Wow, is this a cool Sheboygan August, or what! However, the February picture would be remarkably different! Local weather is influenced by our location along the western shores of Lake Michigan. But this is just one of the interactions with our environment that makes living by the lake in eastern Wisconsin interesting. Yes I must confess that nearly thirty-five years of teaching in this beautiful region and a love of geography may influence the discussion that follows.
Sheboygan is located at 43 degrees north and 87 degrees west about an hour north of Milwaukee on Highway I43 along the shores of Lake Michigan. It has been a gathering place for Native Americans for at least a thousand years as the sacred burial ground we call Indian Mound Park located near Riverdale Golf Course validates. It probably received its name from a Native American word that meant in one way or another "Lovely river by the large water." Of course there also is the legend that it received its name when a proud Native American Chief announced the birth of his second son by stating "She boy again." Legends often are true. In this particular case, it makes an interesting story, but I have my doubts.
As the Europeans explored North America in the seventeenth century Sheboygan became a stopover for French explorers on their way to and from Fort Howard (now called Green Bay, the home of the world champion Green Bay Packers). In the early nineteenth century its harbor and incredible natural resources encouraged settlement. Some of the earliest settlement took place after plotting in 1836. It rapidly became to be known for the four "Cs" of Sheboygan. What followed was paradise
Churches soon came to dominate the early skyline of Sheboygan. They were the first ethnic centers of Sheboygan and from the beginning reflected the tremendous diversity that was to become Sheboygan. Today several of the early churches remain. Some nice examples are the Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox church in the fourteen hundred block of South Tenth, and Saint Cyril and Methodius Catholic church high on the eight hundred block of New Jersey avenue overlooking the Sheboygan river. Another interesting group of early churches can be found just east of the central business district along Sixth and Seventh streets. Several date before the start of the American Civil War.
Chairs were a very important part of the early economic development of Sheboygan. At one time we produced as many high quality wooden chairs as any place on earth. Chairs are interesting constructions. You need a variety of hard and soft woods to manufacture them. One of the truly significant geographic features of the region was that it contained huge forests of mixed hard and soft woods. Early settlers tell of pines, oaks, maples, elms, and birch all growing along side one another. To a wooden furniture maker it was paradise. At the turn of the twentieth century Sheboygan was a thriving community with a semi-professional baseball team called the "Chairmakers."
Cheese from the dairy herds quickly established Sheboygan and Sheboygan County as an agricultural paradise. Sometimes we forget today how good we have it. We go to our refrigerators and slam down a cold glass of milk and fail to realize that one hundred years ago that would have been impossible because the only refrigeration was from blocks of ice! Consequently, much of the milk of last century was immediately turned into cheese because it lasted longer than milk. Sheboygan County soon became a very important agricultural center.
Children were and are plentiful in Sheboygan County according to census records. Generally speaking, a society is not willing to have a lot of children unless the region is safe, secure, and able to feed them. Sheboygan has been a pleasant place to raise children, get an education, earn a living, and enjoy life for many years. It prides itself on good schools. Today many communities are having a problem coping with different languages the children bring to school and are developing English as Second language programs. Interestingly, school was taught in several languages in Sheboygan for many years. At one time we actually had a school that taught everybody in German because of the number of German speaking immigrants who came to Sheboygan during the period from 1860 to 1914.
Compounds are changing Sheboygan and appear to be a significant move from the smokestacks of yesteryear. Yes, this is a fifth "C" that I am adding to my discussions with young people about what creates this cities geographic signature. While not a chemist, compounds and other chemical structures like plastics and resins are more and more shaping the economic future of the region. As you drive across the community you are immediately struck by the number of small and intermediate sized companies that inject, mold, and fabricate compounds. They are one of the futures of Sheboygan and we recognize their importance.
I am proud to have lived and worked in Sheboygan and invite you to visit this beautiful community of caring citizens.
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