“You Princeton folks stole Hamilton and St. Marie, root and branch,
and not satisfied have commenced upon Berlin.”
Col. Joseph Carlton, Berlin,
joking amid discussion of moving the Green Lake Agriculture Society’s
floral hall from Berlin to Princeton in 1868
Unless you grew up in Princeton or caught the local history bug when you moved here, you probably don’t know much about the village of St. Marie.
But with a noted frontiersman as its front man and backed by land speculators eager to cash in on the rush certain to follow Wisconsin’s statehood in 1848, the venture on the east bank of the Fox River about two miles north of Princeton known first as Shaw’s Landing and later as St. Marie appeared positioned for success.
Today, two cemeteries, one misnamed and the other hidden by trees, an intersection of two country roads where fragrant lilacs will soon bloom again, and a road heading west from the west bank of the Fox River are visible reminders of the once promising hamlet.
The land that St. Marie founder John Shaw, a veteran of the War of 1812 and several battles with American Indians, envisioned in 1847 as a thriving community with a courthouse, churches and schools is mostly cornfields, wetlands, and woods.
Local historians have estimated 30 or more buildings stood here at the village’s zenith. Not one remains.
In “Shaw’s Narrative,” dictated to Lyman Draper in 1855 and published by the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1856, Shaw said he came to Wisconsin in 1845 and “located the present site of St. Marie, on a beautiful bank of Fox River, in Marquette County, where I removed in 1846, and where I still reside. On the opposite bank of Fox River is a large spring, called by the early French, La Cote Ste. Marie.”
John Gillespy interviewed Shaw for the “History of Green Lake County,” published in 1860. Shaw told Gillespy he came to Wisconsin in 1845, traveled the state and started a stock farm about four miles below Berlin, near Sacramento, in 1846, and “in fall of 1848 moved to my present residence” at La Cote Ste. Marie.
According to his obituary in the Princeton Republic, Shaw in 1841 “traveling in a boat propelled by himself and two Indians … claimed to have established at that early day the site of the village of St. Marie but did not finally settle there until 1847.”
Whenever he arrived, Shaw called his landing the best place to cross the Fox River for miles. To help his enterprise prosper, Shaw built a road west of the Fox from Shaw’s Landing northwest toward Plover and the Pinery, and started a stagecoach line primarily carrying mail and freight. (St. Marie Street in Wautoma was part of the route.)
Shaw promoted his road in a letter to the Watertown Chronicle in March 1848, telling the editor, “there is a shorter and better road from Watertown to Plover Portage than by way of Strong’s Landing (Berlin); namely, by way of Rolling Prairie, Knight’s Tavern, Dartford and St. Mary’s Landing on Fox River – some 8 miles northwest of Dartford – thence by Shaw’s new road to the Pinery; thereby saving at least 15 miles in distance of the Strong’s Landing road.”
Shaw planned to center his enterprise on land claimed by two women, Mary Kinner and Mary J. McCoy, at the Green Bay land office in May 1849. I do not know how they were connected to Shaw. I found no information on McCoy. The 1860 census indicated Kinner, 60, who lived with Shaw on Block 8, was born in Virginia.
(In June 1849 Henry and Royal Treat purchased the land that would become Princeton’s original plat and obtained pre-emption rights to the west side.)
The women filed for pre-emption rights on about 205 acres of Section 7, Township 16 North, Range 12 East straddling the Fox River. If they made improvements, they would have first chance to buy the land at the government rate of $1.25 per acre when it became available for public sale.
When Wisconsin became a state, Congress welcomed the newcomer with a land grant to fund the Fox-Wisconsin river improvement project intended to connect the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes via the Wisconsin and Fox rivers with a canal at Portage and locks and dams down river.
“The grant consisted of alternate sections, in a checkerboard pattern, within a strip three miles wide on each side of the upper and lower Fox River,” Richard Courant wrote in “The History of Wisconsin, Volume II” (The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1976). “The land was to be sold at a minimum price of $1.25 an acre. Promptly accepting the grant, the first state Legislature set up a board of public works.”
The Legislature allowed the board to reserve land involving “hydraulic powers, termination of canals, locks, dams, or where there may be materials necessary for the construction of the works on the rivers, and commercial points adjacent thereto” from pre-emption.
The Kinner-McCoy claim was among the properties granted from the U.S. to the state in 1848 that the public works board “reserved” in 1849.
In September 1849, four months after Kinner-MCoy filed their claim, Nathan Strong, founder of Strong’s Landing (Berlin), sent a petition reportedly signed by about 400 residents of Marquette and Winnebago counties to the governor and board of public works asking the board to reverse its decision regarding the Kinner-McCoy property.
“No human foresight … could have enabled the pre-emptors to avoid being on state, instead of United States, land,” the petition noted. “And they further supposed that when the act of the 8th of August 1848, was passed, granting the right of pre-emption to all settlers then on the state lands, and to all who should become settlers and make certain improvements prior to the public sale of said lands, they would be entitled to the benefit of said right.”
Strong’s petition also argued “whatever importance attaches to said pre-emptions is owing to a road having been made passable from Marquette County to the Wisconsin Pinery by said pre-emptors, at great labor and expense. No outlay for the improvement is required for several miles either way from said pre-emptions, and no materials needed for the improvement are to be found near there.”
