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

The founding of Port Washington,   pp. 3-4

Page 3

The Founding of
Port Washington
To one man, and one only, can credit be justly given as the founder of Port Washington, Worcester
Harrison, better known as General Wooster Harrison.
Worcester Harrison was a native of New York and a typical Yankee. Of a roving disposition, he
moved around, dabbling now and then in his trade as clockmaker, and gradually he worked onward in-
to the Great Lakes region, coming up into Wisconsin Territory along with other pioneer adventurers,
among them Solomon Juneau, founder of Milwaukee. Harrison was a personality among personalities. He
had a dry, humorous expression, and a fluent store of yarns, which, besides making him a popular fellow,
often secured for him free bed and board. His quick, mentality gave him an unusual prestige. By the
time he had reached Wisconsin Territory he had gathered, besides Solomon Juneau, a considerable group
of influential friends. He became a townsite promoter. Harrison, himself, was a wild speculator and
often lost more than he gained. In his roving about he saw for the first time in 1833, the bluffs and hills
and valleys and the stream and wooded lands of the section that years later came to be known as the
"Little City of Seven Hills," Port Washington. Immediately Harrison "squatted" there. That year the
federal government had closed a treaty with the Indian tribes of eastern Wisconsin Territory and the
entire area was to be eventually thrown open to white settlers. Harrison, meanwhile, induced quite a
number of venturesome fellows to "squat" on the location he had previously picked out for himself and
then there quickly grew up the settlement that later became Port Washington; he had gotten a good
start when the federal land office was opened in Green Bay and his plat was the first entry recorded
there, September 7, 1835.
Harrison and his fellow-"squatters" had named    State, sought advantageous spots to start a business
the settlement "Wisconsin City." On the plat re-     enterprise or just to buy land on a speculative
corded at the Green Bay land office appear the       venture. Solomon Juneau was part owner of Har-
names of certain streets familiar to old-timers,     rison's plat. Harrison's wife died here in 1837, the
some of which still are so named, like Main, Frank-  first death in the new settlement. History does not
lin, Jackson, Washington, Milwaukee and Canal        record much about what became of Harrison after
(now Grand Avenue) streets.                          that sorrowful bereavement.
In two years the bubble that was "Wisconsin
City" burst and hand in hand with countless other
townsites succumbed to the panic of 1837 that was
general throughout the nation. Then most of the
pioneer buildings became vacant and fell rapidly
into decay. Of all the settlers who talked so freely
a couple of years before, only a few stood sturdily
by, firm in their faith that there was a certainty
of a come-back after the panic subsided.
Pioneer Growth
At the beginning everything was pleasant and
Harrison and his fellow "squatters" worked ardu-
ously to make "Wisconsin City" one of the most
attractive settlements on Lake Michigan's western    Port's First Wood-burner locomotive. Purchased in 1875.
shore. Sixteen acres of maple, beech and oak forest
land was cleared. Houses were built, also a hotel
and a tavern. It was the era of the "covered
wagon"; all settlers that came overland had to
travel that way; these "covered wagons" were haul-
ed at first by oxen, later by horses and mules. Up the
Sauk a dam was constructed and a saw-mill com-
pleted. "Wisconsin City" had then its first in-
dustry, supplying sailing craft with fuel and set-
tlers with building material.
Land values increased    rapidly, almost over
night. The first recorded transfer was in December,
18351 when Harrison conveyed to T. A. Holmes a
tract of eleven acres for $100. Six months later two
and one-half acres of that eleven acres was sold for
$1,500. While the boom lasted everybody talked
only about "Wisconsin City" and its amazing de-
velopment. Men who became famous at a later
date in the history of Wisconsin Territory and                    The Old Towsley Residence

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