By Amorin Mello

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

… continued from Number V.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number VI

by Asaph Whittlesey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATISTICS IN GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number VII

 

By Amorin Mello

… continued from Number IV.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Number V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel Allen Barber Papers:
Spring of 1856

Last known letter from Augustus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel Allen Barber Papers:
Spring of 1857

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

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

They Called Him “Gray Devil”:
Summer of 1857

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

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

To be continued in Number VI

By Amorin Mello

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

… continued from Number IV.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number V

by Asaph Whittlesey

FIRST ELECTION IN THE TOWN OF BAY PORT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR EXPERIENCE IN RAILROAD MATTERS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number VI

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the July 7th, 1877, issue of The Ashland Press. Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

… continued from Number II.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Number III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Beaser
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number IV

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the June 30th, 1877, issue of The Ashland Press. Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

… continued from Number I.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Number II

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

1850s-prentice-addition-to-ashland

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

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

Frederick Prentice

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

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

01.1.120 capt. angus

Captain John Daniel Angus
~ Madeline Island Museum

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

george r stuntz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number III

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

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

… continued from Number I.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number II

by Asaph Whittlesey

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

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

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

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

Ashland

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

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

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

FIRST BUILDING ERECTED,

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

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

HOME IN THE WILDERNESS.

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

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

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

To be continued in Number III

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the June 16th, 1877, issue of The Ashland Press.  Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

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

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

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

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

Superior City Incidents:
Land Office Fraud;

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Beaser

Martin Beaser
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel Stuart Vaughn

Samuel Stuart Vaughn
~ Western Reserve Historical Society

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

Frederick Prentice

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

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

To be  continued in Number II

By Amorin Mello

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.

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.

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