History of Egg Harbor
How did Egg Harbor get its name?
Egg Harbor. It's an unusual name and you may have wondered how it came to be. There are many conflicting stories about the name "Egg Harbor." Some say Egg Harbor was named by Mr. Increase Claflin because in the process of retreiving a horseshoe out of the harbor, he found a nest full of duck's eggs. Some say it was named after a nest of eggs found on the shore by Door County's first settler. Others say it received its name because seagulls nested along the shore and one could gather a basket of eggs from their nests.
A more appealing story is told in the Door County Advocate of April 26, 1862. The story indicates that a number of Mackinac boats left Green Bay to deliver furs to the trading post on Mackinac Island. The boats stopped at the yet unnamed harbor to rest for the night. While rowing ashore, there was a race to see who would reach the shore first. The village is named after a legendary egg battle that took place in our harbor. A witness was Mrs. Elizabeth Baird, who recorded that fateful day of June 23, 1825, in her journal.
She wrote that the battle began when men among a six-boat trading flotilla began throwing hardtack at each other while approaching a spot of land. This first bout ceased due to their continuing need of the staple. Shortly thereafter the young Mrs. Baird saw eggs flying in the air, some of which occasionally struck her in the head. The leader tried to stop the battle, but the fun was "too fierce to be readily given up." When they camped on that spot of land, she wrote that a storm was brewing ... another egg storm!
The great egg battle stopped only for want of ammunition, and the men "laughed until exhausted." The next morning the battlefield was so strewn with egg shells that before leaving shore, speeches befitting the occasion were made, and the spot was formally christened Egg Harbor.
Egg Harbor was the tenth organized town in Door County and was established on July 9, 1861. A portion of the town organized its own government and boundaries and incorporated as a separate governmental unit in August, 1964. The incorporated area is today known as the Village of Egg Harbor. There is also a Town of Egg Harbor.
The first settlers in Egg Harbor were Jacob and Levi Thorp. They purchased land and began lumbering operations. Their efforts included building a pier to ship their product. Levi eventually bought Jacob out and branched the operation to include farming and orchards. He built the impressive Cupola House in 1871. Ownership subsequently moved to C.A. Speaker and then to the Cady family. The Cupola House is one of the Village landmarks located on State Highway 42 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
French Canadian families began arriving around 1865. Charles and Delia LaRouche played an important part in organizing the first Catholic Church.
John Bertschinger, a Swiss, came to Egg Harbor in 1904. He bought the Kewaunee House at the corner of what is now Highway 42 and County G. He enlarged, remodeled and added a dining room to the facility which he named the "Harbor Inn." In 1912 he sold the Harbor Inn to try other ventures in lumbering, fruit and dairy farming. He sold the Harbor Inn to Murphy Moore. "Murphy's" was a popular dinner stop for many years. The building is now a drinking and eating establishment known as "Shipwrecked." John Bertschinger eventually went back to the hospitality business and with his brother Paul built the Alpine Resort, which opened in 1922. Orin Glidden developed the first 9-hole golf course adjoining the resort and called it the Alpine Golf Course. Financial difficulties forced him to sell the course and the Bertschinger's added it to the resort in 1926. The Alpine remains one of the oldest resorts in the area and is still owned by the Bertschinger Family.
Jerry LeMere's saloon and dance hall was located where Casey's BBQ & Smokehouse now stands. The LeMere's came from Canada and purchased the land in 1865.
Another early business was a saloon-hotel built by Canadian Antone La Plant. The building burned, and was rebuilt as a stagecoach stop called the Concord Hotel. Today it is called Mojo Rosa's.
The first doctor in the area, Dr. David Graham, arrived in 1858. He was an untrained medical man. After 16 years he was joined by a young doctor, Horace Eames, who was a graduate of the medical school of Valparaiso University in Indiana.
"Doc" Eames remained in the Egg Harbor community for the rest of his life. Besides medicine, he farmed and was well known for his large orchards of cherries and apples. He was also trained as a chemist and provided prescriptions for his patients. He made home visits with his horse and buggy or sleigh in every kind of weather. His home on County E has been moved to the Cupola House lot.
Early residents of the area managed small businesses. Harborview Park was the site of a grocery store built in 1910 by Jim and Rose Wilson. Tom Carmody's tavern was the site of many dances in the early years. The facility became Lena's Sip and Chat but has since been demolished. The site is the future home to Cowle's Center. Woldt's Hall was also a popular spot for dances and basketball in the 1920's.
Two churches were established in the area's early development. St. John the Baptist Catholic Church was founded in 1876. The church was located on the corner of Hillside Road and Highway 42. Early in the new century some parishioners wanted to build a new church at a different location. The controversy ended with the gift of land from Charles and Delia LaRouche in 1901, and the new church was built on Highway 42 and School Road in 1909. Calvary United Methodist Church was organized in 1912 as the Egg Harbor Union Society. The early stone church was completed in 1924. The building is used for special events. A larger church was built and dedicated in 1965. Both are near the intersection of County E and Highway 42.
The decades of the 1950's and 1960's were a time of growth in business and building. The Village included a drugstore, grocery store, saloons, restaurants, a hardware store, a thriving feed mill, car dealership, gas station/garage and a two-room school on the border. However, as the community changed, the make-up of the Village also changed. More residents became seasonal and businesses began to adjust by providing "summer only" stores and shops. The school eventually joined others in the county and consolidated into the Gibraltar Area School District.
The Egg Harbor Fire Department is a cooperative venture of the Town and the Village of Egg Harbor. It was established in the early 1930's with Lee Adams as the first fire chief. First Responders were initially trained in 1979-80 and remain some of the best in Door County.
Traditions grew quickly. The Pumpkin Patch celebration first began in October 1984. Blossoms throughout the area have made it a delight to visit in the spring and the first Blossom Festival was held in 1993. In winter, the village displays holiday decorations and has now developed Holly Days. Other festivals housed in Egg Harbor include, Girlfriends Great EGGscape in May, Independence Day Celebration in July, The Door County Sports & Classic Car Show in August, and Egg Harbor AleFest in the middle of September.
Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIV, pp. 55-62.
p. 396 of Holand, History of Door County, Wisconsin, v.1.
Thomas, Bruce. Door County: Wisconsin's peninsular jewel. Printed by Sells Printing Company, New Berlin, Wisconsin, 1953.
Door County Advocate, April 26, 1862; June 14, 1939; July, 1940.
Martin, Charles I. History of Door County, Wisconsin. Expositor Job Print, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, 1881.
Lotz, Marvin. Discovering Door County's Past, Holly House, Fish Creek, Wisconsin, 1994.
Egg Harbor Village Records.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 1976-1986 brochure.