Bayfield’s Early Days

December 22, 2016

By Amorin Mello

This is a reproduction of “Bayfield’s Early Days;” a paper read at Bayfield’s 50th Anniversary by Nazaire LaBonte, as printed in the Bayfield County Press on April 6th, 1906.

"Map of Bayfield situate in La Pointe County, Wisconsin." 1856. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Map of Bayfield situate in La Pointe County, Wisconsin.”  By Major McAboy for the Bayfield Land Company in 1856.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

BAYFIELD’S EARLY DAYS

Nazaire LaBonte ~ FindaGrave.com

Nazaire LaBonte
~ FindaGrave.com

Mr. Toast Master, the Bayfield Commercial Club and Ladies and Gentlemen: We are here this evening, as you all know, to commemorate Bayfield’s fiftieth birthday, and I am duly grateful and exceedingly happy to be in your midst this evening, and at the request of the club, to make an accounting of the fifty years just past which was spent here.  In order to prepare you for the ordeal, it might be well to remind you that I am not an orator of note, and if I hear some one say, “That man LaBONTE is a cracker Jack of a talker,” don’t you think for a moment I will believe it.

If you are prepared for the worst, I will proceed.  I am one of a family of eleven (five boys and six girls) and the son of Francis and Angeline LaBONTE.  I was born at Quebec, Canada April 6, 1836, and lived on a farm adjoining that city until I departed for Bayfield which occurred when I was twenty years of age, taking passage at Detroit on the side wheel steamer, Superior, Capt. SWEET commanding the boat.  I am not sure, but believe the folks around felt pretty bad when I left, and I have heard since that lots of people in Canada cried when they learned I had quit that country, and it was said I was a brainy man and it was a shame to see me go, and that it would be hard to replace me.  I cannot say whether they ever replaced me or not.

John Baptiste Bonneau (Bono) ~ FinaGrave.com

John Baptiste Bonneau was the father-in-law of LaBonte, and the namesake of Bono Creek on Chequamegon Bay.
~ FinaGrave.com

Among those who were fellow passengers with me for Bayfield were Benjamin BICKSLER, Frank DAVIDSON, John T. CAHO, and a Mr. WYMAN and a Mr. STEADMAN.  Our boat’s cargo consisted of a little of everything including a lot of cattle for Ontonagon, Mich., but on account of a heavy sea that prevailed we were unable to make that port and came on through to LaPointe, Wis., then a stirring village and headquarters of the American Fur Company, where we arrived June 9th 1856, being en route four days as I remember it.  The boat did not stop at Bayfield for the reason there was no dock here at that time.

I was anxious to continue on to Superior, but my cash was running low, and when I struck the captain for a ride to that port on the strength of my good looks, or pay fare on the installment, (and all I could scrape up was seventeen cents) the captain, in a gruff way said: “You walk, you pea souper!”  I never liked Capt. Sweet since.

The following morning in company with those mentioned, I came over from LaPointe to Bayfield in a rowboat which landed us at the present site of the Dormer BOUTIN Fish Co.’s plant, where there was a dock being built, owned by a Mr. Charles CHILDS of Sault St. Mary, who sometime afterward sold the same to H. M. RICE, C. P. RUDD, and S. L. VAUGHN, and afterwards known as the Vaughn dock, until sold to W. F. DALRYMPLE.

Henry Mower Rice was a prominent Democratic Party politician in Minnesota, commissioned the 1847 Treaty at Fond du Lac on behalf of the United States, and signed the 1854 Treaty at la Pointe.
Benjamin Franklin Rittenhouse and Charles Edwin Rittenhouse were brothers.  Rittenhouse Avenue is named in honor of Benjamin.
Henry B. Payne was a prominent Democratic Party politician in Ohio, and an attorney and business partner with the Leopolds and Austrians.

The only building here then was a log house located where M. RYDER’s store now stands, built and owned by the Bayfield Land Company for the accommodation of the men employed by this concern. This company consisted of H. M. RICE, John D. LIVINGSTON, RITTENHOUSE, DAVIDSON and PAYNE. There was not a woman here and it makes me lonesome to make this statement.

That part of the town site lying on the flat was covered by a scattering growth of small Norway pine with an occasional large white pine; and the only thoroughfare was a trail leading from the dock site to the log house mentioned. The hills now dotted with buildings were covered with mixed woods, mostly hardwood.

