By Amorin Mello

Originally published in the March 23, 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 V.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number VI

by Asaph Whittlesey

During 1856 the steamers Lady Elgin, Illinois, and Superior landed freight and passengers upon a steamboat dock constructed at Bay City, now Ellis division of Ashland.

1860 photograph of the sidewheel steamer Lady Elgin.
~ Ship-Wrecks.net

Ashland’s first saloon was opened by James Whitney in June 1856, and during the same month the first store was opened by Martin Beaser, on the corner of block one hundred and one.

The patent to Ashland, issued by the United States, bears the date June 23rd, 1862.

Land patent for the town site of Ashland issued by President Abraham Lincoln on June 23rd, 1862 to Schuyler Goff:
“The contract between the three was, that Mr. Whittlesey and Mr. Kilborn were to receive each an eighth interest in the land, while the residue was to go to Mr. Beaser. The patent for the land was issued to Schuyler Goff, as county Judge of La Pointe county, Wisconsin, who was the trustee for the three men, under the law then governing the location of town sites.”
~ Biographic sketch of Martin Beaser

OF THE OPENING OF ROADS IN THE EARLY DAYS OF ASHLAND.

In reporting upon this subject it is very possible that our town authorities of the present day may be put somewhat to the blush by the manner in which these and other like improvements were made.  And I will guarantee the re-election of any Town Board, or other town officer who will carry out the program of former days for the opening of roads, which was simply this:

Whenever a road was needed such men as Edwin Elllis, Martin Beaser, George Kilbourn and myself, (I came near overlooking the latter,) and others who mainly volunteered their work, shouldered their axes and served in person until roads contemplated were completed.  There was also this peculiarity attached to this class of individuals; they did not hang about the steps of the town house the balance of the year for the purpose of getting bills audited for work done upon the highways.  It was in this manner that the road leading to Odanah and also that leading south to White River Falls were first opened.  Even Indians partook of the same spirit in volunteering their labor, as Aid-de-camp to their Great Leader, Rev. L. H. Wheeler.

I have no doubt Dr. Ellis still bears in mind how the woods at Bear Trap were made to echo the yells of the Indians as they collided with the party from Ashland on the very day agreed upon, and I think I may safely say that the citizens of Odanah and of Ashland looked upon the opening of this road as a momentous event, and one which cemented us together even more firmly as friends and neighbors, though I have no doubt many of my readers will stand ready to declare that the foot race existed not very far back.

Detail of trail from Ashland to Bad River on Barbers’ survey during the Summer of 1855.

We wore good countenances, slept well nights, and paid one hundred cents on the dollar of our obligations.  We were not ashamed to eat salt pork (those of us who could get it,) while our faithful wives vied with each other in the different styles of cooking this staple article of diet.

Next to this comes the everlasting pancake, without which neither town site nor pre-emptions could be legally established.

Not everyone working on this railroad was able to leave in peace.
“From March to November 15, 1872, over 200 buildings had been erected in Ashland and from a thousand to thirteen hundred men were in the railroad camps engaged in the tremendous task of clearing a track through the forest, and building a railroad. The nation had begun to feel the financial trouble that became the Bank Panic of 1873. Suddenly, one December morning, 1872, Capt. Rich received word to shut down all work on the line, pay off and discharge all the men and transport them and all others who desired to leave, out of the country.”
~ History of the Soo Line by James Lyden, chapter 9.
“On January 1, 1873, Sheriff Nelson Boutin, Capt. R.D. Pike and a party of seventy-five chosen men went over to Ashland as a company to quell the railroad rioters. After stopping there ten days they returned. Having had this little of military life, they conceived the idea of forming a new military company and joining the State militia.”
~ History of Northern Wisconsin by the Western Historical Company, 1881, page 82.

On the second day of June, 1877, I had the honor of driving the last spike, which took place at Chippewa Station, amid the shoutings of a large assemblage of people, including laborers upon the road, and in a few moments thereafter the first train from Milwaukee passed over the road on its way to Ashland, amid great rejoicing and demonstrations of joy over the victory won.  At Ashland also the excitement became intense and though it was late on a Saturday evening on which our train reached the town, the illumination of the place brought to our view a field of faces, crazy with excitement over the event they were celebration.  As for myself, I confess I felt very much like saying, “Now let thy servant depart in peace.”  No longer were we to be informed of what was to be done, but we now knew it to be actually accomplished, and the Wisconsin Central Railroad remained a standing monument to the good name of Gardner Colby, Charles L. Colby and E. B. Phillips, all other efforts being secondary to that of these individuals.  I have in my possession a map of this section of country, published by Charles C. Tucker in 1858, on which he laid down an imaginary line of railroad as being likely to be constructed from Madison via Portage and Stevens Point to Ashland, and strange to say it lays down the precise route of the Wisconsin Central Railroad, the very first to be constructed.

Having received by our last mail an important official statement from the Railroad Commissioner for the State of Wisconsin, I will insert the same here rather than to fail to have it published:

He says “the number of miles of railroad now constructed within the State of Wisconsin is two thousand six hundred and fifty-nine and 6-100, while there are seventy-one thousand seven hundred and fifty-nine miles of railroad now operated within the United States, with a capital and debt amounting to four billion six hundred and fifty-eight million two hundred and eight thousand six hundred and thirty dollars.”

