By Amorin Mello

This is one of several posts on Chequamegon History featuring the original U.S. General Land Office surveys of the La Pointe (Bad River) Indian Reservation.  An earlier post, An Old Indian Settler, features a contentious memoir from Joseph Stoddard contemplating his experiences as a young man working on the U.S. General Land Office’s crew surveying the original boundaries of the Reservation.  In his memoir from 1937, Stoddard asserted the following testimony:

Bad River Headman
Joseph Stoddard
“As a Christian, I dislike to say that the field representatives of the United States were grafters and crooks, but the stories related about unfulfilled treaties, stipulations entirely ignored, and many other things that the Indians have just cause to complain about, seem to bear out my impressions in this respect.”

In the winter of 1854 a general survey was made of the Bad River Indian Reservation.

[…]

It did not take very long to run the original boundary line of the reservation.  There was a crew of surveyors working on the west side, within the limits of the present city of Ashland, and we were on the east side.  The point of beginning was at a creek called by the Indians Ke-che-se-be-we-she (large creek), which is located east of Grave Yard Creek.  The figure of a human being was carved on a large cedar tree, which was allowed to stand as one of the corner posts of the original boundary lines of the Bad River Reservation.

After the boundary line was established, the head surveyor hastened to Washington, stating that they needed the minutes describing the boundary for insertion in the treaty of 1854.

We kept on working.  We next took up the township lines, then the section lines, and lastly the quarter lines.  It took several years to complete the survey.  As I grew older in age and experience, I learned to read a little, and when I ready the printed treaty, I learned to my surprise and chagrin that the description given in that treaty was different from the minutes submitted as the original survey.  The Indians today contend that the treaty description of the boundary is not in accord with the description of the boundary lines established by our crew, and this has always been a bone of contention between the Bad River Band and the government of the United States.

The mouth of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek a.k.a. the townsite location of Ironton is featured in our Barber Papers and Penokee Survey Incidents.  Today this location is known as the mouth of Oronto Creek at Saxon Harbor in Iron County, Wisconsin.  The townsite of Ironton was formed at Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek by a group of land speculators in the years immediately following the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe.  Some of these speculators include the Barber Brothers, who were U.S. Deputy Surveyors surveying the Reservation on behalf of the U.S. General Land Office.  It appears that this was a conflict of interest and violation of federal trust responsibility to the La Pointe Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Missionary stationed at Bad River 
Reverend Leonard H. Wheeler

This post attempts to correlate historical evidence to Stoddard’s memoir about the mouth of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek being a boundary corner of the Bad River Indian Reservation.  The following is a reproduction of a petition draft from Reverend Leondard Wheeler’s papers, who often kept copies of important documents that he was involved with.  Wheeler is a reliable source of evidence as he established a mission at Odanah in the 1840s and was intimately familiar with the Treaty and how the Reservation was to be surveyed accordingly. 

Wheeler drafted this petition six years after the Treaty occurred; this petition was drafted more than seventy-five years earlier than when Stoddard’s memoir of the same important matter was recorded.  The length of time between Wheeler’s petition draft and Stoddard’s memoir demonstrates how long this was (and continued to be) a matter of great contemplation and consternation for the Tribe.  Without further ado, we present Wheeler’s draft petition below:

 


 

A petition draft selected from the

Wheeler Family Papers:

Folder 16 of Box 3; Treaty of 1854, 1854-1861.

 


 

To Hon. C W Thompson

Genl Supt of Indian affair, St Paul, Min-

and Hon L E Webb,

Indian Agent for the Chippewas of Lake Superior

March 30th, 1855 map from the U.S. General Land Office of lands to be withheld from sale for the La Pointe (Bad River) Reservation from the National Archives Microfilm Publications; Microcopy No. 27; Roll 16; Volume 16.  The northeast corner of the Reservation along Lake Superior is accurately located at the mouth of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek (not labeled) on this map.

