Wisconsin Territory Delegation: Copper Harbor Redux

May 1, 2016

By Amorin Mello

A curious series of correspondences from Morgan

… continued from Saint Croix Falls.

 


 

1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
July 31, 1845.

To the Editor of the Union:

This anonymous complaint was a response to a certain letter written by “Morgan” on July 15th, 1845, as published in the Daily Union on July 29th, 1845.  The offending letter was reproduced here on Chequamegon History earlier as Copper Harbor of this series.
General John Stockton was assigned as the Superintendent for this Mineral Agency to reduce corruption there.

SIR: In your paper of Tuesday evening, I have observed a communication from Copper Harbor, (Lake Superior,) so pregnant with errors or misrepresentations, that I am constrained, by a regard to truth and the public interests, to ask the use of your columns to correct some of them.  I know not who your correspondent is; but, judging from the extraordinary zeal with which he labors to forestall public opinion of certain government agents on Lake Superior, whose conduct has recently become obnoxious to very grave suspicion, I think it no unwarrantable conclusion that he has either been most egregiously imposed upon, or that he is animated in his encomiums upon the officers alluded to, by motives much more special than in his admiring comments upon the handsome scenery and novel life upon the lake.  He is evidently more than indifferently anxious to vindicate and extol General Stockton and his faithful deputy, Mr. Gray.  Otherwise, what necessity would there be for asserting facts which do not exist?  Your correspondent states that

“The only tenement on the island is a miserable log-cabin, in which General Stockton, for the want of better quarters, is compelled to keep his office.  The room which he occupies, is only about eight feet square – just large enough to admit a narrow bed for himself, a table, and two or three chairs.  In this salt-box of a room, he is compelled to transact all the business relating to the mineral lands embraced within this important agency.  As many as a dozen men at a time are pressing forward to his ‘bee gum’ apartment, endeavoring to have their business transacted.

“The office of the surveyor of this mineral lands, in charge of Mr. Gray, at this agency, is still worse adapted to the transaction of public business.  He is compelled to occupy the garret of the log-cabin,” &c.

Now, so far from this being true, “the miserable log cabin” of which your fastidious correspondent speaks, is an excellent hewed log house, well finished and ceiled, with three good-sized rooms below, and three above stairs, amply sufficient and convenient for all intended purposes.  The construction of this house cost the government some fifteen hundred dollars, and was designed as the agency-house; whereas General Stockton has converted it into a sort of hotel – doubtless as a means of augmenting the perquisites of his station.  Hence he has stinted himself, and the convenience of the government service, to his “bee-gum” and “salt-box” penetralia of “eight feet square.”  So much for this misrepresentation.

Painting of Douglass Houghton by Robert Thom. Houghton first explored the south shore of Lake Superior in 1840. Houghton died on Lake Superior during a storm on October 13, 1845. The city of Houghton on Chequamegon Bay was named in his honor.

Painting of Professor Douglass Houghton by Robert Thom. Houghton first explored the south shore of Lake Superior in 1840. Houghton died on Lake Superior during a storm on October 13, 1845. The City of Houghton on Chequamegon Bay was named in his honor, and is now known as the Houghton Falls State Natural Area.

Senator Henry Clay Sr. (Whig Party) was defeated in the 1844 United States presidential election by President James Knox Polk (Democratic Party).  Polk’s campaign was based on American territorial expansionism, also known as Manifest Destiny.  The Territory of Wisconsin became the State of Wisconsin during Polk’s presidency during 1848.

Your correspondent expresses a like sympathy for the privations and long-suffering of Mr. Surveyor Gray.  The apartment which Mr. Gray occupies above stairs, is an ample room, some fifteen or more feet square, and is quote comfortable – nay, quite luxurious quarters, when compared to those of the other surveyors, who are where Mr. Surveyor Gray should be, if he was faithfully discharging his duties – out in the woods and the weather, among the rocks and swamps, driving the compass and chain through almost impenetrable wilds.  It may, perhaps, be a question with the government, as it certainly will be with the public, why Mr. Gray should be lolling at his ease in the agency-house on Porter’s island, while Dr. Houghton, the other surveyor, is traversing large tracts of the mineral lands, and sustaining all the hardships and perils which pertain to his employment?  And it may become a further question, while I am on this head, why Mr. Gray, who was an unrelenting tool of the whig party, and neglected the public service, for which he was receiving a handsome salary, last year, to mingle in the orgies of federal-Clay-clubites, should not only be so sedulously retained in office, but be admitted to the privilege of almost total exemption from labor, which he is employed and paid to perform?  It is a fact, that up to the 3d of July, Mr. Gray had surveyed only two miles, whereas Dr. Houghton had measured some five hundred miles of the mineral lands!  And this is the gentleman against whose discomfort your correspondent so pathetically appeals, forsooth, because he is occupying at his ease an excellent apartment in a very comfortable house.

