By Amorin Mello

… continued from Number IV.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Number V

Mr. Dear Press: – As has been already stated, the land on which Ashland now stands, had not, at the time of its first settlement, in 1854, been surveyed.  The town lines had only been laying off the country into blocks six miles square.

Detail from Sketch of the Public Surveys in Wisconsin and Territory of Minnesota by the Surveyor General’s Office, Dubuque, Oct. 21, 1854 as presented in Senate Executive Document No. 1, 34th Congress, 1st Session.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

When the settlers made their claims, as most of us did, near the town lines, we were able, by the use of pocket compasses approximately to fix the boundaries of our claims.  But no title could be obtained, nor even any safe foundation for a title laid, until the lands should be subdivided into sections, and the returns of that survey made to the Surveyor General’s Office, and by that officer platted or mapped, and then plats and notes sent to the General Land Office at Washington, and from there transmitted to the Local Land office.  At that date the local office was at the town of Hudson, on Lake St. Croix, two hundred miles away.  But early in 1855 an office was established at Superior, at the west end of the Lake, – and though this was nearly a hundred miles from Ashland, – with no roads, compelling settlers in summer to cost in open boats, and winter to walk this distance.  Still it was a very great favor to settlers here, and greatly lessened their hardships, and facilitated the acquisition of their lands.

Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, then were embraced in one Surveyor’s District, with the office at Dubuque, Iowa.  It was the duty of the Surveyor General to provide for the details of the Government Surveys in his district, as fast as the settlement of the country might require.  Gen’l Warner Lewis was then Surveyor General of this District.

Detail of Ashland City, LaPointe County, from the Barber Brother’s survey during the Joel Allen Barber Papers: Summer of 1855.

These memoirs are classic examples of Edwin Ellis, M.D. writing in the third person when crediting himself for achievements during Ashland’s early days.

No steps having been taken or any order given for the survey of the shore of Chequamegon Bay, in June 1855, Dr. Ellis left in an open boat for Superior, then on foot through the wilderness to St. Paul, following not far from the route over which many years later was constructed the Lake Superior & Mississippi R.R., – then by boat down the river to Dubuque.  The situation of our affairs and the people of an early settlement here induced Gen. Lewis to order an immediate subdivision of Towns 47 and 48, North of Range 4 and 5 West, both sides of our bay, and all the lands on which squatters had settled.

Early in September of that year, (1855), Augustus H. Barber began the survey, and pushed the work rapidly, so that he had completed 47 and 48 of Range 4 in October, and the returns had been made and plats prepared and forwarded to the local land office by the first of December.

Joel Allen Barber Papers:
Spring of 1856

Last known letter from Augustus

“There is a conspiracy, or combination of old preemptors here who have no right to make claims.  Their object is to secure each member a claim on the North shore, and to drive off and keep off by knives and pistols any who may wish to make legal preemptions on the lands they choose to appropriate to themselves.
There may be some fighting up here this season and there is certain to be considerable laming before the business is settled.  Let ‘em rip.
“I can send half a dozen to Jehanum in about as many seconds, but don’t want to do it & will avoid trouble if possible but butcher knife companies must not meddle with any claim when I have made one.

The Pre-emptors now, for the first time, could file claims to their lands and receive assurance that they were likely to be the owners of their homes.

During December many pre-emption claims were filed, and during the closing days of the year and in the first days of 1856, quite a number proved up those claims and received duplicates, upon which patents were afterwards issued.  These were the earliest titles to the present site of Ashland.  Unlike many towns in the West at that period our site was not cursed with complicating claims, and it is cause for congratulations that Ashland property has no cloud upon its title and that every buyer may, with little trouble, assure himself of this fact.  The title to a portion of the site of Superior was bitterly contested involving years of delay and thousands of dollars of cost and much acrimony of feeling; and it is possible that this may have had its influence in carrying the railroad to Duluth rather than to Superior.  Quarrels over title are a curse to any town, especially a new one.

“IN MEMORY OF AUGUSTUS H. BARBER of Cambridge, Vt. U.S. Deputy Surveyor who was drowned in Montreal River
Apr. 22. A.D. 1856
Aged 24 yrs. & 8 ms.”
~ FindAGrave.com

Of Augustus Barber the early Surveyor of this vicinity, who is unknown to a larger part of this generation, a few words ought to be said:

He was a native of Vermont of an excellent family.  At this time he was about 22 years of age, well educated, gentle as a Lady, refined and easy in his manners and very amiable in his temper.  Like many other young men from the east, of active and enterprising habits, he had come into this outer verge of civilization to make this his home and to grow up with its institutions.  He was the nephew of Hon. J. Allen Barber, of Lancaster, in this State, who once represented his District in Congress.  He continued in the surveys of this part of the Lake until in the summer or fall of 1856, when he, with others, conceived of the idea of founding a city at the mouth of the Montreal River – the dividing line between Wisconsin and Michigan about thirty miles east of Ashland.

