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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

Missionary stationed at Bad River 
Reverend Leonard H. Wheeler

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

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

 


 

A petition draft selected from the

Wheeler Family Papers:

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

 


 

To Hon. C W Thompson

Genl Supt of Indian affair, St Paul, Min-

and Hon L E Webb,

Indian Agent for the Chippewas of Lake Superior

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin State Representative
and co-founder of Ashland
Asaph Whittlesey

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

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

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

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

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

Most Respectfully Yours

Dated Odanah Wis July 1861

 

Names of those connected with the Odanah Mission

[None identified on this draft petition]

 

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

[None identified on this draft petition]

 


 

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

By Amorin Mello

Originally published in the March 16, 1878, issue of The Ashland Press. Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

… continued from Number IV.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number V

by Asaph Whittlesey

FIRST ELECTION IN THE TOWN OF BAY PORT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR EXPERIENCE IN RAILROAD MATTERS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number VI

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the March 9th, 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 III.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number IV

by Asaph Whittlesey

In our last number we referred to “the most aristocratic house” with lumber floors, etc.  Though it was the third cabin built upon the “town site,” it was in reality the first cabin built, designed as a permanent residence.  The foundation logs of this house were laid Sept. 20th, 1854.  The record made by Martin Beaser, (evidently made from recollection,) calls this the first building erected, (giving the size of it,) whereas we had lived in two buildings previous to the building of this one.

Rev. Leonard Hemenway Wheeler
~ In Unnamed Wisconsin by Silas Chapman, 1895, cover image.

The “Whittlesey Post Office” was kept therein from the date of its establishment, March 12th, 1855 to Nov. 1858.  The first dancing done within the “town site” was in this house in Nov. 1854, and during the winter religious services were held therein by Rev. L. H. Wheeler, of the Odanah Mission.  It was the birthplace of Delia Elizabeth, second daughter to Mr. And Mrs. Asaph Whittlesey, born May 21st, 1856, being the first American child born within the limits of the “town site.”  The first celebration of the Fourth of July was held in this house July 4th, 1855, further reference to which will hereafter be made.  The first general election of county officers in the county of Ashland, was held in this building Nov. 4th, 1856, at which time Samuel S. Vaughn received eleven votes for the office of County Clerk, and M. H. Mandelbaum receive twelve.  Francis McElroy was elected District Attorney and Asaph Whittlesey County Judge.  It was in this house that Robert D. Boyd was shot and instantly killed by Henry Cross, January 10th, 1858, for which a verdict of justifiable homicide was rendered at an inquest, held by Asaph Whittlesey, Justice of the Peace, acting as Coroner.

ARRIVAL OF THE SECOND FEMALE UPON THE TOWN SITE.

Mr. and Mrs. John P. T. Haskell, with their family, parents of Mrs. Whittlesey, made a landing at Ashland, Nov. 2nd, 1854, and made their home with us during the winter following.  In the early spring they made a home of their own in a cabin located upon the site of the present residence of G. M. Willis, Esq., a little to the east of Vaughn’s Dock, in Vaughn’s addition to Ashland, which was originally known as Haskell’s pre-emption claim.  Mr. Haskell and family remained in the country only a single year, when they returned to Illinois, where Mr. Haskell died in 1873.  Mrs. Haskell is still living and is unusually active for one of her age.

I next call your attention to the

FIRST CELEBRATION OF THE 4TH OF JULY

upon the “town site” July 4th, 1855.

Under an understanding had between Mr. and Mrs. Austin Corser and Mr. And Mrs. John Corser, (then living at Fish Creek,) and being the owners of the only cows nearer than Odanah, an agreement was made whereby the Corsers were to furnish milk, while Mrs. Haskell and Mrs. Whittlesey, (then living in the log house still visible on lot 6, of block 6,) were to do the necessary cooking in the celebrated “mud oven” attached thereto, marvelous for its baking capacity and for the quality of its production.