American Progress by John Gast, 1872. "This painting shows "Manifest Destiny" (the belief that the United States should expand from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. In 1872 artist John Gast painted a popular scene of people moving west that captured the view of Americans at the time. Called "Spirit of the Frontier" and widely distributed as an engraving portrayed settlers moving west, guided and protected by Columbia (who represents America and is dressed in a Roman toga to represent classical republicanism) and aided by technology (railways, telegraph), driving Native Americans and bison into obscurity. It is also important to note that Columbia is bringing the "light" as witnessed on the eastern side of the painting as she travels towards the "darkened" west." ~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

American Progress by John Gast, 1872
“This painting shows ‘Manifest Destiny’ (the belief that the United States should expand from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. In 1872 artist John Gast painted a popular scene of people moving west that captured the view of Americans at the time. Called ‘Spirit of the Frontier’ and widely distributed as an engraving portrayed settlers moving west, guided and protected by Columbia (who represents America and is dressed in a Roman toga to represent classical republicanism) and aided by technology (railways, telegraph), driving Native Americans and bison into obscurity. It is also important to note that Columbia is bringing the ‘light’ as witnessed on the eastern side of the painting as she travels towards the ‘darkened’ west.”
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

Edward Larned was the President, and Charles G. Larned was the Superintendent, of the New York and Lake Superior Mining Company.

The design of this letter from Copper Harbor is perfectly apparent to me.  It is the sequel to a movement which was made last June, viz: to white-wash and to shield from a just reprehension the present superintendent of the Lake Superior mineral lands.  On the very day that General Stockton opened his office, a sort of soi-disant public meeting was gotten up there, in compliment to the General, in which the president of the New York and Lake Superior Mining Company was the prime mover.  When it is known that General Stockton has certified to the Ordnance Department locations by this company of between one and three hundred square miles, upon which leases were granted, when not a single foot had been actually located, in flagrant violation of all the laws and regulations, some opinion may be formed of the secret of this most disinterested and valuable tribute to the official worth of this superintendent.  What might have been the potency of this expression of public opinion (!) in protecting Gen. Stockton’s official conduct from censure and investigation up to the period of its dispensation, I will not now say.  But, certain it is, that large and glaring spots which have begun to attract scrutiny and invoke exposure, have rendered his escutcheon needful of a new coat of white-washing; and hence this effort of your correspondent to forestall examination into his conduct, by pathetic epics of his patiently-endured privations iin the public service, and the ignorant or else sinister commendations of his conduct.

Major Campbell reported on the copper lands here in December of 1843.

In animadverting upon the conduct of General Stockton and others, I do not mean to include Major Campbell, of whom everything that your correspondent has said is hereby confirmed.

POSTEA PLUS.

———

William Learned Marcy was the 20th United States Secretary of War under Polk's presidency. ~ Wikipedia.org

William Learned Marcy was the 20th United States Secretary of War during Polk’s presidency.
~ Wikipedia.org

We have omitted a large portion of the above communication, in which the writer proceeds to complain of the survey of the mineral lands, and arraigns the agents of the government for gross malversation in office.  These charges are of a serious character, and they demand a full and rigid investigation.  But, as it might lead to a protracted and angry war in the papers, in which crimination would be followed by recrimination; and as we are advised that the Secretary of War is determined to investigate the justice of these complaints and the truth of them – as he will receive any specifications in writing which may be submitted, and is determined to go to the bottom of the subject; and, with that view, will appoint a commission of two of the most respectable gentlemen he can obtain, who will go upon the lands, and probe everything for themselves, – we have thought it best to let matters take that turn.  We have not the slightest doubt that the attention of the department is thoroughly exited to the importance of the duties which may devolve upon it, and that it will unquestionably discharge them.  It is scarcely necessary, therefore, for the press to mingle at present in a discussion, which might occupy much space, lead to much excitement, and, after all, fail to lead to the best and wisest results.

– UNION.

 


 

1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
August 1, 1845.

THE COPPER REGION.