Robinson Darling Pike’s father Elisha Pike purchased the sawmill from Julius Austrian, as recollected in his memoir Bayfield’s Beginnings.

I found employment here with the Bayfield Land Co., on a mill that was building on the site upon which now stands the R. D. PIKE Lumber Co. mill. The mill was completed and operating in October of that year and about two months afterwards burned down after which I turned my attention to cutting cord wood which was sold to the steamers for fuel purposes.

Read Early Trails and Water Routes for more information about the origins of the Bayfield Road to Saint Paul.

In the Spring of fifty-seven, I with others started to cut out the Bayfield and St. Paul stage road as far as Yellow Lake, a distance of about 140 miles; the balance of the route to St. Paul was by way of Wood River to Sunrise over logging roads. Sunrise (50 miles from St. Paul) was a junction where the St. Paul stage met both the Bayfield and Superior stages and took their freight and passengers. It required six days to make the trip from Bayfield to St. Paul and the fare was twenty dollars, meals extra at 50 cents each and lodgings the same.

From this time until about 1880, I cut cord wood, logs and made fish barrel staves of clear white pine that was so plentiful at that time.

Matilda Davis ~ FindaGrave.com

Matilda Davis; wife of LaBonte and stepdaughter of Bono. 
~ FindaGrave.com

On April 4, 1861, I was married to Miss Matilda DAVIS [Bono], Father John CHEBULE officiating.

In the summer of ’61, I went to work in the Red Cliff saw mill (the property of Uncle Sam), which had just been built under contract with the government by Colonel John BANFIELD. I worked there for twelve years in the capacity of sawyer, filer, and scaler on a salary of $3.00 per day. My family and myself resided there about half of the time and the balance of the time in Bayfield.  Six men, including myself, constituted the mill crew and the capacity of the mill was six thousand feet per day, which was measured, marked and piled as fast as it left the saw.  My neighbor (Commodore Bob INGLIS) was engineer in the mill part of one season, Bob was a good mechanic, a trim, good-looking fellow, and of course was a favorite of the maids on the reservation, and I never found out why he quit that good job and pleasant surroundings so soon. I am told Bob likes the girls yet, but of course, one must not believe all he hears, and allowing that it is the truth, I cannot blame him, for I like the girls myself.

The LaBonte house is still open to the public for boarding as Greunke’s First Street Inn & Dining.

The mill was sold to Duluth parties after operating twelve years, after which I built and kept a summer boarding place known as the LaBONTE house at Bayfield which house was open to the public for many years. I raised a family of four children (Mrs. N. BACHAND and Mrs. CHURCH) who are both here with their families at the present time, and lost a son at the age of six and one half years and also an infant daughter.

My health has always been good, and as far as I know, I am a better man than my wife today. I am seventy years of age, have lived here fifty years and expect to live here fifty years longer, at the expiration of which time if the politics are too corrupt or conditions don’t just suit, I shall move West and grow up with the country.

I am yours very respectfully,

N. LaBONTE

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.

By Amorin Mello

United States. Works Progress Administration:

Chippewa Indian Historical Project Records 1936-1942  

(Northland Micro 5; Micro 532)

1860 bad river settlement

Details of early settlements on the La Pointe Reservation from Charles Whittlesey‘s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range.

Reel 1; Envelope 1; Item 30.

EARLY SETTLEMENT OF THE BAD RIVER INDIAN RESERVATION

by James Scott

Several years before the final treaty was signed by the Chippewas of Lake Superior, a strange gentleman appeared in the Indian country: He was a white man and became very well acquainted with some of the Indians His name was Ervin Leihy, but the Indians called him Neg-gi-goons (a young otter). When he saw that the Indians were making their homes on each side of the Bad River, as far up as the Bad River Falls, he too decided to build a little home for himself on the bank at the foot of the Falls. He cleared a small piece of land, built his house and in time erected a saw mill which was run by water power. There he lived for many years cultivating the soil and manufacturing lumber. He was never bothered by any of the Indians because he never gave them any cause for unfriendliness. He associated mostly with the young men of the tribe, learned their language, and spoke it quite fluently. He was soon familiar with Indian ways and habits and adopted many of them.