The undersigned persons connected with the Odanah Mission, upon the Bad River Reservation, and also a portion of those Chiefs who were present and signed the Treaty of Sept 30th, AD 1854, would most respectfully call your attention to a few Statements affecting the interests of the Indians within the limits of the Lake Superior Agency, with a view to soliciting from you such action as will speedily see one to the several Indian Bands named, all of the benefits guaranteed to them by treaty stipulation.

Under the Treaty concluded at La Pointe Sept 30th, 1854 the United States set apart a tract of Land as a Reservation “for the La Pointe Band and such other Indians as may see fit to settle with them” bounded as follows.

Gichi-ziibiwishe
a.k.a.
Ke-che-se-be-we-she


Ke-che” (Gichirefers to big, or large.
se-be” (ziibirefers to a river.
we-she” (wishe) refers to rivulets.


Source: Gidakiiminaan Atlas by the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission

“Beginning on the South shore of Lake Superior a few miles west of Montreal River at the mouth of a creek called by the Indians Ke-she-se-be-we-she, running thence South &c.”

Detail of the Bad River Reservation from GLIFWC’s Gidakiiminaan Atlas. This map clearly shows that the northeast boundary of Bad River Reservation is not located at the true location of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek in accordance with the 1854 Treaty.  Red highlights added for emphasis of discrepancies.

Your petioners would represent that at the time of the wording of this particular portion of the Treaty, the commissioner on the part of the United States inquired the number of miles between the mouth of the Montreal River and the mouth of the creek referred to, in reply to which, the Indians said “they had no knowledge of distance by miles” and therefore the commissioner assumed the language of “a few miles west of Montreal River” as discriptive of the creek in mind.  This however, upon actual examination of the ground, does to the Band the greatest injustice, as the mouth of the creek to which the Indians referred at the time is even less than one mile west of the mouth of the Montreal.*

*This creek at the time was refered to as having Deep water inside the Bar” sufficient for Boats which is definitive of the creek still claimed as the starting point, and is not descriptive of the most westerly creek.

The mouth of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek was renamed as Ironton by a group of land speculators in the years immediately following the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe.  Some of these speculators include the Barber Brothers, who were U.S. Deputy Surveyors surveying the Reservation.  Ironton is featured in our Barber Papers and Penokee Survey Incidents.

But White men, whose interests are adverse to those of the Indians now demand that the Reservation boundary commence at an insignificant and at times scarcely visible creek some considerable distance west of the one referred to in the Treaty, which would lessen the aggregate of the Reservation from 3 to 4000 acres.

The Barber Brothers worked on the 1854 survey, 1856 survey, and 1858 survey of the La Pointe (Bad River) Reservation, but these surveys are apparently not available online through the United States General Land Office or the Wisconsin State Cartographers Office websites.

Your petioners, have for years, desired and solicited a settlement of the matter, both for the good of the Indians and of the Whites, but from lack of interest the administrations in power have paid no attention to our appeals, as is also true of other matters to which we now call your attention.

1861 resurvey of Township 47 North of Range 1 West by Elisha S. Norris for the General Land Office relocating Bad River Reservation’s northeast boundary.  Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek was relocated to what is now Graveyard Creek instead of its true location at the Barber Brother’s Ironton townsite location.  Red highlights added for emphasis of discrepancies.

As many heads of families now wish to select (within the portion of Town 47 North of Range 1 West belonging to the Reservation the 80 acre tract assigned to them) we desire that the Eastern Boundary of the Reservation be immediately established so that the subdivisions may be made and and land selected.

Your petioners would further [represent?] that under the 3d Section of the 2nd article of the Treaty referred to the Lac De Flabeau, and Lac Court Orelles Bands are entitled to Reservations each equal to 3 Townships, (See article 3d of Treaty.  These Reservations have never been run out, none have any subdivisions been made.) which also were to be subdivided into 80 acre Tracts.

Article 4th promises to furnish each of the Reservations with a Blacksmith and assistant with the usual amount of Stock, where as the Lac De Flambeau Band have never yet had a Blacksmith, though they have repeatedly asked for one.