STATISTICS IN GENERAL

In furnishing these I desire specially to acknowledge the obligation I am under to Mrs. James Wilson, for granting me access to early records of the place kept by Martin Beaser, Esq., though I find some discrepancies between his record and my own, which I think can be explained by the fact that he did not commence his record until some years after the first settlement of the place, and made it from memory along.  For instance he says “the town site of Ashland was located by Martin Beaser, Asaph Whittlesey and George Kilbourn in August, 1854,” whereas Mr. Kilbourn and myself commenced the settlement of the town site July 5th, while Mr. Beaser first visited the place in August when he became an owner therein, the town site being from this time forward owned three fourths by Martin Beaser and one eighth each Kilbourn and Whittlesey.

Again Mr. Beaser’s record states that “the first house was built by Asaph Whittlesey in October, 1854, and was twenty by thirty feet square,” while the fact is I had erected two cabins upon the town site previous to the erection of this one and had lived in them.

Following cabin built by Kilbourn and Whittlesey, foundation laid July 5th, 1854, was twelve by fourteen feet square and was erected on lot number two in block one hundred and five.  The foundation to the second cabin built was laid by Kilbourn and Whittlesey Sept. 9th 1854.  This cabin was thirteen by fifteen feet square and was erected on lot five of block six.  The outline of this building may still be traced. – The third house erected was that erected by Asaph Whittlesey on lot six in block six and was twenty by thirty feet square and this building constituted the residence of the Whittlesey family until the fall of 1857 when I removed to what is known as the Tompkins house on lots five and six in block three.  I have in my possession very correct sketches of the first three cabins built, which I hope eventually to have lithographed for preservation.  The fourth house was erected by Conrad Goeltz.  The fifth house by Martin Beaser.  The sixth house by Myron Tompkins.  The seventh house by Lawrence Farley.  The eighth house by Charles Malmet.  The ninth house by Anthony Fisher.  The tenth house by Frederick Bauman.  Beyond this I am unable to give the order in which buildings were erected.

Conrad and Adam Goeltz first arrived at Ashland in March, 1855, and were employed by me in chopping and delivering cord wood upon the bay shore.  As we were without a team we improvised one by harnessing these two Dutchmen and myself in the form of a spike team to a large sized hand-sled with which we banked twenty cords of wood per day.

P.S. – Adam had it twenty-two cords per day, but I think we had better throw off the two cords and try to save our reputation for veracity.

The first chickens brought into town were those brought by A. Whittlesey from Ohio in 1854.

John Beck butchered the first hogs in town, though he left a few which he did not butcher.

Martin Beaser brought the first yoke of oxen, and in 1855 raised about two hundred bushels of potatoes upon the town site.  On the third of December, 1855, the schooner Algonquin landed at Ashland two hundred and twenty-five barrels of freight, seventy-five thousand feet of lumber and a yoke of oxen.

Ashland Bay froze over Dec. 7th, 1855.  The two first steamboat docks were built during the winter of 1855-6, one by Martin Beaser at the foot of Main Street and one by the Bay City Company.  These were carried away by the ice May 1st, 1856.

To be continued in Number VII

 

By Amorin Mello

The following is a set of three articles collected and edited from the Superior Chronicle newspaper, followed by my personal thoughts on this matter :

 




 

Superior Chronicle newspaper July 7th, 1855, page 2.

Lake News.

These were exiting times for American settlers on Lake Superior as the Soo Locks had just opened one month earlier in June of 1855.

We find in the Lake Superior Journal the following paragraphs of lake news:

The brig Columbia, which carried the first cargo of ore through the Sault Ste. Marie Canal.”
~ The Honorable Peter White, by Ralph D. Williams, 1907, Chapter XIV.

Johnson & Tisdale, of Cleveland, have just built a small side-wheel steamer, for J. H. Garrett, of Ontonagon, and intended to be used on that river as a passenger boat, and also for towing between the mouth of the river and the mines. Her dimensions are : length of keel, 85 feet; beam, 14 feet; depth of hold, 2 feet. She has two engines, and will draw about fifteen inches water.

The Garrison stable at the Sault Ste. Marie, containing two horses was set on fire on the morning of the 29th ult., and, with its contents, totally consumed.

The Canal Company showed their patriotism on the Fourth of July, by exploding about one hundred and fifty barrels of damaged powder.

The brig Columbia carried the first full cargo shipment of iron ore down the Soo Locks one month later in August 1855.

The first locomotive for the Iron Mountain Railroad, from Lake Superior to the Iron Mountains, left Buffalo on Tuesday by the brig Columbia, for Marquette.

 


 

Superior Chronicle newspaper, October 23rd, 1855, page 2.

Man Shot.

George Riley Stuntz
Deputy U.S. Surveyor, and Chequamegon Bay land and minerals speculator.

On Tuesday night last an affray occurred on Minnesota Point, which resulted in the shooting of a sailor, attached to the brig Columbia. The vessel was lying at the wharf of Messrs. Stuntz & Co., and the crew, under the influence of liquor, went on shore for the purpose of having a frolic; in the course of their spree they came across some Indians, encamped on the Point, and one of the men soon provoked a quarrel with an Indian. The Indian was being beaten severely, when the captain coming up, interfered, whereupon he was attached by the man. The captain, being small in statue, and unable otherwise to defend himself, drew a pistol and fired at his assailant, the ball entering his side. The wounded man was brought to town, his wound dressed, and is now said to be doing well, the ball not having penetrated to any serious depth.

 


 

Superior Chronicle newspaper, November 6th, 1855, page 2.

Death of Louis Gurnoe — Inquest by a Coronors’ Jury — Verdict, etc.

There were more than one Chippewa mixed-blood named Louis Gurnoe.

Captain Justus O. Wells
J. Baker was counted as a “Colored”
man living alone in Superior City during the 1855 Wisconsin Census.  No further sources about J. Baker could be found.
Alcohol was prohibited on Minnesota Point and the Minnesota Arrowhead region by Article 7 of the 1854 Treaty at La Pointe.  This prohibition is not recognized anywhere in this article written one year after the Treaty.

