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.

Advertisements

Edwin Ellis, M.D.

August 7, 2016

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 21-24.

Edwin Ellis.

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

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

The subject of this sketch is a native of New England, and one of the “Oxford Bears,” having been in Peru, Oxford county, Maine, in 1824. His birthplace was on the banks of the Androscoggin river, among the mountains, a wild, romantic place. His ancestors came early from England to the Massachusetts colony, about the middle of the seventeenth century.

His maternal grandfather was in the Revolutionary army, and to the end of a long life was intensely patriotic and American in all his acts and thoughts. He bought one hundred and sixty acres of government land at the close of the War of the Revolution, on which he lived for more than seventy years, until his death. It still remains in the family. There were no roads in his neighborhood; and at first he was obliged to carry his corn and wheat to mill, for more than thirty miles, upon his shoulders and by a “spotted line.” He lived to break the ground for a railroad to his town and to see its completion.

Dr. Ellis received his early education in the New England common school, whose term was not more than three months in the year. At the age of fourteen years he began the study of Latin at home, going for occasional recitations to one of the celebrated Abbot family, who was a farmer in the town, some four miles distant. He was inclined to study the law, but his mother, who was a most conscientious woman, thought an honest lawyer could not live by his calling, often repeating to him this couplet –

“If I turn lawyer, I must lie and cheat,
For honest lawyers have no bread to eat.”

This had some influence upon him, and he chose the profession of medicine. He entered Waterville college (now Cobly university) in 1842, pursuing its first year’s course, when he began the study of medicine, teaching school in winter to raise money enough to pay his expenses, in which he was cheerfully assisted by his father to the extent of his means, which were very limited, he being a house carpenter and receiving the usual wages of those days of one dollar to one dollar and fifty cents per day.

Edwin Ellis graduated in medicine at the University of the city of New York, in March, 1846, being nearly twenty-two years of age. He at first settled at North New Portland, Maine. It was a frontier town, and the roads in such condition that he was obliged to travel on horseback, going sometimes forty miles in the night.

Portrait of Judge Daniel A. J. Baker ~ The Eye of the North-west, page 9.

Brother-in-law Daniel A. J. Baker
~ The Eye of the North-west, pg. 9.

At the end of a year he settled in Farmington, Maine, where he had studied his profession, where, in 1847, he was married to Sophia S. Davis, who lived less than two years, leaving a daughter, Sophia Augusta, who married George H. Kennedy, who now lives at Ashland.

Dr. Ellis married Martha B. Baker of New Sharon, Maine, in 1850, a woman who has been a faithful and efficient wife for almost forty years. By her he has three children – Domelia, married to George C. Loranger of Calumet, Michigan; Edwin H., bookkeeper in the First National Bank of Ashland, and J. Scott, engaged in wood and coal at Ashland.

Dr. Ellis continued the practice of his profession in Maine, till 1854, with an increasing practice and fair prospects.

“[Judge] Daniel A. J. Baker was born in 1822 in New Sharon, Maine; and died in Minneapolis, October 2, 1909.  He came to Minnesota in 1849, and taught at St. Paul, in 1850-51, the first public school in the territory, having 103 pupils in attendance.  After practicing law here three years, he joined with others in 1854 in pre-empting the site and founding the town of Superior, Wisconsin.”
Minnesota Historical Society Collections: Volume XV, page 832.

But the west was then attracting much attention and the tide of emigration flowing with a strong current. His wife’s brother, Judge Baker of St. Paul, and been for several years in St. Paul, and his representations and inducements led him to sever his pleasant relations with the east and try his fortunes in the west. He with his family, wife and two children, reached St. Paul early in May, 1854. That year he carried on a farm where Merriam park now is, but he was not at home in this business, and abandoned it in the fall of that year.

The years 1852 to 1857 were years of great speculation throughout the northwest. Towns and cities, at least on paper, were springing up with marvelous rapidity. Men became, or seemed to become, suddenly rich by the rapid rise of farming lands and city lots. It was an era of strange speculation, demoralizing in its effects and leading to the terrible panic of 1857.

Superior City preemption and speculation involved General Land Office frauds.
Augustus Hamilton Barber‘s activities in surveying and speculation of the Chequamegon Bay region for the General Land Office are detailed in the Joel Allen Barber Papers.

"In 1845 [Warren Lewis] was appointed Register of the United States Land Office at Dubuque. In 1853 he was appointed by President Pierce Surveyor-General for Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota and at the expiration of his term was reappointed by President Buchanan." ~ The Iowa Legislature

“In 1845 [Warren Lewis] was appointed Register of the United States Land Office at Dubuque. In 1853 he was appointed by President Pierce Surveyor-General for Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota and at the expiration of his term was reappointed by President Buchanan.”
~ The Iowa Legislature

A party of speculators had preëmpted the land where the city of Superior now is, in 1852, and as early as 1855 were selling shares in that rising city for fabulous prices. Chaquamegon bay, extending far inland from the Apostles’ islands, appeared, to thoughtful persons, to be a site for a town which would command the trade of a large area of country, then without an inhabitant. Thither he, in February, 1855, with one companion, came by trail from St. Paul. On his arrival he found two families already on the spot where Ashland now lies – Asaph Whittlesey and his father-in-law, Mr. Haskell, who came in the fall preceding; while Lusk, Prentice & Co. had a trading-post and were building a dock. Mr. Whittlesey, with whom were associated Martin Beaser and George Kilborn, were then laying out what is now Beaser’s Division of Ashland, which they claimed under the town site law. The township lines on the bay had been run, but no section lines. The land was not subject to entry or settlement; all were trespassers. But running from the township lines, the settlers were able to locate approximately the section lines, and built preëmption shanties for the purpose of holding the land till it should be subject to entry. In June, 1855, Dr. Ellis went through the woods to Dubuque, Iowa, to urge upon General Warner Lewis, then surveyor-general of all the northwest, the necessity of the immediate subdivision of the towns about the bay. This met with General Lewis’ approval, and he ordered it done as soon as arrangements could be made. A young civil engineer from Vermont, Augustus Barber, began the work in September, and towns 47 and 48, range 4, embracing the present city of Ashland, were surveyed and the plats returned to Washington and to the land office, at Superior, by November, 1855. The necessary declaratory statements were filed, and in the last of December several companions walked along the shore to Superior, for the purpose of proving up their claims. It was a cold, hard trip, but the actors were young and energetic. Thus was obtained from the government the first title to the soil on which Ashland now stands.

Ellis received his title from the General Land Office to 125.72 acres of land in Ashland on July 15th, 1858. ~ General Land Office Records

Ellis was issued his title to 125.72 acres of land in Ashland on July 15th, 1858.
~ General Land Office Records

Downtown St. Paul, 1857. ~ Minnesota Historical Society

Downtown in Saint Paul during the financial panic of 1857.
~ Minnesota Historical Society

Leonard Hemenway Wheeler ~ Unnamed Wisconsin by [????]

Leonard Hemenway Wheeler
~ Unnamed Wisconsin, by John Nelson Davidson, 1895.

Dr. Ellis brought his family by boat from St. Paul in the fall of 1855, going down the Mississippi river from St. Paul to Dubuque, thence to Chicago and thence by the lakes, reaching La Pointe November 4, and his log-cabin on the bay a day or two later. In conjunction with his associates in St. Paul, he entered upon a system of improvements for the purpose of building up a town where Ashland now is, such as cutting out streets, building a dock, steam saw-mill, etc. But the financial storm of 1857 came and overwhelmed him in what appeared to be hopeless bankruptcy. He had incurred debts in the improvements made and his associates could not meet the drafts they had authorized him to make upon them, but by the most rigid economy and untiring industry, he, after several years, succeeded in paying every claim. He remained in Ashland till 1861, when the War of the Rebellion coming on, the little hamlet of Ashland lost nearly all its inhabitants, and he felt compelled, in order to earn bread for his family, to leave the lake, and was preparing to do so when his staunch friend, the Rev. Leonard H. Wheeler, the missionary of the American board in charge of the Indian mission and boarding-school at Odonah, induced him to change his plans and go to Odonah and take charge of the boarding-school and farm at the mission. And here for several years he remained in this work, years which he recalls as the happiest of his life. Mr. Wheeler was a man of education and culture, a graduate of Middlebury and Andover seminary and most heartily devoted to his missionary work among the Indians. His wife was a refined and most amicable lady, and their home was indeed an oasis in the moral desert around them. In 1866 Mr. Wheeler’s failing health, and his desire to afford his children better educational advantages, induced him to retire from the mission work, and the American board suspended their work there. Dr. Ellis and family went to Ontonagon, Michigan, in 1866, where he resumed his profession and also opened a small drug store. Here he remained until 1872, when the proposed building of the Wisconsin Central railroad to Ashland induced his return to his old home. He had held on to his lands on the bay as a forlorn hope, doubtful whether they were worth the light taxes levied upon them. This land now became valuable and placed him in easy circumstances. He was able with Mr. Whittlesey, Mr. Vaughn, Mr. Fifield, Colonel Knight and others to induce the building of four trunk lines of railroads to Ashland, to see numerous manufactures, a great blast-furnace, etc., three great ore docks, a busy, bustling city upon the bay, from which he had been compelled to retreat with the feeling that everything had been lost.

Many of our readers are familiar with Ellis Avenue in Ashland, Wisconsin, named in honor of Edwin Ellis, M.D.

In 1877 he was appointed as county judge of Ashland county, by Governor Smith, to which he has been twice re-elected by his fellow-citizens. He is president of the First National Bank of Ashland. He has retired from the general practice of his profession, but is one of the surgeons of St. Joseph’s hospital, which he visits an hour each day. He is still active and deeply interested in all that concerns Ashland; has aided in securing the Holly system of water-works, the gas and electric works and the street railway. He is a firm believer in the Christian religion and in a personal God, whose guiding hand he recognizes in all the events of his life, and to whom he owes everything and to whom he desires to honor in all his journey of life, and is still alive to all efforts designed to improve and elevate the condition of his fellow-men.

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

Land Office Frauds

March 25, 2016

By Amorin Mello

New York Times

December 9, 1858

—~~~0~~~—

Land Office Frauds.

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AGRICULTURAL CAPABILITIES HEREABOUT – LOCAL AMUSEMENTS AND EXCITEMENTS – SETTLEMENTS OF SUPERIOR CITY – A CONTROVERSY, AND SECRETARY M’CLELLAND’S ADJUDICATION OF IT – SECRETARY THOMPSON’S REVERSAL OF THAT JUDGEMENT – ITS CONSEQUENCES – LAND-STEALING RAMPANT – INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE ENTRY OF SUPERIOR CITY – THE LAND OFFICE REPEALS THE LAW OF THE LAND – A CASE FOR INVESTIGATION.

Correspondence of the New-York Times.

SUPERIOR CITY, Wis., Thursday, Nov. 25.

I am booked here for another winter, but fortunately with no fear of starvation this time.  We have been most successful the last Summer in our Agricultural labors.  The clay soils about here has proved marvelously fruitful, and where we expected little or nothing it has turned out huge potatoes that almost dissolve under the steaming process, and open as white as the inside of a cocoa-nut ; mammoth turnips, as good as turnips can be ; cabbages of enormous size ; and cauliflowers, that queen of vegetables, weighing as much as a child a year old.  There is no reason to fear for the future of this country, now that we can show such vegetable products, and talk of our gardens as well as of our mines, forests, furs, and fisheries.

We are not without our excitements here, too ; though we have no model artists, or theatrical exhibitions, to treat our friends with.  But our little city is now in a state of commotion produced by causes which often agitate frontier life, and sometimes reach the great center with their echo or reverberation.  The Land Office is the great point of interest to frontier men, and the land law is the only jurisprudence save Lynch law, in which we are particularly interested.  And as we have no means of reaching the great Federal legislature, through our Local Presses, we are always glad of an opportunity to be heard through the Atlantic organs, which are heard all over the country, and strike a note which the wind takes up and carries not only to San Francisco, but up here to the mouth of the St. Louis River, the hereafter great local point of Pacific and Atlantic intercommunication.

Eye of the Northwest, pg. 8

The Eye of the Northwest, pg. 8: James Stinson; Benjamin Thompson; W. W. Corcoran; U. S. Senator Robert J Walker; George W Cass; and Horace S Walbridge.

23rd United States Attorney General Caleb Cushing speculated in the St. Croix River valley for land and copper during the 1840s.