Senator Henry Mower Rice ~ United States Senate Historical Office

Senator Henry Mower Rice
~ United States Senate Historical Office

On September 30, 1854, the final treaty between the Chippewa of Lake Superior and the United States was concluded, (ratified Jan. 10, 1855). The preliminaries required thirty days of deliberation.

Before the last conference, a gentleman by the name of Henry M. Rice, approached the chiefs and headmen of the La Pointe Band at night, and held a secret conference with them. He coached and advised them to be on the alert should a question arise concerning the selection of a reservation.

“I have been secretly approached,” he said, “by a certain band of Chippewa to assist them in securing the land where you have maintained your homes for years. It would be a shame if another band should cheat you out of this place where you have built your homes and lived so long. Any band, or member of such band, which is a part of the Lake Superior Chippewa who reside in the territory you are now ceding to the United States government, have equal rights to make a selection anywhere in the territory the United States is reserving for you.”

When the conference convened the next day, the question of selecting reservations was in order. Immediately after the announcement was made by the official interpreter, Chief Blackbird of the Bad River Band was on his feet shouting and pointing in different directions with a large flat ceremonial pipe which he held in his right hand, describing the boundary lines of his reservation.  (See Article 2, paragraph 2, page 648, Chippewa Treaty of 1854).1

Manidoons (Small Bug).

As soon as Chief Blackbird arose, Chief Moni-don-se (Small Bug) of the Lac du Flambeau Band, also arose at the same time, and tried hard to discourage Chief Blackbird. Chief Moni-don-se claimed that he was supposed to make the selection that Chief Blackbird was now making. Then both chiefs became angry and exchanged unpleasant words with one another. One of the Government officials intervened. Chief Moni-don-se claimed that his people had as much right to select this land as Chief Blackbird had. Moni-don-se was finally over-ruled, so he had to settle on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation. Chief Blackbird then thanked Mr. Henry M. Rice for his advice and assistance.

Vincent Roy, Jr., portrait from "Short biographical sketch of Vincent Roy, [Jr.,]" in Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga, by Chrysostom Verwyst, 1900, pages 472-476.

Vincent Roy, Jr. was Henry Mower Rice’s interpreter during the 1854 Treaty with the Chippewas at La Pointe, according to The Sawmill Community at Roy’s Pointe, by Mary Carlson, 2009, page 21.

Mr. Henry M. Rice was an attorney-at-law, and also a fur trader and merchant. He was a very influential man, and the Government granted him the authority to establish a trading post among the Chippewa of Lake Superior. He supplied Indian trappers with food, clothing, traps, guns, ammunition and tobacco, in return for furs. Maple sugar makers also bartered their production for provisions, clothing and other necessities.

A few years after the reservations were set aside for the Chippewa people, the construction of more log houses was begun, even being used to bring the timber required for this purpose from the forest.  Many new homes were built along the Bad River, the location of the houses extending as far as the Falls.  The then existing homes were not lost from view in this movement, and houses needing repairs were given attention.  A sub-agent was appointed and placed in charge of the Bad River Reservation, whose duty it was to assist the Indians in agricultural pursuits, as well as guide and advise them in matters concerning such pursuits.  None was known as the Government Farmer.

The Indians always took the responsibility and care of his children quite seriously.  He taught them early the rudiments of the hunt and the trapping of wild game.  He instilled into them from infancy a love of the traditions and customs of their forefathers; he brought before their young minds the organization of the tribe and clans and their duties.  He also taught them early in life to be grateful to the Great Spirit and appreciate his many gifts.

Duluth News Tribune Tribune
Sunday, 21 Apr. 1918
“ASHLAND, Wis., April 20. – Chief Adam Scott, of the Chippewa tribe of Indians is dead. He passed away at his home in Odanah after a short illness of pneumonia at the age of 76 and was buried today.
Chief Scott was one of the head chiefs of the Chippewas since the death of his father who was a head chief of the Chippewa tribe when they were uncivilized. His father was Ka-ta-wa-ba-bay Scott and he lived to see his tribe emerge from a savage state to civilization. His son has been one of the chief advisors of the tribe and has made many trips to Washington on tribal business. Chief Adam Scott leaves one son who becomes chief. Chief Scott was born on Madeline Island and has lived either at Madeline Island or on the Bad River reservation all his life.”