Wisconsin State Representative
and co-founder of Ashland
Asaph Whittlesey

As the matters have referred to one of vital importance to these several Bands of Indians, we earnestly hope that you will give your influence towards securing to them, all of the benefits named in the Treaty and as the subject named will demand labor entirely outside of the ordinary duties of an Indian Agent, and as it will be important for some one to visit the Reservations Inland, so as to be able to report intelligently upon the actual State of Things, we respectfully suggest that Mr Asaph Whittlesey be specially commissioned (provided you approve of the plan and you regard him as a suitable person to act) to attend to the taking of the necessary depositions and to present these claims, with the necessary maps and Statistics, before the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington, the expense of which must of necessity, be met by the Indian Department.

Asaph Whittlesey was appointed to serve as the Indian Agent at the La Pointe Indian Agency from 1861 until 1869.  We have not yet found any evidence that Whittlesey addressed any discrepancies about Bad River’s northeast boundary corner not being the true location of Ke-che-se-be-we-she Creek in accordance with the Treaty.

Mr Whittlesey was present at the making of the Treaty to which we refer, and is well acquainted with the wants of the Indians and with what they of right can claim, and in him we have full confidence.

In addition to the points herein named should you favor this commission, we would ask him to attend to other matters affecting the Indians, upon which we will be glad to confer with you at a proper time.

The undersigned L H Wheeler and Henry Blatchford have no hesitency in saying that the representations here made are full in accordance with their understanding of the Treaty, at the time it was drawn up, they being then present and the latter being one of the Interpreters at the time employed by the General Government.

Most Respectfully Yours

Dated Odanah Wis July 1861

 

Names of those connected with the Odanah Mission

[None identified on this draft petition]

 

Names of Chiefs who were signers to the Treaty of Sept 30th 1854

[None identified on this draft petition]

 


 

Although this draft was not signed by Wheeler or Blatchford, or by the tribal leadership that they appear to be assisting, Chequamegon History believes it is possible that a signed original copy of this petition may still be found somewhere in national archives if it still exists.

By Amorin Mello

Originally published in the March 16, 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 IV.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number V

by Asaph Whittlesey

FIRST ELECTION IN THE TOWN OF BAY PORT.

The order of the County Board creating the Town of Bay Port was made March 11th, 1856, and the store of Schuyler Goff in Bay City was designated as the place for holding the first election for town officers, the election to be held April 1st, 1856.

The journal containing this order (which was in pamphlet form,) was destroyed by fire at the burning of the Webb House in Bayfield, Wis., June 4th, 1874.

Detail of La Pointe County from a map of Wisconsin published by J. H. Colton & Co., New York, 1856.
~ David Rumsey Map Collection

The new town comprised all that portion of La Pointe county, Wis., laying south of the north line of town 48 north, in all over sixty eight townships, including the Bad River Indian Reservation, which was, on the 8th of Nov. 1859, made a precinct by itself.

At the election held April 1, 1856, there were twenty-four votes cast, resulting as follows:  For Chairman of Town Board, Schuyler Goff; remaining member of Town Board, J. T. Welton and Asaph Whittlesey.  Schuyler Goff, Chairman elect, was the first to qualify, his oath of office being administered by Asaph Whittlesey, Justice of the Peace.

Photographs of Asaph Whittlesey and Andrew J Barkley reproduced from the Ashland Daily Press – national bicentennial issue (July 1976).

The annual statement made in April, 1857, showed the outstanding indebtedness of the town to be $25.00.  The report submitted in April, 1858, showed highway orders issued during the year previous $57.50.  Town indebtedness in April, 1858, was $22.75, and at that election there was levied the sum of $195.59, to meet the town expenses for the ensuing year.  The following were the bills allowed by the town meeting in April, 1857: The first allowed was the bill of Edwin Ellis for $9.25; 2nd, J. T. Welton, $9.00; 3rd, A. J. Barkley, $5.50.  In those days no bills were allowed nor orders drawn to cover them until the same had been approved at the town meeting.  They had not yet learned to audit accounts with the marvelous rapidity known to Town Boards of more recent dates.  However the Town Clerk comprehending this groans out as follows:  “The vaults of the Treasuring are declared empty, and the servants of the town will therefore be obliged to wait for their pay until money shall be assessed and collected.”