Five or six years ago a few American pioneers – stalwart backwoodsmen, undertook to select a town site out here, and did select one in good faith, and with clubs and muskets in had fought off from their premises a gang of Indians who were claiming to preëmpt it as “American citizens.”  The Indians, however, were backup up by a Canadian white man by the name of STINSON, and some of the great speculators who were engaged in another town enterprise alongside here, and this “Indian war” was protracted in the local and general Land Offices some two or three years, when Mr. M’CLELLAND, then Secretary of the Interior, made a final adjudication of all the legal questions involved in the controversy, and sent it back to the Land Office to ascertain and apply the facts to the law as settled, on great deliberation by himself and Mr. CUSHING.

More Proprietors of Supeior from The Eye of the North-west, pg. 9.

More Proprietors of Superior from The Eye of the North-west

, pg. 9: [names are illegible]

4th United States Secretary of the Interior Robert McClelland
5th United States Secretary of the Interior Jacob Thompson.

Meanwhile the original settlers and occupants maintained their adverse possession against the Indians and all the world, and expended a good deal of money in erecting buildings and a pier, and in cutting out streets and in laying out their town, and in carrying on their litigation, which was by no means inexpensive.  M’CLELLAND’s determination of the law in their favor encouraged them to go on and incur additional expenses ; and they parted with diverse interests in the town site, some by assignment to persons who advanced money, and some by sale on quit-claim to persons who covenanted to make improvements.  They made application to the proper office to enter the site, and nobody objected but the Indians – and the Indians were nowhere.  So things stood when the case went back to the General Land Office, and to Mr. Secretary THOMPSON.  The worthy Secretary, for some cause altogether unaccountable, adopted the extraordinary (and under the decision of the Supreme Court illegal) course of reversing the final judgement of his predecessor in this very case, (an exercise of power entirely unheard of in a case of mere private right,) and of rejecting the claim of the original occupants and settlers, though it was not contested by somebody who had a better right.

Madison Sweetzer was using Sioux Scrip to claim land, but does not appear to be a mixed blood member of the Sioux/Lakota/Dakota nation.
Commissioner of the General Land Office Thomas Andrews Hendricks later became the 21st Vice President of the United States.

You may well imagine that this decision excited no little astonishment here.  All the land stealers looked upon Superior City as vacant ground.  They thought the men who selected and settled the town site were outlawed, and had no interests.  Some supposed that the Land Office would put the ground up at auction.  A chap by the name of SWEETZER came on here fresh from the General Land Office, and undertook to lay Sioux scrip on the whole site.  Another – one JOHN GRANT – made application to preëmpt a portion of the site – and, what is the most remarkable feature about this business, GRANT was permitted to enter it as a preëmptor, though it was notoriously a selected town site, and in the adverse possession of town claimants half a year before GRANT ever saw it.  This outrage created a great excitement for a small place.  The Register, Mr. DANIEL SHAW, excuses himself by saying that he was almost expressly ordered by HENDRICKS to issue the certificate to GRANT, but this we do not believe in these parts.  SHAW is clever, and covers his tracks, but nobody here supposes that the Commissioner ever countenanced such a gross violation of a public statute, without a motive.  And what motive could the Commissioner have?

But, besides these movements, one of the Indians – ROY by name, who was defeated as one of the claimants by preëmeption – is now seeking to locate his Chippewa scrip on the town-site, and it is supposed that the same influences which urged him as an American citizen will support his claim as an Indian.  A white man by the name of KINGSBURY, encouraged by the disregard of law exhibited by the local office, has made a claim on another part of the town-site.  This purports to have originated in the fourth year of a litigation between the town claimants and the illegal preëmptors, and is supposed to be stimulated and encouraged by the Register.

Subsequently to his original rejection of the town-site claim, Mr. Secretary THOMPSON issued instructions to permit the entry, and the County Judge made application on the 18th instant, under the law of the United States, May 23, 1844.  On this being known, some of the persons heretofore claiming under the original settlers and occupants (who had selected the town and paid all the expenses of the settlement) came together and formed an organization as a city, under a recent law of Wisconsin, the object of which they declare to be secure to themselves a title from the United States to the lots they specially occupy, and to sell the balance to defray their expenses in entering and alloting the land!  The men whose rights vested under the absolute decision of Secretary MCCLELLAND, and who did all that they could do to enter the land, and paid the money for it more than two years ago, – the men whose “respective INTERESTS” the statute of 1844 recognizes and was designed to protect, – these men are all ruled off the course, and the men claiming under them have conspired to divide the land and its proceeds among themselves.

Preemption Act of 1841

Of course these iniquitous and illegal proceedings are all within the reach of the Courts – but they are the legitimate consequence of Mr. JACOB THOMPSON’s repeal of so much of the Preëmption Law of 1841 as excludes from preëmption those portions of the public lands that have been “selected as the site of a city or town.”  Mr. THOMPSON has overruled all his predecessors, all the Attorney-General, all the local offices, all the lexicographers, and the English language generally, by deciding solemnly that “selection” does not mean “selection,” but means something else – or more particularly nothing at all.  Because, says he, if adverse “selection” excluded a preëmptor, then a preëmptor might be excluded by a false allegation of selection.  Was there ever such an argal since Dogberry’s time?  The Secretary has discovered an equally efficient “dispensing power” with that of King JAMES of blessed memory, and one which his brethren in the Cabinet may use very efficiently, if Congress does not look into the subject and fix some limits to it. For now, not only the Secretary, but the Commissioner, and the Register and Receiver, all think that they are at liberty to treat the repeal by the Secretary as an effective nullification of the law of the land.

Receiver Eliab B Dean Jr and Register Daniel Shaw were at the Superior City Land Office.

If Congress would amuse their leisure a little by looking at these land office operations on the verge of civilization, they would strike a placer of corruption.  Let them open the books and call for the documents, and see what Dr. T. RUSH SPENSER, late Register of the Willow River District, says of his predecessor and successor, Mr. JOHN O. HENNING, and then ascertain by what influences HENNING has been reappointed, and SPENSER transferred to Superior.  Let them find out what Receiver DEAN said of Register SHAW, and what Register SHAW said of Receiver DEAN, and why DEAN was dismissed and why SHAW was retained.  It will be rare fun for somebody.  The country ought to know something about the Land Offices, and such an investigation as this would enlighten the country very materially.  I hope it will be made, and that the country will learn how it is that more land has been entered in this district by Indians, foreigners, and minors than by qualified preëmptors, and all for the benefit of a few favored speculators.

By Amorin Mello

This summer was a time of trauma for the Barber family immediately following the death of Augustus Hamilton Barber at the mouth of the Montreal River near his town-site claim of Ironton during the Spring of 1856.  Augustus had unfinished business on Lake Superior, which was being attended to by his brother Allen and father Giles in mourning.  

1856-08-19 Superior Chronicle - Ironton

Item from the Superior Chronicle, August 19th, 1856.  Ironton was platted during February of 1856 according to the Bayfield Mercury, August 15th, 1857.

The Summer of 1857 was also a when the town-site claims of Ashland and Ironton were being established and platted by merchants near the east and west borders of the Bad River Indian Reservation.  Several memoirs about the early days of Ashland and Ironton will be featured in this post to provide context due to copies of certain letters being missing from the Barber Papers.  Only one letter was archived from the Summer of 1856 in the Joel Allen Barber Papers, located at the end of this post.

Oral history traditions from the Lake Superior Chippewa tell about how the language describing the exterior boundaries of the LaPointe Indian Reservation were changed sometime between the 1854 Treaty of LaPointe negotiations and when it was ratified by Congress in 1855.  According to at least one oral history, both Ashland and Ironton were located within the boundaries negotiated at the treaty.


The Ashland Press

January 4, 1873

Ashland! It’s Growth During the Year 1872

A Quarter of a Million Dollars Expended in Improvements.
A Full List Of Buildings—Docks—And Railroad Work
ALL HAIL TO THE IRON CITY

The history of Ashland, full and complete, would require more space, and more labor in its preparation, than we can possibly give it at this time. Nor is it necessary in connection with this summary of its growth during the first year of its regenerated existence, to enter into an elaborate or extended article upon its past fortunes, but merely to give an outline showing its first organization, and a few of the most important items incident to its early settlement. This much we shall endeavor to do in this article, and no more, leaving other and better informed persons to give a full and accurate historical record, hereafter.

The Ashland Press
July 6, 1933
by Guy M. Burnham
During the month of February 1854, Leonard Wheeler, the missionary and an Odanah Indian met at Odanah, where Mr. Wheeler then lived, and drove on the ice along the south shore of the Chequamegon Bay, from Kakagon to Fish Creek. It was the year of the great treaty, in which the Indians agreed to cede most of their lands to the United States and to reserve tracts for their permanent homes. The Indians were glad to do this, for only four years before; the government had decided to move the Chippewa to the Minnesota country. William Whipple Warren led a large delegation to Minnesota but like all others who were interested, they much preferred Wisconsin. Leonard Wheeler himself, took up the cudgel of his wards, and practically led the fight to prevent the removal of the Chippewas from Wisconsin, but in 1854, it was understood that some sort of agreement was going to have to be reached, for white settlers were looking to the north, and they need an outlet to Lake Superior. The Indians realized that they would have to do something so Wheeler, the missionary and Little Current [aka Naawajiwanose], the Chippewa, were delegated to look over the south shore of Chequamegon Bay. William Wheeler who was a small boy accompanied his father and the Indian on the trip, says that the Indians furnished the pony and the missionary the cutter, and they drove down past where Ashland now stands, to the extreme head of the bay. From the head of the bay region, at Fish Creek to nearly where Whittlesey afterwards built his first house, there was a straggling Indian settlement, which the Indians called Equadon.
Every foot of land from Fish Creek to Odanah was Indian Land. It was in this settlement or village, which the wife of Robert Boyd, Jr., told me her father, lived in Equadon, near the many flowing springs, which we now call Prentice Park. The Indians thought the western limits of the proposed reservation of Bad River, should be the west end of the bay, but the missionary pointed out that that would keep the white men from building a city on the south shore of the bay, and that it would be advantageous to the Indians to have such a city built, as it would furnish a market for their furs and other products they might have for sale. Little Current agreed to this, and then and there, the agreed on the western limits of the Bad River Reservation should begin at the Kakagon just as it is now, extending the reservation far enough south to make up for the loss of the frontage from Kakagon to Fish Creek. Asaph Whittlesey frequently talked with Leonard Wheeler about good sites along the south shore and so about four months after the momentous trip of Leonard Wheeler and Little Current, near the end of February. Asaph Whittlesey and George Kilbourne rowed a boat over from Bayfield and felled the first tree, built the first house, establishing the settlement, which was to be known for about six years as Whittlesey. When Whittlesey felled the first tree on July 5, 1854, the land still belonged to the Indians. Three months later, on September 30, 1854, the Treaty of La Pointe was signed, under which Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff, the tip of Madeline Island, and Lac du Flambeau were reserved, but it was not until January 10, 1855, that the Senate ratified the treaty, which became a law by proclamation of President Franklin Pierce, on January 29, 1855.
Although Whittlesey built his first house on land, which still belonged to the Indians, there was little danger of the Wheeler-Little Current agreement being disturbed, and Whittlesey became Ashland in 1860. The head of the bay, which then, as well as now, swarmed with fish and game, became a part of the white man’s domain, and this included the Place of Many Springs, Prentice Park.

~ TurtleTrack.org

Old Ashland, to be properly written up, should be woven into the history of all the country extending from the head of Lake Superior to Ontonagon. This section from the beginning of the first settlements has been intimately connected in all its various fortunes, and its people of that date should be considered as one, and spoken of as the early day pioneers on the Lake. Scarcely an enterprise was attempted that a majority were not more or less interested in, and the early Ashlander was not satisfied with being limited to one small portion as the place of his adoption, but generally considered himself honored only when credited with being a citizen of the “Superior Country,” or as many term it, “of Lake Superior.” Like the old fashioned “Queen’s arm” the early settlers “scattered” terribly, and hence we find them at the present day, posessors of corner lots in exploded townsites, parchment mining stocks, iron lands, copper mines, mineral claims and silver veins, in almost every section of the south shore that has been explored. To enumerate all the enterprises attempted by these enterprising, pushing-ahead, speculating men, would be too great an undertaking for us, but a book, well written, giving a thorough history of their operations, would not only be intensely interesting, but posess a value scarcely to be enumerated. But it is not our purpose to digress. We have to do with Ashland only, and chiefly with its present growth and future prospects.