The iron range approaches nearer the Lake at that point than it does at Ashland.  And though the country is much rougher and more difficult for construction of roads than between Ashland and the Range, yet the shorter route, it was argued, would more than compensate for the heavier grades. – The town was laid out and platted by Mr. Barber.

Joel Allen Barber Papers:
Spring of 1857

“This has been a sorgawful day to me, feeling more impressed with the awful calamity that befel over dear lamented Augustus and all our family in his loss One year ago to day.”
[…]
It must remain a sealed book to us, how Augustus was hurried out of the woods, and why it was so ordained if there, was any ordination about it, till we meet him in another world, which I devoutly hope we may do though I am sorry to say more hoping than expecting.

The Montreal, not far from its mouth, leaps down a perpendicular descent of nearly a hundred feet presenting a wild and picturesque view.  Being an enthusiastic lover of the beautiful of nature and desiring to reach a position underneath the falls, Mr. Barber in a canoe with two companions, approaching too close, were drawn in by the eddying whirlpool, the canoe was capsized, and before help could reach him he and one of his boatmen were drowned.  His body was recovered and was buried on a sand hillock near the mouth of the same river in whose waters he met his death.  Ironton has long been deserted, and Barber’s grave with its marble headstone, is the sole make of that civilization, which twenty years ago there essayed to lay the foundation of a mart of commerce.

They Called Him “Gray Devil”:
Summer of 1857

“One man working in the interest of the company the year before, had been discovered, after being missed for some weeks, dead in the forest, near the range. Bruises and other indications of violence on the body gave strong ground for the belief that he had been murdered.

The surf of the waves of the lake in summer and fierce driving snow storms in winter, with solitude presiding over the grand orchestra, are perpetually chanting his mournful requiem, while a fond father and mother on the slopes of the distant Green Mountains are mourning bitterly the early death of their first born son.

To be continued in Number VI

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By Amorin Mello

Originally published in the July 14th, 1877, 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 III.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Number IV

Brothers Conrad Goeltz and Adam Goeltz were remembered for providing entertainment at the first Fourth of July celebration in Ashland at Asaph Whittlesey’s home during 1855.

My Dear Press: – In March 1855, Conrad and Adam Goeltz – then young men, came to Ashland.  They were natives of Wittenberg, and Conrad had served six years in the Cavalry of that Kingdom; but liking freedom, he bade adieu to the King, his master, and came to the “Land of the Free.”  They both cleared land near the town site, which they afterwards pre-empted, and bought from the U.S. Government.  For several years both of them lived in Michigan, but upon the revival of Ashland they came back to their early home.  Katy Goeltz, Conrad’s Daughter, was the first white child born in this town, in the fall of 1855.  Henry Dretler, Mrs. Conrad Goeltz’s father, came early and bought a quarter section of land.  He died here in 1858 and was buried near the present residence of Mr. Durfee.

Myron Tompkins, M.D. was married to Asaph’s sister, Nancy Hart Whittlesey.

In June 1855, Dr. Myron Tompkins (brother-in-law of Mr. Whittlsey) came to the bay in search of health.  He had been driven from Illinois by ague and rheumatism.  The climate cured the ague, and accidentally falling off from a raft in the bay – the severe shock cured the rheumatism.  Being thus cured by our climate and water, he has ever since lived on the lake.  He is a well-educated physician.  At present he is the physician of the Silver Islet Mining Company, on the North Shore of the Lake.

Many, many settlers migrated to Lake Superior in 1855 in the wake of Steamboats, Celebrities, Soo Shipping, and Superior Speculation.
Bernard Hoppenjohn was an axeman for the Barber brother’s survey of Ashland during the summer of 1855.
Duncan Sinclair was a businessman from Racine and later worked in the Penokee Survey Incidents.