On the day referred to, the Declaration of Independence was read by Asaph Whittlesey, and this with the delivery of an oration by A. W. Burt, with singing and amusements, constituted the first public celebration of the 4th of July in the history of Ashland.  The exercises were had at Whittlesey’s house in the after part of the day, and extended late in the evening, when music and dancing were added to the festivities of the day.  The ladies present were Mrs. Haskell, Mrs. Whittlesey, the two Mrs. Corsers and Mrs. Farley.  The gentlemen present were J. P. T. Haskell, George Kilborn, Lawrence Farley, Austin and John Corser, Asaph Whittlsey, A. W. Burt, A. J. Barckley, Adam Goeltz, John Donaldson, Conrad Goeltz, Andrew Scobie, and Duncan Sinclaire.  The children present were Eugenia E. Whittlesey, (less than three years old,) George, son of Mr. and Mrs. Austin Corser, also a child of Mr. and Mrs. John Corser and William, John Joseph and Hattie Haskell, children and Mr. and Mrs. J. P. T. Haskell.

I shall never forget Mrs. Haskell’s “classic step” on that occasion, discounting many of those present much younger than herself.  At intervals during the night the party were very highly entertained with singing by Conrad and Adam Goeltz.

FIRST POST OFFICE ESTABLISHED AT ASHLAND, MARCH 12TH, 1855.

As there was no opportunity for doubt as to the rapid growth of the city the establishment of a Post Office was the result of our first raid upon the general government, though for nearly one year following no provision whatsoever was made for furnishing this office with mail service, and mails were received by chance from La Pointe up to the opening of semi-monthly service, upon a new route established between La Pointe via Ashland to Chippewa Falls, and was soon after, during the winter months, supplied with weekly service upon the route from Ontonagon, Mich., to Superior, Wis.  On both of these routes the mails were carried by packers and upon dog teams.

Detail of La Pointe County from a map of Wisconsin published by J. H. Colton & Co., New York, 1856.
~ MapofUS.org

It is worth searching United States Post Office archives for correspondences relating to La Pointe County mail service.
See Objections to Mail Route 13780 (May 21st, 1855) for a separate petition against Julius Austrian in his role as the Postmaster at La Pointe.
Searching for the petition that formed Asaph Whittlesey’s post office (March 21st, 1855) may reveal more details.
Ashland County split from La Pointe County on March 27th, 1860.

In the petition forwarded to Washington asking for the establishment of an office at Ashland, La Pointe county, Wisconsin, the request was made that it be given the name of Ashland, and that Asaph Whittlesey be appointed postmaster.  The sequel showed that as there was an office by the name of Ashland within the State, it was not lawful to attach the name to this office and therefore the appointing officers at Washington attached the name of Whittlesey thereto, by which the office was known until July 30th, 1860, when the obstacle to change in the name being removed, it was then given the name of Ashland, and was also designated as being in Ashland County, Wisconsin.  I well remember how difficult a task I found it to be to satisfactorily explain to them how the place could one day be known as Whittlesey, La Pointe county and the next as Ashland, Ashland county.  But they soon admitted it rather than be longer afflicted with my letters upon the subject.

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

The office of Whittlesey was kept in the cabin still in existence on lot 6 of block 6, “original Ashland,” until in Nov. 1857, when it was removed to lot 3 of block 3, into what was known as the Tomkins House, which then became the residence of myself and family until Nov. 1860.  The case in which the books and papers connected with the office were kept, (which was made by myself,) is now in the “farm house” at “Pleasant Valley,” and will be delivered to any public organization in Ashland desiring to preserve the same.  I continued to serve as postmaster until Nov. 21st, 1860, when I resigned the office and Andrew J. Barckley’s was appointed as my successor.  Barckley’s term as postmaster expired Sept. 9th, 1861, by the appointment of Martin Beaser as successor in office to Barckley.  Mr. Beaser served as postmaster until his death in Nov. 1866.

Detail of La Pointe and Ashland Counties from a map of Wisconsin and Michigan by A. J. Johnson and Ward, 1864.
~ Geographicus.org

The post office of Ashland was re-established Dec. 18th, 1871, and James A. Wilson, (the present incumbent,) being appointed postmaster.

The amount of post office money turned over to the Government by me at the close of my term of service was $8.53.  My commissions upon this amount, together with the “franking privilege” vested upon postmasters, laid the foundation for my future fortunes, the balance was taken in waitings upon William Gotzenberg, who made daily inquiries for his mail, though he was aware that no mails were received oftener than once a week.