The Ashland of to-day was formerly Bay City, St. Mark and Ashland, two distinct townsites, located but half a mile apart, the intervening territory being that platted as St. Mark, best known as Vaughn’s Division. Each of these divisions has a history of its own, though of course more or less connected with each other in common interests. These three divisions have, since the new enterprise sprang into existence, been joined together and now constitutes the city of Ashland, all parties interested working harmoniously for the common interest and a general prosperity.

The Ashland Press
August 28, 1920
“Mr. [William] Wheeler was born at the mission at Odanah and remembers distinctly of a trip he made with his father [Leonard Wheeler] and one of the Indian Chiefs [Little Current aka Naawajiwanose], into the country to establish the boundary limes of the Bad River reservation. The Indians wanted the boundary line at Fish Creek but Rev. Wheeler told them to leave a site where the present city not stands, for he was certain that a big city would grow up and big boats from the outer world would sail into the harbor and that the people would furnish a market for the Indian’s products.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

On the 5th day of July, 1854, Asaph Whittlesey and George Kilbourn landed on the bank of Ashland bay, and immediately commenced the erection of a claim shanty, within fifty feet of the west line of Section 5, Town 47 north, Range 4 west, in Ashland proper. The first tree was felled by Mr. Whittlesey, on that day, and by night the first log house, 14×16, was commenced. On the 27th day of August this building was occupied by Mr. Whittlesey’s family. It was used many years after for various purposes, and its ruins can still be found on the bank of the bay. During the same season the small log house near the present residence of James A. Wilson, Esq., on lot 6, block 6 was built, and in November of the same year the largest of the three log houses now standing on the same lot was completed and became the residence of Mr. Whittlesey, which he occupied until the fall of 1857. This house has quite a history. It has witnessed many an exciting and tragic scene, as well as many a pleasant and happy gathering. If its walls could speak, and possessed the genius of a Shakspeare, they would tell a story that would out rival in magic fascination any work of fiction. It was within its walls that the first permanent white settlers in Ashland dwelt. In its spacious room in the winter of 1854, the man of God, the missionary in the cause of Christ, preached the first sermon ever preached on the town-site. The minister was the late Rev. L.H. Wheeler, founder of the Odanah Mission, and a man known as a good and earnest Christian missionary, loved and respected by all the border settlement. It was here that the first ball was given in 1854; the first Fourth of July celebrated, in 1855, some thirty persons participating. It was the first post office, established in March, 1855, with Mr. Whittlesey as P.M. It was here too, that the first election was held, in the spring of 1856, at which time the town of Bayport, (which included Ashland and Bay City and all the surrounding county,) was organized. It was also the scene of a sad tragedy, when Henry Cross, in self defense, shot and killed Robert D. Boyd in 1858. The first Sabbath School was organized in this house in 1858, by Ingraham Fletcher, Esq. It was also, May 31st, 1856, the birth place of Miss Delia E. Whittlesey, the second white child born in the town, the first birth being that of Katherine Goeltz, early in the same month. Many other interesting events might be enumerated as belonging to its history, but space forbids. The old house still remains a monument of Ashland’s former glory.

The first freight ever landed from a steamer in our harbor, was in September, 1854. The steamer “Sam Ward,” Capt. Exsterbrook, brought the household goods of Mr. Whittlesey to Ashland at that time, and they were landed in small boats in the ravine near the foot of Main street.

“The first marriage in the town was that of Martin Roehm to Mrs. Modska, in the fall of 1859, John W. Bell officiating, (music furnished by Conrad Goeltz,)” and a good time generally indulged in by all who participated in the festivities. And here let us state that Ashland was never forsaken by this sturdy veteran pioneer couple. They stood by the place with characteristic German fidelity, king and queen of the deserted village, corner lots and all until the dawn of the new era commenced.

The Indian in his might
Roamed monarch of this wild domain,
With none to bar his right.
Excepting fearless Martin Rhoem.

The first government survey of the territory around the head of the bay was made in 1848, when the township lines were run by S.C. Norris, deputy U.S. Surveyor. It was not subdivided, however, until 1856. The town-site of Ashland, embracing lots 1, 2 and 3, and the N. half of the S.W. quarter, N.W. quarter of S.E. quarter and N.E. quarter Section 5, Town 47, Range 4, was surveyed and platted by G.L. Brunschweiler in 1854, and entered at the United Stated Land Office, at Superior, by Schuyler Goff, County Judge, under the laws then governing the location of town-sites on Lake Superior, December 11th, 1856, for the use and benefit of the owners and occupants thereof, viz: “Asaph Whittlesey, George Kilbourne and Martin Beaser.”

Most of the names mentioned in this article also appeared in the Penoka Survey Incidents series.

Succeeding the first settlement above mentioned, the population of Ashland increased quite rapidly. During the year 1854 several families moved in. Among the new corners were Martin Beaser, J. P. S. Haskell, Austin Cousen, John Cousen, Conrad Goeltz, A. J. Barclay, Capt. J. D. Angus, G. L. Brunschweiler, Frederic Prentice, Adam Goeltz, John Donaldson, David Lusk and Albert Little. Of these a few remained only a short time, coming merely for temporary purposes. 1855 brought a still larger increase of inhabitants, among them M. H. Mandlebaum (now a resident of Hancocck, Mich.), Augustus Barber (who was drowned at Montreal River in 1856), Benj. Hoppenyan, Chas. Day, Geo R. Stuntz, George E. Stuntz, Dr. Edwin Ellis, Martin Roehm, Col. Lysander Cutler, J. S. Buck, Ingraham Fletcher, Hon. J. R. Nelson, Hon. D. A. J. Baker, Mrs. Conrad Goeltz, Henry Drixler (father of Mrs. Conrad Goeltz, who died in 1857, his being the first death in town), and Henry Palmer.  In 1856, Mrs. Beaser (now Mrs. James A. Wilson) arrived, also Oliver St. Germain and family, still here; Mrs. J.D. Angus and family, John Beck and family, Schuyler Goff (afterwards County Judge) and Chas. E. Tucker. In 1857, Mr. Eugene F. Prince and family, A. C. Stuntz and family, Wm. Goetzenberger, Geo. Tucker and others arrived.

Vaughn, Ellis, and Beaser are the names of prominent avenues in Ashland today.

On the 25th of October, 1856, Hon. S.S. Vaughn pre-empted Lot 1, Section 32, Town 48, Range 4, and the East half of the N.E. quarter and the N.E. quarter of the S.E. quarter Section 5, Town 47, Range 4, the same being now Vaughn’s Division of Ashland. In 1856 Bay City was surveyed and platted, the town-site being owned by a stock company, of which Dr. Edwin Ellis was the agent. Under his direction a large clearing was made, a store, hotel and several substantial buildings created. A saw mill was also commenced, the frame of which is now standing near the east end of the new bridge across Bay Creek creek. During the same year and the next following improvements were being rapidly made in old Ashland. Martin Beaser, Esq., who was the leading business man and property holder of the place, gave it its name, (after the homestead of Henry Clay, he being an ardent admirer of that eminent statesman,) and erected the store and residence now occupied by James A. Wilson, Esq. Eugene F. Prince built his present residence, and quite a number of dwellings were put up, several of which are still standing and have been fitted up and occupied, while others have been destroyed or fallen into decay. Temporary docks were built both at Bay City and Ashland.

The Ashland dock was built by Martin Beaser and cost about $4,000. Both however were allowed to rot down and wash away. Main street and a portion of what is now Second street, as well as a number of avenues were opened and improved. Additions were also platted, and most prominent being ”Prentice’s Addition,” in 1856, and the Ashland of that day presented a live and vigorous aspect, containing as it did a thrifty and energetic class of citizens.

With the continuing reports of minerals in the area and some mining being done, another group of hopefuls sought recognition as a corporation and received charter to begin mining.  This corporation was formed in Milwaukee and was known as the Wisconsin & Lake Superior Mining & Smelting Co.  Its charter was granted in 1856 by the State of Wisconsin, and with the charter the company was granted about 1,900 acres of land in the Penokee Range, some of which is now in Iron County and some in Ashland County.”
[…]
“The other two villages planned for their mining venture were Springdale and Lockwood.”
[…]

“Ironton was the headquarters for the officers for only a short time.  They moved their office duties to Ashland shortly after getting established.

The names of some of the merchants from Ashland who planned to be the suppliers for these villages included McElwin [McEwen], Herbert and Mandelbaum.  Herbert’s name is mentioned in other areas as well as the name of Mandelbaum, who is mentioned in the history of Ontonagon also.”
~ A Historical and Archaeological Reconnaissance of the Saxon Harbor area, Iron County, Wisconsin by John F Wackman et al, pages 57-58.

This was in an era of speculation and Lake Superior the theatre of many a town-site and mining operation, The Penoka Iron Range had begun to attract the attention of eastern capitalists, while the Copper Range and the mineral regions of the Porcupine Mountains had drawn thither a number of daring adventurers, who sought their fortunes in the discovery of valuable metals. Railroads too were projected then, and the brave surveyors with their compass and chains were penetrating the forest and engineering a path through a trackless wilderness to the land of civilization that lay far away to the south. Ashland then, as now, was the center of attraction, and to possess corner lots and broad acres was to realize one’s fortune.

But Ashland was not alone in its glory. Superior City, at the head of the Lake; Red Cliff, Bayfield, Houghton and La Pointe, among the Apostle harbors; Ironton, near the mouth of Montreal river on Raymond Bay; and Ontonagon, Copper Harbor, Eagle River, Hancock, Houghton and Marquette, on the peninsula of Michigan, were each points of interest and struggling for an existence, their claims being urged by their proprietors with characteristic energy. Money was lavishly expended; mining both of copper and iron largely engaged in and the whole country was apparently undergoing that rapid development that leads to general prosperity and thrift.

[…]


The Ashland Press

February 26, 1926

CITY OF ASHLAND IS 72 YEARS OLD TODAY

The Ashland Press
May 3, 1910
“In the year 1855, Dr. Edwin Ellis located upon land to the eastward of Whittleseys. Instead of locating under the town site laws, Mr. Ellis entered a homestead and began to literally hue out his path to civilization. Several of the doctor’s friends joined him and located on adjacent land and soon there was a plat filed of the town of ‘Bayport.’ After a few years of continuous hardships and disappointments, the hardy pioneers became disheartened and some even moved away. The plat of ‘Bayport’ was declared vacated, but when business began to revive and new settlers came in 1872, the old town plat was revived and reinstated by Dr. Ellis as Ellis Division of the city of Ashland.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society
Ellis successfully petitioned Warner Lewis at the General Land Office in Dubuque to survey Chequamegon Bay.  This was the contract the Barber Brothers had completed in the Summer and Fall of 1855.
The American Fur Company at La Pointe was now owned and operated by Julius Austrian and his family.  Austrian was contracted to operate (via Mixed-Bloods) the mail route between La Pointe and St. Paul.

The city of Ashland is seventy-two years old today, for on Feb. 24, 1854, Dr. Edwin Ellis landed in Ashland, at a spot where Whittesey Avenue now is located. Dr. and Mrs. Ellis had come from Maine and stopped at St. Paul, with Mrs. Ellis’ brother. From St. Paul, Dr. Ellis walked all the way to Superior. Then to Bayfield, then to La Pointe, in the ice, and then on to Ashland. He constructed the first log cabin at what is now Whittlesey Avenue. Asaph Whittlesey and Kilbourn, the next white men to come to this part of the country, arrived in June or July of the same year.

In 1855, Dr. Ellis walked to Dubuque, Iowa to file a petition to have this country surveyed. The trail which he took was know as the St. Croix Falls and from there Dr. Ellis took a steamer down the river to Dubuque. In 1856 he went to St. Paul and brought Mrs. Ellis and the two girls back with him.

The American Fur Company was situated at La Pointe, at this time but had very little to do with the mainland. The people in the early days sent to Chicago for their supplies. As there was always somebody walking to St. Paul they would send their orders by one of these men and from there the mail was taken to Chicago. The suppliers would come up on the last boat which came up Lake Michigan to what is now the Soo Canal.

Twice the boats on their last trip were wrecked and the early settlers would be without supplies for the winter.

