Asaph Whittlesey Incidents: Number III

April 8, 2017

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the March 2nd, 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

by Asaph Whittlesey

(Continuation of number two.)

So much in harmony with the views we then entertained, are the words of Hon. W. E. Allen, published in the Ashland Press of the 16th inst., as to induce me to quote largely there from.  He says:

“That beautiful harbor on which Ashland is situated, was as I believe, intended for use.  No prettier harbor or site in the wide world for a city, than that on which the little town now stands.  The beautiful rising ground at the south and east of it, with the clear water of the queen of the lakes bathing her shore, hemmed in with a crescent forest circle, extending for hundreds of miles inland, made a picture of nature that to be known and felt must be seen.  I was almost transported with rapture at the beauty – the profuse beauty on every side displayed, and as we passed away from all this loveliness, beyond the green islands, which make the bay of Ashland the most commodious and safe harbor on this inland sea, I turned my eyes back upon it till it faded out of sight, and felt a sorrow that I was forced to leave it so soon.

Ashland is a lovely place, its surrounding country equally lovely, and the day is coming when she will be at the main west commercial end of the lake on which she stands, with a railroad running west to the shore of the Pacific Ocean, where the grand city west of the Rocky Mountains is yet to be built.  Then the little town of Ashland will take her place with the commercial cities of our state, which nature has given her such just claims to.”

 Number III

The steamer Samuel Ward was built in 1847 by John Wolvertine for Captain Samuel Ward and his nephew Captain Eber Ward.  It was portaged between Lake Huron and Lake Superior at least twice before the Soo Locks opened in 1855.

Next your attention is called to the landing of the first steamboat at Ashland, which took place in the afternoon of Sep. 7th, 1854.  Captain Moses Easterbrook, of the steamer Sam Ward, wishing to have the honor of being the first to land a steamer at the new city, extended a general invitation to the people of La Pointe to join him in the excursion, at the same time having on board some fifty or sixty barrels of freight consigned to “Asaph Whittlesey, Ashland, Wis.”

About 5 p.m. of the day mentioned, the steamer Sam Ward driver dropped anchor directly in front of the ravine at the foot of Main Street, where she unloaded her freight by small boat, and while so doing the “freedom of the city” was extended to her passengers by Major Whittlesey.  I have never known the exact number of mosquitoes taken on board the steamer by this party, but as each member thereof, with palm in hand, were unceasing in their gestures, it was evident that this is what they were engaged in.

SECOND HOME BUILT UPON THE “TOWN SITE”

The 1854 Treaty at La Pointe was being negotiated during this time, which took thirty days to complete.

The second home built upon the “town site” was built 13×15, one story, and was designed soon to become a store house.  This was built upon lot 5 in block 6, the foundation logs only being now visible; it was completed Sep. 12th, 1854, and formed a temporary house for us.  The economy of its apartments deserve further notice, especially as it was in reality the first “Chequamegon” of the place.  The lower and only floor thereto, was of “puncheons,” so adjusted as to give thorough ventilation, while directly over the bed in which my wife and I slept, a “chicken roost” had been constructed, entrance to which the fowls made from the outside at the top, up an inclined pole.  Thus at midnight hour and at early dawn, our “feathered associates” told us of our entrance upon the duties of a new day.  As a historical fact of the same period, I will add that a family of skunks had their headquarters underneath the house, and could readily be seen through the “Puncheons,” as also while meandering the premises.

The third and

ONLY REMAINING CABIN BUILT UPON THE “TOWN SITE” DURING 1854

The source of lumber was probably Ervin Leihy’s sawmill.

Example of a contemporary mud oven. Not historically accurate.
Amorin Mello © 2005.

was 20×30, built upon lot 6 and block 6, and is in a remarkable state of preservation to this day, except that the “stoop” in front and “room back” for a kitchen with the mud oven opening into it are wanting.  So many and important were the events intimately associated with the history of this house, that a somewhat extended notice thereof seems unavoidable.  The logs of which it was built were cut by my hands and with only the help of a yoke of oxen, (driven through the woods from Odanah.)  Mrs. Whittlesey and myself raised the building to the chamber floor and adjusted the joist for the second story.  (Mr. Kilborn being in attendance upon Rev. Wheeler, then dangerously ill.)

By the middle of November we found ourselves fairly settled in a neatly finished cabin of massive proportions, having floors of lumber, being also provided with a “kitchen” with “mud oven,” “mud chimney,” etc., so that it took rank as the most “aristocratic” house in the place.

A few of the events which unite to make this cabin historical will begin in our next number.

To be continued in Number IV

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