The Legislature in January 1850, six months after the Treats began selling lots in Princeton, passed an “act of relief” (Chapter 33) for Kinner and McCoy, saying “a full and perfect title” for the 205 acres claimed by the duo was “vested in John Shaw” and that Shaw “may, at any time with the consent of said Mary Kinner and Mary C. McCoy, convey and dispose of said land, or any part thereof.”
Shaw bought the land in May 1850. He did not file the plat for St. Marie, however, until over a year later, in June 1851, and he never platted the former Kinner-McCoy property west of the river.
Hamilton, whose promoters included Abe Vars and Canfield Marsh, and State Centre, meanwhile, had gained footholds above and below Shaw’s Landing, respectively.
I have not found a plat of State Centre, which by 1850 included a bridge, post office and several buildings.
Hamilton, meanwhile, included a large “public house” (another name for hotel, inn, tavern, or boarding house), three or four stores, and several shops and houses, according to the Milwaukee Sentinel & Gazette. It also had a bridge.
Oshkosh Democrat, May 4, 1849 – “Mr. C.J. Marsh informs us that A.M. Hames is building a boat on the Fox River, some distance above here, to be propelled by horse power, and to be employed as a freight and tow boat. It will be finished and in operation by the first of June.”
The village added a post office – Namahkun – and seemed ready to break away from its rivals. The state listed Henry Hershey as postmaster on April 1, 1850.
Oshkosh Democrat, June 7, 1850 – “The Princeton post office has been removed to Hamilton, and H.A. Buck has been appointed postmaster. This is a thing that the citizens of Hamilton have long needed.”
Oshkosh Democrat, June 7, 1850 – “We learn that Mr. (Canfield) Marsh has made an arrangement with Col. Shaw so that there are no longer any rival interests in regard to the town. Hamilton will have no impediment now and it will be able to make strong pretensions to the county seat.”
A list of Marquette County village populations in November 1850 showed Hamilton with 98 residents and Princeton with 138. There was no listing for Shaw’s Landing or St. Mary’s Landing. A stagecoach line from Oshkosh to Fort Winnebago in 1850 included stops in Hamilton and Princeton three times a week.
Hamilton “was platted on a showy and extensive scale and looked as well on paper as any town of 3,000 population does now,” according to the “Portrait and Biographical Album of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties, Wisconsin,” published 1890 by Acme Publishing, Chicago. “In the days of its prosperity it had two stores, two blacksmiths’ shops, a tin shop, two taverns, a post office, and a bridge across the river, which the fates in an angry flood at the breaking up of the river in the spring carried downstream, thus sealing the doom of the unstable product of speculation.”
Shaw and the capitalists
The neighbors elbowing each other on the east bank of the Fox River united under one name in 1851.
Milwaukee Sentinel & Gazette, March 20, 1851 – “St. Marie: This is the name of a new town situated in the present county of Marquette, on the east side of the Fox River, and by way of the river about fifty miles below Fort Winnebago and twenty above Strong’s Landing. It includes the local trio heretofore known as Shaw’s Landing, Hamilton, and State Centre. It is beautifully located, the river flowing with a good current … bank varying in height from six to fourteen feet, the background is elevated and dry and has a good inclination to the river The best and shortest route between … the east side of the river and the Wisconsin Pineries is through this place, and there are good (word missed) from several points. It is surrounded with the best of Wisconsin farming lands and is entirely free from the swamps and lost wet ground so abundant along the banks of the Upper Fox.”
Oshkosh Democrat, March 28, 1851 – “The proprietors of the towns of Hamilton, Shaw’s Landing and State Centre have united their interests, abandoned all the old names, and adopted a new one, St. Marie. The plats all join. It is a beautiful locality, and a smart thriving town must grow up there.”
Shaw enlisted the help of land speculators – “capitalists” – to fund his venture. The absentee owners included attorneys in New York and Milwaukee; the group was referred to in warranty deeds as “Shaw et al.”
“The great advantages of the location have attracted the attention of several capitalists who have both the means and enterprise to place their town among the largest and most thriving of any on the Fox River,” the Milwaukee Sentinel & Gazette noted in its March 20, 1851, edition.
The partners included Lambert Kissam, a land agent whose father owned a large farm south of Berlin; William Armstrong, a brick maker in Portage; Thomas Sayles, a Milwaukee attorney, and his wife; and attorney Samuel Campbell and his wife, of New York. Attorney Oliver A. Morse, also of New York, bought in later. Morse earlier had been involved in land deals with Campbell in Ohio and Michigan, where he claimed he was swindled out of $3,000.
The Campbells were represented by Charles Kilbourn, a Milwaukee attorney and Sayles colleague.
“Samuel B. Campbell and wife Elizabeth of Castleton, Rensselaer County, New York, appoint Charles Kilbourn, Milwaukee, as their attorney … in their name may sell land such terms and credit as he may think best … lands belonging to us in the following described tract. … Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 in Section 7, Township 16N, Range 12E, containing 205 80/100 acres a portion of which is laid out as the Town Plat of St. Marie, Marquette County.” (Deeds, Volume K, Page 272, Oct. 9, 1851)
I have not found a document formalizing the capitalists’ relationship with Shaw, but with several attorneys involved, it likely exists somewhere in the deeds. I will keep looking.
Most of the land sales within the village plat occurred solely among the investor group. By my unofficial count, of the 141 lots shown in the St. Marie plat in an 1860 map of Green Lake County, excluding church and school lots, “Shaw et al” sold just over 40 of them, involving about 25-30 buyers, between 1851 and 1859.