Several weeks ago we gave an account of the shooting of a half-breed named Louis Gurnoe by Captain Wells, of the brig Columbia. The affray occurred on Minnesota Point, opposite Superior. It appears that Gurnoe was a man of very intemperate habits, and several nights previous to his difficulty with the captain, was engaged in a row at a low groggery on First street, kept by a negro named Baker. A dance was being held at that place, and Gurnoe, under the influence of liquor, challenged those present to a fight; he was then set upon, knocked down, and kicked and beaten in a cruel manner. The injuries he sustained, aided by excessive dissipation, ensued his death, just as the vessel was leaving our port. At La Pointe, a coronor’s inquest was held on the body, and the verdict rendered was that death was caused by bruises received at Baker’s house. We hope this matter will be brought before the grand jury at the next sitting of our circuit court, and while we may not expect to see the murderers brought to justice, we hope, at least, that sufficient cause may be shown why this miserable den should be removed. It has been tolerated too long already, and for the good order and character of our town, if for no other consideration, some effect should be made to put a stop to the disgraceful proceedings there enacted.

We publish the entire testimony elicited at the inquest, verdict of the jury, and an affidavit made by Gurnoe previous to his death, exhonorating Captain Wells from all blame whatsoever.

Joseph Stone, one of the hands on board, being duly sworn said:

That on Tuesday evening last, the brig Columbia, Captain Justus Wells, from St. Clair, was opposite Superior; there was a noise between [Sandy?] and deceased, Louis Gurnoe; Louis wanted to fight; captain wished him to stop; deceased knocked captain down; Louis then challenged captain to fight; he then got hold of the captain by the hair of the head; captain told him several times to let go; captain said if he did not let go he would shoot him; told him five or six times to let him go; he did not let go; the first thing I heard was the report of a pistol; [Sandy?], captain, and myself carried him to a tent; I stopped there till four o’clock; captain directly sent two men away to get a physician; deceased was in liquor at the time; he had been very quarrelsome; he shipped at Saut Ste. Marie this trip; he had been bruised on the face the Saturday previous; on the Monday previous when leaving Superior wharf he was so intoxicated that he fell off the provision chest; he was sick coming up; he was unable to do duty after Saturday.

Simeon Nelsonn being duly sworn said:

Simeon Nelsonn could not be identified. His version of the story is different than what was published in the earlier article from October 23rd.
Between this “little Irishman” and Patrick Sullivan at the 1855 La Pointe Annuity Payments, it is evident that the Irish were treated as a minority group by the average settlers and and tourists on Lake Superior during 1855.

We went on shore at Superior, on Saturday evening last; at Baker’s there was a dance; the dance went on nicely till about twelve o’clock; Louis said something to the effect that no one in the room was able to fight him; with that a little Irishman took it up; I went in and hauled Louis back; some one took me off from him, shoved me on one side and commenced at Louis; knocked him down with his fist, and several men piled on him; they then commenced kicking him in the side, breast, and once or twice in the face; after a while they were parted; then Louis commenced drinking again – had been drinking during the evening. After having got all pacified we went on board about two o’clock in the morning; he went to sleep; when he woke he swore he would have a row with somebody before he left the place; on going on shore he commenced drinking; we unloaded the vessel on Monday and Tuesday, and on that afternoon we went over to Minnesota Point; in the evening all went ashore to have some sport; Louis said, before he went ashore, he was bound to have a row with the captain; after going on shore, everything went on well till about two o’clock in the morning. (Wednesday;) I was lying in the lodge; Louis came in and commenced at me; I told him that I did not want any fuss with him and that everything he said I was bound to knock under to save a row; at that the captain heard the words from Louis and came out from another lodge; as Louis was going to come in at me, the captain grabbed him by the shoulders, hauled him back, and said to him, “Louis we did not come here for a row, we came to have sport;” Louis turned on him, and knocked him down; they were then parted; the captain balloed “enough;” Louis was going at him again; the captain stepped back, pulled out a revolver, and said, “If you don’t leave me alone I will shoot you;” Louis opened his breast to him, and said, “Here’s a clean breast shoot;” captain stepped back, and Louis went at him again; caught the captain by the hair of the head; captain told him if he did not let go he would shoot him; we tried to part them again; couldn’t part them; captain wanted to let go, but Louis wouldn’t; captain again said “If you do not let go I will shoot you;” as Louis was drawing back his foot to kick the captain in the face, he being down about knee high, the captain again repeated his caution, gave him one minute to let go, and then shot him; Louis then let go; says he, “I’m dead’ I’m dead.” – Captain said “I thought it would turn out that way – I told you I would shoot but you would not mind me;” captain said “If there is anything I can do I will do it;” the captain, Joseph Stone and myself, carried him into the lodge; the other two boys that were with him commenced dressing his wounds; captain sent John Scott and myself aboard the vessel after the boat to go for a physician; we went aboard and got the boat; got the second mate and Benj. Rassau to go for the doctor; went to Superior; couldn’t find a physician; captain, second mate, Joseph Chapman, a Frenchman living on the point, and myself, got the deceased into the boat and brought him aboard; before we got him aboard a physician came; about eight o’clock in the morning I saw deceased lying in the cabin; said he felt better; about four o’clock p.m. we endeavored to put him into one of the berths; he seemed to be in convulsions; on Wednesday night he got out of his berth, went on deck, and walked fore and aft; Thursday morning he left the cabin and sat on the rail aft; I said “Louis, you will be falling overboard;” he said “there is no fear of that;” he then left the rail; I was standing at the helm; he came up; looked me very hard in the face; I said, “what is the matter?” he gave no answer, but went directly into the boat; deceased had been very quarrelsome all the way up; he remained in the boat about three minutes; he was sitting in the boat with his arm on the taffrail; I took him to be asleep, and tried to wake up; I lifted his arm up, and eased him down into the boat to keep him from falling overboard, and went down after a lantern, (about five o’clock a.m.;) before I had time to time to come with a lantern, some one hard me talking to him and was there before me with one; the captain was also there; I looked at him, and said he was dead; then we took him out of the boat, and laid him forward of the cabin, and put a mattress under him; he was warm at the time, and we thought he might recover; one of the passengers then said life was not gone but he was dying; deceased frequently complained of his bruises received on Saturday night.