The principal food was fish. Deer at that time always left the country during the winter.

Martin Beaser and party arrived here a short time after the Ellis’ but the Beasers settled on the shore where Beaser Avenue is now situated. This whole country was a mass of woods and the Beaser home. which is now the Jack Harris home, was practically the only house at what is called Old Ashland. When the Ellis Family visited the Beasers they had to hitch up the oxen and go through the dense woods.

Scott Ellis was born August 24, 1824, which is also the birthday of Queen Victoria. He died May 3, 1903, at Ashland, after watching the city grow from a dense forest to the present city.


The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

July 28, 1877

Recollections of Ashland

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART”
Number V

This memoir was ghostwritten for The Ashland Press by Doctor Edwin Ellis.

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

Detail from Sketch of the Public Surveys in Wisconsin and Territory of Minnesota by the Surveyor General's Office (Warner Lewis), Dubuque, Oct. 21, 1854.

Detail from Sketch of the Public Surveys in Wisconsin and Territory of Minnesota by the Surveyor General’s Office (Warner Lewis), Dubuque, Oct. 21, 1854.

“In 1845 [Warnen Lewis] was appointed Register of the United States Land Office at Dubuque. In 1853 he was appointed by President Pierce Surveyor-General for Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota and at the expiration of his term was reappointed by President Buchanan.”
~ The Iowa Legislature

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

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

“In June, 1855, Dr. Ellis went through the woods to Dubuque, Iowa, to urge upon General Warner Lewis, then surveyor-general of all the northwest, the neccessity of the immediate subdivision of the towns about the bay.  This met with General Lewis’ approval, and he ordered it done as soon as arrangements could be made.  A young civil engineer from Vermont, Augustus Barber, began the work in September, and towns 47 and 48, range 4, embracing the present city of Ashland, were surveyed and the plats returned to Washington and to the land office, at Superior, by November, 1855.  The necessary declaratory statements were filed, and in the last of December several companions walked along the shore to superior, for the purpose of proving up their claims.  It was a cold, hard trip, but the actors were young and energetic.  Thus was obtained from the government the first title to the soil on which Ashland now stands.”
~ The National Magazine; A Monthly Journal of American History, Volume 9, page 23.
Superior City’s controversial origins were featured in the Prologue post of this series.  The Barber Brothers’ surveys of Chequamegon Bay and Ashland were featured in the Summer and Fall posts of 1855.

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

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

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

Superior City’s controversial origins were featured in the Prologue post of this series.

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

Gravestone at Hillside Cemetery in Lancaster, Grant County, Wisconsin:

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

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

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

“According to the Bureau of Public Lands, Department of the Interior, the land surveys were not completed in that area [Ironton] of Wisconsin nor offered for sale to the public until November 18, 1866.

[…]

“A practical location for an operating headquarters was chosen at the site of the Indian settlement on the shore of Lake Superior on that piece of level ground where there were mountains on three sides and through which a creek ran.  The village at this location was named Ironton, and because of the activities planned for it and two other mining locations farther inland a group of merchants from Ashland assisted in building up this boat landing and supply headquarters.  A dock was built and several buildings for warehouses and some living quarters.”

~ A Historical and Archaeological Reconnaissance of the Saxon Harbor area, Iron County, Wisconsin by John F Wackman et al, pages 57-58.

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

As indication of its future chief industry, as the entry point of the iron range – it was called Ironton,” with the accent on the second syllable. Great expectations were entertained of the future importance of the place, and much land was entered in the vicinity.

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

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


Interior Field Notes

Ironton Townsite

La Pointe Indian Reservation

Township 47 North, Range 1 West

Barber, Augustus H.

November, 1856

Notebook ID: [N/a]

This survey is mentioned by multiple sources, however, the Barber Brothers’ field notes and plat map for Ironton from 1856 are not available from the General Land Office Records or from theWisconsin Public Lands Survey Records. Did Warner Lewis receive them at the General Land Office in Dubuque, Iowa?  The search for these survey notes continues.


Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from Spring of 1856.


Superior City Sept 15th 1856

Dear Mother

“Ironton’s potential was very promising.  While all the activity was taking place for a mining center, plans were being made by the Milwaukee & Superior Railroad to extend its line northward from Stevens Point to a terminus at Ironton at the shore of Lake Superior, then to continue west to Bay City (now Ashland).”[…]

“Besides the officers of the mining company, several businessmen of Ashland became interested in a railroad between Ashland Penokee Gap.

Some of these men were J.S. Beisch, Martin Beaser, John S. Harriss, I.A. Lapham, J.C. Cutler, Edwin Ellis and T.C. Dousman.  This railroad was to be the Ashland & Iron Mountain Railroad.  A lot of planning and some work was being done when quite suddenly the Panic of 1857 came on bursting many bubbles and bringing to a halt all of the mining activities, causing an exodus of many workers and a large number of potential settlers.”
~ A Historical and Archaeological Reconnaissance of the Saxon Harbor area, Iron County, Wisconsin by John F Wackman et al, page 60.

I wrote a few words to you a few days ago when I was unwell and had to be rather short.  I have since recovered my usual health and will try to write a longer letter, but I am afraid it will be of little interest.  I see you are anxious that I should quit the lake.  It is not strange that you should wish dread to have me remain here.  You wish me to come to [?] to Lancaster or any where but here.

Now to tell the truth I am as much attached to this lake as to any other place and I don’t know how to leave it.  I know its disadvantages and privations as well as any one.  I know the sweets of a more social life and much do I long for them.  I know the luxury of living on a fertile soil in a genial climate and hope some day to enjoy it, but still if my life is spared Lake Superior will probably see me occasionally for a number of years.

You ask me my opinion in preference between a good farm in Grant County and ten miles of forest in this country and be bound to it.  But I should not be bound to it if I owned [40/41?] miles and there are many farms about here worth more money than any farm on Lamoille river of twice the size.

Ironton townsite claim at Saxon Harbor with trails to Odanah and the Penoka Iron Range. (Detail from Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records)

Detail of Ironton property with trails to Odanah and the Penokee Mountains from T47N-R1W.  This survey map was from Elisha S Norris during 1861.

I hope to visit Lancaster this fall but the middle of winter will see me threading my way back to this wild country.  I would like extremely to visit Vermont next winter if possible but I expect my engagements will render it impossible.

I hope you will not dwell too much on the terrors of his country and fancy I am suffering all imaginable hardships.  I am never hungry and seldom cold or over fatigued.  I like the climate about as well any south of here and would sooner emigrate North west than South East, were I not bound by social ties.  Were I to follow agriculture as a source of profit I would not go to Vermont or Grant County.

In regard to my Ironton property I have no hopes of getting you to think as you do.

Hon. D. A. J. Baker was introduced as an early resident of Ashland in our Penokee Survey Incidents series.  Baker appears to be in business with the Barbers at Ironton.

“A trail between “Penokee” and Ashland is shown on Stuntz’s map of 1858.  An Indian trail between Ironton and Odanah was improved for transportation and communication when land travel was preferred to lake travel or when the lake could not be used.  During that same time the trail between Odanah and Ashland was being improved to accommodate heavier traffic.  (This road later became a part of Old U.S. 10 and now is Ashland County Truck “A”.)

The original Ironton to Odanah trail began on the west side of the village, ascending the highlands at that point, then followed a southwesterly course paralleling the Oronto Creek but avoiding the obstacles of lowlands or ravines until it reached a point where the headwaters of both Oronto Creek and Graveyard Creek were but a few yards apart.  As it passed this narrow strip of land and headed both streams it swung sharply to the west towards Odanah.”

A Historical and Archaeological Reconnaissance of the Saxon Harbor area, Iron County, Wisconsin by John F Wackman et al, page 59.

I may be obliged to sacrifice the whole of it, but it will not be my fault.  Mr. Baker sold five shares a few days ago for city lots here which will soon be worth 500 dollars.  The opinion of explorers and speculars expressed in deeds as well as words confirm my opinion of the place.  I suppose Father writes everything concerning his business here so I will depend on him for that and not repeat it.

I would set a time to come home but the future is so uncertain I fear I should only disappoint you and myself.  I never yet planned anything as it turns out.  I intended to return to Lancaster last fall but did not.  I intended to go down last spring but was prevented by the death of Augustus.  If I wait untill next spring before going down I shall go to Vermont at the same time probably.  “Man proposes and God disposes.”  I can only guess how God will dispose my affairs.

I see that you and Amherst feel rather bitter towards [Dow’s?] folks.  I am sorry that is so.  It is unavoidable that you should see a great many things that you don’t approve but the sum of my advice is “Let em rip.”

I hope to go to Lapointe and Ashland before long where I am about as well acquainted as at any place I ever lived at.

I am now engaged on the field notes of Augustus’ work – [fitting?] them for the office.

With love for yourself and Amherst I remain

Your affectionate son

Allen


To be continued in the Fall of 1856

By Amorin Mello

In our Penoka Survey Incidents series earlier this year, we followed some of the adventures and schemes of Albert Conrad Stuntz circa 1857.  The legacy of Albert’s influential survey still defines the geopolitical landscape of the Penokee Mountains to this day.  However, Albert’s work during the late 1850s was relatively minor in comparison to that of his brother, George Riley Stuntz, during the early 1850s.  The surveying work of George and his employees started in 1852 and enabled the infamous land speculators and townsite promotors of Superior City to manifest their schemes by early 1854 (months before the Treaty of La Point occurred later that year).  

Among the men that worked with George was Augustus Hamilton Barber.  Sometime around 1850, Augustus had followed his Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins from the Barber family of Lamoille County, Vermont, to Lancaster in Grant County, Wisconsin.  After a short career as a school teacher in Grant County, Augustus came to Lake Superior in 1852 employed by George as a Chainman under his contract with the United States General Land Office to survey lands at the Head of Lake Superior.

Before taking a closer look at the Barber Papers, let’s examine the lives and affairs of other surveyors and speculators along the southwest shore of Lake Superior, starting with George Riley Stuntz and his production of these Exterior Field Notes (June of 1852):

1852 affidavit 1 1852 affidavit 2 1852 affidavit 3

Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota;
Their Story and People

By Walter Van Brunt, 1921, pages 64-65.

Page 75.

Portrait of George Nettleton’s cabin on Minnesota Point in 1852 on page 75.

William Rainey Marshall was a Democrat in Wisconsin and as a Republican in Minnesota.
A biography of the brothers George and William Nettleton is available at ZenithCity.com.

First Settler.– The honor, for both Superior and Duluth, must presumably go to George R. Stuntz. He came in 1852, and settled in 1853. Several were earlier of course, but can hardly be considered to have been legitimate independent settlers. Carlton had been on the ground, at Fond du Lac, for some years, but he was Indian agent; Borup and Oaks had spent their time between La Pointe and Fond du Lac, but were then at St. Paul, and mainly interested in the development of that city, and in fur trading. Wm. R. Marshall stated that he “was on the lake as early as 1848,” but not to settle and he did not come again until 1857. Wm. R. Marshall and George R. Stuntz were fellow-surveyors, in federal pay, “back in the ’40s,” but Marshall did not seek to take the place of Stuntz as premier pioneer at the head of Lake Superior. As a matter of fact, although “on the lake as early as “1848,” Marshall did not then get nearer to Duluth than La Pointe, where he met “Borup and Oaks, the principal traders, Truman Warren, George Nettleton, Cruttenden, Wattrous, Rev. Sherman Hall, E. F. Ely and others.” It is quite possible that Stuntz was with Marshall in 1848, for that was the year in which Stuntz first entered Minnesota territory “having charge of a surveying party that was working near Lake Pepin and in what is now Washington County.”

A biography of George B. Sargent is available at ZenithCity.com.

The “Heart of the Continent.”– George R. Stuntz prepared the way for the first attempt at white settlement at the head of Lake Superior. He surveyed the land on the Wisconsin side, within a year of beginning which survey, in 1852, the first settlers began to appear. George R. Stuntz came by direction of George B. Sargent, who at the time was surveyor-general of the Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota district for the federal government, his headquarters being at Davenport, Iowa. In that year, states Carey, “he surveyed and definitely located a portion of the northeastern boundary line between Minnesota and Wisconsin, starting from the head of navigation on the St. Louis River, at Fond du Lac, and running south to the St. Croix River.Stuntz himself stated: “I came in 1852. I saw the advantages of this point (Minnesota Point) as clearly then as I do now (1892). On finishing the survey for the government, I went away to make a report, and returned the next spring and came for good. I saw as surely then as I do now that this was the heart of the continent commercially, and so I drove my stakes.”

