Kemmeter: Stevens Point street names reflect city history
By Gene Kemmeter
Stevens Point’s street names provide a glimpse into a city’s history, with many of them bearing the names of the city’s pioneers, their families and locations.
The city itself bears the name of a pioneer lumberman who never lived in the community. George Stevens was on his way to the Wausau area, where he planned to build a sawmill along the Wisconsin River because reports indicated the area to the north was teeming with tall white pines trees.
On his way north in 1839, he stopped at a point formed where Moses Creek flowed into the Wisconsin and purchased a small shanty. He then constructed an addition to hold supplies because he planned to use the point as a rest stop and resupply area on the journey north to Wausau.
Because he owned that cabin on the point, other lumbermen heading north called the place Stevens’ Point or Stevens’ Landing, and settlers adopted that name for the community that sprang up there.
In 1845 Matthias Mitchell purchased land in what was to become downtown Stevens Point and in 1847 he platted the property to include the Public Square and four surrounding streets, Main, Clark(e), First and Second.
While three of those streets are common names in many cities, Clarke Street may have been named for William H. Clarke who was a justice of the peace in the community. The “e” at the end of the name was subsequently dropped.
Many streets bear the names of the developers and their families, a practice that increased as time went on, as well as some historic locations.
Moses Strong, a pioneer, platted the first subdivision adjacent to Mitchell’s land, extending from present day Portage Street south to Shaurette Street between the Wisconsin River and Division Street.
He named the east-west streets Bray Street (the west end of Portage Street); Brown Street after Edward Dexter Brown, a lumberman (that street is now College Avenue); Crooked Way, a shortcut from Clark Street to Strongs Avenue that is now Ellis Street; Mill Street because it led to the first sawmill; Brawley Street after Abraham Brawley, a lumberman; Wisconsin Street; and Shaurette Street after the Shaurette family, early settlers whose name was also bestowed on area rapids in the Wisconsin River. Mill Street was later named Arlington Place because a major hotel, Arlington House, was located there.
The north-south streets included Water Street; Strongs Avenue, after Strong himself; Church Street after the Episcopal Church that was the first church in Stevens Point; Spruce Street; Pine Street; Plover Street after the Plover River; Elk Street; Prairie Street; and Wood Street, located near a wooded area.
In 1853, a plat added Smith Street after Milo Smith, Briggs Street after Orin Briggs, Phillips Street after John C. Phillips; and Prentice Street after Jackson L. Prentice, the first county surveyor. Smith, Briggs and Phillips were pioneers and the developers of the subdivision.
Nathaniel F. Bliss, another pioneer and the husband of Stevens Point’s first school teacher, added a subdivision in 1871, naming Bliss Avenue for his family; Mason Street possibly after Charles E. Mason, an early clerk of court; and Brewery Street (now the eastern two blocks of Francis Street) because the Stevens Point brewery was located there.
Walker Street was named for John A. Walker, a lumberman; Wadleigh Street for Matthew Wadleigh, a lumberman; West Whitney Street for Ebenezer Whitney, a lumberman; Quarry Street for a quarry located there that furnished the stones for the first courthouse; Boyington Avenue for Nathaniel Boyington, a lumberman; Atwell Street for V.P. Atwell, a pioneer; Whiting Avenue for George A. Whiting, a paper mill pioneer; Patch Street for Rev. Jacob Patch who lived there; Warner Street for Horace O. Warner, a pioneer; Chase Street for Homer Chase, a river pilot; and Cross Street for William Cross, a pioneer.
Rice Street was named for James and John Rice, foundry operators; Prais Street for Victor S. Prais, a local businessman; Bukolt Avenue for John J. Bukolt, founder of Lullabye Furniture; Isadore Street for John Isadore, a land owner; Gilkay Street for John Gilkay; Koch Street for William Koch, a blind guitar player who played for area dances; Heffron Street for John J. Heffron, a real estate broker; Delaney Street for William Delaney, a Greek barber; West Karner Street after the family that owned a west side sawmill; and West Scott Street after Ed Scott who lived on the street.
Public officials have streets named for them, Wyatt Avenue for A.F. Wyatt, a longtime register of deeds; Rogers Street after George L. Rogers, a one-time mayor; Lee Street for Leo Mancheski, a longtime Stevens Point alderperson; Welsby Avenue for John N. “Spot” Welsby, then the longest-serving mayor; Clayton Street for Godfrey F. Clayton, a former mayor; Simonis Street for Nick Simonis of Rosholt; Peck Street after Joseph A. Peck, a city assessor; Sims Avenue for John F. Sims, president of Stevens Point Normal School; and Nebel Street for C.E. Nebel, a County Board supervisor.
Relatives of pioneer families and the developers of the area also had streets named for them, George Street (now Georgia Street) for George H. Patch; Frederick Street for Frederick Patch; Forest Street for Forest Grant; Crosby Avenue for Crosby Grant; Julia Street for Julia Vaughn, the wife of Eliplet Vaughn, the parcel’s developer; Lora Street for Lora Wadleigh; the wife of Matthew Wadleigh; Mary Street for Dr. Mary Helen Patch; and Martha’s Lane for Martha Ann Patch.