By Amorin Mello

This is a reproduction of a memoir published by Ervin Barnes Leihy, who became known as Nigigoons (Little Otter) by the Chippewas of Bad River.  Leihy is emerging as of the more colorful characters from the post-1842 Treaty of La Pointe era in Chequamegon History, when he was one of the first non-natives to settle on the newly Ceded Territory surrounding La Pointe.  Leihy moved to the Falls of Bad River in 1846 where he built his sawmill.  After the 1854 Treaty, Leihy became associated with the Early Settlement of the Bad River Indian Reservation.  During the post-1860’s era, Leihy moved to Bayfield where he became a successful business person.  Leihy’s general store and brownstone house are still prominent buildings in Bayfield today.

 

Details of settlements on the La Pointe Reservation from Charles Whittlesey's 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range.

Details of Ervin Leihy’s sawmill on the La Pointe Reservation from Charles Whittlesey‘s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range from Geology of Wisconsin: Volume III, plate XX-214.  Also shown are the Opinike (or Potatoe) River Property, Ironton, and McEwen’s Sawmill.

 

Bayfield County Press

March 31, 1900

[Transcribed and shared by Robert J. Nelson, 2016]

Incidents of Early Days on Lake Superior

At the Falls of Bad River

By Ervin Leihy

 

“Bayfield, Wis., June 3 [1901].
Ervin Leihy, one of the first white settlers to come to the northern part of Wisconsin died at his home in this city last week. He was born in Oswego county, N. Y., October 12, 1822. His early life was passed on a farm and at 18 moved to Illinois. Later he bought a farm at Bad River, Ashland county, and in 1846 moved onto it. In 1870 he moved to Bayfield, built his present home and opened a general store which he conducted for a number of years. While living at Bad River he was a member of the town and county boards of Ashland county for a number of years and in 1871 and 1872 was a member of the town board of Bayfield. Besides these he held numerous other offices. He was a public-spirited man, had plenty of means and was always ready to assist in anything that would tend to advance the interests of the town in which he resided.”
Wisconsin Weekly Advocate, June 6, 1901.

Next day our arrival at the Falls (October 5, 1846) was spent in looking over the surroundings.  The murmur of the stream, the stream itself and the surrounding scenery, reminded me of the scenes of my earliest recollections on the banks of the Salmon River, Oswego County, New York.  Here to his game in the forest, fish and the stream and sugar in the trees; and the soil is good.

Potatoes are worth one dollar per bushel and corn two dollars per bushel.  Those were my musings as I sat on a big rock at the head of the falls.  Here were many of the necessaries and some of the luxuries of life and all for the taking and no taxes to pay – all as free as air.

Captain Joseph Wood is reportedly the only person wounded during the 1835 Toledo War over the state boundary between Michigan and Ohio.

To say that I was delighted would be putting it mildly.  I asked the captain what were his plans.  He had none; he simply liked to live in the woods.  Here, let me digress.  Captain Wood was a man about 53 years old, had gained perhaps earned the prefix to his name during what was termed the “Toledo War,” early a squabble between the states of Ohio and Michigan for jurisdiction over a strip of land in which Toledo was the principal town.  Wood being deputy sheriff of Monroe County at that time was put in command of a company of Michigan troops to help all the claims of the state of Michigan.  Withal, a genial and agreeable companion.  Not much time was lost.

Detail of Bad River Falls omitted from Barber's second survey of 1856.

Detail of Leihy’s sawmill and Bad River Falls omitted from the Barber brothers’ survey of the La Pointe (Bad River) Reservation.

I have soon acquired a half interest in the “Hermitage” which consisted of a long, hut about 14 feet square, a fireplace in one corner, and covered with shakes; nearly an acre of cleared land, 20 or 30 bushels of potatoes and perhaps as many more of rutabaga; a couple of axes and a hoe or two.

Brother George had gone with his boat and men.  I began to talk to Capt. Wood about LaPointe of which I heard so much.  He finally said, “perhaps you would like to go there?”   I told him I certainly would.

Charles William Wulff Borup and Charles Henry Oakes married into the powerful Beaulieu Family of Ojibwe mixed-bloods traders.
In addition to their fur trade, the American Fur Company began prospecting for copper in 1845.

Well, we found our way to LaPointe, and an interesting place.  It certainly was.  Here the North American fur company was in full bloom, under the efficient management of Messrs. Borup and Oakes.  The traders, had already left with their outfits for their various stations at Lac du Flambeau, Lake Courerille, Sandy Lake, Leech Lake, Grand Portage and other points, not to return until May or June when they were expected to return laden with bear, beaver, otter, Fischer, Martin, mink and other valuable fur.