Shaw paid $255.85 for his investment. He maintained throughout the rest of his life that the board of public works’ action prevented him from developing St. Marie into the “emporium of the county.” In 1854, after much debate by state legislators, and a decision jeered by some as based more on pity (Shaw was legally blind by then) than precedent, the Legislature granted Shaw $1,200 to offset his perceived losses.
Welcome to St. Marie
What we know today as Huckleberry Road north of County Road J was Pleasant Street in the plat Shaw filed in 1851. It ran north-south through the middle of St. Marie, parallel to Main Street one block west and Bluff Street one block east. Broadway ran west from Bluff Street to the bridge crossing the Fox River. Shaw platted eight rows of blocks north of Broadway, ending with Union Street, on the border with State Centre, and eight rows of blocks south of Broadway, ending with Hamilton Street.
Three of the community’s more historic landmarks – a schoolhouse built on Public Square 1 about 1855, a brick church built on Public Square 2 about 1856, and the Kilbourn house built south of the church about 1860 – stood east of Bluff Street.
Trees, corn stalks and lilac bushes mostly claim the sites today.
Public Square 1
Shaw et al sold an eight-rods-by-eight-rods parcel in Public Square 1 northeast of the intersection of Broadway and Bluff Street to Joint School District No. 3 in October 1854 (Deeds, Volume J, Page 33).
A schoolhouse was built there.I am unsure when the school was moved or razed.
I hope to learn more when I study the area’s one-room schoolhouses and school consolidations in the 1940s.
Public Square 2
The St. Mary by the Fountain Catholic Church that we see in old photos stood in Public Square 2 of the original plat.
Local historians speculate that a log or frame church preceded the brick church, which was erected about 1856 and closed about 1875, and have offered various theories about the number and locations of the St. Mary churches.
Rev. J.J. Holzknecht, who reopened the St. Marie church for pilgrimages in the 1890s when it was a mission of his church in Montello to raise money for a priest retirement home, contended in newspaper articles in the 1890s and early 1900s that Dutch Capuchin priest P. Louis Godthardt erected the first church – a log chapel and residence – at La Cote Ste. Marie in 1849. He wrote in 1900 that the brick church was built about 1853.
In July 1948, the Rev. Carl Wagner, pastor of St. Patrick’s (descendant of St. Mary’s) in Princeton, told the Princeton Times-Republic, “As the story goes, it was in the year of 1673 between the 7th and 10th of June that Father Marquette, the renowned missionary, came down the Fox River and stopped at Green Lake County to dedicate that river and that territory to Mary, to be ever known as St. Marie. A church was built there by Father Marquette.” (Forgive me, Father, but Marquette did no such thing.)
The late area historian Jack Steinbring in April 1996 speculated in the Princeton Times-Republic that former lead miners built a log chapel, “the first of several,” at St. Marie soon after their arrival in the area as early as the 1830s and “in 1861 the last of the chapels was erected of brick.” (More recent research refutes those theories.)
The late area historian Roger Krentz, author of “The Catholic Church in Green Lake County,” published by lulu.com in 2012, was vague about the date or site of a first church. “It is possible Father Godfert erected a frame building to serve as the Church of St. Mary of the Spring in 1854-55,” he wrote. “… By 1861 a brick church was built on a low hill overlooking the Fox River.”
Fortunately, documents are available today that help determine when the brick church, if not its predecessor, was erected.
Krentz reported that J.C. La Vies had published the “Location and detailed description of early Catholic church property in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee” in 1941. He said the 27-by-47-foot brick church at St. Marie was built in 1854-1855 and stood about 78 feet east of Bluff Street and 80 feet south of Broadway – cornfield today.
One of the most respected primary sources for U.S. Catholic church information is “The Metropolitan Catholic Almanac and Laity’s Directory,” published in various forms throughout much of the 19th century. The almanac traces the construction of the brick church but does not mention a log or frame church.
There is no mention of churches, chapels or stations closer to Princeton than Fond du Lac, Oshkosh and the Pinery (Portage County) in the almanac in the 1840s.
“Stations,” which could be a cabin or vacant shanty, were visited regularly by clergymen before there were enough Catholics in an area to build a chapel or church. A weary missionary could sleep there while traveling his circuit.
The 1850 almanac notes that Fort Winnebago (Portage) “is becoming a centre of a new and very interesting mission; people pouring in and settling themselves on beautiful grounds on both sides of the Neenah or Fox River, all along Marquette and Winnebago counties.” The Rev. J. Florian Bonduel was the attending priest for those areas as well as the Pinery.
Bonduel was succeeded at Fort Winnebago by the Rev. Anthony D. Godthardt in 1851, when Buffalo Lake, Kingston and Strong’s Landing (Berlin) were “occasionally visited by clergymen,” according to the report.
The only references to Marquette County in the 1852 and 1853 almanacs note that the Rev. Louis Dael, attending at Grand Rapids (Wisconsin Rapids) and preaching in English and French, also regularly visited stations at Montello, Marcellon, Kingston, Princeton and McIntyre’s settlement.
(St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Princeton “oral tradition” indicates there was at least a station on the Laboyeske farm on Eagle Lane northwest of the village in the 1850s.)
In 1854, the almanac reported that the Rev. Anthony Godfert, previously based in Green Bay and Fond du Lac, was attending St. Mary’s and that “a church is to be built here immediately.” Godfert also regularly visited stations at Montello, Kingston, Princeton and McIntyre’s settlement.