Gic-he-chi-gie-nig Bah-dub-wah-be-da Scott, my father, who died at the age of seventy-six years and ten months, (born June 12, 1840; died April 16, 1916, told me the following:

Gaagaagens was Young Raven (George Cedar Root).
Kiskitawag (Giishkitawag: “Cut Ear”) signed multiple treaties as a warrior of the Ontonagon Band but afterwards was associated with the Bad River Band. ~C.M. Bell, Smithsonian Digital Collections

Kiskitawag (Giishkitawag: “Cut Ear”) signed multiple treaties as a warrior of the Ontonagon Band but afterwards was associated with the Bad River Band.  Photograph circa 1880.
~ C.M. Bell, Smithsonian Digital Collections

About four years after the signing of the Treaty of 1854, in the spring of 1858, Chief Keesh-ke-tow-wug (Cut Ear), one of the signers of the treaty, sent invitations through his runner, George Cedar Root (Ke-ka-geese, meaning young Raven) to tell all the people he could contact, to come to his home on a certain day.  He had his wife and daughters prepare a great feast and opened up a large Mo-kuk (birch bark container for maple sugar) of maple sugar.  About a hundred people ate at his feast that day.

Chief Keesh-ke-tow-wug ordered his runner to light his personal ceremonial pipe and pass it to each of his male guests.  After the pipe ceremony he arose in a very dignified manner.  He was a tall, lanky old gentleman, and when standing erect was over six feet tall.  He said:

“My children, I want you to listen to me.  The proposition I am about to present will benefit all of you, and I need your cooperation.  I would like to have you donate your labor to clear land for a large community garden, where every family, or any one who wishes can plant.  The place I would suggest is that swampy flat, near the cemetery.  It will take time to drain it and dry out but I know it will make good garden plats.”

The people approved of the idea and gave him the assurance that they would cooperate with him to carry out his plans.  The old chief was more than pleased.  he designated a date on which to start.

When they started clearing the ground for this purpose, many things had to be done.  The land was covered with willows and scrubby tamarack and water.  Long ditches had to be dug to furnish adequate drainage into both rivers, the Ka-ka-gon and the Bad.  It was not long before a tract of land of about eighty acres was prepared for the plow and under actual cultivation.

Weshki is a common Ojibwemowin name for the oldest son of a chief.  There were a number of chiefs with the Marten surname, especially at Lac du Flambeau and Lac Courte Oreilles.

This community garden extended from Mrs. Armstrong’s dwelling on the U. S. Highway No. 2 to where the steel and concrete bridge now crosses the Bad River on the east; and north-west to Waish-ki Martin’s house.  This old community clearing is now known as the “Blackbird Field.”  The Indians used this ground for their gardens about twenty-five years.

Detail of Chief James Blackbird from photo by De Lancey Gill. ~ Smithsonian Collections

Detail of Chief James Blackbird from an 1899 photo by De Lancey Gill.
~ Smithsonian Collections

In the years 1888 to 1890, Gic-caw-kie-yesh-sheese (Minor Surface Wind), son of the old chief Ma-ca-day-pe-nay-se (Blackbird), filed on this community clearing as his allotment.  He was later known as Chief James Blackbird.  The selection was approved by the Indian Department and a patent issued, covering the greater portion of the community garden, in the name of James Blackbird.  (see Article 3, granting of allotments, in the Chippewa Treaty of 1854, page 649).1

Under the stipulations of the Treaty of 1854, the chiefs with the assistance of a field Indian Agent constituted an allotment committee, who made membership rolls and gave allotments to those who were recognized as members of the Bad River band.  Tracts of eighty acres of land were allotted to each.

1 Laws and Treaties – Kappler

1820 Cass Schoolcraft

The Cass-Schoolcraft Expedition identified “Chippewa Gardens” at the location of Odanah.  This map is several decades older than Kiskitawag‘s proposal to pursue agriculture at the same location.
~ Narrative journal of travels from Detroit northwest through the great chain of American lakes to the sources of the Mississippi River in the year 1820, by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, page 105.

