Land Sales


By this time, with the Indian tribes either forced out or restricted to reservations, the U.S. government began surveying Northeastern Wisconsin. The area that became the city of Appleton was surveyed and sold at two different times. The first survey, in 1834, covered the land south of the Fox River. The greatest portion of that land was purchased in 1835 by Walter L. Newberry, a prominent Chicago real estate investor, Two smaller portions were bought that same year by Joshua Hathaway, Jr., a land speculator from Milwaukee.

The land to the north of the Fox River was surveyed in 1843-44, and about 900 acres were sold over the next two years. It was at this time that Paul Grignon finally purchased the property where he and his family had lived for the previous decade. Paying the standard government price of $1.25 an acre, Grignon purchased 10.66 acres. In 1843, another settler, Jean Bapiste Benoit, had built a home on a small piece of land just down the river from Grignon, near what is today the north end of the Appleton Memorial Bridge. Benoit also purchased his land from the government in 1845, but he then sold it one month later to Paul Grignon's brother, Augustin, and to Daniel Whitney, a Green Bay businessman. Augustin Grignon and Daniel Whitney were speculators, who bought the land for later resale in hopes of making a profit. With the exception of Paul Grignon and Jean Benoit, all of the first landowners in the Grand Chute area were speculators; none of them ever lived in Appleton.

The site that Reeder Smith's committee had chosen for the Lawrence Institute was in two properties, each owned by Wisconsin speculators. John F. Meade of Green Bay owned nearly a quarter section of this land, centered in what is today the main business district of downtown Appleton. Meade's brother-in- law, George W. Lawe of Kaukauna, owned the adjacent land to the east, extending to the river. Several other speculators also bought riverfront property, including Amos A. Lawrence. In a letter dated August 9, 1847, Mr. Lawrence instructed Reeder Smith to hurry to "the Grand Chute" and purchase "as much land in that vicinity as shall be necessary," both for the school and for investment purposes, before the price of the land increased.

Like Amos A. Lawrence, John Meade and George Lawe knew that having the Lawrence Institute nearby would make their land more valuable. With that in mind, each man offered to donate 31 acres to the school. Lawe's gift was a strip of land next to Meade's property, running north from the river. On a current map of Appleton, that strip would lie between Drew and Union Streets, and just a little past North Street. This land would eventually become the center of the Lawrence University campus, and is now the site of the Main Hall and the Memorial Chapel, as well as Appleton's City Park. Meade's gift of 31 acres was included in a deed by which Mr. Lawrence purchased the remainder of Meade's property. That deed provided an additional 149.18 acres, at a price of $4.00 an acre. In September, 1847, still working as an agent for Mr. Lawrence, Reeder Smith contacted Daniel Whitney and purchased nine more acres of riverfront property adjoining the Meade land on the west. As an example of how land prices were rising, a plot that sold for under $200 in 1846 cost Mr. Lawrence almost $600 just one year later.