The 1855 almanac reported a “brick church is being built” for Our Lady of the Fountain, La Cote St Marie, attended by Godfert. The Rev. E. Gray replaced Godfert in 1856, but the 1857 almanac lists the post at St. Mary’s of the Fountain, La Cote Ste. Marie, as vacant and the brick church “just completed.”
The 1859 and 1860 almanacs list Gray as attending La Cote Ste. Marie. The brick church was dedicated as Sancta Maria ad Fontem, St. Mary by the Fountain or St. Mary of the Fountain, by Bishop John Henni in September 1861. It closed about 1875.
Princeton Republic, Dec. 11, 1875 – “The Catholic church in East Princeton (St. Stanislaus on North Farmer Street) is being fixed up in good style. The fixtures and furniture from the St. Marie church are being used in this, as it was not convenient to meet there for services.”
My review of documents at the Register of Deeds office in Green Lake narrowed the possible locations of a log or frame church, if there was one, but provided no firm answers.
Godfert purchased Public Square 2 in two purchases in 1854 and 1855 (Deeds, Volume N, Pages 208-210 and Volume J, Page 36), Lot 1 in Block 2 in February 1854 (Deeds, Volume Q, Page 533), and Lots 2 and 5 in Block 2 in April 1855 (Deeds, Volume J, Page 36), as well as University Square, which he sold with Lots 2 and 5 for $600 in March 1858 (Deeds. Volume O, Page 569).
The “History of Green Lake County,” published in 1860, notes there were two churches in St. Marie: “a neat and substantial church edifice” and “one church edifice in an unfinished condition.” I originally interpreted this as a completed St. Mary’s frame church and a brick church under construction, but now I know the brick church was completed by 1857. Could unfinished mean rough-hewn (log) or unpainted frame?
The St. Marie Methodist Episcopal Society was certified in 1853 and a Baptist minister lived in St. Marie in 1860, but I have found nothing indicating either built a church.
The brick St. Mary’s church remained open for pilgrimages on Catholic feast days honoring the Blessed Virgin into the early 1900s. It was closed permanently in 1909, dismantled and the site cleared over the next few years.
“Old St. Marie was dismantled for the benefit of St. Patrick’s church (Princeton),” the Rev. Charles Olson, pastor of St. Patrick’s and St. James in Neshkoro, wrote in 1909.
Sales from bricks were used to build a barn, concrete platform, and walk at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, on River Road, which also received the little church’s treasured statue of Mary and a painting of Father Marquette with the Indians.
Local historians say bricks from St. Mary’s were used on the building built at 504 West Water Street (Pizza Factory) in Princeton in 1909.
The third landmark east of Bluff Street was the Kilbourn house.
Attorney Charles Kilbourn and family relocated from Milwaukee to St. Marie about 1860, buying a farm east of the village and occupying a house on about an acre on the northeast corner of Bluff and B streets.
We get our first glimpse of the property in July 1857 when Shaw, Kissam and Armstrong quit claim to Campbell, Morse and Sayles, for $1 each, the part of Lot 3, Section 7, T16N, R12E “beginning at the northeast corner formed by the meeting of B and Bluff streets, thence running east 16 rods, thence at right angles north eight rods, thence at right angles west 16 rods thence at right angles south along the east line of said Bluff Street to the place of beginning” (Deeds, Volume G, Page 18).
We learn it is the site of the Kilbourn residence in January 1862 (Deeds, Volume U, Page 538) when Campbell sells Morse several lots but excluding “the building occupied by C. Kilbourn,” and in September 1865 (Deeds, Volume 26, Page 65) when G. De Witt Elwood claims much of the land in Section 7 with some exceptions, including “one acre belonging to C. Kilbourn on which his house stands.”
Charles and Margaret Kilbourn lost a son, Charles, in the Civil War. He enlisted in December 1861 and died in June 1862 in Mississippi. Kilbourn’s oldest son, Henry, listed as a medical student in the 1860 census of St. Marie, joined the Army and reached the grade of deputy surgeon general and the rank of lieutenant colonel. He died in 1910 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.
The Kilbourns moved to the Nashua, Iowa, area about 1870.Their former house was unoccupied but still there, along with the former hotel and brick church, and still remembered as the Kilbourn house in 1896 when Oshkosh writer Mary Mears was assigned to do a story about the pilgrimages to St. Mary by the Fountain Catholic Church.
“Of the town of St. Marie, founded by Col. Shaw in 1842 (sic), a forsaken house, the weather-beaten remains of what was once a hotel, and the shrine alone still stand. The place, however, teems with sentiment,” she wrote. “… After lunching on the steps of what is known as the old Kilbourn place, which is deserted of all except rats and mice and a ghost who is said to come out of the deep well at night and clang the old knocker, we took our boat again and rowed across the river.”
Princeton Republic, Aug. 5, 1897 – “Mrs. J. Kreb requests us to say that none of their houses are haunted and no ghosts are stalking abroad in the silent hours of the night making their headquarters at the old cottage in St. Marie.”
St. Marie Hotel
The St. Marie Hotel was located northwest of the Kilbourn house, on the north half of Block 5, just north of the trees and lilac bushes growing today at the corner of Huckleberry Road (Pleasant Street in 1860) and County Road J (B Street).
Outside of Princeton, the largest hotel in Pleasant Valley Township, which included the future St. Marie Township east of the Fox River, in 1850 was operated by Henry Candell. Its guest register included enough tradesmen to build a village.