I recall others who came in 1855; Andrew Scobie, now of Ontonagon, Thomas Danielson, Charles Day, (now farming on Fish Creek,) Joseph Webb, Bernard Hoppenjohn, Duncan Sinclair, Lawrence Farley, and Austin Corser.  Farley died many years ago, but his widow, after years of absence, has again returned to Ashland.  Austin Corser in the summer of 1855 began a farm on the east side of Fish Creek, about half a mile above the mouth.  Remaining only two or three years, he went to Ontonagon and afterwards to Iron River – in a wild lonely glen – where in after years from 1873 to 1876.  He sold his homestead on which the Scranton Mining Company was formed for a snug little fortune, on which he settled down on a farm near Waukegan, Illinois.

John Beck his family arrived at the Town of Bayport in 1856 and later invested in several mining properties along the Penokee Mountains.

John Beck, also coming in the early days of Ashland.  He pre-empted and lived upon the spot now laid out and occupied as our cemetery.  His wife was the first adult person who died in this town.  The remains of the house in which she died may be seen near the Ashland Lumber Company’s store.  He was for many years an active explorer for minerals, was the originator of the Montreal River Copper Mining Company.  Subsequently he discovered silver lodes on the North Shore, in Canada.  He is now engaged in gold mining in California.

Albert Conrad Stuntz. played a prominent role as a surveyor in the Penokee Survey Incidents.

Albert C. Stuntz was also one of our early settlers.  He is a brother of Geo. R. Stuntz, to whom reference has already been made.  He was here engaged in practicing surveying and ran many hundred miles of township and section lines in this and neighboring counties.  The townships embracing our Penoka Iron Range were subdivided by him in 1856 and ’57.  He once represented this district in the Legislature.  His old home is in ruins on the east bank of Bay City creek.  Mrs. Stuntz, who endured much hardship and privation died here in 1862.  Mr. S. at present lives at Monroe, in this State.

George Erastus Stuntz was also known as “Lazarus” during his work in the Penokee Survey Incidents.

Geo. E. Stuntz. nephew of A.C. and great grandson of the old Hessian Soldier mentioned in a former chapter, also came to Ashland early.  In connection with his uncle and on his own account he did a great deal in the subdivision of the lands on the South Shore of the Lake.  Soon after the outbreak of our civil war he enlisted in defense of the Union – was severely wounded and died, as it is supposed, in consequence of his wounds.

Thaddeus Pembroke Sibley was accused during the Penokee Survey Incidents of being a “champion liar” by George a.k.a. Lazarus.  Others accused Sibley as being even lazier than Lazarus.
Thaddeus was born in Ohio in 1828.  He married his first wife, Mary Wright, in Ohio in 1851.  They had a daughter, Lottie, and moved to Wisconsin, where Thaddeus and JT Welton (who was married to Mary’s sister Jane) built a saw mill on the White River.  In July 1866 Thaddeus purchased a 160-acre land patent about 15 miles away from the mill site, near Marengo.  But he didn’t stay to work the land.  I suspect that Mary died around that time, and Thaddeus and Lottie returned home to Ohio. He was living in Lorain County, Ohio in September 1866, when he obtained a U.S. patent on the design for a ‘Combined Sheep Shed and Rack.'”
~ Sarah Adah Ashe – Part IV – San Bernardino by Marta Tilley Belanger
The Connecticut Western Reserve in Ohio published a remarkable amount of early settlers’ history along Chequamegon Bay in Wisconsin; much was written by Charles Whittlesey, brother of Asaph.

Welton’s mill and Sibley’s farm were both located along the trail south from Ashland to the Penokee Mountains on the 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range by Charles Whittlesey.
~ Geology of Wisconsin. Survey of 1873-1879.
Volume III., 1880, Plate XX, page 214.