James Chapman
~ Madeline Island Museum

James Chapman, being duly sworn, said:

More details on James Chapman later.

The quarrel commenced about a squaw; in other respect; he corroborated the testimony of the previous witness.

Daniel Weihl, a passenger, being duly sworn, said:

I saw the doctor probe the wound, and he followed the rib, one or one and a half inches; I turned away as he found the ball; I do not think the wound was sufficient to cause his death; no inflamation existed; deceased went forward so many times that I concluded he had the diarrhea.

A. W. [Groveract?], being sworn, said:

I told the captain not to use the weapon there; after the shot, saw the deceased standing by a tree; he vomited blood; had not seen deceased vomit blood previous to the shot; he bled very near a pint; the blood from the bruise on his face might have got into his mouth and he threw it up.

John [Babner?], being sworn, said:

I corroborate the testimony given by Mr. Nelsonn.

Mr. Hancock, (a passenger,) being sworn, said:

I corroborate the testimony given by Mr. Nelsonn.

Calvin Ripley, being sworn, said:

Captain Calvin Ripley (“Old Rip”) began shipping copper ore on Lake Superior in 1845.  Ripley’s Rock in Marquette harbor is named in honor of his ship encountering it during a September 1848 storm.

Deceased had been sick about six weeks previous to his shipping, and was sick again when about two days out; was drunk every night, while at Superior, that I saw him; kept the forecastle a day after the fight at Superior; doctor said the wound would not injure him at all – that deceased was worse off in other respects; doctor said it was better for deceased to be on shore; he might suffer from the bruises; deceased wished to come on board and go down.

E. M. Raymond, being duly sworn, said:

I saw the doctor drawing the ball out, and left; saw nothing out of the way till last evening; noticed that deceased thrashed about the chains, and made unnecessary noise; I think deceased was not in his right mind last evening.

Daniel Weihl, being recalled, said:

The wound did not cause mortification; the worst bruise is the one at the rim of the belly; have seen a person kicked in the same place vomit about a quart of blood.

J. E. Rogers, (passenger,) being sworn, said:

That he observed that that deceased, during the time he lay in the cabin, hawked and spit, and about one-third of it appeared to be blood and the rest yellowish matter.

At the conclusion of the testimony, the following verdict was rendered by the jury:

La Pointe County Judge John William Bell Sr. also presided over the 1856 Inquest on the Body of Jerry Sullivan.

An inquisition taken on board the brig Columbia, Captain Justus Wells, in the port of La Pointe, on the 18th day of October, 1855, before John W. Bell, one of the justices of the peace for La Pointe county, Wisconsin, upon the view of the body of Louis Gurnoe, there dead, by the jurors whose names are hereunto subscribed, who being duly sworn to inquire on behalf of the people of this State, where, in what manner, and by what means the said Louis Gurnoe came to his death, upon their oaths do say:

That the deceased came to his death in consequence of bruises received at Superior, at Baker’s residence, from the hands of individuals to the jury unknown, but with whom he was engaged in a fight;

That he was at the same time, and had been, suffering from the effects of continued hard drinking, following sickness, from which he had only partially recovered previous to shipping;

That we acquit Captain Wells of all guilt as to the shot fired by him, and that we do not deem it as a mortal wound, or one that accelerated the death of the deceased.

In witness whereof, the said Justice of the peace and the jurors of this inquest have hereunto set their hands the day and year aforesaid.

JOHN W. BELL Justice of Peace,
S. S. VAUGHN, Foreman,
M. H. MENDELBAUM,
R. D. BOYD,
JOHN M. BRADFORT,
JULIUS AUSTRIAN,
A. CARPENTIER.

Copy of a settlement made at Minnesota Point for assault and battery:

Minnesota Territory, Superior county,
Dock at Minnesota Point,
October 17, 1855.

Know all men by these presents, That whereas the brig Columbia, of one hundred and seventy-six tons, commanded by Capt. Justus Wells, from St. Clair, Michigan, District of Detroit, laying at Minnesota Point now and for a few days previous, and among other hands on board said brig was one Louis Gurnoe, a half-breed, and this man was in a state of intoxication, and was making a quarrel with other parties; and whereas, the said captain interfered for the purpose of introducing peace measures, and the said Gurnoe opposed the said captain, and they came to blows and a clinch; and whereas Gurnoe held the said captain firm by the hair of the head, and the said captain requested the said Gurnoe to let go of him, and he would not, and the said captain shot the said Gurnoe in the skin of the side to get clear of him, which would was only a flesh wound, entering the skin against the rib and running along under the skin outside of the rib; and the said captain sent a boat to Superior City for a doctor, and he came and dressed the said wound, and said captain paid said doctor five dollars for his fee for crossing St. Louis river from Wisconsin; and the said Louis Gurnoe having [diver?] other fights, was badly bruised before this; and whereas the said captain has made arrangements in Superior City for the taking care of said Gurnoe to the amount of twenty-five dollars, which we receive of the said Captain Justus Wells, and discharge him of all expense whatever that may arise in an action of assault and battery or any other action for the said causes as the said Gurnoe has received a full compensation for all injuries by the said captain on the ground that the said captain seems not to have done anything more than to defend him or his own personal safety, and what he gives is of good heart and a charitable act received by me.