Unfortunately, I cannot confirm whether Candell’s hotel was in Shaw’s Landing or Hamilton (I suspect the latter) in 1850, before Shaw’s Landing, Hamilton and State Centre merged in 1851 under the name St. Marie.
Nevertheless, look at this lineup of skills and trades at Candell’s hotel in the 1850 census: Richard Burnett, shoemaker, G.W. Noble, physician, Aaron Everhard, physician (had office in Princeton), Ezra Everhard, groceryman, Allen Johnson, carpenter, Benjamin Graves, carpenter and joiner, Henry July, carpenter and joiner, L.P. Grout, merchant, William Gamon, merchant, J.B. Hill, blacksmith, James Pierce, merchant, John Elliot, hostler, Marvin Pierce, lawyer.
(More on the Candell hotel later.)
We can confirm Block 5 in St. Marie was home to a hotel/tavern by October 1851, because when Shaw and partners sold Lots 2 and 3 in Block 5 in the St. Marie plat to Campbell for $50 (Deeds, Volume G, Page 16), the deed noted the property included “the tavern and buildings now operated by M. Harrington.”
After Shaw returned from a successful trip to Madison in 1853 when state legislators carved St. Marie Township out of Pleasant Valley, Kilbourn and other community leaders held a celebratory dinner at the hotel on March 30.
“The Colonel was escorted into the village yesterday at 5 o’clock P.M., amid the cheers and congratulations of his fellow townsmen, accompanied by their better halves, and convened in the spacious hall of our worthy and popular host, R. Harrington,” the planning committee told the Berlin Messenger.
The party planners included S.W. Eaton, H.A. Buck, A. Barnes, A. Harrison, C.E. Stacy and A.P. Carman.
Campbell sold Lots 2 and 3 of Block 5 to Martha and James Lowell in 1852 (Deeds, Volume K, Page 220). They also purchased Lots 1 and 4, giving them the entire north half of the block, from Shaw et al in 1852 (Deeds, Volume G, Page 421). I believe but am less than certain that the Lowells built a building adjacent to the hotel.
James Lowell advertised in the Marquette Mercury, published in Berlin, in May 1853 that he had taken possession of the St. Marie Hotel, “which is now well fitted and prepared for the accommodation of the traveling public, and all others who wish to make a home.”
The Lowells, who had paid $51 for their holdings, sold Lots 2 and 3 to John Shannon (Deeds, Volume I, Page 177) for $975 and Lots 1 and 4 for $500 to Sayles (Deeds, Volume H, Page 195) in 1854 – the highest and third highest prices paid for a pair of lots in the history of St. Marie plat sales.
I found no one in St. Marie listed as a hotel operator or innkeeper in the censuses after 1870, but the building remained as a town center. We know it was still there in 1896 when writer Marilyn Mears noted in her visit to St. Marie that the church, a former hotel and the Kilbourn house were all that remained of the village.
Area residents voted at the former hotel before a new town hall was built across the river on what is now Old St. Marie Road.
Princeton Republic, April 4, 1907 – “In St. Marie the interest centered on the question of providing a new town house. It was voted to build the new town house on the west side of the river.”
The old building was razed after 1909 and its lumber used to build a farmhouse, according to the late area historian Elaine Reetz’s sources. A 1914 map shows a building at the corner of Huckleberry Road and County Road J. It is not there on a 1923 map.
Rev. Robert and Lovina Thompson purchased Lots 1 and 4 in block 7 from Shaw et al in July 1852 (Deeds, Volume F, Page 355).
Thompson listed his occupation as hotel operator in 1850 and 1860. He also served as postmaster for a time.
Born in Scotland, Thompson enlisted in the British army when he was 18. He was assigned to a battalion that was sent to Canada and fought against the U.S. in the latter part of the War of 1812. After the war he moved to New York and became a U.S. citizen. He was licensed to preach by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1837. He arrived in Pleasant Valley Township in 1849, lived briefly in Hamilton and then settled in St. Marie.
Thompson was one of the founding trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church of St. Marie and the Methodist Episcopal Church of Princeton, both formed 1851-1853.
The Thompsons sold their St. Marie property to G. DeWitt Elwood for $300 in 1866 (Deeds, Volume 27, Page 603) and moved to Princeton, where Rev. Thompson died a year later.
Thompson’s son John became publisher of the Princeton Republic and followed his father’s footsteps by becoming postmaster of Princeton.
The land in the northeast corner of Section 7, T16N, R12E that Shaw designated for a cemetery in the original plat of St. Marie in 1851 is today called the State Center Cemetery, established in 1881, in signage onsite and on the Green Lake County cemeteries map.
The original St. Marie plat notes “the cemetery is eight rods square and occupies the northeast corner of said Section Seven. Stones are substantially placed as stations from which to make future surveys.”
The cemetery clearly was originally part of St. Marie, and there are graves there from well before the 1880s with names such as Hall, Marsh and Whiting, families linked with St. Marie and Hamilton in the early days of the Princeton Republic.
I have been unable to determine when or why the cemetery was named for State Centre, which was platted just north of St. Marie but never developed as significant a presence as St. Marie or Hamilton.
There is a second cemetery “hidden” in St. Marie on the former “Church Lot 2” of Shaw’s original plat, which today lies in a wooded area west of Huckleberry Road.
Shaw et al sold 2.5 acres to Bishop John Henni of the Milwaukee diocese in June 1863 for $1 (Deeds, Volume 25, Page 254). It originally measured 330 feet square and was named La Cote Ste. Marie Cemetery.