J. T. Welton and T.P. Sibley, though never living in Ashland, were yet closely identified with its early history.  Mr. Welton came about 1850 to Bad River, where he was Government Farmer among the Indians.  He was an ingenious mechanic, and could build a water mill.  He was on the lookout for a mill site, and finally in 1854 discovered the falls on White River, six miles south of Ashland.  It was an unfailing supply of water, with abundant head and fall, and the river was not subject to great rises.  As a mill site it has few rivals.  His resolution was quickly formed.  The rising town on the bay would afford a ready market for all the lumber he could make.  The mill should be built.  He corresponded with his brother-in-law, Mr. Sibley, and he was eager to come and make his fortune in this new country; and in Nov. 1855, Mr. Sibley and his wife and one little daughter, about a year old, landed upon our shores.  During the summer of 1855 Mr. Welton had built a log house at White River.  It still stands, though in ruins.  Thither late in Nov. 1855, the two families removed.  The sisters were refined, cultivated and Christian ladies from the Western Reserve, in Ohio – a spot itself favored by counting among its early settlers some of the best families of New England, and which had been the new center in the west, whence have validated those influences which have tended to improve and elevate the moral and religious condition of the millions of this new empire.  They were of Puritan stock.  An unbroken wilderness was around them and their nearest neighbors were at Ashland, six miles away.  No time was lost.  The work of opening up a farm and building a mill was at once begun.  They had little money and the labor must be done with their own hands.  The casting for the mill must be brought a thousand miles – from Detroit.  Nearly a year of toil had passed, when in October, 1856, a few days before the election of James Buchanan to the Presidency – all the able bodied men were invited to go the mill raising at White River.  We went and the frame was up, but it was not until 1857 that they could set the mill running.  They were greatly impeded for want of capital in cutting logs and floating down the logs to the mill and sawing a few thousand feet of lumber.  But before anything could be realized from it they must either haul it over bad roads to Ashland (6 miles) or raft it down many miles to the Lake.  But the river was full of jams and “flood wood” – enough to discourage puny men.

The Panic of 1857 led to the bust of the first mining boom in the Penokee Mountains.  The second mining boom would not begin until after the railroads were constructed in the 1870s.

The panic of 1857 and resulting hard times put an end to all building at Ashland, and so their hopes of selling their lumber near home were blasted and after struggling vainly for some time longer, Mr. Welton was finally compelled to abandon his home, which he had labored so hard to establish.  He found friends and employment in the copper mines of Michigan, and after somewhat improving his fortunes finally settled in south western Iowa, where he now resides.

In some subsequent chapter I will, with your leave, recur to Mrs. Sibley and the circumstances connected with her death.

To be continued in Number V

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the July 7th, 1877, 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 II.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Number III

Dear Press: – My last jottings brought us to the sweeping away of the first dock ever attempted in Ashland, April 1, 1855.  Before relating any of the further attempts in the construction of docks, I will recall the names of some of the settlers who came here in 1855 to 1856.

The Connecticut Western Reserve of Lake Erie and Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior were influenced by Colonel Charles W. Whittlesey during the 1840’s.  George Kilbourn was probably associated with the Whittlesey family at the Western Reserve before arriving at Chequamegon Bay.  Western Reserve archives contain interesting articles about Chequamegon Bay history.

1. George Kilbourn was then over fifty years old, from the Western Reserve, Ohio – a man of great energy and iron constitution, whose greatest joy was hard work, (and if we had a few hundred such men in our country now, who were not afraid to dive into our forests and open farms, the success of Ashland would soon be assured), and who was ever battling with the woods in this, his new home.  No one man who ever came to Ashland ever did half as much as he did, with his own strong arm, to clear up our beautiful town site.  His favorite spot is now occupied by the house built by Alex. Livingston, Esq.  Ashland was “Uncle George’s” pet, and he loved it with an undying love, and when stricken down by death a few years since, he was on his way from Ohio to Ashland.  He merits a monument, and his name should always be held in grateful remembrance.

Asaph Whittlesey was Charles Whittlesey’s younger brother.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

2. Asaph Whittlesey, then about thirty years of age, a native of Ohio, but who had for several years been engaged in business in Peoria, Ill., where the fruits of years of toil were swept away by fire in a single hour, was, in 1854, looking for a place to try anew his fortune.  He belonged to one of the oldest and most respectable families of the Buckeye State – an energetic, lively, genial, whole-souled man, whom to know is to esteem.  He was active in all the early years of Ashland; was its first Postmaster, (when the office bore his name) in compliment to his venerable uncle, the Hon. Elisha Whittlesey, for many years connected with the U.S. Treasury.  And though he now resides at Bayfield, his interests are still largely in our town, and his pleasant face still occasionally gladdens our homes.  In his present ill health he has our heartfelt sympathies.  May he soon be well again and may his iter ad coctum be postponed yet many years.

“J. P. T. Haskell was the second settler in Ashland. He came with his wife, Nov. 2, 1854, but did not long remain.”
The Eye of the North-west: First Annual Report of the Statistician of Superior, Wisconsin by Frank Abial Flower, 1890, page 251.

