Penokee Survey Incidents: Number VI

March 14, 2015

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

December 22, 1877.

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

Number VI.

Joseph C. Cutler came to work with his father; GeneralGray Devil Cutler.
George Spaulding may have been a pastor and clerk from the St. Croix River valley, or a musician from Brodhead that served in the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry band.

At length, somewhere about the 25th of October, the General returned from below, accompanied by his son, Joseph Cutler, George Spaulding, a young man who had formerly been in his employ in Maine, and Henry C. Palmer of Milwaukee, a son of President Palmer, who all came to hold claims for the Company, if wanted. He also brought two cook stoves and two metal kettles, the stoves for housekeeping, the kettles for sugar making. Both of the kettles and one of the stoves were subsequently sent to the Range, where they did good service during the winter and following spring, and are no doubt in use somewhere in the country today.

Houghton was a small settlement at what is now the City of Washburn. (Detail from A.H. Barber's survey during August of 1855)

Houghton was a small settlement in the Town of BayPort, located northeast of what is now the City of Washburn. Captain Steven Butterfield and Peter B Vanderventer lived at what is now Washburn.  (Detail from Augustus H. Barber’s survey during August of 1855)

Houghton was named for Dr. Douglass Houghton, an early American geologist of the south shore of Lake Superior.  He came to La Pointe during the 1840 Houghton Expedition with Bela Hubbard, possibly on the Jane.
Captain Stephen Butterfield came from New York and married Marie Lamoreaux, an Ojibwe from La Pointe.
Peter B. Vanderventer was a grocer from New York and married Caroline Lamoreaux, an Ojibwe from La Pointe.
Antoine Gordon was an entrepreneurial Ojibwe from La Pointe, owned the schooner Algonquin, and later settled the town of Gordon at the ancient village of Amik along the Grand Footpath between Chequamegon Bay and the St. Croix River.
Antoine Gordon from Noble Lives of a Noble Race (pg. 207) published by the St. Mary’s Industrial School in Odanah.

Antoine Gordon from Noble Lives of a Noble Race (pg. 207) published by the St. Mary’s Industrial School in Odanah.

These kettles and stoves came very near sending Gen. Cutler, myself and Mr. Sidebotham, who had been stopping at La Pointe for several weeks, awaiting events, to a watery grave, during the run from that place to Ashland, in the Jane, a large two-masted boat formerly used by the Government upon the lake coast survey. Nothing but the coolness and skill of Captain Steve Butterfield, who was at the helm, saved us from going to the bottom. It was a long time before the recollections of that November day ceased to haunt us. The idea of going down in 150 feet of water with such a load, was not a pleasant thing to contemplate. Mr. Sidebotham was wholly unconscious, until after he reached the shore, of the peril we were in, owing to his ignorance of nautical affairs, but not so the General. He realized it as keenly as I did, not a word was spoken for over an hour, but in that hour we lived a lifetime. At length we succeeded in reaching the land at Houghton, where the high rocky shore furnished a lee. I shall never forget that ride while I live. We stopped for dinner at Antoine Gordon‘s, who lived at that time a little to the westward of Houghton, after which we ran down the shore to Pete Vanderventer‘s old place before venturing to cross the Bay to Ashland, which however, we finally did, reaching there in safety about sunset. Here we left Mr. Sidebotham to remain until wanted, and with J. Cutler, Palmer, and Spaulding, started the next morning for the Range, reaching there the second day at noon. Immediately upon our arrival, an interview was had with Stuntz, who informed us that if the fine weather we were then enjoying should continue for three weeks more, the survey to complete which he was making every possible exertion, would be finalized. This was to us indeed joyful news, as we were getting very anxious to return to our homes for the winter; whereupon all of our spare men were at once detailed to assist him, leaving me alone at Penoka, the General, in the meantime, visiting the different locations, and arranging for the winter, during which a blockhouse was to be built at Penoka, and one at the Gorge, which was done, the lumber for both being manufactured upon the ground, with a whip saw. Up to this time there had been no snow except the usual light fall we had every year, about the 1st of November. This, however, had all disappeared in three days after it fell, after which the weather was beautiful. In this way the time passed along, I seeing no one except Gen. Cutler, who came occasionally, or some of Stuntz’s men, who came for supplies, which were at this time kept mostly at Penoka, until the 12th of November, when it being certain that one week more would finish the survey, General Cutler left for Ashland, after Mr. Sidebotham, who by the requirements of the pre-emption law, must sleep upon his claim the 30th, in order to hold it, at least we so understood it at the time, leaving me entirely alone.