Group of people, including a number of Ojibwe at Minnesota Point, Duluth, Minnesota [featuring William Howenstein] ~ University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library

Group of people, including a number of Ojibwe at Minnesota Point, Duluth, Minnesota [featuring William Howenstein in 1872?] ~ University of Minnesota Duluth

Stuntz and Howenstein competed with Nettleton and others for fame as the first settlers on Minnesota Point after Stuntz’s 1852 survey with Augustus Barber.

The Vanguard.– He did not come alone, needing of course assistants in the work of surveying, but he was in charge of the work, Gand necessarily takes first place in the accounting. William C. Sargent, son of George B. Sargent, stated in 1916, that his father “came here (Duluth) first in 1852 with George R. Stuntz and Bill Howenstein,” and goes on to state “a word of those two grand men, George R. Stuntz and Bill Howenstein.” He believed that “to George R. Stuntz, more than to any other man belongs the honor (of) opening up that region,” and of Howenstein, he said: “And old Bill Howenstein, one of the best ever, and always my very good friend, a kindly body, with a quaint dry humor unsurpassed and seldom met with in these later days. I had many an interesting chat with him, in his home on Minnesota Point, that he built in 1852, and lived in until his death, some years ago.” Bill Howenstein, undoubtedly was of Stuntz’ party in 1852, but it is doubtful whether he built a log house on Minnesota Point in that year. As to General Sargent’s visit in 1852. If he did come then, it was probably only a flying visit. His interest in the head of Lake Superior in 1852 reached only to the extent of directing Stuntz to survey it. He, himself, had the surveying business of three states to attend to.


The New York Times

[December 11, 1852]

The Region about the Southwest End of Lake Superior.

Augustus H. Barber also lived in Grant County, where George R. Stuntz was the County Sheriff during 1851-52.

Mr. Stuntz, of Grant County, Wis., has been deputed by the general Land Surveyor of this Northwest District to lay off such a tract of land about the southwest point of the lake into townships and sections, as emigrants will earliest require.  He returned via La Pointe and Stillwater last week. We have obtained from him some new views of that region. From Fond du Lac, a trading post situated 11 miles inland on the St. Louis River, eastward, for perhaps 50 miles, the margin of the lake is a flat strip of land reaching back to a rocky ridge about 11 miles off. The soil of this flat land is a rich red clay. The wood is white cedar and pine of the most magnificent growth. The American line is beyond the mouth of the St. Louis and Pigeon rivers. It evidently abounds in copper, iron and silver. The terrestrial compass cannot be used there, so strong is the attraction to the earth. The needle rears and plunges “like mad.” Points of survey have to be fixed by the solar compass.

This individual is likely Joseph B. Houle from Lac Courte Oreilles who became an early settler of Superior City with his Roy brothers-in-law.  Big Joewas featured in the Penoka Survey Incidents memoirs by James Smith Buck, and may also beKitchie Ininifrom Joseph Austrian’s memoirs.

The Indian and half breed packmen have astonishing strength. One Indian, who is described by the others as being as large as two men, carried for a company of 11 men provisions for ten days, viz: one barrel of flour, half barrel of pork and something else, beside the utensils. Mirage is a common phenomenon is Spring and Summer. For the bays not opening as soon as the main lake, or not cooling so early, an object out on the lake, is viewed from the shore, through a dense medium of air and a thin medium. Hence is a refraction of rays which gives so many wonderful sights that the Chippewas call that the spirit or enchanted land. Sail vessels which are really 40 miles off, are seen flapping and bellying about almost within touch. Turreted Islands, look heavy and toppling towards the zenith. Forests seem to leap from their stems and go a soaring like thistles for the very sport of it.

Born in Denmark, Doctor Charles William Wulff Borup intermarried with the Beaulieu Family of La Pointe Chippewa during the 1830’s.  As an employee of the American Fur Company, Borup relocated the village of La Pointe from the Old Fort location to the modern site in 1836.  The Borup/Beaulieu/Oakes Family appear to be the last owners of the defunct American Fur Company outfit at La Pointe before Julius Austrian purchased all of La Pointe in 1853, including Borup’s residence and garden. By then, Borup was absent from La Pointe, and engaged in the earliest banking and Freemasonry activities of Minnesota in St. Paul.

The ice did not leave some of the bays till the 10th of June. The fish are delicious, especially the salmon trout. But little land game. Mr. Stunts calculates on wonderful enterprises in that country after the opening of the Saut Canal.

Mr. S. describes La Pointe a town of the Lake, as being situated at the head of a bay some 25 miles from the high lake, and secluded from the lake by several islands. He saw there a warehouse 300 feet long, built of tamarac poles, and roofed with bark. This building is very much warped by the pressure of age ; it is entered by a wooden railway. The town is dingy and dreary. He saw a most luxurious garden by the former residence of Dr. Borup. It contained a variety of fruit trees and shrubs, such as plums, cherries, apples, pears, currants, &c.


1852

Cover of Stuntz’s Exterior Field Notes (August-October 1852) ~ Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records: Original Field Notes and Plat Maps

Title page.

1852 Iron River assistants

George Riley Stuntz was also assisted by his brother Albert Conrad Stuntz as well as the African-Chippewa mixed-blood Stephen Bonga employed as an Axeman. To learn more about the interesting Bonga (Bonza) family and Stephen as “the first white child born at the head of Lake Superior,” read pages 39-41 of The Black West by William Loren Katz (1971), and pages 131-34 of Black Indians also by Katz (2012).


The Eye of the North-west: First Annual Report of the Statistician of Superior, Wisconsin

By Frank Abial Flower, 1890

Portrait of Steven Bonga, pg. 7

Portrait of Stephen Bonga, page 7.

GEORGE R. STUNTZ, DEPUTY U. S. SURVEYOR [pages 50-52]

Portrait of George Riley Stuntz, pg.

Portrait of George Riley Stuntz, page 26.

In 1852 George R. Stuntz took a contract to run the township lines in this part of the country, including the state boundary, and filed with the land-office at Dubuque a rude map of the head of the lake, on the Wisconsin side, in December of that year. He took a new contract and returned in the spring of 1853 to survey the copper range around Black River, a few miles south of Superior. He brought seeds with him and planting them on the Namdji, raised a quantity of vegetables; they grew to great size. he also built a trading-post on Minnesota point near the present light-house, and a mill on Iron River in Bayfield county. In respect of these operations W. W. Ward writes from Morley, Mo.:

W. W. Ward also came to Lake Superior employed as a Chainman with Augustus H. Barber for George R. Stuntz’s first contract in June of 1852.  Was he related to Matt Ward from the Penoka Survey Incidents?
FIRST SAW MILLS AT THE HEAD OF LAKE SUPERIOR
The first lumber of any description produced locally, other than by “Whip sawing”, was at Iron River, Wisconsin about forty miles from Superior on the South Shore of Lake Superior.
George R. Stuntz with William C. Howenstein, Andrew Reefer and George Falkner built and operated a water power “up and down” sawmill at the falls on Iron River about a half a mile from the Lake, capable of cutting three thousand feet of lumber a day. The writer has several 1 1/4 inch absolutely “clear” White Pine boards 24 and 26 inches wide and 18 feet long that were originally stored in a loft to be used in building a skiff. This mill was built in 1854 and the lumber was floated up the Lake to Superior, Oneota and Fond du Lac…
~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])
SUPERIOR TOURIST SEASON OF 1854
From “A Pioneer of Old Superior” by Lillian Kimball Stewart
“In the summer of ’54 the Sam Ward plying between the Sault and any port on Lake Superior, brought on every trip a goodly number of emigrants, speculators, and tourists, bent on seeing the new “city” of Superior. Stuntz’s dock was located near an Indian village, so that every traveler as well as every piece of freight or baggage was subject to inspection by braves, squaws, and papooses before receiving a passport to the shore across the bay…”
~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])

“It was in the spring of 1853 that Mr. Stuntz, Deputy U. S. Surveyor, received his second contract to survey and run the township lines taking in the range around Black River Falls, a portion of Left-hand River country and that part where Superior now is. In the latter part of April that year he organized a party – viz., Nat. W. Kendall, James McKinzie, Pain Bradt, James McBride, Harvey Fargo, Wm. H. Reed, John Chisholm, Joseph Latham, Augustus Barber, and your humble servant. Procured three birch-bark canoes and supplies at Stillwater, Minn.: left there the first day of May, passed up the St. Croix River to its head, made a portage of about two and a half miles into the headwaters of the Brule River, down said river into Lake Superior, thence up the lake to what was called the entry of St. Louis Bay [now Superior Bay], and landed on Minnesota Point in the early part of June. At that time there were no white settlers in this end of the lake – all Chippewa Indians and ‘breeds’ – scarcely a stick missing on that side of the bay where Superior City now stands. We finished the surveying contract and went in early fall down to Iron River, built a double log-shanty, and made other preparations for the construction of a saw mill. Here the first lumber was made at the head of the lake and the first road opened through to the settlement on the St. Croix. The following February, Mr. Stuntz having a trading-post on Minnesota Point [then Stuntz’s Point], I went there and assisted in building a block-house and steamboat pier, and found improvements and a few log-shanties built where old Superior now is located.”

[…]

HUSTLING FOR TOWNSITES [pages 58-60]

Vincent Roy Jr. (From Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst

Vincent Roy Jr.  ~ Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst,

VI. – Superior.

Vincent [Roy Jr.] had barely emerged from the trouble just described when it was necessary for him to exert himself in another direction.  A year or so previously he had taken up a claim of land at the headwaters of Lake Superior and there was improvement now on foot for that part of the country, and danger for his interests.

The ship canal at Sault St Marie was in course of construction and it was evidently but a question of days that boats afloat on Lakes Huron and Michigan would be able to run up and unload their cargo for regions further inland somewhere on the shore at the further end of Lake Superior, at which a place, no doubt, a city would be built.  The place now occupied by the city of Superior was suitable for the purposes in view but to set it in order and to own the greatest possible part of it, had become all at the same time the cherished idea of too many different elements as that developments could go on smoothly.  Three independent crews were struggling to establish themselves at the lower or east end of the bay when a fourth crew approached at the upper or west end, with which Vincent, his brother Frank, and others of LaPointe had joined in.  As this crew went directly to and began operations at the place where Vincent had his property it seems to have been guided by him, though it was in reality under the leadership of Wm. Nettleton who was backed by Hon. Henry M. Rice of St. Paul.  Without delay the party set to work surveying the land and “improving” each claim, as soon as it was marked off, by building some kind of a log-house upon it.  The hewing of timber may have attracted the attention of the other crews at the lower end about two or three miles off, as they came up about noon to see what was going on. The parties met about halfway down the bay at a place where a small creek winds its way through a rugged ravine and falls into the bay.  Prospects were anything but pleasant at first at the meeting; for a time it seemed that a battle was to be fought, which however did not take place but the parceling out of ‘claims’ was for the time being suspended.  This was in March or April 1854.  Hereafter some transacting went on back the curtain, and before long it came out that the interests of the town-site of Superior, as far as necessary for efficient action, were united into a land company of which public and prominent view of New York, Washington, D.C. and other places east of the Mississippi river were the stockholders.  Such interests as were not represented in the company were satisfied which meant for some of them that they were set aside for deficiency of right or title to a consideration.  The townsite of the Superior of those days was laid out on both sides of the Nemadji river about two or three miles into the country with a base along the water edge about half way up Superior bay, so that Vincent with his property at the upper end of the bay, was pretty well out of the way of the land company, but there were an way such as thought his land a desirable thing and they contested his title in spite of his holding it already for a considerable time.  An argument on hand in those days was, that persons of mixed blood were incapable of making a legal claim of land.  The assertion looks more like a bugaboo invented for the purpose to get rid of persons in the way than something founded upon law and reason, yet at that time some effect was obtained with it.  Vincent managed, however, to ward off all intrusion upon his property, holding it under every possible title, ‘preemption’ etc., until the treaty of LaPointe in the following September, when it was settled upon his name by title of United States scrip so called, that is by reason of the clause, as said above, entered into the second article of that treaty.

