Research reveals some fascinating things about Shawano

I have never traveled out of the country but I have visited much of the United States. Although I enjoyed seeing the wonderful landmarks and beauty of other states, there is no place I would rather live than in Wisconsin. I love our four seasons. Admittedly, winter is my least favorite, but there is something about that first snowfall that I find so lovely. I appreciate the beauty of nature in Wisconsin; the lakes, rivers and streams and the beautiful woods filled with wildlife, green grass, cornfields and apple orchards.

I enjoy researching the history of Shawano County, the city of Shawano, villages and townships. I will share some of the information I have learned, beginning with the city of Shawano.

Shawano was incorporated as a village on March 11, 1871. On March 19, 1874 Shawano became a city. According to Menominee legend, a band of Indians traveled along the Wolf River looking for food. They came to a lake where they found many wild rice beds. They called the lake “Sha-Wa-Nah-Pay-Sa” which means Lake to the South. The county and city of Shawano were later named after this lake, Shaw-an-aw, meaning “south.”

On March 14, 1874, five days before Shawano was incorporated as a city, an editorial appeared in the Shawano County Journal. It was written by the editor and proprietor, Myron McCord. It said in part, “Undoubtedly some will sneer at the idea of thinking of Shawano as an incorporated city, or anticipating her prosperity in the future. They say it is a little burg situated on the Wolf River and built wholly by lumbering resources, and as soon as the pine is gone, it must consequently die and perish. They further say that the majority of pine of Shawano County is owned by wealthy men who reside in Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, and other places, who WILL manufacture their pine at home in preference to having it manufactured in Shawano, even though we have sufficient mills to accommodate them.”

The editorial concluded saying, “We do not boast when we say that in the city of Shawano you will find some as good businessmen as you can find in the State, who are fully alive to the interests of the place, and by their combined efforts, they have made Shawano a place to be thought of, respected, and referred to with justifiable pride.”

Fortunately, several industrious and civic-minded businessmen settled in Shawano. In 1858, Charles Upham, a young man just 21 years old, opened a shop where the Wright Broiler later located. Some of the early shops and businesses included Upham’s tin shop, several boot shops, hardware stores operated by J.M. Schweers, Myron McCord and H. Nachtwey. Early drug stores were operated by C.L. Wiley, F.D. Naber and Dr. Williams. There were also three livery stables. (We have one of the original stables located on our property on Water Street.)

In those early years, there were also several barber shops, taverns, clothing stores, inns and hotels and fabric shops. Shawano became a booming little city. Logging played a very important role in the city’s early growth.

D.H. Pulcifer was elected the first mayor of Shawano in 1874 and C.M. Upham was elected mayor in 1875. It was said they both tried to change Shawano’s image of drunken behavior. A Portage paper in 1875 wrote “We have known Shawano when there was one saloon for every fifty inhabitants and it was one of the worst places for drinking, we ever saw; though being a lumbering town, most of the drunkenness was with the transient population. All honor to the first two mayors of Shawano who have dared not only to enforce the Sunday law, but prohibit the sale of liquor altogether.”

Apparently, Shawano had no banking facilities until 1881 when F.W. Humphrey organized the Shawano County Bank under a charter and operated until 1900, when the bank was reorganized and chartered as a National Bank. Charles Upham was one of the organizers of the Shawano County Bank and its successor, the First National Bank. He was its president for 20 years.

Did you know the first telephone line was extended to Shawano in 1888? The switchboard was located in Anton Kuckuk’s store. Later it was extended to homes. Imagine that. Now, 130 years later, cellphones are prevalent.

1890 was the year of the big fire. Many stores and shops on Main Street from Green Bay Street to Division Street were destroyed.

Shawano’s first fire department was a volunteer bucket brigade. Most of the males living here at that time were members. When there was a fire, every volunteer fireman grabbed two pails and ran to the scene. Water was pumped by hand from wells. By the turn of the century, the city was able to purchase modern equipment.

(to be continued)

Question: Who opened the first shoe shine stand in Shawano and in what year?

Clothesline Conversation Answer: Art Tic opened the first shoe shine stand in 1936.

Lorna Marquardt is a former Shawano mayor.