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 March 2nd, 1878, issue of The Ashland Press.  Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

Early Recollections of Ashland

by Asaph Whittlesey

(Continuation of number two.)

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

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

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

 Number III

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

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

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

SECOND HOME BUILT UPON THE “TOWN SITE”

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

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

The third and

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number IV

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

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

… continued from Number I.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number II

by Asaph Whittlesey

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

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

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

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

Ashland

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

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

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

FIRST BUILDING ERECTED,

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

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

HOME IN THE WILDERNESS.

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

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

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

To be continued in Number III

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

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

Originally published in the February 16, 1878, issue of The Ashland Press.  Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number I

by Asaph Whittlesey

"Asaph Whittlesey dressed for his journey from Ashland to Madison, Wisconsin, to take up his seat in the state legislature. Whittlesey is attired for the long trek in winter gear including goggles, a walking staff, and snowshoes." Circa 1860. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Photograph of Asaph Whittlesey from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Our first arrival at La Pointe being so intimately associated with the settlement of Ashland, I have determined to make our arrival there the subject of my first letter.

It was among the first days of June, 1854, that George Kilburn, Jr., myself and wife and only child, Eugenia, (then some eighteen months old,) made a landing at La Pointe with a view to remain permanently in the country. Well do I remember the beautiful “town,” spread before us as we merged from the “old log warehouse” through which we passed in reaching the shore, while the general appearance was that of neatness and comfort.

Julius Austrian ~ Madeline Island Museum

Photograph of Julius Austrian from the Madeline Island Museum.

We had already made the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Austrian, having had the pleasure of their company up the Lakes, and had made many inquiries of them as to the place of our destination. From this time forward we found Mr. and Mrs. Austrian to be most agreeable neighbors and associates, and these young “brides” spent much of their time together, and not unfrequently did the evening air carry to listening crowds our notes of “Good old Colony times,” and “There’s no place like home,” still fresh in our memory.

La Pointe at this time was the second in importance of towns upon the Lakes, Ontonagon taking the lead.

Within a few days after our landing, we were fully organized as “house keepers,” under the same roof with Mr. and Mrs. George Starks, now residents of Bayfield; who proved to be most excellent neighbors, and never did a single roof cover a more harmonious trio of families.

We had, however, a common “foe” to encounter, visions of which filled our dreams and harassed our waking moments. This “foe” was the everlasting “bed bug,” more numerous and more determined in their onslaught than is the “Russian Army;” while this mixture of Dutch and Yankee blood served to satisfy their ravenous appetites. We had heard of this race before, but this was the first time we had met in open combat, face to face. It was our custom regularly before retiring to rest to go into combat with them armed with “wooden spads,” with which we slaughtered them by the quart. Our plan was to remain awake an hour or so after retiring to bed, when we would strike a light which was a signal for a field fight. It was an exciting scene to witness their ranks surrounding us on every hand, while the sheets of our bed seemed dyed in human blood. One means of our defense was to have the bed posts stand in molasses; but this only put them to the trouble of marching to the ceiling above from which they dropped upon us like hail; of course all these contingencies helped to make my wife good natured, and strengthen her attachments to the country. This condition of things lasted while we remained occupants of the building, and when we, in our weakness from loss of blood, staggered forth to make us a home elsewhere, we were filled with anxiety as to the safety of our German neighbors.

Julius Austrian’s garden was originally established by Charles William Wulff Borup, M.D.:
“Dr. Borup, the agent for the American Fur Company, (who have an extensive trading-post at this place,) has a superb garden.  In walking through it with him, I saw very fine crops of the usual garden vegetables growing in it.  His red currant bushes were literally bent down beneath their weight of ripe fruit.  His cherry-trees had also borne well.  Gooseberries also succeed well.  The doctor also had some young apple-trees, that were in a thriving condition.  Poultry, likewise, does well.  Mrs. B. had her yard well stocked with turkeys, geese, ducks, and chickens.”
~ Morgan at La Pointe during 1845.