Again.  By referring to the Records of La Pointe, (being two years previous to the organization of the town of Bay Port,) Charles Pulcifer, acting as town treasurer, certifies that “the only unpaid personal property tax was that of J. W. Bell, amounting to $33.00, and that he was unable to find any goods on chattels belonging to the said Bell to enable him to collect the tax.

The assessment for 1857 made by Edwin Ellis for which allowance of $6.00 was made.  At the annual town meeting in 1858 the first bill acted upon was that of Asaph Whittlesey, Superintendent of schools, amounting to 75 cents, though it was not allowed as they claimed it was out of their jurisdiction.  –  Bills of Edwin Ellis and Rev. L. H. Wheeler, for work done on the highway was rejected.  It was resolved at this meeting that thereafter one shilling per hour be allowed for work on the highway.

OUR EXPERIENCE IN RAILROAD MATTERS.

Railroads did not appear along Chequamegon Bay until the 1870’s, well beyond the scope of Chequamegon History‘s focus on pre-1860s history.  The 1856 Wisconsin Railroad Land Grant scandal did occur before 1860 but is rarely mentioned by historians.

Detail of La Pointe County from a map of Wisconsin published by The Milwaukee & Horicon Rail Road, 1857.
~ Library of Congress

We often fall into the habit of complaining because things move so slow, and especially is this system of fault finding associated with the delays usually experienced in the construction of railroads in the west.  However, upon reflecting I find that my time in life embraces the entire history of railroads in the United States, nearly the first roads put into operation, (if not the very first,) were one from Baltimore to Washington and one from Albany to Schenectady, N.Y., over which it was my good fortune to pass before reaching my majority, and about the time I became of age, it was my fortune to ride over not only the first railroad constructed in Illinois, bu the first built in the Mississippi valley, to wit:  from Meredosia, on the Illinois River, to Springfield, a distance of forty miles, which, in its day, was regarded something not to be sneezed at, as the roads I have named were at least suggestions of the great systems of roads today.  Governor Donenn, of Illinois, in his message of 1835-6, referred in the most glowing language to the triumph of the canal boat and the locomotive in almost annihilating time, burden, and space in other parts of the country and wanted to known if the Patriot bosoms of Illinois did not beat high to emulate such examples of internal improvement.

There were at different times two locomotive run over the Illinois roads mentioned, and finally mule power was resorted to. – The following year an Internal Improvement Bill was passed and roads were laid out for every quarter of the State, the results of which was to bankrupt the State.  But the movement was not without its advantages, as by the following spring the forty miles reaching to Springfield was graded and ready for the track to be laid.  The track was laid by putting down a piece of square timber called a mud sill on the top of which cross ties were laid.  On these a wooden rail was laid and flat bars of iron were spiked on the top of the rail.  These bars were tow and one half inches wide and one inch thick, and upon this track turned the wheel of the first locomotive brought into the Mississippi valley.

It might be called a curious contrivance, since the locomotive was simply a piece of clumsiness and of no practical use, the driving wheels being only about two and a half feet in diameter, and the engine itself having very little power.  This road finally passed out of the hands of the State for a consideration of $100,000, in State indebtedness, while the actual cost to the State was $1,000,000.

The Saint Croix and Lake Superior Railroad Company was involved in the 1856 Wisconsin Railroad Land Grant scandal.  More details about this company will be published in later memoirs on Chequamegon History.

I have dwelt somewhat long and in general terms upon the subject of railroads in the United States, to show to my readers that there has been no want of energy in their construction, but on the contrary the rapidity with which they have penetrated the wilderness is simply marvelous, converting Indian wilds into prosperous cities or fields of golden harvest.  My own connection with the building of railroads dates no farther back then the time of my landing here in 1854, since which, I have in my way left no stone unturned looking to the introduction of railroads into this country.  I was for a time a director in the St. Croix and Lake Superior Railroad Company, during which (but for the complications of the road,) Gardner Colby would have undertaken its construction instead of turning his attention to the Wisconsin Central Railroad.

To be continued in Number VI