The subsequent fate of the piece of land here in question was that Vincent held it through the varying fortune of the ‘head of the lake’ for a period of about thirty six years until it had greatly risen in value, and when the west end was getting pretty much the more important complex of Superior, an English syndicate paid the sum of twenty five thousand dollars, of which was then embodied in a tract afterwards known as “Roy’s Addition”.
Biographical Sketch – Vincent Roy Jr;  Vincent Roy Jr. Papers.

Up to the time of the survey in the spring of 1854 all was chaos as to lands west of the claims of Robertson, Nelson, Baker and their party. There could be no titles or bona fide purchases, as only the mouth of the Nemadji had been surveyed. There were really three “townsite” companies— Robertson, Nelson and Baker, with their associates J. A. Bullen, J. T. Morgan, E. Y. Shelly, August Zachau, C. G. Pettys, Abraham Emmett, and perhaps others, forming one which had the surveyed lands next to the Nemadji. West of them were Francis Roy, Benjamin Cadotte, Robert Bothwick, Basil Dennis, Charles Knowlton and nearly a dozen half-breeds, mostly brought from Crow Wing by Nettleton in the interest of what was known as the “Hollinshead crowd”—Edmund and Henry M. Rice, George L. Becker, Wm. and George W. Nettleton, Benjamin Thompson, James Stinson and W. H. Newton. Still farther west were Benjamin W. Brunson, A. A. Parker, R. F. Slaughter, C. D. Kimball, Rev. E. F. Ely, George R. Stuntz, Bradley Salter, Joseph Kimball, Calvin Hood, and others who proposed to call their town Endion—”Ahn-dy-yon,” the Chippewa for “home.”

B. W. Brunson, still a resident of St. Paul, has described the contest in writing. He says:

Believing Superior would become of importance I went there in February, 1854, with R. F. Slaughter. We found some Ontonagon parties had claimed on the bay and we bought an interest in their claims and began to lay out a city and make improvements. While surveying the town, and when we had the same so far completed as to make a plat of it, the township having been subdivided by a good surveyor, then it was that Vincent Roy, Basil Dennis, Charles Brissette and Antoine Warren, accompanied by twenty-one other half-breeds and some four or five white men, headed, led and directed by one Stinson and one Thompson, who were acting for themselves and as agents of the company, came upon the lands to make their claims and avail themselves of pre-emption rights as citizens of the United States. These men were in the employ of the company for the purpose of making claims, and there was a claimant for each and every quarter-section as fast as the surveyor set the quarter-post. They had commenced the day before, with or at the same time the surveyor commenced his work. The timber being dense and there being a strong force, they were able to build an 8×10 cabin and cover it with boughs, upon each quarter, and then overtake the surveyor before he could establish the next quarter, thus taking the land as they went, and in that manner were progressing when they came upon the land marked out and occupied by us.

The meeting of the two hostile parties occurred on the banks of the deep slough in what is now called Central Park. Nothing but the timidity of the half-breeds prevented bloodshed. Brunson was armed and intended to, and did stand his ground. Thompson, one of the pluckiest of men, was also armed, having two revolvers, and was prepared and intended to proceed. The Indians, not being armed, did not wish to engage in a battle where the leaders only were prepared to fight; and so there was no physical conflict, though a state of chaos and bad feeling continued for some time. Several cabins were demolished, Brunson’s party entirely cutting in pieces a house built by Basil Dennis on the ground now occupied by Dr. Conan’s fine residence.

A long legal contest followed. Finally in 1862-63 patents issued from the government to three men—S. W. Smith, Lars Lenroot and Oliver Lemerise—chosen as trustees of the townsite for the benefit of actual occupants. Thus those who claimed to be proprietors of, but not settlers on the townsite, lost their lands as well as their labor. In the winter of 1853-54 Henry M. Rice asked the Commissioner of the General Land Office whether, when lands which had not been surveyed were claimed for a townsite they would be liable to pre-emption as soon as the survey should be made. The answer was in favor of pre-emption; and that is how those who with Brunson put money into Superior City townsite lost it. The actual settlers got the townsite, the patent being made to the three trustees named who divided the plat, containing 240 acres with riparian rights in Superior Bay, and deeded lots to occupants and purchasers. It may be proper to mention here that a little plat of thirty-four acres, with riparian rights in the bay, and known as Middletown, went through a similar siege of litigation and was finally patented to three trustees —Urguelle Gouge, Louis Morrisette and Nicholas Poulliott—for the benefit of actual occupants. These decisions did not come until the “city” had collapsed and the land become nearly worthless.


The New York Times

[June 19th, 1858]

WESTERN LAND FRAUDS.

More Blood in the Body than Shows in the Face – Land Frauds in the Northwest – The Superior City Controversy – Pre-emptions by Swedes and Indians

Washington, Thursday, June 17, 1858.

Senator Henry Mower Rice ~ United States Senate Historical Office

Senator Henry Mower Rice
~ United States Senate Historical Office

There are some interesting matters here besides what takes place in Congress, and I propose from time to time to touch upon them. An expenditure of $60,000,000 per annum does not cover all the pickings and stealings that “prevail” in our hereabouts. Senator RICE did not tell all he knew about land-office operations, when he testified to the value of the Fort Snelling property. Nobody is better aware than he that the tract would be much better to cut up into town lots than Bayfield was when he bought it for a few cents an acre, and sold it for hundreds of dollars. If we could find out all that Senator BRIGHT knows of these matters, one could learn how to become a millionaire at very small expense of brains or labor. Indian treaties and land-office jobbing have made more men rich than care to tell of it – ask General CASS if this is not so.

Attorney-General Caleb Cushing had previously invested with other Bostonians in the St. Croix River Valley copper mining and land speculation as the St. Croix and Lake Superior Mineral Company during 1845.

Seeing a bushel-basket of papers in the Interior Department the other day, I was curious to know what the kernel might be to all that rind, and made inquiry in the premises. I was told that they enveloped the case of Superior City. I cast my eye over some of them, and noticed that an argument was filed on behalf of one of the parties by Mr. Senator BRIGHT – or rather with Senator BRIGHT’S indorsement. This whetted my desire of knowledge, and I ran my eye over the paper in question, which was from the pen of a Minnesota Judge and was without exception the richest document I ever saw intended for a judicial or administrative tribunal. The substance of it was that the opinion of the Attorney-General CUSHING in the case was absurd, the adoption of his views by the Interior Department preposterous, and the action of the local Land office at Superior, in defining the status of certain half-breed Indians on the most abundant testimony, corrupt. It was clear enough that such a document required at least a senatorial indorsement to justify its reception. Nobody can suppose for a moment that Senator BRIGHT has any interest in the result of the case, or that he expected to influence the judgement of his friend, HENDRICKS, (Commissioner of the General Land Office,) by appearing in it. That would be too strong an inference to draw from so meek a fact ; and yet the malicious might suggest it as an apprehension.

Eye of the Northwest, pg. 8

Original Proprietors of Superior featuring James Stinson, Benjamin Thomson, Dr. W.W. Coran, U.S. Senator Robert J Walker, George W. Cass, and Horace Bridge.  Featured in The Eye of the North-west, pg. 8.

From the printed argument of Senator BRIGHT’S friend, and from a private abstract of the testimony in the case, and a few items I have picked up in the Land Office, I think it will be in my power to indite an epistle that may excite some attention. At the Southwestern extremity of Lake Superior, there is a tract of land, which is expected some day to become the cite of a large city. Being aware of its great advantages for this purpose, a St. Paul speculator by the name of THOMPSON, and a Canadian operator by the name of STINSON, undertook to possess themselves of it as long as as in the early part of General PIERCE‘S administration, by vicarious preemptions. In this plan they were assisted by some official gentlement, who shared in the spoils, and patents were ground out in double-quick time, or certificates issued to Swedes and Indians for the benefit of this STINSON and THOMPSON, and their associate speculators.

More Proprietors of Supeior from The Eye of the North-west, pg. 9.

More Proprietors of Supeior from The Eye of the North-west, pg. 9.

In the Summer of 1854, this Mr. STINSON, headed a gang of Swedes and led them from Swede Lake, in the Territory of Minnesota, to Lake Superior, guiding them in person to the tracts he wished them to preempt. These men were ignorant of our language and of our laws, and were used by STINSON to “settle” their tracts, “prove up” their claims, and “convey” to him, the said STINSON, without knowing either the frauds they were practicing, or the rights which they might have secured to themselves if they had been acting in good faith. In the Land Office at Hudson, where these frauds were perpetrated, there was a notary public, who drew the deeds to STINSON, got the signatures of the Swedes to them and took the acknowledgements, immediately after the preemption oath had been administered – the Swedes thinking the whole operation a part of the preemption process. The terms were said to be $30 a month, and a bonus of $15 on the consummation of the bargain. The names of these Swedes were Aaron Peterson, Martin Larson, Peter Nelson, John Johnson, Sven Magnassan, Lorenz Johnson, Peter Norell, Sven Larson, Andreas Senson, Johannes Helon, Johannes Peterson, and Peter Erickson. These “preemptors,” for their own benefit, all “proved up” at Hudson, and the very same day they made conveyances to STINSON. The same thing is true of another Swedish invasion that was made in the Summer of 1855. In that year three Swedes – Old Westerland, Andrew Walmart, and Israel Janssen – commenced their settlements June 11, proved up June 22, and conveyed to STINSON June 22 – eleven days being sufficient for the whole operation. The records of the Land Office at Superior, and of the Register of Deeds of Douglas County, show these facts. They are well known in the General Land Office.

But Mr. STINSON did not operate through Swedes alone. He and his friend THOMPSON worked with half-breed Indians also. In March, 1854, he and THOMPSON followed up the Government Surveys with a gang of Chippewa half-breed Indians. The whole gang made preemptions in Douglas County, under the guidance of THOMPSON and STINSON, who hired them at La Pointe, and convered a large portion of a township with their fraudulent pre-emptions, which were proved up simultaneously, and simultaneously conveyed to the attorney of THOMPSON and STINSON. The names of all of this gang appear on the tract books in the General Land Office. These were Joseph Lamoureaux, Joseph Defaut, Joseph Dennis, Joseph Gauthier, Francis Decoteau, John B. Goslin, George D. Morrison and Levi B. Coffee, all preemptors for these land-sharks. There were three or four more half-breeds in the gang, who ran foul of some eight or ten American citizens who were seeking to save a slice of this Territory from Swedish and Indian preemption, and lay out a town site there under the law. This was the origin of the Superior City controversy, which has been pending some three or four years in the various land offices, and which has accumulated the basket of papers which first drew my attention to a case of such interesting dimensions. The contest is nominally between three or four Chippewa half-breeds claiming some three hundred acres as a town site. But the Indians are not merely bogus citizens, they are bogus pre-emptors in the bargain, for they were the hired men of THOMPSON & STINSON.

The Dred Scott v. Sandford case influenced whether former (non-white) slaves residents of the United States could ever achieve status and rights (such as acquiring land) as citizens of America or not.  It is safe to presume that Cushing was quite familiar with the status and politics of Lake Superior Chippewa mixed acting as quasi-citizens of the United States from his time there during the 1840s.

Mr. CUSHING decided in this controversy, before it was so settled by the Dred Scott case, that a half-breed Indian, receiving annuities as such, recognized as a dependent of a tribe, and the beneficiary of treaty stipulations, could become a citizen of the United States only by some positive act of Federal legislation ; that he could not, of his own volition, or by the laws of a State, change his condition from that of an Indian to that of a Federal citizen. Strange as it may seem, it appears that this part of the Dred Scott is repudiated by Mr. Commissioner HENDRICKS, who thinks a state cannot make a Federal citizen of a man with a drop of negro blood in his veins, but that the Commissioner of the General Land Office may naturalize Indians, ad libitum, without statute or judgement to sustain him.

I am curious to see how this controversy will be decided. The General Land Office upheld STINTSON’S Swedish preemption, on the ground that the frauds were discovered too late for the Commissioner to interefere. Whether or not STINSON hasmade any negro preemptions does not appear. It was too cold at the end of the lake for negroes to flourish much. But now it is to be settled in a case where the attempted frauds have been seasonably discovered, whether or not a Canadian adventurer can preempt whole townships of the Public Lands by the agency of a gang of half-breed Indians, and procure patents for them when the facts are known to the Federal authorities.


The pre-emptive right. Homesteads.

