It is a long trek back through the years of pioneer history to the time when Shawano County comprised a vast and trackless forest and contained perhaps one of the finest stands of pine in the world.
Chief Sawanoh lived upon the banks of what is now Shawano Lake. His band is said to have been the first residents in this area. The City, County, and Shawano Lake are all named after Chief Sawanoh (the South), a Menominee Chief.
His band lived on the lake when it was filled with wild rice, sturgeon, and waterfowl as well as being surrounded by beautiful forests filled with game. He is known to have traveled extensively; however, Shawano Lake was his bands’ traditional gathering area and favorite place to live.
After the Menominee Indian Reservation was established in 1854, Sawanoh’s band settled on the west bank of the Wolf River near Keshena.
In 1672, Father Menard and Father Allouez founded a mission known as St. Mark’s at the junction of Shawano Creek and the Wolf River.
One hundred years ago Shawano was almost exclusively a timber county, covered with dense forest of pine and hardwoods, and all interests centered on it’s value for lumber.
An urge to explore the upper regions of the Wolf River for lumbering prospects led Samuel Farnsworth to the “Country of the Menominees”. He came to this location in 1843, having paddled up the Wolf River in a canoe from New London. Farnsworth saw no reason why these great timbers could not be cut down, sawed into logs at this point on the Wolf River and floated down to the larger cities where there was a ready market. Excited about the vast tracts of virgin pine, Farnsworth returned to Neenah to confide in Charles Wescott, a man he thought capable of the job he was going to propose.
Mr. Wescott agreed to come up to Farnsworth’s wilderness to set up a sawmill. All of the machinery was brought up the Wolf River in scow boats pulled by Indians. The mill was built on what was then a beaver dam.
Mr. Wescott and his small crew of hardy men formed a settlement on the north side of the Shawano channel where River Heights is now found. Not until five years later, in 1848, did their families follow them
In the year of 1844, Captain Powell, an officer of the Black Hawk War, established a trading post on the Wolf River. It was about a mile below the present Belle Plaine Bridge. Trading was done principally with the Indians. A trading post settlement sprang up. E.F. Sawyer platted the land, a schoolhouse was build and later territory became a lively contender for the county seat when the county was organized.