I have yet to document when the diocese sold or abandoned the property. There are newspaper reports of families moving the remains of loved ones from the St. Marie cemetery to the St. John and St. James Catholic cemeteries in Princeton and Neshkoro, respectively, in the 1890s.
Buck & Cheney store
I have included the Buck & Cheney store on this list because it is one of the buildings that we can trace from St. Marie to Princeton. It stood on Lot 1 in Block 2 and was owned initially by Hiram Buck and David Cheney.
Princeton Republic, June 6, 1887 – “The old elevator building (about 617 West Water Street), a name familiar here in Princeton, and now occupied by M. Manthey & Sons, who are doing a flourishing grocery and shipping business, has its history. That old building commenced making a record in the then-pretentious city of St. Marie, whose commercial marts have long since closed and glory faded into a rather modern antiquity. It was erected and first occupied as a store by Buck & Cheney and stood near the historical St. Marie bridge – another fact of the past but a myth today. Following Buck & Cheney, one Kissam had a store in the building. … Another short step in its record shows that it came into the possession of Dave Green, and immediately its days as a St. Marie edifice were numbered. About 1865 the proprietor concluded to move the building to the prosperous village of Princeton, whose shadow of prosperity had cast its withering Upas upon the city of St. Marie and left the latter without a future – only the inspiration of an hour and it was gone forever! In those days, the country far and near were notified when a building was to be moved, and, as usual, the farmer and teamster responded in this case, and ox teams by the scores were hitched to this building, the word was given, the drivers plied their whips, and the edifice, creaking a ‘good-by’ to lonely St. Marie, started for Princeton property. Arriving here it was placed upon piles out in the river, finished off for an elevator and was used for years in that capacity, taking in grain from the farmers and discharging the same into the river boats. But alas, the steam horse entered Princeton and other commercial channels were opened and business at the elevator ceased. A few more years elapsed and Gard Green, having acquired title in the building, it was again moved from its foundations of piling north to the street, metamorphosed again into storerooms and is occupied as above stated.”
I am not comfortable identifying other potential sites of interest in St. Marie without further documentation.
In addition to the Buck & Cheney building, store buildings from St. Marie ended up at about 445 West Water (burned in 1880) and 512 West Water (razed in 1870 to make room for August Thiel’s brick double building) in Princeton. Another building was put into service at the Princeton mill on River Road.
The City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour claims the historical society building at 630 West Water was moved here from St. Marie, but that is incorrect. It was built by Gardner Green in 1876.
Several houses, including a House of Seven Gables (Farmer Street), were also moved here. Former Princeton Historical Society president Bill Zamzow a few years ago identified a few of the houses on Main Street on the west side. (You can find a separate post on the House of Seven Gables elsewhere on this site.)
The Weekly Wisconsin newspaper published in Milwaukee reported in May 1853 that St. Marie (by then including Hamilton and State Centre) had grown to “two taverns, two stores, several mechanic shops and an engine of 35 horsepower, which propels machinery for turning wood and iron into almost any desirable shape, for making chairs, sash, doors, etc.”
The Berlin Courant reported in August 1855, “We learn that the citizens have formed a joint stock association for the purpose of supplying that place with a steam grist mill. A considerable portion of the stock has been subscribed and strong hopes are entertained of the success of the enterprise. They propose to put in two runs of stones. Such an institution is very much needed in that locality and will be a lasting benefit to their community.”
The Berlin Courant reported in August 1856 that St. Marie would soon have a steam-powered flour and sawmill. “It is to be put in by White & Co. into the large building owned by Stacy and Radway,” the newspaper said. “It is expected that it will be in operation in about six weeks.”
Stacy & Radway
Charles Stacy was a carpenter who helped build the first store in Princeton in 1849 and was involved in several real estate transactions on Water Street. He also owned four lots on Block D in St. Marie.
Stacy moved to Farmington, Minnesota, near Rochester, after the Civil War and served two terms in the state House of Representatives. He was killed in July 1881. He had been riding a “partially broken” horse hours before he was found on the ground with fatal head injuries. Two doctors examined the body and gave contradictory opinions. One said the wounds were caused by the horse’s hooves; the other said it was murder. Investigators found no evidence of murder.
“He was a farmer by occupation but during the summer season he had for years followed the carpenter and joiner trade, in which he was thoroughly skilled and practical workman,” the Princeton Republic noted in his obituary. He was 57.
Radway, who grew up on a farm in Vermont and had land east of St. Marie, listed his occupation as millwright in the 1860 census.
The “Portrait and Biographical Album of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties,” published in 1890 by Acme Publishing, Chicago, includes a profile of Radway. We learn, for example, that he was engaged in the construction of wooden water wheels in New York “until 1846, when believing that he might better his condition in the West he emigrated to the Territory of Wisconsin, settling in Dartford, Green Lake County, where he followed his trade of millwright for Dart & Sherwood for three years. In 1849, he went to St. Marie, where he was engaged in cabinet work and milling for ten years, during which time he built a mill at Markesan, one at Sun Prairie and a third at Princeton.”
Radway lost a leg in 1856.
“He had the misfortune to lose a limb by amputation in 1856 as a result of a fever sore which began to develop when he was five years of age,” the “Portrait and Biographical Album” stated. “He used crutches for about a year but during that time conceived the idea of making a wooden limb. After experimenting for a short time, he succeeded, and in 1857 constructed a wooden limb for his own use since which he has made as many as a dozen for other parties.”
