The chief factor in the promotion of the settlement of the northern part of Liberty Grove was a Dane by the name of John Ellison (Eliasen). After him is named Ellison Bay. He came to Ephraim in 1854 and was for many years a member of the Ephraim community. At Ephraim, he owned an exceedingly poor and stony 40 of land and made but little progress. By 1870, however, he must have accumulated some means as we then find him at Ellison Bay preparing to build a large pier and systematically advertising in the newspaper for settlers. The pier was built in 1872 and also a store. One or both of these must have been profitable as Ellison in 1878 was the owner of 8,000 acres of land.
Among the settlers who came to Ellison Bay as a result of his advertising were a number of Norwegian woodchoppers from Ephraim. These were Hana and Ole Tostenson, Martin Olson, and Lars Larson. These bought land in the vicinity of Ellison Bay in the early 1870s. Hans Tostenson soon opened a store and built a pier for shipping wood at Gills Rock. Here, he became a person of great importance and was called “the King of Gills Rock.”
Andrew Weborg, another Norwegian who had bought out Allen Bradley’s claim in 1874, was another man of influence at Gills Rock. This harbor, formerly known as Hedgehog Harbor, received its later name in honor of Elias Gill, a timber operator who also had a pier there and about 1,300 acres of land. At Newport was another pier, store, mill, and post office. Hans Johnson and Peter Knudson, both of Danish extraction, opened and operated this business. The Newport pier was built in 1879 and in 1882, a post office was established there.
At Garrett Bay, another pier for shipping timber, with its accompanying store, were built in 1882 by Andrew Nelson, another Dane. He shipped about 3,000 cords of wood annually and personally owned about 600 acres of land. In 1887, he also opened a stone quarry. Andrew Nelson was a prominent factor in town politics and for many years was the register of deeds. He died in 1909 while holding this office. His widow has now (in 1916) built a pleasant summer hotel at Garrett Bay.
(From History of Door County, Wisconsin/The County Beautiful—Volume I, by Hjalmar R. Holand, originally published in 1917, re-published in 1993 by Wm Caxton Ltd, 12037 Hwy 42, Ellison Bay, WI, 54210; 920.854.2955.)
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