Stories from the Grave

John Penn Arndt: 1780-1861

Posted July 24, 2020

I want to wish a fine day to all of you fine folks. Let me introduce myself, I am John Penn Arndt. I have been asked to tell you a bit about myself, which will be hard to do, since I lead a very busy life. I was born in Buck’s County Pennsylvania. I never knew my mother, she died giving birth to me, so I was raised by my grandparents. When I was old enough, I joined my father, Phillip, operating a store. In 1797, I moved to Wilkes-Barre and opened a tavern, or as you folks call it today a hotel.

My tavern was located across from a ferry on the Susquehanna River. I wed a young lady named Elizabeth Carpenter in 1799, and we started our family.

My father joined us in Wilkes-Barre and we expanded out business into boat building and lumber. About 1821, I moved my family to Mackinaw Island, in which I got involved in the fur trade. A few years later, the American Fur Company forced me to move. So again, I moved the family, this time to a small French settlement called La Baye, or as we call it today, Green Bay. I purchased a large log home owned by the De Langlade family and opened a tavern for the traveling public. It was the first hotel in the area. I also started constructing durham boats for the transportation of products on the Fox River. I became a true entrepreneur in the area, if I saw a need I made it happen. From lumber to bricks, even two sailing ships, I seemed to have my hands into everything. You would think with all these ventures, I would be rich, not so, the depression of 1837 hit me hard.

I got into politics as Wisconsin became a territory and held a number of posts at the local and the territorial level. I was part of the county board as the county was being divided up into towns. I suggested many names for the new towns, but many were never used.

I lost my dear wife Elizabeth in 1860, such a hard-working woman she was. My death followed a year later in 1861. To this day, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the frogs in the swamps around the area saying my name. Old John Arndt, Old John Arndt.