~ Superior, Wisconsin, papers, 1831-1942 ([unpublished])

Detail of Superior City townsite at the head of Lake Superior from 1854 Plat Map of Township 49 North Range 14 West.

Detail of Superior City townsite at the head of Lake Superior from Stuntz’s 1854 Plat Map of Township 49 North Range 14 West.

Early history of Superior should make mention of this right of acquisition, since there under, titles to government land were derived. Any qualified person might acquire title to one hundred and sixty acres of land by settling thereon, erecting a dwelling and making other improvements. Such person was to be twenty-one years of age, either male or female, or the head of a family whether man or woman.

Proof of each settlement was required to be made on a certain day at the United State Land Office and upon the payment of two hundred dollars with the taking of a required oath, the preemptioner got his one hundred and sixty acres of land.

But the whole proceeding, was far from straight, as a general thing, and in fact often amounted to a fraud.

In the words of George R. Stuntz:
“In the first place, Superior was backed by a powerful company of Democratic politicians and Government bankers in Washington, while the northern and northeastern portions of the state were still held by the Indians. This Superior company sought a connection with the Mississippi river, to obtain which they urged in congress the passage of a land grant bill, offering ten sections to the mile to aid in the construction of a railroad from Milwaukee to some point on Lake St. Croix, on the western boundary of the state of Wisconsin.”
History of Duluth and St. Louis County, Past and Present,
Volume 1, page 230.
U.S. Representative John Cabell Breckinridge of Kentucky and U.S. Congressman Henry Mower Rice of Minnesota were both Democrats and both invested in land claims near Superior City.
The Barber familiy members appear to have been Republicans.

Hence the whole country, in and about Superior, was dotted with preemption cabins, which were little more than logs piles up in walls, without floors, or windows, often with brush for a roof, a hole therein for a chimney and perhaps for a door. A slashing of half an acre or so of trees was the “improvement” so called. A very barbarous travesty, it was, upon a white man’s home and farm. Here is an instance, where as was said, a certain doctor of divinity laid claim to a quarter section of land, now in the midst of this city.

One day he sought “to prove up” his preemption, and one Alfred Allen was his witness, and they asked Allen, “Was the pre-emptions shanty good to live in?“, the law requiring a good habitable house on the claim.  And Alf said “Yes, good for mosquitoes.” The Reverend said “Pshaw! Pshaw!” Meanding to upbraid or caution the witness who thereupon only protested and adjured the harder. The difficulty was somehow smoothed over, through some mending of the proofs, and perhaps connivance on the part of persons charged with administration of the United States land laws.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to member that upon rude and rough proceedings, such as are herein alluded to, rest at bottom the titles and claims to everything we own in the nature of lots, blocks, and land.

From: Statements of Hiram Hayes. Mr. Hayes came to Superior in 1854.


History of Duluth and St. Louis County, Past and Present, Volume 1

By Dwight Edwards Woodbridge, et al, 1910

GEORGE R. STUNTZ. [pages 229-231]

One of the earliest settlers at the head of the lakes was Mr. George E. Stuntz, who a short time ago joined the great majority. Before his death Mr. Stuntz wrote of his pioneer experiences as follows:

“In July, 1852, I came to the head of Lake Superior to run the land lines and subdivide certain townships. When I arrived at the head of the lakes there was nothing in Duluth or Superior. There was no settlement. The old American Fur Company had a post at La Pointe, at the west side of Madeline Island.

Detail of Minnesota Point during Stuntz's survey contract during August-October of 1852.

Detail of Minnesota Point from Stuntz’s Exterior Field Notes (August-October of 1852).

“In 1853 I got the range subdivided, and also in Superior, townsite 49, range 13. During the same year, later, in my absence, there came parties from the copper district of upper Michigan and located claims upon the range. They were principally miners. During the same year I built a residence on Minnesota Point under treaty license before the territory was sold to the Government. At that time there were only missionaries or license traders in the tract, as it belonged to the original Indian territory. In 1852, at Fond du Lac, there was a trading post and warehouse, in which I stored my goods on my arrival. In the fall of 1853 I bought three yoke of cattle and two cows at St. Croix Falls and brought them to the mouth of the Iron river, and had to cut a road thirty miles through the dense forest so as to get the oxen, cows and cart through. Later in the fall of 1853 I came through with an extra yoke of oxen, buying provisions, etc., and on coming up to Superior I found quite a settlement of log cabins. These settlers were anxious to get to the United States land office, then at Hudson, Wis. A dense forest intervened. We organized a volunteer company in January, 1854, to cut a road from old Superior to the nearest lumber camp on the St. Croix river, I furnishing two barrels of flour, provisions, pony and dog train, necessary to carry the provisions for a gang of seventeen men. The road was completed in twenty days, the snow being at that time two feet deep. This cut through a direct road to Taylor’s Falls and Stillwater. In 1854 I completed a mill on the Iron river and employed a man to superintend it, and I remained at Minnesota Point, my trading post, where I had first taken out the license. In the same year I took a contract to subdivide two townships located in Superior, townships 48-49, range 15, and afterward I attended the treaty at the time the Indians sold this country to the Government.

Before the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe could be ratified in Washington, D.C., the oral description agreed upon during the negotiations for exterior boundaries of the Chippewa treaties had to be surveyed with the tribe, documented, and delivered to Washington, D.C. before 1855.  It is not clear who was involved with the exterior boundaries of these reservations; whether it was Stuntz, Barber, and/or others from their party.

“There were 5,000 Indians present with their chiefs. It was the biggest assemblage of Indians ever held at Lake Superior at this period of the country’s history. It took a month to pacify the troubles that grew among the different tribes in regard to their proportionate rights. This treaty was sent to congress September [30], 1854, and was ratified and became law in January, 1855.


 To be continued in 1854

By Amorin Mello

Gray Devil schoolmaster

(Lewiston Saturday Journal, April 27, 1895, page 11)

Lysander Cutler is renown for his service as a Union Army commander during the American Civil War.  His other, more obscure, adventures have had long-lasting impacts upon the social fabric in the Penokee Mountains of northwestern Wisconsin because his reign of terror allowed mining companies to dispossess the Penokee Mountains from the Lake Superior Chippewa.  Although his efforts failed to produce any significant minerals, this heritage still thrives in the conflict between GTAC’s proposed mine site and the nearby LCO HELP camp. Today, Bulletproof Securities advertises their eco-terrorism and economic sabotage security services, as seen in the Penokee Mountains on Indian Country TV.
(Lewiston Saturday Journal, April 27, 1895, page 11)

(Lewiston Saturday Journal, April 27, 1895, page 11)

Transcript from the

History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

From Prehistoric Times to the Present Date

as published in 1881 by the Milwaukee Genealogical Society:

MAJOR-GENERAL LYSANDER CUTLER was born in Royalston, Worcester County, Mass., February 16, 1807. His father, Tarrant Cutler, was one of the most independent and sturdy farmers of the county, and cultivated, with the help of six boys, as they grew up, one of the largest and most rocky farms in all that stony region of hills that lies at the foot of Mount Monadnock. Here Lysander received his early education. He worked on the farm during the Summers, and attended the district school each Winter till he was 16 years old. At that age he had acquired all that could be gotten from the town schools and all other sources within his reach, and in the opinion of his father was in a dangerous state of forwardness, calculated to unfit him for the high and noble career he had marked out for him — on the farm, and he accordingly determined that his education was complete, and set him down for the coming five years as a steady hand on the farm. The young man broke out in open rebellion against this paternal edict and announced his intention to leave the homestead forever, unless his father would at least assist him to acquire an academic education. After many stormy discussions, the matter was settled by a sort of treaty, whereby, although still under parental rule, he had a roving commission to forage for himself within limits set by his father. Under this arrangement he did very little farm work except in haying, when all the boys were called home to assist. During these five years he managed to clothe himself, learn the clothier’s trade, get a fair academic education, had learnt the art of land surveying, and had acquired a very enviable reputation in the county as a successful schoolmaster, as he had fought into submission several turbulent and unmanageable schools that had heretofore made it a practice to “pitch out” such teachers as were undesirable to them. With such acquisitions, at the age of 21, he emigrated to Maine and settled in the town of Dexter, Penobscot County, in 1828. His worldly goods on his arrival consisted of a silver watch and two dollars in money. He arrived in the Winter, just as the settlement was in an uproar over a rebellion in the school that had thus far proved unmanageable and had resulted in the flogging and summary ejectment of several masters who had attempted to maintain discipline by the ferule and switch, the only means then in vogue. He immediately volunteered to keep the school out for the sum of sixteen dollars per month — no school, no pay. The school committee accepted his proposition. The first day was devoted to an examination on the part of the big boys, as to the qualification of the new master. The examination was searching, and resulted in the thorough flogging of every bully in the school and a quiet orderly session thereafter to the end of the term. Thus early established in favor at the settlement, he began the business of his life. He surveyed the land up and down the stream which flowed from a small lake having an outlet at the village, and discovered the value of the water-power which had hitherto only been roughly put to use to run a saw-mill. In 1834 he entered into a co-partnership with Jonathan Farrar, a wealthy proprietor of the township, and built a woolen mill, then the largest east of Massachusetts, which under his successful management brought him what was then deemed an independent fortune in ten years. In 1843 the mill was burned to the ground, leaving him as poor as when he started. His partner, however, drew upon his private credit and the works were speedily rebuilt and added to from time to time till 1856. At that time the village had grown to a smart manufacturing town numbering 2,000 inhabitants, nearly half of whom were dependent on him for support. The firm owned three woolen factories, a foundry, a grist-mill, a saw-mill, a large store and many tenements. The panic of that year found his business widely extended. The mills stopped, the immense accumulation of their unsold goods were sold, in some instances, at less than half their cost, the property went into other hands and the firm was ruined. Turning his back on the scenes of his active life, he came to Milwaukee in 1856.

Cutler served as a Lieutenant Colonel during the Aroostook “Bloodless” War land dispute in Maine. 

During his New England life he took an active part in the affairs of his State. He was almost uninterruptedly a member of the Board of Selectmen of his town, served in the State Senate one term — 1839-40 — as a Whig. He commanded a regiment of troops on the border, pending the settlement of the northeastern boundary, in 1838-9. He was also active in educational matters. He was for several years one of the Trustees of Westbrook Seminary, and served on the Board of Trustees of Tufis College, during the years when it was struggling into life. He also gave his time and means to the development of the railroad system of the State, and was one of the Board of Directors of the Maine Central (then the Androscoggin and Penobscot Railroad Company) until it was built as far east as Bangor. He was generous to a fault, and for the thirty years he lived in Maine he carried an open hand and purse to all who needed. It was certainly no small thing or such a man at such a time of life to commence anew, in a strange country the strife for business success among the crowds of younger men who were thronging every avenue that opened to even a chance of good fortune.

“…the population of Ashland increased quite rapidly…  Of these a few remained only a short time, coming merely for temporary purposes. 1855 brought a still larger increase of inhabitants, among them M. H. Mandlebaum (now a resident of Hancock, Mich.), Augustus Barber (who was drowned at Montreal River in 1867), Benj. Hoppenyan, Chas. Day, Geo R. Stuntz, George E. Stuntz, Dr. Edwin Ellis, Martin Roehm, Col. Lysander Cutler, J. S. Buck, Ingraham Fletcher, Hon. J. R. Nelson, Hon. D. A. J. Baker, Mrs. Conrad Goeltz, Henry Drixler (father of Mrs. Conrad Goeltz, who died in 1857, his being the first death in town), and Henry Palmer.” ~ Ashland Press, January 4, 1893 (Wisconsin Historical Society)
Dr. James P. Greavesinvestigated animal magnetism and was a bad egg.