Mrs. Whittlesey, with her mother, Mrs. Haskell, were the first white women who passed the winter on this shore.  Her house, though built of logs, was neat and comfortable, and was the resort of all new confers, where we were all made welcome; and the writer will always remember her singing of “The little tailor with the broadcloth under his arm,” and the dancing of her little Eugenia, a flaxen-haired girl of two year, but who, in later years, matured into a beautiful and accomplished woman, and happily settled in life, was, in 1874, called to the “sweet fields beyond the swelling flood.”  Mrs. Whittlesey endured much privation, but she was brave and full of life.  She is still spared to adorn and cheer her pleasant home at Bayfield.

Her father, Mr. Haskell, who passed the first winter in Mr. Whittlesey’s family, died a few years ago, but Mrs. Haskell still lives in green old age, and in 1875 re-visited the scenes of her pioneer life.

Doctor George Leonhard Brunschweiler was also involved with surveying and platting the town site of Houghton on Chequamegon Bay.  The Brunsweiler River is a State Natural Area , a federal Research Natural Area, and has Wild River designation.

Martin Beaser
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

3. Martin Beaser, though he did not bring his family to Ashland till 1856, he is entitled, nevertheless, to be ranked among the very first settlers of Ashland, for he had chosen this for his home in 1854; had aided by his means and counsel, Messrs. Whittlesey and Kilbourn, and came from Ontonagon several times during the year 1855 to assist in carrying out their plans. He employed and brought with him early in 1855, Dr. Brunschweiler, a Civil Engineer, who surveyed and platted the first site on this bay, which is now known as “Old Ashland” or “Beaser’s Division of Ashland.” Brunschweiler River, twelve miles from Ashland, perpetuates his name.

Mr. Beaser was a native of the State of New York, who, in early life, had passed several years on a whaler in the Pacific Ocean and being an acute observer of men and things, had accumulated a vast amount of useful and entertaining knowledge.  He was familiar with the ports of Central and South American and our Northwest coast, not ours then, for the Star Spangled Banner then floated only over a narrow strip of land near the mouth of the Columbia River.

The vast stretch of coast now embraced in the State of California was then Mexican territory and the Russian Bear was the emblem of power extending over forty degrees of longitude and from the fifty-fifth to the seventy-second degree of latitude, or more than eleven hundred miles, from south to north, and sixteen hundred miles from east to west.  By the diplomacy of Mr. Seward and the payment of seven million dollars in gold, the vast extent of coast came under our flag.

No one could listen to Mr. Beaser’s recital of what he saw and heard on the Pacific coast without being entertained, and receiving much useful knowledge.

Martin Beaser worked with Charles Whittlesey for the Algonquin Company of Detroit during 1845, as featured in Two Months In The Copper Range.

Mr. Beaser came to Ontonagon about 30 years ago, soon after the discovery of copper in that country. Very few settlers had preceded him there; but for several years, from 1858, they came in rapidly.

But here were no regular lines of boats as at present from Lake Erie and Michigan.  All the supplies for the population must be brought by water a thousand miles.  They were brought to the Sault and transferred across the portage, re-loaded on vessels and distributed to the infant settlements along the coast.  As a result of the scanty and uncertain means of conveyance, the early northern winter often found the settlers without their winter’s supply of flour, pork and groceries.  They must be brought to Ontonagon from Copper Harbor or Eagle River in open boats, which in the late fall and early winter was a work of hardship and danger.  Mr. Beaser’s skill and bravery as a sailor was more than once instrumental in saving Ontonagon from starvation and want.

In the fall of 1856, Mr. Beaser brought his family to Ashland.  Here he was closely identified with all enterprises calculated to aid in the opening up of this country.  He had accumulated a competence at Ontonagon which he here freely expended.

He was a man of sound discretion and great good common sense, and was one of Ashland’s most useful citizens.  Through discouragements and long deferred hope he persevered; while nearly all the rest of us were compelled to retreat.  His hope seemed never to forsake him and like the heroes of the Cumberland who went down with their colors flying, he stuck to Ashland in its hours of greatest depression and finally found his grave in the waters of our Bay – while attempting to come from Bayfield to Ashland in an open boat alone during a severe storm in November, 1866.  He rests on the Island of La Pointe, but the home of his life should be the home of his mortal remains and I doubt not they will be transferred hither at an early day.

To be continued in Number IV

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the June 30th, 1877, 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.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Number II

My Dear Press: – At the close of my last scribblings, we had arrived on the present site of Ashland, near where the railroad dock reaches the shore and were sheltered in a log shanty, built by Lusk, Prentice & Co., a kind of land company who had plans of starting a town here, of building a dock, and who had a small stock of merchandise and provisions to aid in their proposed work.  The members of the firm were David S. Lusk, of New York, Frederick Prentice, of Toledo, Ohio, Capt. J. D. Angus, of Ontonagon, and Geo. R. Stuntz, then of Superior City.