Radway moved to Berlin in 1859. He built six more mills before retirement. He passed in 1896.
White & Co.
I believe but am less than certain that Andrew White, born in Scotland about 1812, was in business with his brother, Robert, who listed his occupation in 1850 as weaver. Andrew, according to the census, was a farmer and laborer.
Andrew was murdered, shot in the head, in 1865. A young man was charged but acquitted.
Appleton Crescent, December 2, 1865 – “The Montello Express of Saturday last says: ‘On Monday of this week, a man named White residing about one mile from the village of Princeton, Green Lake County, was found dead in his cornfield, shot through the head.’ The Express says he was probably murdered for his money, a large amount of which he was always in the habit of carrying on his person, and none was found on the body. Three brothers named Bowers (Bowerman) have been arrested and charged with the crime. White was a bachelor.”
Daily Milwaukee News, December 3, 1865 – “The Oshkosh Northwestern says on Saturday, a boy of sixteen or seventeen years of age, named Bowerman, from near Princeton, Green Lake County, was brought to Oshkosh by the sheriff of that county, and committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury of that county, on a charge of murder.”
Daily Milwaukee News, Sept. 1, 1866 – “The Oshkosh Northwestern gives the particulars of an attempt to break the county jail at that place. On Tuesday night last, returning home about eleven o’clock, sheriff White discovered something wrong going on in the jail, and entered it to see what it was. He found that two prisoners, Josephus McLeod, under charge of larceny, and John Bowerman, under charge of murder, had succeeded in displacing the stones of the wall between the cells and a room communicating with the outside, and had made a hole large enough for a man to get his head through. In a few more minutes they would have been at liberty. They were at once secured. They used in their work a strong iron drill about twenty inches long, which must have been furnished them for the purpose by an accomplice outside.”
Princeton Republic, April 2, 1868 – “Rumor has it that the Bowerman boys, who a couple years ago were accused and acquitted of the murder of Andrew White in St. Marie, have recently been sentenced to be hung in Iowa for mail robbery and murder.”
I do not know how to research the census well enough to determine where the village of St. Marie household numbers begin and end in the 1850 U.S. census of Pleasant Valley Township east of the Fox River, later part of St. Marie Township, but I think we can identify at least some of the early residents of St. Marie.
The census household numbers indicate the order in which the enumerator visited the residences. I looked for clusters that included names I found on deeds or newspaper articles about St. Marie. It seems likely, though, that some of the people I list here lived in Hamilton or State Centre.
With those caveats in mind, here is my list from the 1850 census showing household number and occupation (other than farmer) of Pleasant Valley Township residents whom I think lived in “greater St. Marie”: 703, William Mabie, innkeeper; 707, James Lynch, saloon; 708, Hugh Thompson, tailor, and David Thompson, shoemaker; 710, Robert Thompson, innkeeper; 711, Henry Webb, lawyer, James Foree, jeweler; 713, David Cheney, merchant; 716, Hiram Buck, carpenter and joiner; 717, Harvey Kellogg, blacksmith; 718, John Brown, joiner; 719, Charles Urtel, carpenter; 726, Alvin Barker, carpenter and joiner; 736, Barton Chute, carpenter and joiner; 744, Rodmond Baker, mason; 756, Charles Eden, shoemaker; 785, Henry Hudson, blacksmith; 792, John Johnson, wainwright; 801, John McManis, blacksmith; 804, Jothany Chase, innkeeper; 806, G.W. Jones, carpenter; 807, Isaac Vosburg, wagon maker; 808, S.W. Eaton, grocer; 809, John Barber, carpenter and joiner; 812, Henry Candell, hotel operator, with guests Richard Burnett, shoemaker, G.W. Noble, physician, Aaron Everhard, physician, Ezra Everhard, groceryman, Allen Johnson, carpenter, Benjamin Graves, carpenter and joiner, Henry July, carpenter and joiner, L.P. Grout, merchant, William Gamon, merchant, J.B. Hill, blacksmith, James Pierce, merchant, John Elliot, hostler, Marvin Pierce, lawyer; 813, Samuel B. Radway, millwright; 817, Sylvester Hawkins, wagon maker; 821, O.D. Brooks, physician; 824, Henry Hershey, farmer, but also living there are Jacob Hershey, carpenter and joiner, Randall Kaufman, cabinet maker, Newcomb Waldo, sash maker, Asahel Horton, sash maker, Frank Cummings, blacksmith; 825, George Bacon, carpenter and joiner, Samuel Bacon, carpenter and joiner, William Bacon, blacksmith; 827, George Golden, carpenter and joiner; 828, Abram Hall, mason.
“Livingston’s Law Register” (John Livingston, New York, Monthly Law Magazine) of 1852 lists Peter B. Kissam, H.G. Webb and W.C. Webb as lawyers in La Cote Ste. Marie, and the 1857 Wisconsin State Directory lists Mathew Coleman and Whiting Brothers as retail grocers there.
Teacher-turned-physician Dr. Solomon Holly resided and practiced in St. Marie and Princeton in the mid-1850s.
Shaw battled financial and health issues in the late 1850s as St. Marie peaked and then just as quickly disappeared.
Here’s how John Gillespy, author of the “History of Green Lake County,” published in 1860, described St. Marie: “A neat and substantial church edifice … One church edifice in an unfinished condition. A bridge crosses the river at this point; one steamboat landing; two hotels; one store; one shoe shop; two blacksmith shops; post office; one district school; population about 125 – some twenty families of foreign birth in the village and town.”