As I have before stated, the general appearance of the island was most attractive. The garden of Mr. Austrian was laid out most tastily. We found there a large variety of fruit trees, apples, plums, cherries, etc. Also large quantities of currants and strawberries; but the crowning attraction was the “grape bower,” affording a most attractive lounging place. Here also a merry party, consisting, so far as my recollection serves me, of the following persons: Mr. and Mrs. Julius Austrian, Rev. John Chebohm, (who, I remember, asked the blessing at the table,) Marks Austrian, Mr. H. Mandelbaum, Henry Smit, Mr. and Mrs. Hocksteiner, Mr. and Mrs. George Starks, old Mr. and Mrs. Perinier, Mr. and Mrs. Asaph Whittlesey, and I think Mrs. William Herbert, and a Mr. Roy, celebrated the

“FORTH OF JULY,” 1854.

Being a curious mixture of Americans, Jews, Germans, French and Austrians, no two of whom could carry on a very extensive conversation, for want of a knowledge of the languages, so that our toasts were mainly received in silence, nevertheless the day was passed most pleasantly, while the reading of the Declaration of Independence by Asaph Whittlesey, marked it as a day for national celebration.

To be continued in Number II

By Amorin Mello

Magazine of Western History Illustrated Volume IX No.1 Pages 12-17

Magazine of Western History Illustrated
November 1888
as republished in
Magazine of Western History: Volume IX, No. 1, pages 12-17.

ASHLAND, WISCONSIN:

ITS EARLY AND PRESENT DAYS.

Detail of Lapointe du Saint Espirit and Mission du Saint Espirit from Claude Allouez Map of New France, 1669. ~ Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Detail of Lapointe du Saint Espirit and Mission du Saint Espirit from Claude Allouez Map of New France, 1669.
~ Research Laboratories of Archaeology

If the reader will look at the map of the United States, he will see on its northern boundary the largest body of fresh water in the world – Lake Superior, called by the Ojibways Kitche Gumi, “The Big Water.” It lies between 46 and 47 degrees north latitude, and stretches east and west through eight degrees of longitude. Its coast-line is nearly two thousand miles in extent, forming some of the finest natural harbors in the world. Its surface is six hundred and thirty feet above the ocean level, while its bottom in the deepest parts is four hundred feet below the level of the tide-waters. As you come from the east end of the lake, St. Mary’s river, approaching its western extremity, you will, from the deck of the steamer, notice a group of beautiful islands – the same islands which, more than two hundred years ago, met the gaze of Fathers Marquette, Allouez and Mesnard, and which, in their religious zeal, they named the “Apostles’ Islands,” thinking that in number they corresponded with the number of our Savior’s disciples. One of these they named “Madeline,” from a favorite saint of their own “Belle France,” and to commemorate one of the most noted churches of Paris.

Detail of "The 12 Apostles" from Captain Jonathan Carver's journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766. ~ Boston Public Library

Detail of “The 12 Apostles” from Captain Jonathan Carver’s journal of his travels with maps and drawings, 1766.
~ Boston Public Library

These islands in ancient times were doubtless a part of the main, as was also the land now lying under Ashland bay. Underlying them was sandstone, rising from twenty to one hundred feet above the water, and horizontal. The great glaciers coming from the north, and moving in a southwest direction, cut channels in the sandstone, forming these islands, and scooping out of the solid rock the large basin which, in after years, received the name of Chaquamegon bay, and which is now known as Ashland bay. This was the first prophecy of the city of Ashland. In the times, millions of years before this, the vast deposits of iron ore had been upheaved and stored along the south shore of the lake, to subserve the designs of the Mighty Builder in the development of that commerce of which we now see but the earliest down, and of whose future extent we can form but a faint comprehension. Chaquamegon, Le Anse and Marquette bays are the natural outlets on Lake Superior for the rich mineral deposits which line its southern shore.

The formation of Ashland bay was therefore not accidental, but in harmony with Eternal plans. It is protected from the storms of the lake by a long, low, sandy point, and also by the Apostles’ islands. Into it open from the lake three broad channels, with a depth of water ample for the largest vessels, called the North, Middle and South channels. Under these islands, vessels coming from the wild storms of the open lake are secure. It is the sailor’s haven of safety.

