Penokee Survey Incidents: Number II

February 12, 2015

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

November 24, 1877.

The Survey of the Penoka Range and Incidents Connected with its Early History

Number II.

Friend Fifield:– Notwithstanding the work upon the Range was delayed very much on account of the unwoodsman like conduct of the Milwaukee boys, referred to in my first communication, yet it did not cease,- the company having a few white men, previous employed, as well as a large number who were “to the Mannor born” that did not show the “white feather” on account of the mosquitos, gnats, gad flies and other vermin with which the woods were filled,– most of whom remained with us to the end.

Joseph B. Houle was from Lac Courte Oreilles and married to Catherine Roy of La Pointe.  Together they were early pioneers of Superior City with the Roy brothers.
Batteese (Badiis or Zhaabadiis) is the Ojibwe word for Baptiste (i.e. “John” or Jean-Baptiste).  That was probably the most common name among the mixed-blood men.  The surname of “Old Batteese” could be Denomie, Roy, Belanger, Cadotte…  Let us know your theory in a comment to this post.
The Ironton trail connects Saxon Harbor to the Tyler Forks Gap.  John Sidebotham’s claim was located near the Lac Courte Oreilles Harvest & Education Learning Project.

Prominent among these last named was Joseph Houle, or “Big Joe” as he was usually called,– a giant halfbreed, (now dead), who was invaluable as a woodsman and packer. Some idea of Joe’s immense strength and power of endurance may be formed from the fact that he carried upon one occasion the entire contents, (200 lbs.) of a barrel of pork from Ironton to the Range without seeming to think it much of a feat. Among the party along on this trip was a young man taking his first lesson in woodcraft, whose animal spirits cropped out to such a degree that the leader caused to be placed upon his back a bushel of dried apples (33 lbs.), simply to keep him from climbing the trees, but before he reached the Range, his load, light as it was, proved too much for him, when Joe, in charity, relieved him of it, adding it to his own pack – making it 233 lbs. This was, without doubt the largest pack ever carried to the Range by any one man. There was an Indian, however, in the employ of the company, as a packer, (Old Batteese), who left Sidebotham‘s claim one morning at 7 A.M., went to Ironton and was back again to camp at 7 P.M. with 126 lbs. of pork, having traveled forty-two miles in ten hours. This was in July ’57, and was what I considered the biggest day’s work ever done for the company. The usual load, however, for a packer, was from sixty to eighty pounds.

Ironton townsite claim at Saxon Harbor with trails to Odanah and the Penoka Iron Range. (Detail from Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records)

Ironton townsite claim at Saxon Harbor with trails to Odanah and the Penoka Iron Range. (Detail from Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records)

The halfbreeds were sulky and mutinous at times, giving us some trouble, until Gen. Cutler, who was a strict disciplinarian, gave them a lesson that they did not soon forget and which occurred at follows:

Other stories regarding Lysander Cutler as a disciplinarian were published here.
Lockwood’s station was located near Ballou Creek Gap.  Lockwood’s and Sidebotham’s were connected by a footpath running along the Penoka Iron Range.  Sidebotham’s was the halfway camp between Lockwood’s and Ironton.
Duncan Sinclair was businessman from Racine and (in)famous for sheltering and employing a fugitive slave from St. Louis, Missouri.

The General and myself left Ironton just before the removal of our supplies to Ashland, with four of these boys, with provisions for the Range, to be delivered at Lockwood’s Station. But upon reaching Sidebotham’s, two of them refused to proceed any further, threw down their packs, and started on their return to Ironton. The General’s blood was up in a moment, and directing me to remain with the others until he returned, at once started after them. Reaching Ironton at 11 A.M., about an hour after their arrival, they were quite surprised at seeing him, but said nothing. The General at once directed Duncan Sinclair, who had charge of the supplies at that time, to make up two packs of one hundred pounds each, with ropes in place of the usual leathern strap, which was quickly done, the “rebels” looking sullenly on all the while. When all was ready he drew his revolver and ordered them to pick them up and start. They did not wait for a second order, but took them and started, he followed immediately behind. Nor did he let them lay them down again until they reached Lockwood’s at sunset, a distance of twenty-six miles. – That evening they were the most completely used up men I ever saw on the Range, and from that time forward were as submissive and obedient as could be desired. After that we never had any trouble.  It was a lesson they never forgot.