The weather continued fair up to the 18th, when there came a change. Saturday, the 17th, was as fine an Indian summer day as I ever saw, nearly all of which I slept seated upon a log in front of the cabin, listening to the singing of the birds, many of them not yet having left us for their homes in the south, and watching them as they were fitting around me, in search of food. At length old Sol sunk in the west, and night once more spread her dark mouth over the surrounding landscape. A strange feeling of loneliness, such as I had never felt before, crept over me as I closed the door of the cabin for the night, and sought my couch of balsam boughs, where I slept soundly until 6 o’clock the following morning, when presto! what a change met my eye! The air so soft and clear the previous evening, was now filled with snow, while upon the ground it was two and a half feet in depth, and increasing rapidly. You can easily imagine that I was not a little startled at the outlook, as being snowed in upon Lake Superior was no joke; and from the rapidity with which it was falling, it was apparent that it would be six feet in depth in twenty-four hours, if it kept on. I quickly saw that the first thing to be done was to lay in a supply of wood, the nearest pile of which was thirty rods distant. To this a track was quickly made, and the work of moving it commenced; neither did it stop until 2 P.M., at which time the whole pile, one and a half cords was in the cabin. The snow was now three feet in depth, but very light. My wood secured, I proceeded to cook some food, of which I felt the need, after which my thoughts began to wander after Stuntz and party, who were fifteen miles south. Neither did they reach the Range until the fourth day, as they had but one mile to run, in order to complete, when the storm came. This done, they started, and were three days in making that fifteen miles, during one of which, the last, they had nothing to eat, and one of them, Wilhelm Goetzenburg, literally nothing to wear, being clad in duck pants, hickory shirt, and stoga boots, no stockings, coat or vest. They were all badly used up when they got in; Stevens, in particular, who gave out when within only three miles of the Range, where he remained until his companions had reached the cabin, and two of them returned to him with some food, after which he came in, but as weak as to render it necessary to lead him. It was several days before he fully recovered his former strength. Goetzenburg, although nearly naked, stood it the best of them all. Perhaps a short sketch of this curious mortal, who certainly exhibited upon this occasion, powers of endurance equal to the gay and festive mule may not be inopportune, in this connection, before closing this article.

William Gotzehenberger was introduced in PSI: Number V.  His brother in Ontonagon has not been identified.
Low Dutch refers to Hollanders.
Equimaux is French for Eskimo.
New Zealander refers to Māori.

Wilhelm Goetzenburg, or Gutsenburg, as George Miller once spelt it when directing a letter for him to his “bruder” in Ontonagon, was not an Adonis, in the strict sense of the term. No sir! his keel was laid for a jumping jack, but from some unexplained cause, that plan was abandoned by his builder, who finally modeled him after the tubs the performing elephants use in the circus, broad at the base; in fact, his basement story was the largest part of him, in fact, nearly all of him; his legs, which were bowed, were short; his arms were long; his chest was short, and shaped like the dummies we see in the windows of ladies’ furnishing stores; his shoulders were broad, upon which a head covered with a thick mat of coarse hair, in color like that of a North Carolina clay-eater; a short nose, and a mouth that if open would have fooled a badger. Taken as a whole, he looked like a mixture of Low Dutch, Esquimaux and New Zealander combined. But beneath that iron frame, beat as honest a heart as ever beat in Ashland, or any other land. Good luck to thee, honest Wilhelm, I shall never see thy like again, but wherever thou arts or goest, may beans be plenty and clothing cheap. But en resume.

George Kilburn and Asaph Whittlesey came from the Western Reserve, Ohio, to Chequamegon Bay in 1854 and co-founded the first townsite claim near the ancient village of Wiiwkwedong.
George Kilburn was affectionately known as “Uncle George” to many early settlers.
No record found for Steve Sanborn. He may have been related to future Wisconsin Senator Albert W. Sanborn.
Records not found for Elie Valliant or William Pell.  William Pell could possibly be John W Bell Jr.

The fifth day brought Gen. Cutler from Ashland, accompanied by Mr. Sidebotham, George Kilburn, Sibley, Steve Sanborn, and George Miller, with the pack horses, who all came to break the road, except Sanborn, who came to stay through the winter. The boys had also now got in from the different claims, and the old cabin was full. Here they all remained for two days, when there came a thaw and melted the snow, after which Uncle George and Sibley returned to the Marengo, and George Miller with the horses to Ashland. The rest remained until the 30th, when their claims secured, and the arrangements for the winter completed. Mr. Arthur E. Wheelock was placed in charge of the week with J. Culter, Palmer, Steve Sanborn, Spaulding, and Elie Valliant, a French Canuck, formerly a resident at Ironton, a ship and house carpenter by trade, as companions. This done, Gen. Cutler and myself, Sidebotham, McClelland, Chase, and Al. Stevens accompanied by two of Stuntz’s men, whose names I have forgotten, left for home. We camped the first night at the Marengo, where the boys, as usual, hid the sugar from Mr. Sidebotham, reaching Ashland the second day. Here we remained for two days, when leaving Mr. Sidebotham, as previous stated, we took our departure, going directly across the bay upon the ice, for Pete Vanderventer’s. Before reaching the shore, however, Chase, who led the party, broke in, and came very near drowning, as in addition to his pack and snowshoes, which were also carried, he had on rubber boots, the legs of which held water enough to run a milk factory for a week. He was finally pulled out and inverted a few moments to let him drain, after which we proceeded, reaching Antoine Gordon’s at dark, and reached Bayfield the second day, the last six miles being made in an open boat, obtained, from the Indians at Sioux River, which was returned by Wheelock and William Pell, who had accompanied us thus far on the way.

From Bayfield to Superior City on snow shoes, occupied seven days, during which we camped on the snow every night. This, although a hard tramp, was very much enjoyed by all. The last three days our route lay along the shore of the lake, where many laughable scenes occurred in the way of tumbles from the ice bergs that lined the shore. From Superior City via St. Paul and La Crosse, to New Lisbon by stage, occupied nine days. From New Lisbon by cars to Milwaukee, one day, reaching that place Dec. 25, 1857.       J.S.B.

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2 Responses to “Penokee Survey Incidents: Number VI”

  1. Leo said

    Was “Morrow” used by members of the Lamoreaux family? I hadn’t seen that before. Is Steve Butterfield connected to Isaac Butterfield (mentioned in Treaty of 1842) at all?

  2. marangoin said

    I’ve seen the Morrow surname used elsewhere, but not specific to this context. I’ll edit that for accuracy, thank you.

    Isaac Butterfield is a mystery to me, I’ve never seen him mentioned before, or elsewhere. Do you have any other references to Isaac?

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