This settlement is to be construed no further than the said parties have a right by law to settle actions and causes of action. In this settlement the said captain does not mean to have it understood that he acknowledged that he has done anything or [ac?] whereby he may be liable to the law, but for the purpose to buy his peace and a general good will to the said Gurnoe.

(Signed)

LOUIS (his X mark) GURNOE,

In presence of JOSEPH GURNOE,
[DORUS MARCUS?], and CALVIN RIPLEY.

 




 

Amorin’s Commentary

Hi, Amorin here again.  I don’t always add commentary to my reproductions of Chequamegon History, but when I do… it is because I am still trying to understand the rest of the story.

First and foremost, the death of Louis Gurnoe was horrific.  It is unfortunate that these articles disrespected him and served him no justice.  The October article doesn’t even mention his name.  The only real biographical information gleaned from the November article about Louis Gurnoe is that he was a Chippewa mixed-blood who came aboard the brig Columbia at Sault Ste. Marie.  Apparently, his death was far more newsworthy than his life to Americans.  

The language stereotyping Louis as a drunk Indian is disgraceful, and makes me question whether the references to the negro and little Irishman were perjury.  To be clear, yes, I do believe this entire inquest was a fraud.  One red flag, for example, is that the doctor was never identified by any of the witnesses for verification.

Besides dishonoring Louis’ life, it seems that the sole purpose of the Verdict in the November article was to acquit George Riley Stuntz and Captain Justus O. Wells of any guilt with the incident as reported in the October article.  The Judge and Jury of the mystery Louis were all white Euroamerican settlers of La Pointe that were very involved with Lake Superior Chippewa mixed-bloods by marriage and/or business, yet there does not seem to be any amount of empathy expressed by them for Louis Gurnoe.

Although these articles dishonored Louis (and failed to identify exactly which Louis Gurnoe he was) they revealed just enough information to hint at what his life may have been like before boarding the brig Columbia at Sault Ste. Marie in 1855.  The Gurnoe/Garneau/Gournon/Gornow/Gaunaux/etc. families of Chippewa mixed-bloods (a.k.a. Metis) were very active in the cosmopolitan politics of Lake Superior throughout the mid-1800’s.  There is more than one Louis Gurnoe this could have been, so unfortunately the Louis Gurnoe that boarded the brig in 1855  may only be known as a mystery to Chequamegon History.  

Consider, for example, the Louis Genereaux [Gurnoe] that authored an August 29, 1855 letter to Indian Affairs Commissioner George W. Manypenny via the Mackinac Indian Agency on behalf of Saginaw Chippewa/Odawa Tribe trying to locate their reservation lands in lower Michigan.  While it may have been possible for someone to travel from lower Michigan to western Lake Superior within this time frame, there doesn’t seem to be any compelling correlation suggesting that this Louis Genereaux would be the same Louis Gurnoe from the brig Columbia.

Another example Louis Gurnoe that we may consider is the one featured in the bottom right of the following photograph from 1855 at Sault Ste. Marie;

the elder Louis Gurnoe.  

1855 photograph from the Soo Evening newspaper labeled “Five of the Earliest Indian Inhabitants of St. Mary’s Falls” [Sault Ste. Marie] and identified from left to right:
1) Louis Cadotte; 2) John Bouche; 3) Obogan; 4) O’Shawn; 
5) [Louis] Gurnoe.
Read Metis-History.info/ by Richard Garneau (Gurnoe) for other possible identities of the first four men in this photograph.

We can reasonably eliminate the elder Louis Gurnoe as a possibility because of his age at the time (born 1790) and later death record (1863).  It appears that the elder Louis Gurnoe had more than one wife over time, and that some of his children relocated from the Bay Mills area of Lake Superior to the La Pointe area during the mid-1800’s.  A July 5, 1890 article about the elder Louis Gurnoe in the The Democrat newspaper of Sault Ste. Marie reveals that he had at least one son named Louis, while other records in Richard Garneau’s research seem to suggest more than one son named Louis.

It is possible that the Louis Gurnoe from these articles was one of this elder Louis Gurnoe’s sons.  Louis Gurnoe’s Settlement at the end of the November article was signed by another son, who is featured in the bottom center of the following photograph:

the Indian Agency interpreter Joseph D. Gurnoe.

Top: Frank Roy, Vincent Roy, E. Roussin, Old Frank D.o., Bottom: Peter Roy, Jos. Gourneau [Joseph Gurnoe], D. Geo. Morrison. The photo is labelled “Chippewa Treaty in Washington” and dated 1845 by the St. Louis Hist. Lib and Douglas County Museum, but also dated 1855 by the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center. It was probably taken during the Bois Forte Treaty of 1866, which was these men acted as conductors and interpreters in Washington, D.C.  Photograph digitized by Mary E. Carlson for her book The Sawmill Community at Roy’s Point.

I cannot begin to imagine what it may have been like for Joseph to be a witness to the last hours and words of his suffering relative (especially if the inquest into his death was a fraud).  And I may never solve the mystery of exactly which Louis Gurnoe died in 1855.  On the other hand, I will speculate that this Louis Gurnoe’s life may have been similar to his relative Joseph’s life up to this point. 

