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Odd Wisconsin Archive

How Egg Harbor Got Its Name

On June 23, 1825, Henry and Elizabeth Baird set off from Green Bay toward Mackinac. They were passengers in a small fleet of bateaux owned by fur-trader Joseph Rolette, who was taking beaver pelts to market. The Bairds were on Rolette's own boat with nine voyageurs; another craft was commanded by John Kinzie, who would later help found the city of Chicago.

Henry Baird recalled that they were "well supplied with good tents, large and copious mess baskets, well stored with provisions of all kinds, especially a large quantity of eggs." Elizabeth remembered that "the boats would sometimes come near enough to allow an interchange of conversation, jest and play. This began that morning by the throwing of hard tack at each other. This, however, did not last long, the prospect of needing them later served to save them. Our boat had at first shared in the contest but on my account they soon desisted."

An Epic Naval Battle

At noon on the second day, when Rolette ordered a break for lunch, Kinzie's boat decided to race for shore. "Mr. Rolette ordered it back," Baird recalled, "but instead of obeying, the crew of the boat — urged on by Mr. Kinzie — redoubled their exertions to pass the 'Commodore,' and as a kind of bravado the clerks held up an old broom; the Commodore and his companions could not stand this; the 'mess baskets' were opened and a brisk discharge, not of balls, but of shell, was made upon the offenders. The attack was soon returned in kind."

"The men entered fully into the fun," his wife wrote, "though the oarsman did not dare slack their oars. But they gave vent to their enjoyment by a "cri de joi," fairly shaking with excitement. It was about as animated a contest as any of these men had ever witnessed or expected to. Not to spoil the fun, I crawled under the tarpaulin, where I was comparatively safe, although an occasional egg would strike me on the head."

The Combat Comes Ashore

When the boats reached land, eggs were found hidden in the coat of one of the assailants. His adversaries "slapped his pockets until the eggs were broken and the contents ran in a stream down his pantaloons and white stockings (he wore low shoes.) The men laughed until exhausted. Then there was another call for more eggs and another fight ensued, which only ceased for want of ammunition."

"Never did anyone enter with greater zest into any sport than did these gentlemen on this occasion," commented Elizabeth. "The boats and men presented rather an 'eggish' appearance," wrote her husband, "and the inconvenience was rather increased by the fact that some of the missiles used by the belligerents were not of a very savory or agreeable odor."

"The next morning," Elizabeth concluded, "the field of battle presented a strange appearance, strewn as it was with egg shells, and many were the regrets expressed that the ammunition was exhausted. Before leaving the shore, speeches befitting the occasion were made by most of the gentlemen, and the place was formally christened "EGG HARBOR," the name it has ever since borne."

:: Posted in Bizarre Events on September 15, 2011
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