James Knox Polk: 11th President of the United States. ~ Wikipedia.org

James Knox Polk:
11th President of the United States.
~ Wikipedia.org

We have been inconsiderately drawn into a subject of some importance to the United Sates.  We have struck a vein, however, which promises to be rich in its resources.  The reader will recollect a very long and interesting letter which we published on Tuesday evening, from one of our regular correspondents, who is now on a trip from New York to Lake Superior, in which he gave us a description of its peculiar and striking scenery, and made some remarks upon the copper lands in its vicinity, and upon the agents of the United States who have been charged with the care of the mineral lands belonging to the government.  This letter drew forth a reply in our last evening’s paper; but we declined the publication of the whole communication, for the reasons which we then stated.  The writer of that article charged the United States agent with many acts of mismanagement, and even malversation of office; and as we were aware that our government was about to appoint a commission to visit the country, and investigate the conduct of the agents, we deemed it most advisable to refer to another tribunal, (for the present, at least,) a full inquiry into these matters.  In the mean time, a new scene was opened before us.  We were scarcely aware of the existence of these mineral resources, – much less of their extent.  But our curiosity is now being aroused.  The public documents connected with them have been politely placed in our possession, and we shall prepare an article for the “Union” for the purpose of calling the attention of the country to this very interesting subject.  The lead-mines belonging to the United States in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, &c., have been longer known and are better understood than the copper region.  They have been worked to a considerable extent, and their produce is so abundant, that they can not only supply our own market with lead, but afford a large export for the consumption of foreign nations.  Perhaps no mines in the world are equal to those of the belt on both sides of the Mississippi.

Engraving depicting the Schoolcraft expedition crossing the Ontonagon River to investigate a copper boulder. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Engraving depicting the 1820 Cass/Schoolcraft expedition crossing the Ontonagon River to investigate the famous copper boulder.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

How the Ontonagon Boulder was extracted was a contentious issue at this time, as it involved a series of petitions between Julius Eldred and the United States government.  These are available on 27 pages as item 260 of the 28th Congress, 1st Session.  In 1991, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community petitioned the United States for repatriation of the Ontonagon Boulder, but was denied.
WASHINGTON, January 6, 1844.
The purchase of this rock from the Chippewa Indians was made in 1841. The treaty with these Indians, ceding this portion of the country to the United States, was not made until October, 1842, after the second expedition to that country for the purpose of removing this rock. The Indians say that they did [not] reserve this rock in the treaty of 1842, as they had already sold it to a citizen of the United States, and they conceived that they had no further control over it. They say that, by their treaty, they only sold their lands, and suppose that all moveable property of this kind, which had been previously the subject of individual negotiation, would be allowed to be removed by the individuals making the purchase of them, as readily as they would be allowed to remove their lodges or canoes.
J. ELDRED, for self and sons.
Public Documents Printed by Order of the Senate of the United States: First Session of the Twenty-Eigth Congress, 1844.
Photograph by Ian Shackleford, 2011, of the Ontonagon Copper Boulder off display at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. ~ Wikipedia.org

The Ontonagon Copper Boulder at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.  Photograph by Ian Shackleford, 2011; shared with a Creative Commons license. 
~ Wikipedia.org

The copper region is probably more important than the lead-mines.  It is supposed by some geologists to extend from Lake Superior to Texas, crossing the Mississippi diagonally at a lower point than the lead-mines, and forming a vein of from thirty to forty miles of average width.  The ore is said to be unusually rich.  In some places it is mixed with veins of silver, so abundant that the precious metal alone is sufficient to pay all the expenses of working the vein – the ore itself making a yield of 60 or 70 per cent. of copper.  An immense boulder of this metal is now deposited in the public yard between the War and Navy Departments, and is well worthy the inspection of all curious observers who happen to visit Washington.  It weighs more than 3,700 lbs., and is so rich in the metal that a plate of copper is smoothed off on its surface like the copper-plate of the engraver.  It was transported to Washington from the banks of the Ontonagon river, about forty miles from the Eagle river.  The two principal points where the richest ore has yet been developed, are on Eagle river, and near Copper Harbor, on Lake Superior.  But the richest portion of the copper region, as far as it is explored, is reputed to be Isle Royale, in Lake Superior, much nearer the Canada side than our own; but the boundary line runs north of the island, so that it falls within the limits of the United States.  Isle Royale is estimated to be about thirty miles in length, and five miles broad – singularly rich in copper, which is constantly cropping out on the surface. The department has decided that no patents should be granted, and no leases taken, on this singular island.

The two largest companies on the Lake Superior copper range at this time were the Pittsburgh & Boston Copper Harbor Mining Company and the New York & Lake Superior Mining Company.  These firms were featured on Chequamegon History in The Copper Region of this series.