Here’s how Gillespy described Hamilton in 1860: “Some years gone by it had a population of 125 inhabitants. In the days of its prosperity had two stores, two blacksmith shops, one tin shop, two taverns, one post office; was a place of a good deal of trade, had a bridge across the river. … What there is left of the place are four dwellings and one barn; tavern houses and stores have gone off bodily – the Cottage House at St. Marie, moved off under the steady pull of fifty-three yoke of oxen, whilst some less cumbersome took a more-lengthy flight to Princeton.”
(My “someday” to-do list includes checking land sales of the former Hamilton site to see if it is possible to identify what became of the Cottage House, sometimes referred to by local historians as the College House. I interpret the 1860 history as indicating it was moved from Hamilton to St. Marie. I wonder whether the hotel run by Henry Candell, Hamilton promoter Canfield Marsh’s brother-in-law, was the Cottage House and whether it became the St. Marie Hotel. That would tie up a loose end very neatly. Candell listed his hometown as St. Marie when he enrolled at Lawrence University in 1856. The other Hamilton tavern was identified in the Princeton Republic as the Fox River House, which moved to about 523 West Water Street in Princeton and burned in 1897.)
Gillespy did not provide a description of State Centre.
Here is what Reetz, parroting the “Portrait and Geographical Album” of 1890, had to say about State Centre in “Come Back in Time, Vol. I,” published in 1981: “State Centre was another town that was begun in the town of St. Marie in the speculative days, and which was subsequently carted away piece meal after it was demonstrated that it would never hang together. It was so named because it was claimed to be in the geographical center of Wisconsin. It would have been easier to have shown that it was in the center of the superficial earth.”
And here is a list showing household number and occupation in St. Marie Township in the 1860 census that appear to be in the St. Marie vicinity: 2250, John Burns, business; 2471, Horace Davis, stage agent; 2500, William LaMonte, carpenter; 2531, Robert Thompson, hotel; 2532, Gardner Green, lumberman; 2536, Hugh Carr, shoemaker; 2546, Charles Carr; 2549, John Shaw; 2550, Charles Kilbourn; 2554, Ellis Whiting; 2557, Samuel Radway; 2559, Harvey Kellogg; 2560, M.B. Tune, B. clergyman; 2563, Patrick Canvin, shoemaker; 2565, Patrick Carr, mason; 2582, Michael Labe, saloon; 2591, Charles Stacy, carpenter; 2596, James Lawrence, shoemaker.
Ultimately, nearly the entire original plat of St. Marie was sold in pieces in the 1860s at auction for nonpayment of taxes to G. De Witt Elwood, longtime area resident and Green Lake County register of deeds.
Elwood was a farmer and teacher who settled in Hamilton in September 1849 and resided in various county communities over the next two decades. He was elected to the state Senate and chaired the panel’s committee overseeing public education issues.
Paying the delinquent taxes, Elwood spent $11.87 for 19 lots in St. Marie in April 1859 (Deeds, Volume 29, Page 60). He added more lots in 1860 (Deeds, Volume 29, Page 61), 1862 (Deeds, Volume 29, Pages 63-64) 1866 and 1867 (Deeds, Volume 29, Page 62–66).
(You can view the list of St. Marie deeds, along with a couple of 1850s maps, in an accompanying post – In Search of St. Marie | The Deeds – for reference.)
In February 1866 Elwood paid Shaw and Oliver and Anna Morse, of New York, $100 for 38 lots and “… all land in that part of fractional Lot No. 2 and in the south half thereof in Section 7 … which lies west of the highway which runs from the north end of Bluff Street … northeasterly (supposed to be N 9 degrees E) on the North line of said Section 7 said land lying between said highway and block E above mentioned. Also, all of fractional Lot No. 4 in Section 7 except a piece in the northeast corner described as commencing at the northeast corner of said lot four and running thence south 28 rods, west 44 rods, north 28 rods and east 44 to beginning. It is the true interest of this deed to convey all the interest and title which said parties of the first part have in and to that part of the south half of fractional Lot No. 2 and that part of the fractional Lot No. 3 in Section 7 which lie west of Bluff Street and the highway meaning to embrace and include all the lots, streets and squares laid out there on excepting all the lots in Block 5 and 8 and to convey all their interest in said fractional lot No. 4 except as to the parcel in the northeast corner above described.” (Deeds, Volume 26, Page 392).
I interpret that description as indicating Elwood has purchased all of Shaw’s original plat south of Fourth Street except for Blocks 5 (hotel) and 8 (Shaw property).
Elwood passed in May 1868 and was interred in Berlin.
Shaw passed in August 1871. Kinner had departed St. Marie by 1870 when Shaw resided with the Isaac Blanchard family.
Block 8, including the two lots where Shaw and Kinner had resided, was sold to August Priebe in November 1873 for $160 (Deeds, Volume 35, Page 133).
When the Wisconsin Historical Society began gathering portraits for its new Picture Gallery of distinguished people in Wisconsin history in July 1855, Shaw was among the men asked to participate, but I have been unable to find an image of John Shaw.
You can read more about Shaw’s adventures in “Bartel’s History of Princeton, Vol. I” published in 2020. There are copies available at daiseye, 525 West Water Street, daiseye.com (keyword: Princeton) and Short Street Market, 427 West Water Street.
Shaw’s descendants host a site at coljohnshaw.com.
As always, please let me know if you have any corrections or suggestions.
Thank you, again, for caring and reading about local history.