1834 Map of LaPointe by Lyman Warren

1834 Map of LaPointe by Lyman Warren for the American Fur Company.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

The first settlement on the bay was made by the American Fur company in the early part of the present century, on the beautiful Madeline island, and named La Pointe. It continued for many years the headquarters of a flourishing fur and fishing trade. About 1830 a Protestant and, soon after, a Catholic mission were established there, and churches built by them, in which devoted missionaries labored to Christianize and civilize the Indians whose homes were here and in the surrounding country. Here toiled Rev. Sherman Hall, a missionary of the American board, and Rev. L. H. Wheeler, and also that devoted man, now known to us as Bishop Baraga. These have all passed away. La Pointe, then the most populous and active village on the lake, is now, alas, “The deserted village,” and is visited alone in veneration of its past memories.

Map inset of Chequamegon Bay with Houghton, LaPointe, Bayfield, Ashland, and Bay City.

Map inset of Chequamegon Bay with Houghton, LaPointe, Bayfield, Ashland, and Bay City.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

On the west shore of the bay, opposite La Pointe, is the beautiful town of Bayfield, founded by Honorable Henry. M. Rice in 1856. It is the terminus of the C., St. P., M. & O. railroad and the headquarters of a flourishing fish and lumber trade, and one of the most charming summer resorts on the lake.

On the west shore of the bay is also the flourishing town of Washburn – named in honor of Wisconsin’s governor, Cadwallader C. Washburn. It is the favorite town of the Omaha railroad, and has several large saw-mills, and is an active and enterprising town.

"Asaph Whittlesey dressed for his journey from Ashland to Madison, Wisconsin, to take up his seat in the state legislature. Whittlesey is attired for the long trek in winter gear including goggles, a walking staff, and snowshoes." Circa 1860. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Asaph Whittlesey circa 1860.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

The first settlement on the spot where Ashland now stands was made, in 1854, by Asaph Whittlesey and George Kilborn, both natives of the Western Reserve, Ohio. The lands were not as yet surveyed, so that they could not preëmpt them, and there was as yet no Homestead law. For this reason they, with Martin Beaser, then living in Ontonagon, Michigan, laid claim, under the “Town Site” law, to about three hundred acres, embracing their log houses and small clearing. They platted this into town lots in 1855, and subsequently were allowed to enter their lands as claimed, and in due course received their title. In February, 1855, Edwin Ellis, a graduate in medicine, in the University of the City of New York, of the class of 1846, came on foot through the woods from St. Paul to the bay. He had been engaged in the practice of his profession in his native state – Maine – till 1854, when, attracted by the prospect of wider fields for enterprise in the new west, and by the advice of Judge D. A. J. Baker, his brother-in-law, then living in St. Paul, he came to Minnesota.

Edwin Ellis, M.D., died in Ashland on May 3rd, 1903. This portrait and a posthumous biography of Dr. Ellis is available on pages 16-18 of Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Lake Region by J.H. Beers & Co., 1905.

Edwin Ellis, M.D.
~ Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Lake Region by J.H. Beers & Co., 1905, pages 16-18.

The years 1853 to 1857 were years of wild speculation. The states of Wisconsin and Minnesota especially were covered with rising cities – at least on paper. Fabulous stories of rich silver, copper and iron mines on the south shore of Lake Superior attracted a multitude of active young men from the eastern states. The city of Superior had been laid out, and its lots were selling for fabulous prices. The penniless young man of to-day became the millionaire to-morrow. The consequent excitement was great, and in the event demoralizing.

The Bay of Ashland, stretching far in-land, the known vast deposits of iron near the Penokee Gap, whose natural route to market was evidently by Chaquamegon bay, indicated with moral certainty that at its head would rise a commercial mart which should command a wide extent of country. The vast forests of pine were then hardly thought of, and no efforts made to obtain them. The lands were unsurveyed, and all the “squatters” were, in the eye of the law, trespassers. Nevertheless, the new-comers ran “spotted” lines around their claims and built log-cabins to hold them, and began to clear up the land. In June, 1855, Dr. Ellis went on foot to St. Paul, and thence to Dubuque, Iowa, and secured from the surveyor-general an order to survey four townships about the bay, embracing the site of the present city of Ashland. In the meantime, many settlers had come in and preëmpted lands in the neighborhood. In the fall of 1855 many of them were enabled to prove up and get titles to their lands.

