HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF PORT “ULAO”
By Jill Hewitt - UWM Graduate Student
Port Ulao in Ozaukee County is an abandoned place with many
roots in the historical past. James T. Gifford came here in 1847 to build a lake
port on the site of what had been an Indian village. He hired land surveyors
Luther Guiteau and J. Wilson Guiteau to plat about fifty acres into streets and
lots. He built a 1000 foot pier into the lake for loading cordwood onto ships.
The first Macadam road in the country (a mixture of charcoal and clay) was built to the site. As wood was cut
while clearing the farmlands of the surrounding countryside, it was hauled to Port Ulao by horse
and wagon and sold to the Lake ships for fuel. Port Ulao was the major hub for
shipping in Ozaukee in the mid-1800s.
Eventually, a fishing station was added to the pier where
fishing boats docked to clean and smoke their fish. By 1853, Daniel Wells and
John Howe took over operations at Port Ulao, but it soon declined as the Lake steam ships stopped using wood for fuel.
Today the landscape and landmarks look much different. Lake
Michigan has eroded the cliffs and shoreline and only a few pilings of the pier remain. In the mid-1880s west of the Port Ulao Village, near
what was known as Ulao Station on the Chicago and North Western Railroad, there was a feed mill and the Ghost Town Tavern.
The tavern is the only remaining remnant of the historic Port Ulao village.
The name “Ulao” pronounced “You-Lay’-Oh” is thought to have
been adopted from an American General Ulao who landed at the village port
sometime in 1881. He was a descendant of French Huguenots, and his name may have
been spelled Ulaeua or in a similar way, as efforts to trace his presence have
been unsuccessful. There is also a story that the abandoned Ulao station was
given this name because the train’s whistle sounded like “You-Lay-Oh” as it
passed through the village (hence the Ulao Whistler).
Also, Charles Guiteau, the assassin of President Garfield, lived in Port Ulao
until hanged for his crime in 1880. He was the grandson of General John R. Howe,
and the son of Luther Guiteau, the original land surveyor for Port Ulao.