Back roads of Wisconsin’s past | Harvests

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Church services were not well attended but were performed by an old school Presbyterian named Deacon Buck. He held church in the school and read sermons from an old red book. During the week, he traveled the area with a cart, trading whatever portable property he could to support himself.

Another trade for the town was the export of limestone from Grafton. The stone was quarried nearby and shipped by rail to Port Ulao. It was a yellow stone, similar in color to the stones used in the construction of Chicago. After being mined and exposed to air, it has hardened, making it useful for buildings.

In 1850 the lumber business was sold to Captain John Howe, a veteran of the War of 1812. Requests were made to the federal government for a lighthouse on the pier and a lighthouse – at a cost of $3,500. But none were built until 1981, when Brana Kevich built a 50-foot private lighthouse.

In the winter of 1853, things were not going well. Workers cut wood for 30 cents a cord but were forced to take their wages in store certificates. Three years later, part of the town was plateauless and sold for $15 an acre. As Port Ulao suffered, nearby Port Washington grew in size.

Howe tried in 1854 to charter a state highway from Port Ulao to Milwaukee, but the Wisconsin legislature denied the request. Howe also had grand ideas about building a canal from Milwaukee to Lake Superior, and across Canada to Alaska.

After the Civil War, coal replaced wood to power steamships, and this advanced technology killed Port Ulao. During Prohibition, the Port Ulao Tavern was rumored to be the perfect place to grab some moonshine and have a rowdy time. Currently, the tavern is all that remains of the town — and, in Wisconsin tradition, a destination for a Friday night fish fry.

LeeAnne Bulman writes about agriculture from her farm overlooking the beautiful Danuser Valley on Wisconsin’s west coast. When she’s not writing, she helps her husband on their small grain and beef farm.

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