Portrait and biography of Frederick Prentice, the "first white child born in ... Toledo." ~ History of the Maumee Valley by Horace S Knapp, 1872, pages 560-562.

Portrait and biography of Frederick Prentice; the “first white child born in … Toledo.”
~ History of the Maumee Valley by Horace S Knapp, 1872, pages 560-562.

In the winter of 1855 Lusk, Prentice & Company, who had a trading-post within the present limits of Ellis’ division of Ashland, built a dock for the accommodation of the settlers coming to the new town. It was built of cribs, made of round logs sunk in the water about twenty feet apart. From one crib to another were stringers, made of logs, flattened on the upper surface, all covered with small logs to make a roadway. On the docks were piled several hundred cords of wood for the purpose of “holding” the dock from floating away, and to be sold in the summer to the steamboats which should come to bring supplies and begin the commerce of the town. The evening of the second day of April, 1855, saw the bay full of ice, slightly detached for a few feet from the shore, but with no sign of an immediate opening of navigation.

Portrait of Martin Beaser on page 24.

Portrait of Martin Beaser on page 24.

The next morning no ice was in sight, nor a vestige of the dock to be seen. Floating timber and cord-wood covered the bay. Till then the settlers had no idea the power of the floating ice moved by the tide of the bay. But they were not discouraged. The following winter two other docks were constructed – one by Martin Beaser, at the foot of what is now called “Beaser Avenue,” and the other by Edwin Ellis, near where Seyler’s foundry now stands.

These were also crib-docks, but the effort was made to anchor the cribs. There were no rocks to be had on the side of the bay where the docks were built, for which reason Mr. Beaser filled his cribs with clay, dug out of the banks. Dr. Ellis hauled stone across the bay, and filled as many of his cribs as possible, and on the top of the dock also piled several hundred cords of wood, and the settlers with anxious faces watched the departure of the ice. The shock came, and the docks afforded little resistance. The cribs filled with clay were easily carried. Those filled with stone stood better, but that part of those above water, and near the outer end, were swept away. The labors of many weary days and much money was thus swept away. There was, however, enough of the Ellis dock left to afford a landing to the few boats that came with supplies for the people.

The years of 1855-1857 at Bayport, Ashland, Bayfield, Ironton, and Houghton along Chequamegon Bay are captured in the Penokee Survey Incidents and the Barber Papers.

Survey of Frederick Prentice‘s Addition of Ashland near the Gichi-wiikwedong village.
“It is in this addition, that, the Chippewa River and the St. Croix Indian trails reach the Bay, and for the purpose of accomodating the trade, already flowing in on their routes, a commodious store has just been built”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Gichi-wiikwedong
Translates as “Big Bay” in Ojibwemowin.
Traditional place-name for Ashland, WI.
Equadon
Anglicized version of Gichi-wiikwedong.
Prentice Park and Maslowski Beach.
Area is famous for artesian wells.
The Park of a Hundred Flowing Wells
“This was all Indian land then, but [Asaph] Whittlesey believed in take time for the forelock, looking he said, for a place that ‘might prove to be the most available point for a town, at or near Equadon (pronounced E Quay don, the second syllable emphasized.) The word ‘Equadon,’ is the Chippewa word meaning ‘settlement near the head of the bay.'”
The Ashland Daily Press, July 6, 1933, by Guy M. Burnham, reproduced on TurtleTrack.org.  Read the full article for an interesting stories about how the town-site for Ashland was allegedly negotiated between Reverend Wheeler and Little Current.