1850s-prentice-addition-to-ashland

1850s survey of Frederick Prentice Addition of Ashland at/near the ancient village site of Gichi-wiikwedong. “It is in this addition, that, the Chippewa River and the St. Croix Indian trails reach the Bay.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Mr. Lusk left the lake in 1856, and I think died some years since in California.

Frederick Prentice

Frederick Prentice
~ History of the Maumee Valley by Horace S Knapp, 1872, pages 560-562.

Mr. Prentice, a man of great energy and business enterprise, now resides in Toledo, and is largely engaged in the production and refining of coal oil, being one of the great operators in that enlightening civilizer.  He has accumulated an ample fortune, and is still largely interested in real estate in our town and country.

01.1.120 capt. angus

Captain John Daniel Angus
~ Madeline Island Museum

Capt. J. D. Angus, and old salt, familiar with all the oceans as well as our inland seas – having circumnavigated the globe; able to build any water craft from a Mackinaw boat to a ship of war; a man with an exhaustless store of anecdotes; who was acquainted with “Sinbad, the Sailor” – having passed through many vicissitudes- is now living in our country, full of life and activity.

george r stuntz

George Riley Stuntz 
~ The Eye of the North-west: First Annual Report of the Statistician of Superior, Wisconsin, by Frank Abial Flower, 1890, page 26.

George R. Stuntz now resides in Duluth, a civil engineer by profession, who came to the west end of the lake thirty year ago; who has done more surveying of government land than any other man on the lake.  He is a descendant from the third generation of a Hessian soldier, hired by George III to fight against the American Colonies in the war of our Revolution; but who after fighting one battle on the side of the Despot, was convinced of the wrong of the British cause, became an active rebel and a sincere defender of American liberty.  He and his children and children’s children have ever been true American patriots, and have done good service to the cause of the Republic.  He is the owner of much real estate on Lake Superior, in both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

These men had also been attracted by the situation of our bay as the outlet of an extensive country, abounding in minerals and timber.  They had perfected no plans for the acquisition of title to the land.  It is true several claims had been made reaching from Fish Creek nearly to the Indian Reserve –  a narrow strip on the bay, but the claimants gained no rights thereby, for the lands had not been surveyed, and we were all in the eye of the law, trespassers.  The Land Office, which was then at Hudson, on the St. Croix river, was not allowed to receive and entertain declaratory pre-emption statements.

Still Lusk, Prentice & Co. were even then engaged in building a dock and clearing off the site of an expected city, to which even then they gave the name of “Bay City” – by which name the larger part of the present site of Ashland was known for many years.  It is now in legal description as “Ellis Division of Ashland.”  The timber was cut into cord wood and piled upon the dock, in anticipation of the wants of the numerous steamboats soon expected to throng the docks of the rising city.

Some twenty acres of land were thus cut over, reaching from near Dr. Ellis’ present residence to the Bay City creek, and from the bay shore nearly back to the Railroad depot.

The dock extended from the low point about a hundred yards east of the Door and Sash Factory of White & Perinier, about five hundred feet into the water, and reaching a depth of about eleven feet.  It was made of cribs of round logs, pinned together with wooden pins.  The cribs were about 25×30 feet, and about 25 feet apart.  They had no filling of any kind.  They were connected with stringers, which served as the foundation of the road-way, made by laying round poles crosswise upon the stringers.

It may seem stranger to us with the results of many years’ observation and experience of the force of waves and currents and ice pressure in the bay, that such a dock should ever have been built.  But hind sight is always clearer than fore sight, and recent dock builders have had the benefit of the costly experience of the pioneers.

The Kakagon Sloughs on the Bad River Reservation is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance.

They labored under the impression that the ice melted in the bay and did not move out in large fields.  They soon had this error corrected.  On the last day of March, 1855, the ice in Ashland bay was broken for two or three hundred feet from shore only the body of the ice had not moved, and gave no signs of moving.  It looked as though it might remain for weeks.  The morning sun of April 1st shone upon the smooth, classy surface of the water.  The ice had disappeared in a single night, and the dock and wood piled upon it – the result of so many hard days’ work – had passed away also.  The remains might be seen for many years scattered along the bay shore and far up the Kau-kau-gon.  The present dwellers here can hardly realize the depressing effect of this loss to the little squad of settlers.