Reverend Sherman Hall ~ Madeline Island Museum

Reverend Sherman Hall
~ Madeline Island Museum

Here to was established a Catholic mission under the care of father Baraga; also a Presbyterian mission in under the care of Rev. Sherman Hall, and all in flourishing condition.
Fishing was also carried on to a considerable extent among the islands by the Fur company.  The side-wheeler Julia Palmer, have been hauled over the portage at the Soo and had just made one trip as far West as LaPointe.  The rest of the fleet on Lake Superior consisted of five small sail vessels, viz. the Merchant, Swallow, Algonquin, Fur Trader and the Chippewa.

James P. Hays was assigned to the La Pointe Indian sub-Agency in 1844.

A Mr. Hays was subbing in agent and Mr. Van Tassel was the government blacksmith at that time at LaPointe.

We stayed but a few days, procured a few necessary tools, some supplies for the winter and return to the Falls.

There were now [four] in camp.  Captain Joseph Wood, Charlie Rowley, John Smith and myself.  Wood, Smith and I went to work on the second house built in what is now Ashland County outside of LaPointe.

To be continued…

Advertisements

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the June 16th, 1877, issue of The Ashland Press.  Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Edwin Ellis, M.D. appears to be the ghostwriter of this series of memoirs.
Edwin Ellis

Edwin Ellis, M.D. 
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

My Dear Press:– In these joyous days of Ashland’s history, when we are all made glad by the completion of that great enterprise – the Wisconsin Central Railroad – when from banishment and isolation from the populous portion of our State and from the great world we in one day are brought in close contact with and feel the throbbings of the pulse of commercial and social life, it may be of interest to some to recall a few incidents of the early history of our town and its vicinity.

The years 1853 to 1857 were noted in the West for adventure and enterprise in pushing into new regions and laying out and building new towns.

Superior City Incidents:
Land Office Fraud;

Barber Papers Prologue;
Part VI of Sketch of Vincent Roy Jr.

In 1853 the site of Superior City had been pre-empted and in 1854, laid out into regular lots and blocks, and the work of a new city begun.  The site had attracted the attention and capital of some of our ablest men.  It was backed by stronger political influences than ever combined to lay the foundations of any town in the west.  Among its proprietors were many leading members of Congress and of the Cabinet, especially from the South.  The most sanguine expectations of its future greatness were entertained, for it commanded a scope of country as great as that paying tribute to Chicago.  Its lots were sold at fabulous prices.  It was in 1855 and 1856 – probably the most talked of town in the Union.

The temporary success of Superior kindled a blaze of speculation, which spread far and wide in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

Some of the founders of Superior at the map, saw stretching away to the South-west from the Apostles’ Islands, a deep bay, extending far inland, as if reaching forth to reach the tide of commerce flowing northward from the Gulf and the Atlantic.

Report on the Geology of the Lake Superior Land District: Part I. Copper Lands (1850) and Part II.  The Iron Region (1851) by John Wells Foster and Josiah Dwight Whitney.

This was our Chegomegon or Long Island Bay.  The report of Foster and Whitney also told of mountains of iron ore, which must find its way into the channels of commerce, by the waters of this bay.  An important town, it was thought, must spring up near its head.

Martin Beaser

Martin Beaser
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

While plans were maturing for the occupation of this site, we learned that another party had been attracted by the same considerations that moved us, and that Martin Beaser, Asaph Whittlesy, and Geo. Kilbourn had entered upon and claimed about three hundred acres under the townsite law.  The land had not yet been surveyed, and of course could not be entered or pre-empted.  The two latter gentlemen were on the spot, having arrived in the summer of 1854.  But we were not deterred by these anticipations of our plans.

Early in February, 1855, Edwin Ellis, as the representative of several enterprising capitalists of St. Paul, left the latter city with one companion, Cyrus A. Rollins, to examine the situation and site, and if thought advisable and practicable, to make a lodgement there.  The writer was then in full prime and vigor of early manhood, and full of ambition and bright expectations.  The way from St. Paul was through an unbroken wilderness.  The Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad had not been conceived.  In truth, no railroad had then approached within three hundred miles of the great Lake.  The present city of Duluth in its visions of the near future – the Damascus between the Atlantic and Pacific – the halting place of the North Pacific caravan, bringing to New York and London, the wealth of India, and China and Japan, and the Islands of the South sea – was then only occupied by the wild Indian.

Robert Emmet Jefferson is said to have built the first frame house in what is now Duluth.

Emmet Jefferson, who subsequently pre-empted the site of Duluth, was one of our party from St. Paul; but for many years he had slept in his last sleep.  Three or four other adventurers were with us and though it was cold and the way hard, we were a wild and joyous party of young men, going forth to seek our fortunes,– not doubtful of success.

At Superior we first saw the Great Lake.  Half a dozen houses – a store or two and the beginnings of a hotel, comprised all of that rival to Chicago.