Two large companies have been formed for leasing and working the mines in the Lake Superior Copper Region – the one which operates in New York, and the other in Boston.  So valuable have shares become in some cases, that a gentleman in Boston, who is said to own about eighty shares, has been offered more than $600 for a single share.  The supervision of these mines is devolved on the Ordnance Bureau, (Col. Talcott,) attached, of course to the War Department.  Some important regulations have been made about the leasing of the mines, but further legislation will be required from Congress.  The Secretary of War grants the permits to applicants to go upon the lands; and upon presenting a certificate from the agent of the United States that the tract has not been previously occupied, a lease may be granted for three years, upon condition of paying 6 per cent. of the nett proceeds of the metal, after it is smelted from the ore.  If the lease be renewed for another three years, the rent is extended to 10 per cent.  The leaseholders were originally confined to the smelting of the ore in the neighborhood of the mines; but it was found that, owing to the want of fuel, and other appliances, it was best to transport the ore to New York or Boston.  The secretary yielded at last to the application – the government still receiving its 6 per cent. of rent, in the metal itself, free of all expense of transportation.

On the 21st of March last, it was determined by the Secretary of War to grant no more permits which would authorize a selection of more than one square mile; and between that time and 18th ult., seven hundred and sixty such permits were issued.  It was then determined to stop the further issue.  The cause of this is expressed in the printed circular from the Secretary of War, which we have already published.  It states that,

“should locations be made pursuant to the permits already issued from this department, to select lands in the Lake Superior mineral district, the quantity required to satisfy them would exceed one million one hundred thousand acres  It is apprehended that the whole region open for lation may not contain this quantity of mineral lands.  Explorations and surveys of these lands have been ordered, and it has been determined to suspend the further issue of permits until the results shall be made known.  The applications for permits received at the department subsequent to the 17th instant, will be filed in the office; and if the disclosures of the examinations shall warrant the further issue of permits for the Lake Superior region, they will be considered in the order in which they have been or shall be received.  It is not expected that the results of the examinations and surveys to ascertain the probable quantity of mineral lands in the region, and to make the locations pursuant to the permits already issued, can be completed for some time to come.”

General Walter Cunningham was replaced by General John Stockton as the Superintendent for this Mineral Agency to reduce corruption there.
WASHINGTON, March 26, 1844.
This is to certify, that on the 1st day of September last, while attending the payment of the Chippewa Indians at Lapointe, Lake Superior, Okondókon, being the head chief of the band of that tribe, and who resided at the mouth of the Ontonagon River, state, in my presence, that he had sold to Julius Eldred, of Detroit, in the summer of 1841, the celebrated copper rock; and that he had received, at the time of the sale, a portion of the sum agreed upo, and that there remained due him one hundred and five dollars, which was to be paid him whenever Mr. Eldred removed the rock to the shore of the lake; which sum of one hundred and five dollars Mr. Eldred did pay to Okondókon a few days thereafter, at the Ontonagon agency, in pursuace of the agreement made between them in 1841.
I further certify, that, on the 10th day of September last, Julius Eldred paid to Messrs. Hammond & Co. seventeen hundred and sixty-five dollars, for the services which they rendered in removing the rock, as well as to obtain peaceable possession of the same.
The removal of this copper rock has been attended with very great risk as well as expense, and is one of the most extraordinary performances of the age, and one which, in my opinion, should entitle him to great praise as well as liberal compensation.
WALTER CUNNINGHAM.
Public Documents Printed by Order of the Senate of the United States: First Session of the Twenty-Eigth Congress, 1844.

It seems that Walter Cunningham, the first superintendent of these lands, kept no record of the permits he granted, or of the selection of tracts to which he certified as not interfering with the claims of others; and, in consequence of the absence of this information, it appears that his successor (Stockton) has, in two or three instances, certified for others, tracts previously certified by Mr. Cunningham; and this has given rise, as may be supposed, to some complaint.  The certificates of the latter have been dropping in for a week or two past, but we know that very few or more can be in existence.

Mr. Gray (the only one of the assistants assigned to the superintendent, who possessed any competent knowledge of the surveying or platting) has been busily engaged in preparing maps, and locating the leases, and claims to leases thereon, to save from the risk of granting certificates which will interfere; and another competent surveyor has recently been sent to that country, in order that the operations may be expedited as fast as possible.  It is also understood that Dr. Houghton is carrying on surveys under the orders of the General Land Office, which will soon extend into Stockton’s district, and will probably throw much additional light upon the extent of this interesting region of country.

The Daily Union’s assertion that Mr. Gray did not mingle with politicians may be false as their regular correspondent being accused of this act, “Morgan,” appears to be a Wisconsin Territory politician named Morgan Lewis Martin.

