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Port Washington 1835 to 1985
([1985])

People, places and events,   pp. 22-31


Page 24

Indian Scare
During the latter part of September, 1862, the
residents of Ozaukee County were thrown into ut-
ter panic and confusion by what became known
as The Great Indian Scare. A report of unknown
origin was circulated that the Indians were com-
ing in large numbers, killing men, women and
children, and laying waste to everything in their
path. No one seemed to know which Indians were
involved or from what direction they were coming.
Panic spread rapidly; farmers gathered up their
families, leaving everything behind. One family,
while heading full speed toward Port Washington,
lost one of the children on the way, not becoming
aware of the fact until they arrived in the village. It
was not uncommon for wagons to meet, flying in
opposite directions, each driver claiming that the
Indians were behind them. Word reached Port
Washington in the evening hours. Town fathers
were roused from their beds to find the village
swarming with farmers armed with pitchforks,
clubs and axes. Saloon-keepers rolled out kegs of
whiskey into the streets as rumors were that the
Indians could easily be dispatched with fire-
water. Residents buried their valuables, and
prepared themselves to put up the best defense
possible against the invaders. Sheriff Jacob
Bossler's wife raced to Milwaukee on horseback
to spread the alarm, and a company of soldiers
was dispatched to provide assistance. The
soldiers found abandoned farmhouses along the
route with doors wide open, and well stocked with
food. They paused to feast along the way, and
seeing no Indians, returned to Milwaukee. It was
later learned that this charade involved the entire
southern part of the state west to the Mississippi
River, an event which must have been enjoyed by
Wisconsin's native tribes.
Draft Riots
The sounds of war in 1861 proved to be a vexa-
tion to the comfortably settled and prospering im-
migrants in the area. The foreign born citizens,
many of whom had left their native lands to
escape the demands of military service, were
realizing the results of their laborious efforts in
taming the virgin territory. Farm lands were
cleared and productive, villages and towns had
made order out of the wilderness, commercial and
industrial enterprises were thriving. A sense of
well-being and prosperity prevailed. But here was
a war purely American, a controversy between the
North and the South. What did it mean? Which
side was right? Information relating to political
activities of the time was limited. The Luxem-
bourgers and the Germans, few of whom could
read English, and most of whom were industrious-
ly involved in developing their new lives in this
country, had little time nor inclination to acquaint
themselves with political issues.
24
Making his rounds each evening to light the gas lights and
again each morning to extinguish them was the 1893 job of
Phineis Follett. This photograph was taken at the intersection
of Pier Street and Lake Street.
Photo courtesy of Ambrose Mayer
A quota of draftees was established as
Ozaukee County's contribution to the call for
Wisconsin troops. Examinations were initiated in
preparation of a list of candidates for the draft.
Great dissatisfaction developed as the selection
was made, as it appeared that persons of position
and wealth were being declared exempt. Feelings
grew stronger as examinations progressed, and
when the list was completed, and the day of the
draft was at hand, public sentiment burst forth in
violent opposition.
On the morning of November 10, 1862, when
Draft Commissioner William Pors and his
assistants arrived at the courthouse to begin the
draft, he was seized by an angry crowd which had
gathered there, the draft rolls were destroyed, and
he was thrown down the courthouse steps. The
rioters pelted him with rocks as he sought refuge
in the Post Office where he hid in the basement.
The angry mob then proceeded to his home,
literally demolishing the interior, before marching
on a destructive course through the town under a
banner which proclaimed "No Draft." The mar-
ching men took possession of a four pound can-
non, and loading it with the only cannon ball they
could find, mounted it at the end of one of the
commercial piers, defying "Uncle Sam" or anyone
else to arrest them.
Governor Salomon sent a detachment of troops
from Milwaukee to quell the riot. Eight companies
were dispatched by steamer to Port Ulao, four
miles to the south. Half of the troops disembark-
ed, marching to Port Washington on foot, while
the remainder landed at the pier, thus surrounding
the dissidents. One-hundred twenty arrests were
made, and the prisoners were sent to Camp Ran-
dall in Madison following a short confinement at
Camp Washburn in Milwaukee.
Notwithstanding this disturbance, the war
record of Ozaukee County compared favorably
with that of larger counties, and many local young
men provided distinguished service in the Union
Army.


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