He came to Milwaukee in answer to a letter from an old Maine friend, Horatio Hill, then one of the most active business men and public-spirited citizens of Milwaukee. He with Palmer, the Pbrothers Hercules and Talbot Dousman, Dr. Greaves and others had organized the Penokee Mining Company. The company had a sort of undefined and undefinable title to some parts of the celebrated iron deposits in the Penokee Range lying some thirty miles inland from Lake Superior, at the extreme northern point where what is now Bayfield County, juts out into the lake. The title was held by virtue of some Indian script which had been bought from the Sioux Indians, then inhabiting that region, and was by no means a perfect one, except the land was surveyed and occupied by the company and direct warrants thereby secured from the Government Land Office. Most brilliant reports had been made of the extent of the deposits and the purity of the ore. There could be no doubt that the development of these immense mineral resources would bring to the owners untold wealth. Mr. Cutler was appointed the managing agent of this prospective Wisconsin bonanza, at a fair salary, to which was added a liberal amount of the stock of the company. His first task was to perfect the title to the property, and the first step toward it was to take a personal view of the situation and the property. It was a somewhat arduous undertaking, not unfraught with danger. Excepting two or three traders and surveyors, who had stock in the company, the population, which consisted mostly of Indians and half-breeds, viewed this incursion of wealth-hunters from the lower lakes with suspicion and distrust. To add to the difficulties of the situation, other parties owning Sioux script were endeavoring to acquire a title to the mineral range. One man working in the interest of the company the year before, had been discovered, after being missed for some weeks, dead in the forest, near the range. Bruises and other indications of violence on the body gave strong ground for the belief that he had been murdered. Altogether it was a position, the applications for which were not numerous. His first trip was made in the Summer of 1857. He spent several months on the range and at LaPointe, Ashland, Bayfield and on to the Indian Reservation, acquainted himself thoroughly with the status of the company’s claims, and returned to Milwaukee. He had ascertained that the immense value of the claim had not been overestimated, and had made a further discovery, less desirable, that the company had no valid title to it, except they occupied it as actual settlers. It was determined to organize a colony sufficiently large to cover every section of the territory desired, and squat it out a sufficient time to entitle them to settlers’ warrants. The colony consisted of picked men, some from the State of Maine, who entered the employ of the company, and built their cabins as fast as the surveyor’s stakes were driven. The main cabin, which was a depot of supplies, was of importance as it was the center of the town, and as it complied with all the requirements of the law, being organized as a store and a school, it gave the company a claim to a “town plat” of a square mile. Here Colonel Cutler spent two Winters, during which he and his trusty employs endured all the hardships and dangers of a pioneer life. The nearest point where supplies could be obtained was thirty miles distant through a trackless and dense forest. All supplies were packed in on the backs of the squatters or half-breed packers who sometimes in a surly mood would lay down their burdens and return to the settlement. Nothing but the fearless pluck and dauntless courage of Colonel Cutler kept these men in wholesome awe, and insured the safety of the settlers while they remained.

Lysander Cutler's store and school for a town plat. (Paul DeMain © 2013)

Lysander Cutler’s town plat ruins at the “Moore Location” of the Lac Courte Oreilles Harvest Education Learning Project (Paul DeMain © 2013).

(Pioneer History of Milwaukee: 1847 by James Smith Buck)

Lysander Cutler and the Ironton Trail (Pioneer History of Milwaukee: 1847 by James Smith Buck)

The following story is told by James S. Buck, of this city, who was one of the colony, as illustrating his mode of discipline: Late one week it was discovered that there were not sufficient supplies to last over Sunday. Colonel Cutler dispatched one of his men to the lake, with instructions to load two half-breeds and send them forward to camp the next day, he agreeing to meet them at the half-way camp and pay them for their services. They arrived before him, in a surly mood, and without waiting except to get breath took up their loads and trudged back to Bayfield. Soon after Colonel Cutler arrived and having been informed of their return set out after them. He did not overtake them on the road, but entered Bayfield a few minutes behind them, and found them at the store sitting by the fire, with their packs, which they had just thrown off, by their sides. On entering he drew up his rifle and said: “Boys, you can have just half a minute to shoulder those packs and start for the range.” In less time than was allowed they were again on the return tramp, supported in the rear by the Colonel and his rifle. At the half-way camp they begged for rest, but the only reply from their implacable guard was: “March!” with an expletive which showed undoubtedly that he was in earnest. They reached the range late at night. It was the last attempt at breach of contract on the part of the half-breeds while he remained in that region.

Cutler was contracted for carrying the mails in 1858 (United States Congressional serial set, Volume 1013).

Cutler was contracted for carrying the mails in 1858 (United States Congressional serial set, Volume 1013).

In the Winter all the communication with the rest of the world was cut off, except by a weekly mail which was brought through from St. Paul by an Indian mail-carrier. Once during each Winter he made the trip on snow shoes, to St. Paul, a distance of over two hundred miles. The claim was at last secured, and a valid title to the land vested in the company. He left the region, at the end of two years, successful in this mission, and attained, while there, the general respect of all, both white and red, although his pet name among the Indians did not evince a love unmingled with fear; they called him Gray Devil.”  The dull times that followed put a long quietus on Western schemes of speculation, and Colonel Cutler’s company was laid on the shelf with many others of less merit, till more propitious times.

Cutler's contract ceased. (United States Congressional serial set, Issue 1041, Part 2).

Cutler’s contract was not successful for long. (United States Congressional serial set, Issue 1041, Part 2).

In 1859 he engaged in the grains and commission business, in which he continued with indifferent success till the breaking out of the war.

The first gun fired on the flag seemed to rouse the full energies of his naturally pugnacious nature. It seemed as though the burdens of twenty years had fallen from his shoulders, and he showed the war-like enthusiasm of a young man of thirty instead of the more quiet demonstrations of a man who had already done the arduous work of a common lifetime. It was only in deference to the earnest protests of his friends that he did not enlist as a common soldier when the first call was made for ninety-day troops.

(History of Milwaukee)

pg. 787 (History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Colonel Cutler was commissioned as Colonel of the Sixth Wisconsin Regiment June 25, 1861. His regiment left the State July 28, and joined the forces around Washington August 7. August 29 it was attached to King’s Brigade, of which it remained a part during the war and shares in its imperishable renown asThe Iron Brigade.” During its first year of service Colonel Cutler was much of the time in command of the Brigade, and did much in perfecting it in discipline and tactics. His active service in the field commenced with the campaign of 1862. McDowell’s Division, to which the “Iron Brigade” was attached, did not participate in the peninsular battles of the campaign, being held as a reserve force to repel any overland demonstrations on the Capital, similar to that of the year before, which culminated in the first battle of Bull Run. During the earlier months of the campaign Colonel Cutler commanded the Brigade, till the assignment of Brigadier-General John Gibbons, May 2, when he again returned to his regiment. The Brigade was almost constantly on the march from point to point to avert threatened danger or mislead the enemy, till the beginning of August. On the fifth of that month the withdrawal of a part of the rebel forces from McClellan’s front, and a movement up the Shenandoah as well as toward Pope, commenced the active campaign. August 6, Colonel Cutler with his regiment and a New Hampshire regiment of cavalry penetrated into the enemy’s country as far as Frederick’s Hall Station, twenty-three miles from the junction of the Virginia Central with the Richmond & Potomac Railroad, and there tore up the track for a mile in each direction, thus cutting off the rebel communication between Richmond and Gordonsville. They also burned the depot, warehouse and telegraph office and destroyed a large amount of Confederate supplies. The expedition was entirely successful. During three days and one half the regiment had marched ninety miles, and were, when they struck the railroad, thirty miles from any support. It returned without the loss of aman. General Gibbon in his official report commended the regiment and Colonel Cutler as follows: “Colonel Cutler’s part in the expedition was completely successful. I can not refer in too high terms to the conduct of Colonel Cutler; to his energy and good judgment, seconded as he was by his fine regiment, the success of the expedition is entirely due.” On the 19th of August General Pope commenced his retreat. The “Iron Brigade” was for nearly ten days within sight of the enemy as they slowly worked their way up towards Washington, avoiding as much as possible any collision with the troops during its maneuvers to outflank Pope and if possible intercept him in his march to the defense of the threatened Capital. On the twenty-eighth having so far out-maneuvered him as to have separated the divisions of the army too far for support, the division of Longstreet fell upon the “Iron Brigade” which was marching toward Centerville on the Gainesville road. The Federal troops were outnumbered three to one, but they held the enemy in check till night put an end to the carnage which marked it as one of the most severe engagements of the war. How Colonel Cutler and Colonel Hamilton of Milwaukee bore themselves on that bloody field has been detailed in a previous chapter. They were severely wounded. Colonel Cutler had his horse shot under him, and was wounded by a minnie bail which passed entirely through his thigh, His wound was dangerous and kept him from active service till November 5, when he returned to the front and took command of the Brigade which he retained till the twenty-second, when General Sol. Merideth, who had been appointed Brigadier-General, assumed the command and he again returned to his regiment. At the battle of Fredericksburg he again led the “Iron Brigade,” being put in command during the action, after the Brigade had crossed the Rappahannock, and taken position in line of battle. Soon after he was appointed Brigadier-General, to date from November 29, I862, and assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, First Army Corps. His Brigade with the “Iron Brigade” comprised the division commanded by Wadsworth. The corps was commanded by Major-General Reynolds. He fought through the Chancellorsville campaign, his Brigade covering the retreat after the three days’ slaughter was finished. At Gettysburg his brigade was in the advance, opened the battle and, with the “Iron Brigade,” sustained the brunt of the fighting on the memorable 1st of July 1863. During that day. his old regiment, the Sixth, was attached to his brigade. Major-General Newton, in his report, details the part taken in this action as follows:


General Cutler was in the advance and opened the battle of Gettsyburg. In this severe and obstinate engagement he held the right for four hours, changing front without confusion, three times, under a galling fire, and lost, in killed and wounded, three-fourths of his officers and men, having three of his staff wounded and all the horses killed. When the order was given to retire, he marched the remnant of his brigade off the field in perfect order and checked the advance of Ewell’s corps, which gave the artillery time to retire. In effecting this he lost heavily. His brigade was engaged on the night of the second and the morning of the third in repulsing the assaults of the Rebels on the right of our line.”


During Grant’s campaign of 1864, General Wadsworth was killed in the second day’s battle in the Wilderness. On his death the command of the division devolved on General Cutler, which he held thereafter all through the series of battles that followed, and during the siege of Petersburg, until August 21, when he was wounded in the face while repulsing an assault on the Weldon Railroad. On the 15th of September, wounded and in broken health, from his long and arduous service, he was, at his own request relieved from field duty, and ordered to New York, to take charge of the forwarding of troops from that State. Subsequently he was ordered to the command of the draft camp of rendezvous at Jackson, Mich., where he remained till the close of the Rebellion. He was appointed Brevet Major-General. the commission to date from his last fight on the Weldon Railroad, August 21. 1864, He resigned July 1, 1865,and returned to Milwaukee. With the excitement of active duty gone, his recuperative powers failed to restore his impaired health, and his earthly career ended July 30, 1866. The following orders were issued at Madison on the occasion of his death, by Gov. Fairchild, one of his companions in arms, and by the G.A.R.


State of Wisconsin, Executive Department,
Madison. July 31, 1866.

Executive Order No. 7.
The people of Wisconsin will hear with deep regret the announcement of the death of Brevet Major-General Lysander Cutler. at Milwaukee, on Monday the 30th inst.

General Cutler was among the most efficient and best beloved soldiers from this State. Distinguished for his services, covered with honorable scars, filled with years and glory, he goes to his grave deeply mourned by the entire people of a sorrowing State.

As a testimony of respect, the flag upon the State Capitol will be displayed at half mast, on Tuesday, 31st of July, inst.

By the Governor,
Charles Fairchild, Military Secretary.

LUCIUS FAIRCHILD


Headquarters Post No. 1. G.A.R;
Madison, July 31, 1866.

Special Order No. 1.

It is my painful duty to announce the death of one of Wisconsin’s most devoted and prominent general officers during the late war, Major-General Lysander Cutler, of Milwaukee.

It is ordered that as a mark of respect to the deceased, the members oi’ this post wear the badge of mourning prescribed by army regulations, for the period or ten days from this date.

By command of
Henry Sanford, P.A.

J.W. TOLFORD, P.C.


General Cutler was married in 1830, to Catherine W. Bassett. He had five children, two sons and three daughters, all of whom are still living. His widow still survives. In stature he was six feet tall and spare. His eyes were iron gray, deep set. and overhung by heavy eyebrows. He was prematurely gray, and during the later years of life both his hair and beard were white. His indomitable will and strict devotion to duty rendered him stern and uncompromising in his general bearing and appearance; but underneath his rough exterior beat a heart, as tender as a woman’s, that won the lasting love of all who came to know him well. To the toils, dangers and sufferings of his campaigns he never yielded, but on receiving the tidings of the death of his little grandson, who died while he was in the service, he took to his tent and bed, completely bowed and broken by the great grief that had smote his heart.  The child and the grim old warrior now sleep side by side at Forest Home.