From the Wentorf Collection at the Two Rivers Library
Reprinted with permission of the Two Rivers Historical Society

The evening of May 23, 1966 Mr. Nelson LeClair was the guest of the Two Rivers 
Historical Society at its monthly meeting. He had said when he consented to come
that he would give no formal talk but would try to answer any questions we might
ask about early Two Rivers.
As soon as Mr. LeClair was settled in his chair the questions came thick and fast.
The first from a member of the Zander family was

Q - What do you remember about the Zander family?

A - They treated me very nice. They were popular among the citizens there. They cut
Tamarack and wanted to sell us some. We used to get our piling there. The farmers
did the hauling to the lake.

Q - What were the piles used for?
A - They were used for pond net fishing. They were peeled and sharpened and taken
out in the lake with a pile driver. A cap was put on and it was driven down and the
nets were fastened to them. It was quite expensive in labor. We had our own pile
driver. It was the first steam pile driver in the fish industry. We own it today.
It is lying out at the fishing grounds. We still have the fish shed, pile scow and
the scow's boiler and engine. Some wanted to buy it from me, but for a song. Went
so far at one time as to bargain for the city to buy it for repairing docks. The
fellows wanted to pay $500 for the whole ting but I wouldn't sell it for that. That
scow cost me $3,000. I built it myself. Boiler and engine were bought second hand -
the engine from Eggers, the boiler in Green Bay. I went to Bill Kahlenberg and said
I had to have a boiler. "No use", he said.."You can buy a second-hand one in Green
Bay. Go and pick it out." We took a trailer and pulled up and put it on the scow.

When we came to Two Rivers we bought the rig from the LaFonds. The way the fishing
started - people in the East wanted fish. The LaFonds seined at Point Beach. They
dressed, packed the fish and took them East. My Dad came from Canada and settled in
Two Rivers. His wife died. My mother was the only girl in the LaFond family. When
his wife died he had to have someone to take care of the children so they finally
were married and raised a big family besides.

Q - What was the population of Two Rivers then?
A - When my grandfather landed here with six boys and one girl, there were about
fifteen people. There were Indians, too. Nothing could be done to make anything.
They had to live. This was all pine - a pinery like Point Beach to Manitowoc and 
all thru Mishicot and Shoto. Not a pinery like it since they left Canada. That would
be forty years before I was born. I am eighty-eight years old. (1838)

Q - How were the fish prepared?
A - They were salted. They wanted only white fish and trout. They threw sturgeon
away. If you salted sturgeon to keep it, you could not chew it when it was cooked.
It turned to leather. Could not be kept fresh. My Dad was the first man to try 
smoking trout and white fish. It was good and people found out he was smoking fish.
He smoked sturgeon. This was at Molash Creek. They would come with market baskets
and take the fish. He did not charge them. When I was about twelve to fourteen years
old, old Joe Gagnon started to smoke fish in Two Rivers. He would take small white
fish or chubs and would peddle them to saloons - Jake Geimer, the Lake House, 
Waverly - for (free lunch).

My Dad built a cottage at Molash Creek on a point where it makes a curve. When my
mother took sick the doctor said she had to get away from the lake. My Dad said
"What am I going to do and where will I go?" The doctor convinced my Dad to move
from the Lake. He moved cows and other animals - drove them from Two Rivers to
Appleton. He walked most of the time. The women sat in the buggy.

He worked around Appleton in lumbering. He had not been there two years when lumber
companies offered Land for sale at Seymour, Wisconsin. He thot(sic) he would look the
land over. He bought three forties. There was no room to put buildings. Stumps had
knots cleared where the saw mills had cut the wood. Charles was only a boy then -
Dierman baby. They cleared the land - but not quite all of it. At the back there
was a nice maple stand. One winter he made eight hundred pounds of maple sugar. He
did not make it to sell. Neighbors could have it when they wanted it.

When I was six years old we moved back to Two Rivers. Dad was the first one to haul
lumber from Mishicot to Two Rivers to load on vessels for shipment. There was no
saw mill except the one at Mishicot. When lumber got scarce there a mill was built
at Shoto. Then a dam was built at Manitowoc Rapids and that became the center. 
Francis Creek came next. Francis Creek began to populate and Mishicot and Shoto
went down. The best of farming was around Mishicot as it was more level.

The first threshing machine I know about was built in Mishicot. My Dad and some one
built a new machine. They built a cylinder and put on a belt. They put the bundles
thru the cylinder. It did not separate it but it was a big improvement over the

Q - What was your father's name?
A - Charles LeClair. He had a son Charles too. He was twenty years older than I was.