We are informed that, as regards Mr. Gray’s mingling in any way with politicians, (as was stated by our correspondent of last evening,) it can scarcely be true.  “He is a young man, who has been constantly moving about, and acquired no right to give a vote in any location.  Modest and retiring, he is the last man in the world to do anything of the kind charged upon him.”

It will be seen, from this very rapid sketch, on imperfect data, that the copper region of the United States abounds with interest; that, from the abundance and the richness of the ore, it is probably calculated to furnish copper enough for our own consumption, and for a large exportation to foreign countries.  Of course, great interests are growing up in that wonderful region – much speculation, large companies, strong contests for the possession of the titles – the same mine sometimes shingled over with several claims – some violence and some fraud.  And even the agents of the government have not escaped the suspicion of mismanagement and malversation.  The executive is about to do its duty in these respects.  It is contemplated to employ two highly respectable commissioners to inspect the lands, to receive and investigate all complaints, and make a report to the War Department.  A more complete report also, of the mineral resources of the West, the quality and extent of the mines, and the best way of working them, will probably be obtained, under the auspices of the vigilant Secretary of War, to be submitted to the next Congress.  The statistics will, no doubt, be found valuable; and, in fact, the whole subject is every day assuming a new and a more expanding interest.


Two additional articles were published by The Daily Union on August 2 and August 11 regarding the Copper Region.  They include extensive quotes from United States government agents involved in surveying the Copper Region, but are not directly related to the correspondences of “Morgan” or his accuser “Postea Plus” and therefore are not reproduced here on Chequamegon History.


1845 daily union header

The Daily Union (Washington D.C.)
“Liberty, The Union, And The Constitution.”
August 26, 1845.

[From our regular correspondent.]

GALENA, ILL., August 14, 1845.

Not having time to say more at present about the country through which I passed in coming from the falls of St. Croix to this place, I beg leave to refer to a notice taken of a portion of a letter written by me to the “Union,” from Copper harbor, by some correspondent opposed to Gen. Stockton and Mr. Gray.

It seems that deserved praise bestowed upon these officers of a government has proved offensive to the said correspondent.

I deem his publication worth no other notice than to say, that he speaks falsely and malignantly of “Morgan,” when he attributes his praise of Stockton and Gray to “sinister motives.”

This “small band of speculators” trying to locate a mineral lease at Sault Ste Marie could not be identified.

It is known that an attempt was made by members of a certain small band of speculators to locate a mineral lease on a town site at the falls, or Sault St. Marie, where no copper or other mineral has been found, for the purpose of making a speculation of it.  And when told by Gen. Stockton that it was not put down in the mineral region, that it was beyond his jurisdiction, and that he could not consent to grant a location for it, they got made, spluttered about their influence at Washington, hinted at his removal, &c.  Several other applications were made to him by the same and other parties, equally as absurd and ridiculous, which he had the firmness to deny.  Hence, those foiled in using him to suit their own purposes, are most loud in his condemnation.  They probably wish some pliant tool to occupy his place.

I am glad to see that a commission is to be appointed to visit Copper harbor, for the purpose of investigating the affairs of the mineral agency.  I have no question it is the very thing Gen. Stockton and Mr. Gray themselves would solicit, in the event of charges being made against them, and without the least apprehension as to the result.

I could say more on this subject; but respectfully leave the whole matter in the hands of the government, where it belongs.

Galena, Jo Daviess County, Illinois, was named after the variety of lead ore found deposited there.  The lead mining industry became established here during the 1820s, and this county was the largest extractor of lead in the United States, producing an estimated 80% of the national supply by 1845.

I learn from the worthy superintendent of the United States lead-mines at this place, that he thinks the amount of lead shipped from this district the present year will reach 60,000,000 of pounds, which, at 3 cents per pound, would amount to one million eight hundred thousand dollars.  The quantity shipped last year was 43,000,000 of pounds.

Galena is growing, and, as a thriving business place, may be considered (of its size) one of the first in the western country; containing, as it does for a new place, an intelligent, active, and enterprising population.

Wisconsin State Symbols
“In the early 1800s Southwestern Wisconsin miners were too busy digging the ‘gray gold’ to build houses. Like badgers, they moved into abandoned mine shafts for shelter. As a result, Wisconsin was nicknamed ‘The Badger State.'”

Wisconsin Historical Society

Wisconsin is a flourishing Territory, and is going to make a splendid State, being rich in mineral, in farming land, and in fine timber, with a plenty of good water, health, &c.  Emigrants are pouring into it from all parts of Europe.

Iowa has rejected her constitution, and elected a democratic governor.

I remain yours, very truly and respectfully,

MORGAN.

 


 

To be continued in The Upper Mississippi River

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