Superior Chronicle newspaper November 4, 1856

I will share details about Joseph D. Gurnoe’s life, and his professional relationship  to James Chapman, but these details will have to wait to be published in another post in the future.  This concludes my thoughts for this post.

Until next time,
Amorin

After Missing Treasure

April 10, 2019

By Amorin Mello

 


 

The New York Times

June 15, 1897

 

AFTER MISSING TREASURE

James Arthur Looking for $35,000 Buried in Wisconsin at the Outbreak of the War.

GOLD HIDDEN IN THE GROUND

Net Assets of a Wisconsin Bank Closed When Arthur Enlisted in the Army – Put Away by His Partner, Ell Pingers.

SUPERIOR, Wis., June 14. – James Arthur, a veteran of the civil war, now a resident of Buffalo, N. Y., arrived in Superior a few days ago to make inquiries concerning a transaction dating back nearly forty years, and to complete arrangements for starting on a mission in quest of a treasure supposed to be sunk in the bowels of the earth at a point not far from the town of La Pointe, in Ashland County, Wis.

La Pointe Beaver Dollar
Northern Outfit, American Fur Company
~ Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters, Volume 54, page 159.

According to Mr. Arthur’s story, a bag containing $35,000 in gold was buried in the ground by Ell Pingers in 1861, and has never been discovered, though several expeditions have gone in search of it. It is a strange story, but it is not fiction, unless several old timers with records for veracity have combined to deceive the world, and unless State records lie and other documents fail to prove genuine. The money was certainly placed in a hole in the ground by Ell Pingers in the year 1861, and it probably was never taken away, for the man who did the planting was killed during the war, and no other person knew where the hiding place was. A paper has come to light recently which furnishes a clue to the location of the treasure, and Mr. Arthur expects to be richer by $35,000 within a fortnight.

Superior Chronicle – November 4, 1856
“INDIAN PAYMENT. – Mr. Jos. Gurnoe, last week, distributed among the Chippewa Indians of this vicinity their annuities.  An unlimited number of silver half dollars are now in circulation, and all are enjoying the benefits of Uncle Sam’s liberality.”

In the year 1856, when wildcat money flooded the State of Wisconsin, and when the country was on the verge of a financial and political crisis, James Arthur and Ell Pingers, two young men who had been supplied by their respective fathers with a good start in life, immigrated from New York to La Pointe and established a bank, which not only issued notes of its own, but made a specialty of discounting the issue of other banks throughout the State. They pulled through the panic of 1857, and the bank was counted among those that redeemed its currency at face value. When war became imminent between the North and South the young men decided to close out their banking business and return to the East to engage in something more lucrative. In 1861, however, before the bank closed, James Arthur made a trip to Milwaukee, and there became fired with a desire to serve his country as a soldier. He sent a letter to Pingers at La Pointe asking him to close out the business as soon as possible and leave for the East with all the funds. He also gave Pinger the number of his regiment and full directions as to where letters should be sent. Then he marched to the front with a Wisconsin regiment.

Facsimile of a $50 coin found at La Pointe.
~ Joel Allen Barber Papers, Summer of 1858

Six months after joining the army Arthur received his first and only communication from Pingers. It was a short note, dated from Milwaukee three months prior, and had been forwarded from post to post until it finally reached him at St. Louis. This note is now in the possession of Mr. Arthur, and was shown by him on his arrival here several days ago. It reads as follows:

“Milwaukee, June 8, ’61 – 4 P.M.
“Friend Jim: Got your letter all right. Have closed up bank and sold everything for cash. I realized in all $37,000, and take $2,000 of that with me, but not caring to take a large sum through such a wild country I buried it in a safe place and will advise later concerning exact spot. I am off for bloody war myself. Yours,
“ELL PINGERS.”

Julius Austrian operated a bank at La Pointe circa 1855.

In 1863 Arthur went on a furlough to visit his mother and sisters in New York City, and while there learned that Pingers had been killed at the battle of Richmond, Ky., on Aug. 30, 1862. The papers and numerous personal effects of the dead soldier had been shipped to his mother from Milwaukee previous to his enlistment in the army, but a thorough search failed to disclose any information concerning the location of the hidden treasure. So the furloughed soldier returned to the scenes of war without hope of ever being able to recover the snug little fortune stored away somewhere in Wisconsin soil.

The war over Mr. Arthur returned to New York, and in 1866 he made a trip to La Pointe in company with two friends for the purpose of hunting up the hidden gold. The mission was a fruitless one, but it had the effect of exciting the La Pointe community, and for years after that the natives dug holes in all directions from the old bank, but as far as known the treasure was never unearthed.

In 1867 Arthur’s mother died, leaving him a small fortune, and the following year he married the sister of the dead soldier, Ell Pingers. Through this marriage all the personal effects of Pingers came into Arthur’s possession, and he made many searches through the papers for a clue to the whereabouts of the missing $35,000, but without result. Ten years after his marriage he made another trip to the scene of his old banking operations, and five years after that he sent a trustworthy employee to look for the hidden gold, but no gold was to be found, and finally all hope of ever recovering the treasure was abandoned.

Hermit Island is believed by some to contain several other long-lost treasures:
– 1861 Wilson the Hermit
– 1760’s British Military Payroll
– Stereotypical Pirate Stories
Did Pingers bury their treasure here as well?