To be continued in Number III

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the June 16th, 1877, 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.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Edwin Ellis, M.D. appears to be the ghostwriter of this series of memoirs.
Edwin Ellis

Edwin Ellis, M.D. 
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

My Dear Press:– In these joyous days of Ashland’s history, when we are all made glad by the completion of that great enterprise – the Wisconsin Central Railroad – when from banishment and isolation from the populous portion of our State and from the great world we in one day are brought in close contact with and feel the throbbings of the pulse of commercial and social life, it may be of interest to some to recall a few incidents of the early history of our town and its vicinity.

The years 1853 to 1857 were noted in the West for adventure and enterprise in pushing into new regions and laying out and building new towns.

Superior City Incidents:
Land Office Fraud;

Barber Papers Prologue;
Part VI of Sketch of Vincent Roy Jr.

In 1853 the site of Superior City had been pre-empted and in 1854, laid out into regular lots and blocks, and the work of a new city begun.  The site had attracted the attention and capital of some of our ablest men.  It was backed by stronger political influences than ever combined to lay the foundations of any town in the west.  Among its proprietors were many leading members of Congress and of the Cabinet, especially from the South.  The most sanguine expectations of its future greatness were entertained, for it commanded a scope of country as great as that paying tribute to Chicago.  Its lots were sold at fabulous prices.  It was in 1855 and 1856 – probably the most talked of town in the Union.

The temporary success of Superior kindled a blaze of speculation, which spread far and wide in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

Some of the founders of Superior at the map, saw stretching away to the South-west from the Apostles’ Islands, a deep bay, extending far inland, as if reaching forth to reach the tide of commerce flowing northward from the Gulf and the Atlantic.

Report on the Geology of the Lake Superior Land District: Part I. Copper Lands (1850) and Part II.  The Iron Region (1851) by John Wells Foster and Josiah Dwight Whitney.

This was our Chegomegon or Long Island Bay.  The report of Foster and Whitney also told of mountains of iron ore, which must find its way into the channels of commerce, by the waters of this bay.  An important town, it was thought, must spring up near its head.

Martin Beaser

Martin Beaser
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

While plans were maturing for the occupation of this site, we learned that another party had been attracted by the same considerations that moved us, and that Martin Beaser, Asaph Whittlesy, and Geo. Kilbourn had entered upon and claimed about three hundred acres under the townsite law.  The land had not yet been surveyed, and of course could not be entered or pre-empted.  The two latter gentlemen were on the spot, having arrived in the summer of 1854.  But we were not deterred by these anticipations of our plans.

Early in February, 1855, Edwin Ellis, as the representative of several enterprising capitalists of St. Paul, left the latter city with one companion, Cyrus A. Rollins, to examine the situation and site, and if thought advisable and practicable, to make a lodgement there.  The writer was then in full prime and vigor of early manhood, and full of ambition and bright expectations.  The way from St. Paul was through an unbroken wilderness.  The Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad had not been conceived.  In truth, no railroad had then approached within three hundred miles of the great Lake.  The present city of Duluth in its visions of the near future – the Damascus between the Atlantic and Pacific – the halting place of the North Pacific caravan, bringing to New York and London, the wealth of India, and China and Japan, and the Islands of the South sea – was then only occupied by the wild Indian.

Robert Emmet Jefferson is said to have built the first frame house in what is now Duluth.

Emmet Jefferson, who subsequently pre-empted the site of Duluth, was one of our party from St. Paul; but for many years he had slept in his last sleep.  Three or four other adventurers were with us and though it was cold and the way hard, we were a wild and joyous party of young men, going forth to seek our fortunes,– not doubtful of success.

At Superior we first saw the Great Lake.  Half a dozen houses – a store or two and the beginnings of a hotel, comprised all of that rival to Chicago.

Captain T. A. Markland cofounded the Middleton townsite on Minnesota Point.
Washington Ashton was the editor of the Superior Chronicle (1855-1863).
Colonel Reuben B. Carlton was a government blacksmith and farmer at Fond du Lac and signer of the 1847 Treaty at Fond du Lac.  In later years he became a mining investor and politician.

Among our acquaintances formed there, of which there were several pleasant ones, were Capt. Markland, a soldier of the Mexican war, a lawyer by profession, a man of culture, courteous in manner and stately in his bearing;– Washington Ashton, the pioneer publisher of Superior, and Colonel Carleton, who had been for several years a resident at Fond du Lac, and whose name is perpetuated by the name of a county in Minnesota.  All of them have been long years dead.

