Asaph Whittlesey Incidents: Number I

February 9, 2017

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

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