Captain T. A. Markland cofounded the Middleton townsite on Minnesota Point.
Washington Ashton was the editor of the Superior Chronicle (1855-1863).
Colonel Reuben B. Carlton was a government blacksmith and farmer at Fond du Lac and signer of the 1847 Treaty at Fond du Lac.  In later years he became a mining investor and politician.

Among our acquaintances formed there, of which there were several pleasant ones, were Capt. Markland, a soldier of the Mexican war, a lawyer by profession, a man of culture, courteous in manner and stately in his bearing;– Washington Ashton, the pioneer publisher of Superior, and Colonel Carleton, who had been for several years a resident at Fond du Lac, and whose name is perpetuated by the name of a county in Minnesota.  All of them have been long years dead.

Having rested a day and bade adieu to our traveling companions, already dear to us as the sharers of our toils, we turned our faces towards the east.  We were fortunate in securing as a pilot on our untried voyage, Baptiste Gauden – mail carrier between Superior and La Pointe.  Here we first saw a dog train, which relieved us of our packs; and at night Baptiste assisted in pitching our camp, “a day’s march nearer home.”  He “still lives,” and devotes much of his time to the service of the Roman Catholic Church, of which he is an obedient and devoted son.

George Riley Stuntz's town-site near the Mouth of Iron River, La Pointe County, 1852.

George Riley Stuntz had a settlement and sawmill near the mouth of the Iron River, 1852.
~ General Land Office Records

Detail of settlements and foot trails in the Sioux River Valley, 1855.

Detail of foot trails in the Sioux River Valley, 1855.
~ General Land Office Records

Leaving Superior late in the forenoon, we arrived at Iron River, twenty miles away; where we were happy to find shelter in a logging camp, full of robust, hearty, whole-souled men, some of whom had come from cultivated homes in the east.  By some means strange to most of that company, the traveling pilgrim discovered a brother of the mystic tie, with whom he passed a pleasant evening, thankful for that fraternal bond, which makes strangers friends and brothers at sight.

Leaving Iron River the next morning, two days march brought us to La Pointe via the valley of the Sioux river, passing through the wilderness then, which is now the cultivated vale, made classic by being the dwelling place of the “Sage of Avoca;” the peer in farming to the immortal Horace, who has earned his title to the peerage by “causing two blades of grass to grow, where but one grew before he came,” and of him we may say:

Remote from cities lived a swain,
Unvexed with all the cares of gain;
His head is silvered o’er with age,
And long experience makes him Sage.

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

Antoine Gordon 
~ Noble Lives of a Noble Race by the St. Mary’s Industrial School (Odanah), page 207.

At La Pointe the first object to meet our profane view were numerous large wooded crosses ten to fifteen feet high, in different parts of the town, erected by the pious zeal of the faithful believers in the then new dogma of “Immaculate Conception.”  We saw also an imposing procession of French mixed bloods, escorting a fat, good natured looking priest through the street, under a gaudy canophy, borne by four devout servants of the Church.  This also was in honor of the same dogma.

We put up for the night at the only hotel of the place, kept by Antoine Gauden, whose aged father, that very night, amid the chanting and prayers of the virgin saints of La Pointe, passed into the presence of the Eternal.  La Pointe at that time was of much greater importance than at present – the most important town on the Lake west of Ontonagon.  It was the annual gathering place of several thousand Indians, who then received their annual payments.  It was the center of the fish trade for all this part of the Lake.  It had, also, quite an extensive fur trade.

Samuel Stuart Vaughn

Samuel Stuart Vaughn
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

Julius Austrian had an extensive store of general merchandise and transacted a large business.  Hon. S.S. Vaughn, one of Ashland’s present most substantial citizens, was then a young merchant at La pointe, where by close attention to business, he was laying the foundation of the fortune he has since achieved.  Wm. E. Vantassel, Government Blacksmith for the Indians, a descendant of an old Knickerbocker family was there – a very skillful workman and a very genial man.  In old age he now resides near Stillwater, Minnesota.  Francis McElroy was also there, full of life and energy.  And last but not least, I must mention John W. Bell, Esq, who even then had lived on the Island more than twenty years, and whose recollections carried him back till he could almost hear the war whoop of the Sioux and Chippewas as the latter drove their old enemies forever away from the land of the Ojibwas.  He has for many years been the “Patriach” of the Island, and is much esteemed by his neighbors.

Frederick Prentice

Frederick Prentice
~ History of the Maumee Valley by Horace S Knapp, 1872, pages 560-562.

Resting one night, on the following day we started across the bay on snow-shoes, reaching the shore near the Kaukaugon river.  We followed the coast west, and at nightfall we found tracks leading up the ravine, a few rods from where the railroad track now touches the water of the bay.  We found here a log house, built by Lusk, Prentice & Co., for purposes of trade and with the plan for the occupation of the site.  Here we passed our first night.  The ruins of the shanty may be seen on the block now occupied by the residence of Ferinand Schupp.  Adolphus Bart, the clerk of the company, was in charge and made us welcome with his good cheer.  He is now a lawyer in the State of New York.