About three weeks ago, while turning the pages of an old book which had once been the property of Ell Pingers, a small piece of note paper was found by Mrs. Arthur which contained a memorandum written by the dead soldier and which gave the missing information for which search had been made for years. This note, Mr. Arthur claims, will no doubt lead to the discovery of the treasure in time, but the references it makes to roads, trees, and other landmarks have long since been removed by the hand of progress or obliterated by time, and the undertaking will therefore be attended by more or less of the difficulties before experienced. The old gentleman is confident that, with the information obtained from old acquaintances here and the assistance expected from old residenters at La Pointe, he will be able to unearth the long-buried treasure. He declares his intention of donating one-half of the $35,000 to the veteran soldiers of the Union Army and turning the remainder over to his wife to do as she pleases with.

By Leo

If you haven’t seen a lot of posts lately, it’s because I’ve given up the the lucrative history-blogging business to become a mad scientist.  I have a time machine that will make me wealthy beyond belief.  Unfortunately, there are still some kinks to work out with the time-space continuum.  Until they’re fixed, I plan to fund my research with my state-of-the-art genetic-ancestry testing business, 1823andMe™.  Just spit into a tube, and in three to four weeks we can tell you, with scientific precision, what your actual true race and ethnicity are. You thought you were English?  Ha Ha–you’re actually Scottish!

I had hoped to be collecting modern spit by now, but my stupid investors were frightened off by a simple trademark lawsuit.  This has really slowed the field testing, so I’ve been reduced to taking the time machine back to eras where I can get saliva on the cheap.  In fact, I just returned from a trip to the Lake Superior country!

Originally, I was just going to visit Sault Ste. Marie in 1830, but on the ride back, I just had to stop in at La Pointe in 1850 and 1855.  I mean, I used to write a lot about that place and time, so it seemed only right to collect some stories and anecdotes for old-time’s sake.

But, disaster!  My briefcase spilled out all over the floor and the notecards got all jumbled.  The genetic profiles of the seven donors, and their descriptions, are all out of order.  Can you help me sort them?

Here are the seven genetic ancestry profiles I collected according to my proprietary SuperDNA™analysis system:

  1.  100% Native American
  2.  88% Native American, 12% European (Mediterranean)
  3.  50% Native American, 50% West African
  4.  50% European (British Isles), 50% Native American
  5.  100% European (Mediterranean)
  6.  75% Native American, 25% European (Mediterranean)
  7. 100% European (British Isles)

And here are the descriptions of the seven people they belong to:

  • I met him talking to a group of American pioneers who were planning to settle in the new city of Superior.  Being one of the few English speakers around, he informed them that he was the first white man born in the area where the city was being built.
  • He was a young man of the Lac Vieux Desert band. He arrived at La Pointe in his bark canoe for the payment and Midewiwin ceremonies.  We tried to talk a little, but he only spoke Ojibwe.
  •  This kindly old woman was the matriarch of the leading family on the island.  The federal census taker was in the middle of getting her information. I asked if he was going over to Bad River next, and he said he didn’t need to because he only had to count white people.
  • We talked for quite a while because there were so few people who spoke English around.  He was a clerk and he told me about how he “trades with the Indians,” but now his boss wants him to go into politics.  His boss is a prominent Democrat who is friends with John Calhoun and all the other pro-slavery politicians.
  • His name was Shaw-shaw-wa-ne-ba-se of the Snake clan, and you could tell he’d led a rough life out in the prairies of Manitoba.  He had stolen horses from the Mandan around the time Lewis and Clark stayed with them. Later, his family considered joining Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh in their prophecy to give up white ways so the Great Spirit would send the whites back across the ocean.
  • This old Frenchman was loved by almost everyone around.  He took great pride in being descended from the French nobility and saw himself as a link back to the old French days at La Pointe.  He was proud of his role in getting the Catholic church re-established on the island.
  • He was one of the most imposing and respected Ojibwe chiefs around. He was great at playing the American and British authorities off each other.  He did the same with the churches, and his influence on other Ojibwe bands was impressive.

Can you sort them accurately?




 

Ack!  Absent-minded professor here–I forgot I had already compiled those notes with names and a few pictures.  Sorry for wasting your time.  Here are the actual results:


BongaI met him talking with a group of American pioneers who were planning to settle in the new city of Superior.  Being one of the few English speakers around, he informed them that he was the first white man born in the area where the city was being built.

 

Bonga, Stephen  

1823andMe™ SuperDNA™:  50% Native American, 50% West African


He was a young man of the Lac Vieux Desert band. He arrived at La Pointe with his bark canoe, for the payment and Midewiwin ceremonies.  We tried to talk a little, but he only spoke Ojibwe.

Gendron, Antoine

1823andMe™ SuperDNA™:  100% European (Mediterranean)


This kindly old woman was the matriarch of the leading family on the island.  The federal census taker was in the middle of getting her information. I asked if he was going over to Bad River next, and he said he didn’t need to because he only had to count white people.

Cadotte, Mdme. Madeleine Equaysayway 

1823andMe™ SuperDNA™:  100% Native American


vincent-roy-jr1We talked for quite a while because there were so few people who spoke English around.  He was a clerk and he told me about how he “trades with the Indians,” but now his boss wants him to go into politics.  His boss is a prominent Democrat who is friends with John Calhoun and all the other pro-slavery politicians.

 

Roy Jr., Vincent

1823andMe™ SuperDNA™:  75% Native American, 25% European (Mediterranean)


260px-john_tanner_narrativeHis name was Shaw-shaw-wa-ne-ba-se of the snake clan, and you could tell he’d led a rough life out in prairies of Manitoba.  He had stolen horses from the Mandan around the time Lewis and Clark stayed with them. Later, his family considered joining Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh in their prophecy to give up white ways so that the Great Spirit would send the whites back across the ocean.