During the years 1855, ’56 and ’57 many settlers had come to Ashland and built homes, and were all young men full of bright hopes for the future. In the spring of 1856 a township organization was formed, embracing more than forty townships of six miles square, and was called Bayport. The usual township officers were elected. The year 1857 opened with bright prospects. In Ashland streets were cleared and several frame houses were built. A steam saw-mill was begun and brought near completion. But in September of that year the great financial storm came, involving the whole country in ruin. The little village of Ashland was overwhelmed. The people had but little money, and in making their improvements had contracted debts which they could not at once pay. There had been so such speculation that the settlers had paid but little attention to the cultivation of the soil, depending upon supplies brought by water a thousand miles. We had no wagon roads nor railroads within three hundred miles. Winter was coming on, and many of the settlers – in truth, all who could get away – left the place. The few who remained saw hard times, whose memory is not pleasant to recall. Some of them, in making improvements, had assumed liabilities which well-nigh ruined them. If the county had then been organized for judicial purposes, so that judgements and execution could have been easily obtained, scarcely anyone would have saved a dollar from the wreck. But this fortunate circumstance gave them time, and their debts were finally paid, and they had their land left; but it then was without value in the market. Town lots in the village, which are now selling for five thousand to six thousand dollars, could then be sold for enough to buy a barrel of flour. The years following “’57” were hard years, and the settlers, one by one, moved away, so that in 1862 only two remained – Martin Beaser and Martin Roehn. In 1866 Mr. Beaser undertook to come alone from Bayfield to Ashland in an open sail-boat. It was a stormy day, and he never reached home. His boat was found soon afterwards at the head of the bay, and his body was found the following spring on the beach on the west side of the bay. Ashland was now left desolate and alone. Mr. Roehn, with a few cows, migrated backward and forward between Ashland and the Marengo river, finding hay and pasture for his cows, selling his produce and butter at Bayfield and La Pointe, and thus eked out an existence. The first railroad to reach Ashland was the Wisconsin Central, completed in 1877, connecting Ashland with Milwaukee. Work at the Ashland end was begun in 1872, and in 1873 finished to Penokee, twenty-nine miles south from Ashland. It had been built from the south to within about eighty-five miles of Ashland, and then came the panic of 1873, and all work stopped. The building in 1872 in Ashland was quite extensive, and village property sold at good prices, and everybody was hopeful. But the crisis of 1873 coming on, all enterprises at once stopped. Not till 1877 was the railroad completed. Its completion established Ashland on a substantial basis. In 1877 the Wisconsin Central company completed the Chaquamegon hotel, one of the finest in the country, which has added greatly to the attractions of Ashland.

The building of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha road to this place, in 1883, gave a short outlet to the west and southwest, greatly benefiting the lumber trade.

The Northern Pacific, whose eastern terminus is at Ashland, soon after completed, gave it new importance as in the direct line of transcontinental commerce.

But the advent of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western railroad had done more, perhaps to stimulate the growth of Ashland than any one of its great enterprises.

It runs northerly from Milwaukee to Manitowoc, where, turning in northwesterly course, it traverses vast tracts of valuable timber and farming lands, running for fifty miles along the Gogebic range – the richest iron region in the world.

This company has built two large and costly ore docks for the shipment of the vast amount of iron ore which it brings over its road.

Chapter 9
South From Ashland
“The promoters decided to make Ashland the north end of their iron. It was a mere clearing, in the woods in 1870, formerly known as Equadon which was founded in 1854 and abandoned in 1863. The Ashland site was located on the bank of a splendid natural harbor called Cheguamegon Bay.”

“The clearing, grubbing and grading of the 30-mile Ashland-Penokee Gap Division had been practically complete in 1872. The iron rails were not laid into the Gap until October 1873, and there the railroad stopped for 4 long years.”

Penokee Gap, 1000 feet above Lake Superior, is a break in the rough country, a regular gap where the Bad River breaks through the Iron Range Hills on its way to Lake Superior. The Gap is an historic pathway through which the copper workers from Mexico and South America came to Lake Superior centuries ago enroute to the copper deposits on Isle Royal in Lake Superior.”
History of the Soo Line, by James Lyden.

The Wisconsin Central Railroad company has also built a very fine ore dock, over which it ships the iron brought from the same range by its own line – the “Penokee Railroad” – built easterly along the northern base of the Gogebic range to Bessemer, in Michigan.

Notwithstanding the depression in the iron trade, more than a million tons of ore will be shipped from Ashland the present season.