Having rested a day and bade adieu to our traveling companions, already dear to us as the sharers of our toils, we turned our faces towards the east.  We were fortunate in securing as a pilot on our untried voyage, Baptiste Gauden – mail carrier between Superior and La Pointe.  Here we first saw a dog train, which relieved us of our packs; and at night Baptiste assisted in pitching our camp, “a day’s march nearer home.”  He “still lives,” and devotes much of his time to the service of the Roman Catholic Church, of which he is an obedient and devoted son.

George Riley Stuntz's town-site near the Mouth of Iron River, La Pointe County, 1852.

George Riley Stuntz had a settlement and sawmill near the mouth of the Iron River, 1852.
~ General Land Office Records

Detail of settlements and foot trails in the Sioux River Valley, 1855.

Detail of foot trails in the Sioux River Valley, 1855.
~ General Land Office Records

Leaving Superior late in the forenoon, we arrived at Iron River, twenty miles away; where we were happy to find shelter in a logging camp, full of robust, hearty, whole-souled men, some of whom had come from cultivated homes in the east.  By some means strange to most of that company, the traveling pilgrim discovered a brother of the mystic tie, with whom he passed a pleasant evening, thankful for that fraternal bond, which makes strangers friends and brothers at sight.

Leaving Iron River the next morning, two days march brought us to La Pointe via the valley of the Sioux river, passing through the wilderness then, which is now the cultivated vale, made classic by being the dwelling place of the “Sage of Avoca;” the peer in farming to the immortal Horace, who has earned his title to the peerage by “causing two blades of grass to grow, where but one grew before he came,” and of him we may say:

Remote from cities lived a swain,
Unvexed with all the cares of gain;
His head is silvered o’er with age,
And long experience makes him Sage.

Antoine Gordon from Noble Lives of a Noble Race (pg. 207) published by the St. Mary’s Industrial School in Odanah.

Antoine Gordon 
~ Noble Lives of a Noble Race by the St. Mary’s Industrial School (Odanah), page 207.

At La Pointe the first object to meet our profane view were numerous large wooded crosses ten to fifteen feet high, in different parts of the town, erected by the pious zeal of the faithful believers in the then new dogma of “Immaculate Conception.”  We saw also an imposing procession of French mixed bloods, escorting a fat, good natured looking priest through the street, under a gaudy canophy, borne by four devout servants of the Church.  This also was in honor of the same dogma.

We put up for the night at the only hotel of the place, kept by Antoine Gauden, whose aged father, that very night, amid the chanting and prayers of the virgin saints of La Pointe, passed into the presence of the Eternal.  La Pointe at that time was of much greater importance than at present – the most important town on the Lake west of Ontonagon.  It was the annual gathering place of several thousand Indians, who then received their annual payments.  It was the center of the fish trade for all this part of the Lake.  It had, also, quite an extensive fur trade.

Samuel Stuart Vaughn

Samuel Stuart Vaughn
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

Julius Austrian had an extensive store of general merchandise and transacted a large business.  Hon. S.S. Vaughn, one of Ashland’s present most substantial citizens, was then a young merchant at La pointe, where by close attention to business, he was laying the foundation of the fortune he has since achieved.  Wm. E. Vantassel, Government Blacksmith for the Indians, a descendant of an old Knickerbocker family was there – a very skillful workman and a very genial man.  In old age he now resides near Stillwater, Minnesota.  Francis McElroy was also there, full of life and energy.  And last but not least, I must mention John W. Bell, Esq, who even then had lived on the Island more than twenty years, and whose recollections carried him back till he could almost hear the war whoop of the Sioux and Chippewas as the latter drove their old enemies forever away from the land of the Ojibwas.  He has for many years been the “Patriach” of the Island, and is much esteemed by his neighbors.

Frederick Prentice

Frederick Prentice
~ History of the Maumee Valley by Horace S Knapp, 1872, pages 560-562.

Resting one night, on the following day we started across the bay on snow-shoes, reaching the shore near the Kaukaugon river.  We followed the coast west, and at nightfall we found tracks leading up the ravine, a few rods from where the railroad track now touches the water of the bay.  We found here a log house, built by Lusk, Prentice & Co., for purposes of trade and with the plan for the occupation of the site.  Here we passed our first night.  The ruins of the shanty may be seen on the block now occupied by the residence of Ferinand Schupp.  Adolphus Bart, the clerk of the company, was in charge and made us welcome with his good cheer.  He is now a lawyer in the State of New York.

To be  continued in Number II