Q - When was the timber cut at Two Rivers Point?
A - I don't know, altho when I came from Seymour and we moved on the beach, all of
the logging had been done. My cottage is on an old rollway. They would tow them 
along the lake where Mrs. Kummerow lives now.

When I came to Two Rivers the John LaFond shanty was built in that clearing north
of Kochoroskis. That was where we moved. Gagnon's was where George LeClair was
fishing. It was a family affair. Dave and I took the Gagnon grounds and Charlie took
the LaFond grounds. We were around the point in Two Creeks Bay. After Charlie
fished a while he bought the farm where LeClairs live now.

Q - Who were the fishermen?
A - Alfred, Mitchell, John, Frank and Godfrey LaFond - all brothers.

Q - Did the Allies fish then?
A - Later. Vaudreuils came about the same time as the LaFonds. LeClairs were here
a while before the LaFonds. They were sorting timber for government millwrights.
Louis LeClair worked for the Schmitts.(Deacon Smith?) My Dad drove. Louis worked
for a millwright. Deacon Smith wanted a lath mill. They got a lath mill builder
from the east - brought him by boat. Louis LeClair helped and so was kept working.
When it was done LeClair said "It will not work." When we watched that machine he
said, "I can stop it with a chisel." They started the lath mill and it ran all 
right. He took a chisel and pressed on the lath. Deacon Smith said it had no power.
The fellow that built it did not know why it had no power. Dave LeClair said the
cogs were not right. When the fellow left Smith said, "Can you fix it?" He fixed it
and became a millwright. He turned out to be a carpenter and built buildings, 
churches and all such things. Louis LeClair could not figure out how to do jack
rafters. Old LaFond asked what was the trouble. They could not get the rafters to
fit. Lafond said, "Make it this way," and explained how it should be done. "Look
at him trying to tell Louis how to do it!" But they came to the right way to do it.

Q - Did LeClair build any of the churches standing now?
A - No. He built a church at Rapids, a Mishicot church and the first St. Lukes.

Old Schroeder was fishing too. He had quit before I came here. Pete and Joe fished
too. They had a farm, too. Schroeder made his money from hemlock and tanning bark
for the tannery. That was before my time. They cut down hemlock and dropped it and
left it. When we moved back here - why man alive - farmers would pick up these
knots for threshing machines. You could almost walk from one log to another. We
fishermen would never chop anything green. We would pick up dry wood.

About ten acres of wonderful pine about 18" washed into the lake. What was the
reason the lake washed away? Schroeders lost one hundred acres of land. You would
not believe it if I told you! When Manitowoc started to build where they did, they
cut thru sand and gravel. They got sand. That was not enuf. When they wanted gravel
they went to the beach. Two Creeks built all their roads of gravel. Gravel along
the beach kills the sea. If you take the stones away there is nothing to hold it.
That is why it recedes. I lost a shed in Two Rivers along the harbor.

We built the first fish shed in Two Rivers. No one had shelter to work in until
then. Charles and Dave and I had done pretty well and had a few dollars. We bought
lots from Manns and built fish sheds. We did not use them but figured we might. We
cut cedars and set them up for stringers. Put on ship lath and started to nail them
together. When the fishermen saw us the first man who talked to Charles wanted to
rent it. Gene Allie was the first man to rent one - where the city dock is now near
the Coast Guard Station. We built sheds on those lots. There were big storms and
the docks went to pieces where we had our sheds. Sheds tumbled down. What to do?
We went to the City Council because the dock belonged to the city. We held meetings
and decided the city should buy the dock. We decided to build at the coal dock. The
reason the water was doing damage was that the river was too narrow. When a rain
storm struck docks along the Neshoto River and under the Washington Street bridge
were washed out. The docks were put further back.

Q - Does the lake level go up and down in cycles?
A - Yes - up and down every seven years. You have a tide every day and night in
Lake Michigan. Water and currents change because of weather, wind and pressure.

Q - When you cross the 17th Street bridge and turn right - about the fourth house -
whose house was that?
A - That was there when I came - Glesner's house. David LeClair was born there.
That is a log house - the first my Dad built. My Dad owned that fraction. He sold
it to John LaFond. When I came back we took it back. South of Glesners we had a 
barn with room for four cows and an overhead mow and sold the barn to Joe Pilon.
I sold it - how that came - that was a funny deal. He wanted to buy it to make a
house out of it. I said it was too close to the other house. I told him I would sell
him the barn and he should move it. I said "Albert Pilon has some lots. Get him to
sell you a lot. Get the others to help." He took the house. He did not have money.
He was down and out. Albert and I trusted him. After the house was built he went to
the bank and asked how much money he could get on the house.