Ashland has also two coal docks – one operated by the Ohio Coal company and the other by the Columbus & Hocking Valley Coal company – both of whom are doing a large business. The Lake Shore railroad and the Wisconsin Central obtain their coal for their engines, on the northern two hundred miles, by their docks at Ashland. The same rates for coal going west prevail as from Duluth and Washburn, and a large trade is springing up over the Omaha & Northern Pacific lines.

Ashland has three National and one private bank, all of which are conservative and carefully managed. It has also a street railway, two miles in length, with six fine cars and about forty horses, and is rendering very satisfactory service. We have also a “Gas and Electric Light Plant,” which affords abundant light for the streets, stores, dwellings and the ore docks. Ashland has also the Holly system of water-works, with about two miles of pipe laid, affording ample protection against fire and an abundant supply of water for domestic purposes. The pump-house has two ponderous engines, one being kept in reserve in case of accident.

As a point for the distribution of manufactured goods of all kinds, Ashland stands among the foremost. With practically the same rates as by the roads leading from Duluth west, it is prepared to compete with that lively town for part of the trade of the great northwest – now in its infancy but destined soon to attain great proportions; whose beginnings we can measure, but whose vast results we cannot now comprehend.

Portrait of Prentice's brownstone quarry at Houghton Point. ~ Ashland Daily Press, circa 1893.

Portrait of Prentice’s brownstone quarries at Houghton Point.
~ Ashland Daily Press, circa 1893.

“A Big Stone Quarry,
A Great Brownstone Industry Established At Houghton Point.
What Frederick Prentice Has Accomplished During The Season.
~ Ashland Daily Press article in the Washburn Itemizer, October 18, 1888, reproduced on BattleAxCamp.tripod.com
Brownstone quarries along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Tour historic buildings in Ashland, Washburn, Bayfield, Superior, Duluth, etc., for examples of The Brownstone Architecture of the Lake Superior Region, 2000, by Kathryn Bishop Eckert.

One industry on Ashland bay is the brown stone, which exists along the water’s edge for many miles on the shore of the mainland and on the islands. It can be quarried in inexhaustible quantities within a few hundred feet of navigable waters of Lake Superior. It is of fine texture and beautiful color, and hardens by exposure. Large quantities have already been shipped and the demand is rapidly increasing. It can be shipped by rail at about four dollars per ton to Cincinnati. This stone, used for trimmings in buildings built of white brick, makes a very beautiful appearance.

The vast quantities of pine and hardwood timber in the vicinity of Ashland, and its advantages as a point of distribution for manufactured articles in wood, render it one of the best locations for manufacturing industries. For tanneries its location is unrivaled; the supply of hemlock bark is ample, while hides can be cheaply brought from Minnesota and the northwest, and the products can be shipped in all directions at low rates.

The schools of Ashland afford the best of opportunities for the education of our youth. Our school buildings are large, new and commodious, with all modern improvements. Our schools are graded and the attendance is large.

In the churches, most denominations are represented. The Catholic is the finest church edifice in the city, built of our own brown stone at a cost of over thirty thousand dollars. There are Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and several Scandinavian churches.

As a summer resort, Ashland and the Apostles’ islands afford unrivaled attractions. Sail-boats, tugs and steamboats make daily excursions in all directions. They busy men from Chicago, St. Louis, St. Paul, Cincinnati and other cities can, in one day, escape from the sweltering heat and sleep on the cool ore of Lake Superior, and with our lines of railroad and telegraph stretching in all directons, they can be in constant and instant communication with their counting-rooms a thousand miles away. Its advantages in this line are already drawing many persons of wealth and leisure, as well as invalids, who come here to spend the hot season and at the close of the summer return home with new health and vigor.

Portrait of Edwin Ellis, M.D. on page 20.

Portrait of Edwin Ellis, M.D. on page 20.

Ashland has just two daily and three weekly newspapers, models of enterprise and very newsy, contributing much to the prosperity of the city.

The population of Ashland is about fifteen thousand, composed principally of persons under thirty-five years of age, and full of push and activity, who have come to stay and built up fortunes.

With all these and many other advantages Ashland seems to have a bright future, and many of us think it bids fair, in the near future, to become the second city in the state of Wisconsin. And we will labor that she shall be worthy of her rank.

EDWIN ELLIS.