No record found for James Stephenson, young surveyor from Virginia.
Charles Blondin achieved international fame for walking across Niagra Falls.

Among the whites referred to in this article, was James Stephenson, a young man from Virginia, who came up with Stuntz as a surveyor. He was of light build, wiry and muscular – full of fun – very excitable and nervous, – but a good man for the woods. He had some knowledge of the compass, but not sufficient education to make a good surveyor. “Jim” got lost once and was out three days before he came into camp, which he did just as the party was starting out to find him. “Jim” would not have made a good rope walker. He was no Blondin. On the ground he was all right, but let him attempt to cross a stream of water, be it ever so small, upon a log, no matter if the log was six feet in diameter, and he would fall in sure. He fell in twice while lost and came near perishing with wet and cold in consequence of it. He left the company in the fall of ’57.

George Erastus Stuntz was living with his grandfather Rev. George Stuntz during the 1850 census. George Riley Stuntz (another uncle of George E.’s) first came to Chequamegon Bay in 1852 and was known as a “Maker of Millionaires.
Thaddeus Pembroke Sibley established a farm on the Marengo River and built a road to where his brother-in-law, Junius Tillotson Welton, built a sawmill on the White River.  Their land claims are detailed on Charles Whittlesey’s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range.  Sibley was married to Mary M. Wright and Welton was married to Jane E. Wright.

But the best man we had on the range that summer, as a surveyor, (except Albert Stuntz, and I very much doubt if he could beat him), was George E. Stuntz, a nephew of Albert’s, known among the boys as Lazarus.” He was tall and slim, with a long thin face, blue eyes, long dark brown hair, stooped slightly when walking; walked with a swinging motion, spoke slow and loud – was fond of the woods, prided himself on his skill with the compass, and was, I think, the laziest man at that time in the county, except Sibly,” who could discount him fifty and then beat him. But notwithstanding all this Albert could not have completed his survey that season without him. His lines never required any corrections. George was a singer – or thought he was, which is all the same. The recollections of some of his attempts in this line almost brings tears to my eyes from laughter, even now. Nearly every night in camp, the boys, after getting into a position where they could laugh without his seeing them, would coax him to sing. His favorite piece was a song called “The Frozen Limb.” What it meant I have no idea, and do not think he had. One verse of this only can I recall to mind, which ran as follows:

“One cold, frosty evening as Mary was sleeping –
Alone in her chamber, all snugly in bed. – She woke with a noise that did sorely affright her.
‘Who’s that at my window?’ she fearfully said.”

You can easily imagine how this would sound when sung through the nose in the hard shell style – each syllable ending with a jerk, something like this:

“Who’s-that-at-my-win-dow-she-fear-ful-ly-said-ud.”

George had a suit of clothes for the woods made of bed ticking, cap and all complete – all but the cap in one piece. The cap was after the “Dunce” pattern, ie, it ran to a point. The stripes instead of running up and down as they should have done, ran diagonally around him, giving him the appearance of a walking barber’s pole. He was a nice looking boy – he was.

Shortly after donning this beautiful suit, while crossing the Range, he suddenly found himself face to face with a full grown bear. It was no doubt a surprise to both parties,– it certainly was to the bear. For he took one square look and left for distant lands at a speed which, if kept up, would have carried him to Mexico in two days. “Not any of that in mine” was probably what was passing through his massive brain, but he made no sign. The boys who were surveying some fifteen miles south of the Range claimed to have met him that day, still on the jump.      J.S.B.

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