To be  continued in Number II

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

Originally published in the February 16, 1878, issue of The Ashland Press.  Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number I

by Asaph Whittlesey

"Asaph Whittlesey dressed for his journey from Ashland to Madison, Wisconsin, to take up his seat in the state legislature. Whittlesey is attired for the long trek in winter gear including goggles, a walking staff, and snowshoes." Circa 1860. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Photograph of Asaph Whittlesey from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Our first arrival at La Pointe being so intimately associated with the settlement of Ashland, I have determined to make our arrival there the subject of my first letter.

It was among the first days of June, 1854, that George Kilburn, Jr., myself and wife and only child, Eugenia, (then some eighteen months old,) made a landing at La Pointe with a view to remain permanently in the country. Well do I remember the beautiful “town,” spread before us as we merged from the “old log warehouse” through which we passed in reaching the shore, while the general appearance was that of neatness and comfort.

Julius Austrian ~ Madeline Island Museum

Photograph of Julius Austrian from the Madeline Island Museum.

We had already made the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Austrian, having had the pleasure of their company up the Lakes, and had made many inquiries of them as to the place of our destination. From this time forward we found Mr. and Mrs. Austrian to be most agreeable neighbors and associates, and these young “brides” spent much of their time together, and not unfrequently did the evening air carry to listening crowds our notes of “Good old Colony times,” and “There’s no place like home,” still fresh in our memory.

La Pointe at this time was the second in importance of towns upon the Lakes, Ontonagon taking the lead.

Within a few days after our landing, we were fully organized as “house keepers,” under the same roof with Mr. and Mrs. George Starks, now residents of Bayfield; who proved to be most excellent neighbors, and never did a single roof cover a more harmonious trio of families.

We had, however, a common “foe” to encounter, visions of which filled our dreams and harassed our waking moments. This “foe” was the everlasting “bed bug,” more numerous and more determined in their onslaught than is the “Russian Army;” while this mixture of Dutch and Yankee blood served to satisfy their ravenous appetites. We had heard of this race before, but this was the first time we had met in open combat, face to face. It was our custom regularly before retiring to rest to go into combat with them armed with “wooden spads,” with which we slaughtered them by the quart. Our plan was to remain awake an hour or so after retiring to bed, when we would strike a light which was a signal for a field fight. It was an exciting scene to witness their ranks surrounding us on every hand, while the sheets of our bed seemed dyed in human blood. One means of our defense was to have the bed posts stand in molasses; but this only put them to the trouble of marching to the ceiling above from which they dropped upon us like hail; of course all these contingencies helped to make my wife good natured, and strengthen her attachments to the country. This condition of things lasted while we remained occupants of the building, and when we, in our weakness from loss of blood, staggered forth to make us a home elsewhere, we were filled with anxiety as to the safety of our German neighbors.

Julius Austrian’s garden was originally established by Charles William Wulff Borup, M.D.:
“Dr. Borup, the agent for the American Fur Company, (who have an extensive trading-post at this place,) has a superb garden.  In walking through it with him, I saw very fine crops of the usual garden vegetables growing in it.  His red currant bushes were literally bent down beneath their weight of ripe fruit.  His cherry-trees had also borne well.  Gooseberries also succeed well.  The doctor also had some young apple-trees, that were in a thriving condition.  Poultry, likewise, does well.  Mrs. B. had her yard well stocked with turkeys, geese, ducks, and chickens.”
~ Morgan at La Pointe during 1845.

As I have before stated, the general appearance of the island was most attractive. The garden of Mr. Austrian was laid out most tastily. We found there a large variety of fruit trees, apples, plums, cherries, etc. Also large quantities of currants and strawberries; but the crowning attraction was the “grape bower,” affording a most attractive lounging place. Here also a merry party, consisting, so far as my recollection serves me, of the following persons: Mr. and Mrs. Julius Austrian, Rev. John Chebohm, (who, I remember, asked the blessing at the table,) Marks Austrian, Mr. H. Mandelbaum, Henry Smit, Mr. and Mrs. Hocksteiner, Mr. and Mrs. George Starks, old Mr. and Mrs. Perinier, Mr. and Mrs. Asaph Whittlesey, and I think Mrs. William Herbert, and a Mr. Roy, celebrated the

“FORTH OF JULY,” 1854.

Being a curious mixture of Americans, Jews, Germans, French and Austrians, no two of whom could carry on a very extensive conversation, for want of a knowledge of the languages, so that our toasts were mainly received in silence, nevertheless the day was passed most pleasantly, while the reading of the Declaration of Independence by Asaph Whittlesey, marked it as a day for national celebration.

To be continued in Number II