 

Tanner, John Shawshawwanebase

1823andMe™ SuperDNA™:  100% European (British Isles)


This old Frenchman was loved by almost everyone around.  He took great pride in being descended from the French nobility and saw himself as a link back to the old French days at La Pointe.  He was proud of his role in getting the Catholic church re-established on the island.

Cadotte Jr., Michel (Mishoons)

1823andMe™ SuperDNA™:  88% Native American 12% European (Mediterranean)


220px-chief_shingwauk_at_robinson_huron_treaty_signing_in_1850He was one of the most imposing and respected Ojibwe chiefs I met. He was great at playing the Americans and British off of each other.  He did the same with the churches, and his influence on other bands was impressive.

 

 

Shingwaukonse

1823andMe™ SuperDNA™:  50% European (British Isles) 50% Native American



 

Whew!  Disaster averted.

1823

Okay, back to reality.  I don’t have a time machine, I don’t have much to say about Elizabeth Warren’s campaign roll-out, and I actually had my DNA done by Ancestry.com and enjoyed the process.  So, why the snarky attempt to dabble in anthropology, where I have no business dabbling?

Is it because I really am retiring from teaching* at the ripe-old age of 35 but still have a compulsion to quiz and lesson-plan?

No! It’s because I have some upcoming posts on the concepts of race, identity and citizenship in the census records from 1850-1860 and I wanted to hammer home the following points:

  • We, as Americans, have been conditioned to think of race as an immutable, biological aspect of identity.  However, this current form of racialized thinking did not fully take hold until the later 19th and early 20th centuries.  Earlier times also had racialized thinking, but it was different.
  • In the pre-Civil War Lake Superior country, one’s race had as much or more to do with his or her lifestyle, culture, religion, or assigned paternal lineage than it did with perceived genetic ancestry (i.e. amount of “blood” or DNA).  Therefore, the race a person had at birth wasn’t necessarily the one he or she would have at death.  
  • Racial identity in the Lake Superior country was not a matter of black and white (or Native and white for that matter).  There was a great deal of nuance in a person’s identity that could not be inferred simply from skin tone or facial features.
  • Our modern definitions of a “white person,” a “Native person,” or a “biracial person” did not exist then.
  • The idea of race as arbitrary and defined by society is not a new concept, nor is it hard to grasp on a superficial level.  However, with race and racism in their current form (and the consequences thereof) being so present in our modern thinking, it is very difficult to remove our present notions from study of the past. 
  • I mostly like to collect old documents and create narratives.  Smarter people than I can continue to fill libraries on these headier topics.   That said, if we want to get a good discussion going on the census, we better get close to the same wavelength.

See you soon,

Leo

 

Notes:
Stephen Bonga, his father, and his brothers have figured in a number of historical studies of African-Americans in the west.  See pages 7 and 43 of The Eye of the Northwest by Frank Flower (1890) for this particular story.
This description of Antoine Gendron comes directly from pages 34-37 of Kohl’s Kitch-Gami.  Kohl often used pseudonyms, so “Gendron” might not be the actual name of the man he met at La Pointe in 1855.
Madeline Cadotte is an ancestor to so many of the families of this region, and such an important part of regional folklore, we sometimes lose track of Mdme. Cadotte the historical figure who lived to a very old age and was still around into the 1850s.  Written sources in English, when compared to contemporaries like Chief Buffalo and Ozhaguscodaywayquay (Susan Johnston), are surprisingly sparse. There are some discrepancies in sources about her early life, but I’ve yet to encounter a source that disputes that she was born to two Ojibwe parents and raised in an Ojibwe household.
Verwyst devotes the final few pages of his biography of Father Baraga, (1900) to a short biography of Vincent Roy Jr., calling the elderly Roy “the best Indian of the Northwest.”  In their younger lives, however, Roy and contemporaries like the Warren cousins, Paul and Clement Beaulieu, and Antoine Gordon self-identified variously as white, mix-blood, or Indian depending on the appropriateness of the context.  This didn’t mean he wasn’t subject to discrimination, however.  The land, business and political ambitions Roy and his brother-in-law, Vincent Cournoyer, were challenged by rivals on the basis of their Ojibwe ancestry.
John Tanner’s narrative (1830) is a fascinating view on the Ojibwe society of the Red River prairies at the dawn of the 19th century.  He was kidnapped from American settlers at age 10 by a Saginaw Ojibwe war party.  He was later adopted into a prominent Arbre Croche Ottawa family and moved with them to the prairies.  By adulthood, he had forgotten English and was fully integrated into the Anishinaabe world.  Though his white origins were a liability at times, he was generally perceived as an Ottawa by the Ojibwe, Cree and Assiniboine of the region.  He was of the clan of the Saginaw chief who had originally taken him from his birth parents.
The marriage of Misho’s parents, Michel and Madeline, is often portrayed as the coming together of Native and European culture in the region.  However, few modern-day Americans would describe Michel Cadotte Sr. as a white man if they met him on the street.  His father was half Huron, and his mother was Anishinaabe from the Lake Nipissing region.  Michel Jr. and his siblings had seven Native great-grandparents and one European great-grandparent.  The direct paternal line being French, both Anishinaabe and French-Canadian society of the time would consider them French.  This would not necessarily imply shame or rejection toward their Native ancestry, just an acknowledgement that children belonged to their father’s village.
Janet Chute’s biography of Shingwaukonse (1998), devotes significant time to his origins and how and why he fit into the Ojibwe society of the Soo rather than the area’s large Metis community.

 

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*I am actually leaving the K-12 teaching field, so hopefully that will leave me with more time and mental energy for Chequamegon History.  Also, let me know if you have any job openings for old-document readers and/or transcribers.