobble-
stone house still standing on South Wisconsin
Street. It has endured for ninety years and has
recently been made into an office building for the
Power Plant.
One evening about the time of the Civil War,
Port Washington homes were awakened by a local
Paul Revere who came dashing down the street and
in a frenzied voice shouted, "The Indians! The
Indians! The Indians are coming!"
That was the time of Port's sensational Indian
scare when everyone trembled and shuddered with
terror. It was only a fake scare, however, because
the three Indians then living in the county were
calmly fishing for bass in the Milwaukee River.
The First School Teacher
The first school teacher was George Foster.
Foster was a Yankee from New York State and was
well read and well educated. He was engaged to
teach the children of all ages and even though the
school room was small he accomplished much. His
method of teaching was unique. Instead of using
force he talked gently and rarely punished. Foster
later became a lawyer.
When the town was divided into two districts
the total number of pupils was 135. In 1852, seven
years after the first class, there were 535 children
making up the total of five districts.
Catholic School
Two years later the Catholic School was form-
ed. Adolph Heidkamp was engaged as instructor
and served in this capacity for two years, after
which he took over a political office. In a general
reorganization of the school, Father Sailer, the
resident priest, called in the Sisters of Notre Dame.
The school drew large enrollments, often made up
of non-Catholics, and in a peculiar and unprece-
dented action, the local government allowed it $800
per year out of the public school fund.
The Early Churches
As more and more people migrated into Port
Washington and remained to set up homes, a move-
ment was started to establish a church. Most of
the residents were of English descent and they ac-
cordingly agreed on the Presbyterian Church. In
1845 the first services were held in the school house
and a year later the congregation was officially
crganized. At that time Barnum Blake was very
influential. He was the owner of a number of piers,
one of them being the much used structure at Port
Washington. When he deeded a lot to the church,
a frame building was erected. For a time the church
was successful, but gradually the character of the
town changed from Yankee to German and with
the change came new churches to replace the old.
PAGE FIVE


Go up to Top of Page