The scenic Town of Lodi area had long been a home for Native Americans before the first settlers, Marston and George Bartholomew, arrived in March 1845 and staked their claim. Fertile soil and the Wisconsin River soon drew others. By 1846 a county government was established which created Pleasant Valley Precinct. Its boundary lines were initially retained when the Town of Lodi was created in January 1849. However within a year it was divided into the Town of Lodi and the Town of West Point.
Originally the entire northwest corner of the Town was dry land as opposed to being underneath Lake Wisconsin. This 1878 map shows that no part of the Town of Lodi even touched the Wisconsin River. And this 1895 USGS map clarifies the same... once the error is taken into account. (Note how the 1895 USGS map incorrectly indicates that the Town's western boundary line includes sections 6, 7, 18, 19, 30 and 31 which are actually in the Town of West Point.) Error or not, it also makes clear that any "dry" land was actually marsh and wetland swamps. Rowan Creek and a few small tributaries used to flow southwest through that corner of the Town before joining with Spring Creek northwest of Okee in the Town of West Point. Spring Creek continued west from there and joined the Wisconsin River near today's Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Bridge that crosses to Merrimac. See this site for more maps and history of the Town of Lodi, Columbia County and neighboring Towns from 1878.
Today's "natural" shore land of Lake Wisconsin is actually the end result of impounding the Wisconsin River roughly one mile north of the Village of Prairie du Sac. That happened in September 1914 when the Prairie du Sac Dam and hydroelectric facility was completed.
Okee and the surrounding area changed dramatically over several years as the rising river water gradually and permanently flooded the wetlands of Rowan Creek and the Okee millpond, ultimately creating Lake Wisconsin. Okee became a lakefront community of seasonal cottages. Harmony Grove appeared soon after and followed a similar path. The Okee and Harmony Grove Sanitary Districts were created to replace the concentrated number of septic systems that would otherwise be needed to serve the high population density living along environmentally sensitive shore land.
In the latter part of the century the Town began to see an increasing amount of growth and development. Over the last few decades, both Okee and Harmony Grove have evolved from mostly small seasonal cottages to primarily new or rebuilt permanent residences and condominiums. The Town now faces the daily challenge of managing this growth and development pressure while attempting to preserve its valued rural character and protecting its many natural resources, including wetlands, woodlands, creeks, streams, lake and river.
The first settler in Okee was Samuel Ring who also built the first sawmill there in 1847. The community was originally called Ringsville, but later changed to Okee, which was the Native American name for present-day Spring Creek that flowed through it. Seth Bailey platted Okee in 1858 and also became co-owner of the local sawmill on the creek's dam with his business partner, Miller Blachley. Their lumber business prospered by using the Wisconsin River to transport logs down from the northern pine forests. Those logs were then snaked up Spring Creek and stored in the Okee millpond to provide a steady supply to their sawmill. An Okee post office was also established in 1858.
Before 1873, a railroad line was built through the town and it gave rise to new commercial ventures such as the area's first flour and grist mill. Within a few years, as Spring Creek made its way north out of the City of Lodi, it was used to power at least two grain mills before emptying into the Okee millpond and then powering the sawmill and yet a third grain mill before leave Okee.
Harmony Grove's waterfront consists of the same wandering Lake Wisconsin shoreline as it does in Okee, as well as an area of five canals, also referred to as lagoons or "the fingers". The canals were dredged in the late 1950's, developed into residential lots with municipal water and sewer service, and gradually built on throughout the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's and 1990's, starting with the northernmost canals and proceeding south. This USGS publication made from an aerial photograph taken September 15, 1974 shows the development in progress (PDF, 12MB). The southernmost development of Eagle Harbour was the last to be platted in August 1990. It created Eagle Drive surrounded by the last 31 residential waterfront lots and a public boat launch with turn-around area as the final extension of Park Street.
Each of the canals was formally named on the original plat maps, where they are referred to as lagoons. Technically the definition of a lagoon is a "shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs." The Wisconsin DNR classifies them as "navigation channels." From north to south, their names are: Grove Lagoon, Clar-Mar Lagoon, Bay View Lagoon, Sunset Lagoon and Sunrise Lagoon.
The Lodi Enterprise described the history of the canals in an August 10, 2011 article as follows:
In the spring of 1958, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Wildenberg started developing the swampland area south of Harmony Grove. First the swamp had to be cleared of trees, swamp brush and the undergrowth found in marshy places. Wildenbergs purchased diggers and heavy earthy-moving machinery and started the project of building Florida type lagoons that run back from Lake Wisconsin toward, and almost to, County Highway V, using the sand dirt and silt for fill between the lagoons. The Wildenbergs owned a large sandpit which furnished much of the fill that was needed to build up the strips of land between the lagoons for high and dry housing.
The first lagoon they dug was 80 feet wide and a quarter of a mile long. The next four lagoons, in 1961, were planned to be 100 feet wide and one-half mile long. The plan was for six such lagoons and 250 lots in the area. At the time 70 homes and cottages were present. The lots between the streets and lagoon were 100 feet wide and 160 feet in length between streets and lagoons. Each lagoon had flowing water for natural springs that had been opened at the end of each lagoon. All the lagoons were deep enough to pilot a boat and dock any ordinary type of watercraft, such as pontoon boats, at the homes on the lagoons.
Fishing was excellent in the lagoon and it was promoted that residents could fish right from their lawns or boat piers. All kinds of panfish and even 10 pound catfish and 36" sturgeon had been caught in the lagoons. Each home had their own boat pier. The total acres of development encompassed 600 acres.
See the Maps page for early plat maps of the Town and other historical maps.