Footsteps on the Bluff



Kathy Noltze


Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers.


Ask for this book at Washington County Historical Society in West Bend or at Port Washington Historical Society.         

Scroll down for current pictures of the stone house that Gustav Noltze built  in 1874.

Click here for current pictures of construction of Gustav & Amalia's house. Pictures courtesy of a great-great-great-great grandson of Gottfried and Maria Noltze, pioneers of 1843.                                              



Available at the Port Washington Historical Society in Ozaukee County.



©Brenda Schulte


©Brenda Schulte


©Brenda Schulte

Gustav's name above the door

©Brenda Schulte

Chiseled in stone: Gustav Noltze 1874

Ulao School, built on land that the Noltzes donated in 1872, is designated District School #2 on early Grafton maps.

     School #1 is Blank's School, built in the mid 1850s on the northwest corner of the intersection of Port Washington and Lakefield Roads. By the 1950s the building was generally abandoned, used by St. John's Lutheran Church for overflow of Sunday school classes before construction of their new church.

     In May 2013, the Ulao School was razed.


Port Ulao appeared on the western shoreline of Lake Michigan in 1847. Farmers from Prussia, Ireland, Alsace, and elsewhere cultivated fields on the bluff in the Territory of Wisconsin before entrepreneur James T. Gifford began his successful enterprise. His business relied on the efforts of landowners who harvested trees as they tamed the wilderness.

     Chronicles of Ulao history altered over the 16 decades that passed since the rise of the pier. Author Kathy Noltze says that many contemporary accounts garble the information from earliest records. She delved into original census data, church records, and government reports to obtain facts. As she examined newspapers of the era, poignant and delightful details about her own ancestors, the Noltze settlers, emerged.

     The port of Ulao no longer exists but the community of Ulao is even now designated on maps. Conveying first historical facts with accuracy and family scenes with a dash of whimsy, Noltze produced Ulao: Footsteps on the Bluff for historians and genealogists.


Em· FAH· sis on the wrong sil· LAH· bl

Neophytes often put the emphasis on the wrong syllable when pronouncing Ulao. The first vowel is long (as in Union) and is the syllable to stress. As Noltze's drama teacher Mr. Fisher used to say, "You sound like a rube if you put the em· FAH· sis on the wrong sil· LAH· bl."



On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau shot President Garfield. The President, who had been in office only four months before the tragedy, kept a grip on life for 80 days before he died. Bullets didn't kill him. He died of infections introduced by a dozen or so doctors who dug around in his body with their bare, unsanitary hands.

     Guiteau was hanged at the D. C. jail on June 30, 1882. By accounts of the era, during his entire life he was insane.

     Author Kathy Noltze believes a big 21st Century tragedy stemming from the event is that Guiteau is Ulao's most famous former resident. He lived in Ulao, Wisconsin as a child for only a year or two. Now, 160+ years after Ulao was founded, descendants of the original settlers still live on the bluff of Lake Michigan in this region. Their ancestors, as well as the pioneers and the founder of Port Ulao, deserve greater recognition in history than Guiteau, she believes.

     Guiteau myths and reports first caught Noltze's attention when she researched her pedigree. "I encountered tidbits about Guiteau every time I delved into Ulao history. Contemporary accounts clashed concerning Guiteau's connection to Ulao, so I went to the source. I investigated official records of the era as well as stories from his family members. During his long trial, newspapers ran articles from his siblings. They tried to save his life by describing his lifelong odd behavior."

     Noltze said that the history of her family is interwoven with that of Ulao. She decided to convey the information to the seventh and eighth generations of descendants of the Noltze settlers in her latest book Ulao: Footsteps on the Bluff. In it, she also debunks the Guiteau legends.

Hardcover, retail $19.95
ISBN 978-0980157239

Library of Congress

Control #2010917027

Publisher: Property Purveyor
93 pages




Google map of Ulao.


The saga of Ulao pioneers is the saga of America. In the 19th Century settlers tamed rough country as they moved to the boondocks of America's territories. Ulao's colonists developed farmsteads much as 21st Century immigrants develop businesses. Noltze pioneers brought with them German work standards typical of Ulao farmers. American opportunity and German proficiency became a formula for success.

Pass the Buck

The United States had no paper money in the early 1840s when Ulao was settled. Immigrants in the Territory of Wisconsin ordered rudiments from the East Coast and paid for these supplies from their stash of foreign cash. The USA did have silver and gold coins, however, and treasury notes. It wasn't until after the Civil War that paper money as we know it came into existence.

     Ulao farmers grew their own food and raised their own livestock. They made their own clothes. They dug their own wells and outhouses. There was no electricity in this part of the wilderness and there were no utility bills. With no income tax, no sales tax, no social security deductions, and no property tax, there was little need for checking accounts or for cash.

     Actually, there was little need for a wallet. Driving the horse and buddy didn't require a driver's license. Carry the credit cards? Daguerrotypes of the wife and kids?

     Where did they keep their pawn tickets? How about the bail receipt?


Our pilgrim ancestors had it rough when they traveled, but they always knew where their luggage was.








©2012 JCN

This is the house that Gustav Noltze built in Ulao in 1874.


©2012 JCN

Notice the original hand-hewn corner beam on the interior.


©2012 JCN

Ulao had a sawmill in those days,

as did Grafton. The attic is a blend of rough-hewn beams and timber from the lumber yard. The Noltzes had access to at least 160 acres of woods, hence many of the joists  likely were grown on the land on which they still stand. 


©2012 JCN



©2012 JCN

Gustav Noltze's great grandson

was born in the farmhouse in 1923 and returned to work on the farm

in the early 1940s.


©2012 JCN

Etched in stone that's not a

grave marker: the name "Noltze"



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