Asaph Whittlesey Incidents: Number II

March 26, 2017

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the February 23rd, 1878, issue of The Ashland Press.  Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

… continued from Number I.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number II

by Asaph Whittlesey

As the sole survivor of those who first settled upon the “town site” of Ashland, I have long felt it a duty I owe to myself and wife, and to those then associated with me, whose voices can no longer be heard; as well as a duty I owe to coming generations to add to the record already made, a mention of events of Ashland’s earlier days, overlooked, or perhaps not known to those who have heretorfore generously undertaken to write up the history of the place.  And inasmuch as acts of my own, will form a conspicuous part of this record, I desire the public to charitably overlook what might otherwise be regarded as undue or extravagant mention of myself.

Edwin Ellis, M.D. ghostwrote the Ellis Incidents.
James Smith Buck authored the Penokee Survey Incidents.

Those who have preceded me in their published “Early Recollections of Ashland,” especially those from the pen of Edwin Ellis, M.D., and J.S. Buck, Esq. Of Milwaukee, place the public largely in debt.  First, on account of their having undertaken so thankless a task, and secondly, on account of the marvelous earnestness of their statements, which alone gives them value.

Engaged as I now am, the past comes up to me, with the precious freighting of recollections; some sad, and others of brighter hue, woven by memory into a varied “woof,” every thread of which has its cherished incidents in which we have born a part, and by which the soul is saddened or  brightened as the “web” unfolds its various hues; and “old time friends” are again about me, and memory is busy with those things of the past which rendered “blessed” our “Cabin Homes” in the wilderness.

Ashland

Detail of Ashland in LaPointe County circa 1855 from the Barber Papers.

Equadon is an Anglicization of the Ojibwe placename Gichi-wiikwedong.

The history of Ashland as a “town site” commenced with July 5th, 1854.  On that day George Kilburn and myself left La Pointe in a row boat on a tour of inspection of the bay upon which Ashland is now located; having in view a “town site” on what might prove to be the most available point for a town, at or near “Equadon,” which we were told meant the “head of the bay.”  Very well do I remember how our awkward attempts at rowing made us the laughing stock of numerous Half-Breeds and Frenchmen as we pulled from the shore, and how it was our fortune to face a lively head wind during this, our first few days attempting at rowing alone.  However, at 5 p.m. of the day named, having taken soundings for two miles along the south shore of the bay, we landed our boat at the westerly limit of the present “town site” of Ashland, where the high land leaves the bay.  As I stepped ashore, Mr. Kilburn exclaimed, “Here is the place for the big city!” and (handing me his ax) added, “I want you to have the honor of cutting the first tree in the way of settlement upon the “town site,” and the tree of which I then fell formed one of the foundation longs in the

FIRST BUILDING ERECTED,

and was erected upon what is now known as lot 2, block 105.  This building was 14×10 feet square, had but one door which faced to the south, and but one window which was upon the north side, furnishing a full view of the bay.

On the 16th of August, we were joined by Mrs. Whittlesey, with her “golden haired” and only child, “Eugenia Vesta,” then less than two years of age.  Mrs. Whittlesey presented an extremely youthful appearance, being less than twenty-one years of age and unused either to sunlight or to toil; she nevertheless brought “sunlight” into our first

HOME IN THE WILDERNESS.

At this time our nearest neighbors were at Odanah, a distance of eleven miles in a direct line, without even a “trail” leading thereto.

Read about Superior City, Ironton, and Houghton in the Barber Papers for other examples of preemption mania leading up to the Panic of 1857.

Mrs. Whittlesey’s surroundings were now in strong contrast with her former life, and so absolutely were we shut in by the dense forest that there was but one way to look out, and that was to look up.  But for all this our conceptions of the place were past description.  Business blocks in the near future filled our minds, and enabled us to sustain every inconvenience.  Already the “town site” fever had grown into a “mania,” and adjacent lands were rapidly being taken up by “pre-emptors.”

To be continued in Number III

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