Q - When your grandfather came with his boys what did he do?
A - He made shingles and staves for barrels. They cut down pine and split these pine
blocks with a sledge hammer to sticks. For shingles it had to be shaved. The would
use a draw knife to shave shingles. My Dad had lumber ready - no knots in the 
lumber. It was select. He had enuf lumber for a house in Seymour when they decided
to sell the farm. I was six then. He put it on a railroad car and hauled it to the
farm where I am now. Jo Gauthier built the house.

Q - Where was the cooper shop?
A - That was where Gates's store is. The old foundation and rough lumber is still
there. That was the first shop - the first business place in Two Rivers. It was
built for barrels. And everyone had cisterns.

Q - Was Deacon Smith here then?
A - He was the first settler that went into business. He started a saw mill. He
came first to look for a place. He had grandfather LeClair take him up the river in
a canoe. Grandfather showed him around. When he saw the rapids at Mishicot he
decided to build a dam there. Quite a few men went up there to work.

Dr. Simonis - My grandmother, Josephine LeClair, married Joe Landry. She lived in

Q - What was her father's name?
A - That was Uzeb (sp?) LeClair (father of?) Nelson LeClair of Oconto and Belle
LeClair. Nelson moved after they quit the lumber business. Nels went to Oconto.
Uzeb went north fishing. Louis went dock building.

Q - Did the stage coach go thru?
A - I think the Gauthiers were stage men. Some of them went fishing.

Q - Do you know anything about a store run by J.V. Allie?
A - When I was a little boy there was a store run by Allie. Courchaine took it next.
Gene Allie's mother was a Courchaine. It was a fish store. Mrs. Allie was the best
baker in the community - good home made bread. J. Allie died at the age of thirty-
three of pneumonia which he got making ice.

I made ice from the time I was twelve or thirteen years old out at Leo Vandreuils.
We made ice for dealers. I was his brother-in-law. George Pilon and I went to work
on the ice.

Q - What did Leo do?
A - He said "You load the sleighs." They jacked it up and we had to haul it to the
front of the sleights.

Q - Where was Allie's store?
A - Across the river where John Monka's is - third house on the right side of the
street along the harbor after crossing the 17th Street bridge. The fish dealers
were shippers and they bought twine and everything for the fishermen - all barter -
no money. Urban Niquette was postmaster and a fish dealer. He had a daughter, Lucy.
His wife was a Lonzo. This Urban Niquette adopted two children. One was Emma

My folks would do business with Niquette. He would order from Chicago and hand it
to you without money. Mann Brothers operated the same way. We had a farm with butter
and vegetables, etc. and people who worked for Mann wanted to buy those things but
had no money - so they bartered.

When I was thirteen I quit school. Alec Bunker and some others quit, too. My father
said if I didn't go to school I must work. I packed up and went downtown. I got to
talking with some people and they told me a fellow at the pail factory wanted a boy.
I walked upstairs. He said he was sorry he had just hired a boy. "If you want a job
why not see Chris Johannes?" Why man alive! They would not talk to Chris Johannes!
Another kid and I went to the saw mill. We met a man and I asked if he had a job
for a kid like me. He asked "Whose boy are you?" He told me to come along and he
talked to this fellow but he had a boy. He said he thot(sic) he could get me a job with 
a fellow hauling staves to dry. The old man had to hitch up a cart and it was too
much for him. I was hired as a helper. I worked there a month. Old Dahm worked there
and he chased me and played tricks on me. After a month they closed the mill for a
while. I came home - nothing to do. Joe Gauthier had the Trossen farm and his wife
had some land. They had a farm in Rapids. When haying time came he came to the house
and asked my Dad if he could hire me to help make hay. After we got thru on his 
land, his father's 40 acres had to be harvested. That was Frank Kara(?) Gauthier - 
an old man, too. Joe said we would do it.

It was the first time I got a feather stuck in my head! I worked at the mill for
50 cents a day. Wherever you went it was 50 cents a day. After we got thru, Joe 
came to my Dad and asked how much he owed. Dad said, "You know what he did. Pay as
much as you think he did." "Well," he said, "The boy did well. You could not ask
for better work. I will give him 75 cents a day." Gauthier was not going to give it
to me. He was going to give it to my Dad but my Dad said I should have it. I
raised my children that way, too. The majority of people take the money to spend
it. My Dad gave us the money. I always claimed this - whatever a child earns is

Nelson LeClair - 1877 - 1966