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Point Beach State Forest History

The earliest North American Indians from this region lived here during the Copper Culture age. In recent historic times, the North American Indian tribes consisted of the Winnebago, Fox, Potawatomi, Miami and Sauk tribes.

1830: Local North American Indians Tribes ceded this area to the U.S. Government for reservation status elsewhere within the state.

1834: U.S. Government surveyed the area.

1835: Peter Rowley, from Ohio, was one of the first settlers in the area. He set up a trading post to trade with the Ottawa and Potawatomi Indians. He named this area "Mink River".

1841: Unaware of the name "Mink River", surveyors renamed this region Rowley Point, after Peter Rowley (several years later it was changed to "Rawley" Point).

1850: Settlement of the Europeans began in this region.

1850: First tannery was built in Two Rivers by the Wisconsin Leather Company. For thirty-eight years, tanneries were a booming business in and around Two Rivers because of the abundance of hemlocks, which is a key ingredient in the manufacturing of leather.

1853: First lighthouse constructed was a temporary lighthouse consisting of four poles, seventy-five feet high with a lantern hoisted to the top.

1873: The second lighthouse was made of wood and was demolished in 1873 because it was built in the wrong location. A new one was built of brick later this year.

1887: The steamer Vernon was shipwrecked about eight miles northeast of Two Rivers, Wisconsin in 205 feet of water. This steamer is very popular with divers, as the ship is still upright and intact with the contents aboard. All passengers and shipmates aboard perished, except one crewman who was found two days later.

1888: The tanneries in Two Rivers were commonly working with cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago, but as the prices to transport goods increased and hemlocks were continually harvested to near depletion, all tanneries went out of business by 1888.

1893: Current "erector style" lighthouse arrives from Chicago World’s Fair, where it was part of the French exhibit there. Placed by the Keeper’s House, this is now the tallest octagonal skeletal light tower on the Great Lakes, standing 113 feet tall and the only one of its kind.

1904: The steamer Continental was shipwrecked in 15 feet of water, about 1.5 miles north of the Rawley Point Lighthouse while en route to Manitowoc, Wisconsin for winter service and repairs. There was no loss of life.

1912: The schooner Rouse Simmons, also known as The Christmas Tree Ship, was shipwrecked in the vicinity of Two Rivers. Two brothers from Michigan would fill their schooner annually with Christmas trees to transport to Chicago in November. Spotted in Kewaunee with distress flags flying during a storm, the ship disappeared for years with the only trace being a couple trees which would wash ashore along Two Rivers. This schooner was finally discovered by a diver in the vicinity in 1971, still containing hundreds of trees. The brothers and their shipmates perished.

1920: Electricity was installed at the lighthouse.

1935 to 1943: Works Progress Administration, later known as the Works Projects Administration (WPA), employed local workforce to help workers and the economy during the depression.

1937: 280 acres acquired for what would become Point Beach State Forest. This included 80 acres of surplus land from the lighthouse donated by the U.S. Government.

1938: Manitowoc County Board appropriated $9,500 for land purchases north of Two Rivers for transfer to the state to develop into a park. The State of Wisconsin, along with Manitowoc County and the City of Two Rivers, purchased an additional 724 acres.

1939: WPA began work on road construction and developing a forest lodge. The lumber came from this forest and shakes came from the Lake Elba prison camp at Rhinelander. Rip-rap came from the Jambo Creek area. Tree planting also began this year with 475,000 trees planted, mostly red pine but also 5,000 white pine and 2,000 spruces.

1940: The administration building was completed.

1944: 1,400 acres were now under state ownership.

1975: With high waters from Lake Michigan causing concern, rip-rap was installed on shore near the forest lodge.

2002: New entrance station was completed and timber was harvested within the forest to thin the pine plantation.

2004: Dedication of the Rawley Point Bike Trail

2009: Coast Guard replaced rotating beacon on the lighthouse with the VRB25 beacon.

2012: New master plan of the forest completed.

Last revised: Friday October 17 2014