Bayfield’s Beginnings

March 6, 2016

By Amorin Mello

This is a reproduction of Captain Robinson Darling Pike’s speech for the 50th anniversary celebrations of Bayfield, Wisconsin on March 24th, 1906.  It was originally digitized and reproduced onto RootsWeb.com by John Griener, a great-grandson of Currie G. Bell.  The Bayfield County Press was in the Bell family from the Fall of 1882 until July of 1927.  Pike’s obituary was not included in this reproduction.


 

Portrait of Bayfield from History of Northern Wisconsin, by the Western Historical Company, 1881, page 80.

Portrait of Bayfield from History of Northern Wisconsin, by the Western Historical Company, 1881, page 80.

Capt. R. D. PIKE on

Bayfield’s Beginnings

Captain Robinson Derling Pike ~ A gift that spawns Great Lakes fisheries

Captain Robinson Derling Pike
~ A gift that spawns Great Lakes fisheries:The legacy of Bayfield pioneer R.D. Pike, by Julia Riley, Darren Miller and Karl Scheidegger for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, October 2011.

Robinson Darling PIKE, son of Judge Elisha and Elizabeth Kimmey PIKE, was a lumbering giant in early Bayfield history. Capt. R. D. Pike, as his name appeared weekly in the Press, was one of the most influential men in the county, associated not only with timber interests, but with the Bayfield Brownstone Company, the electric light company, the fish hatchery, etc. Just before his death on March 27, 1906, he wrote the following recollections of early Bayfield. The paper was read at the Bayfield 50th anniversary celebrations and was published in the March 30, 1906 issue of the Press along with Capt. PIKE’s obituary:

I regret very much not being able to be with you at the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the town of Bayfield. As you may be aware, I have been ill for the past few weeks, but am pleased to state at this time I am on the gain and hope to be among you soon. If my health permitted I would take great pleasure in being present with you this evening.

Detail from McAboy's 1856 Map of Bayfield.

Detail from Major William McAboy‘s 1856 Map of Bayfield.

rice

Senator Henry Mower Rice  
~ United States Senate Historical Office

I remember very distinctly that the first stake was driven in the town of Bayfield by Major McABOY who was employed by the Bayfield Townsite Company to make a survey and plat same, (the original plat being recorded at our county seat.) This Bayfield Townsite Company was organized with Hon. Henry M. RICE of St. Paul at the head and some very enterprising men from Washington D.C. Major McABOY arrived here about the first of March and made his headquarters with Julius AUSTRIAN of LaPointe. Julius AUSTRIAN in those days being the Governor General of all that part of the country west of Ontonagon to Superior; Ashland and Duluth being too small to count The major spent probably two weeks at LaPointe going back and forth to Bayfield with a team of large bay horses owned by Julius AUSTRIAN, being the only team of horses in the country.

For more information about Julius Austrian, see other Austrian Papers.

I remember very well being in his office at LaPointe with father, (I being then a mere lad of seventeen,) and I recollect hearing them discuss with Mr. AUSTRIAN the question of running the streets in Bayfield north and south and avenues east and west, or whether they should run them diagonally due to the topography of the country, but he decided on the plan as the town is now laid out. Mr. AUSTRIAN and quite a little party from LaPointe came over here on the 24th of March, 1856, when they officially laid out the town, driving the first stake and deciding on the name Bayfield, named after Lieutenant Bayfield of the Royal Navy who was a particular friend of Senator RICE, and it was he who made the first chart for the guidance of boats on Lake Superior.

"Map of Bayfield situate in La Pointe County, Wisconsin." ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

“Map of Bayfield situate in La Pointe County, Wisconsin” by Major William McAboy, 1856 for the Bayfield Land Company.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Frederick Prentice

For more information about Indian interpreter Frederick Prentice, see his appearances in the Barber Papers
~ Portrait of Prentice from History of the Maumee Valley by Horace S Knapp, 1872, pages 560-562.

The summer of 1855 father was in poor health, filled up with malaria from the swamps of Toledo, and he was advised by Mr. Frederick PRENTICE, now of New York, and known by everybody here as “the brownstone man,” to come up here and spend the summer as it was a great health resort, so father arrived at LaPointe in June, 1855, on a little steamer that ran from the Soo to the head of the lakes, the canal at that time not being open, but it was opened a little later in the season.

1852 austrian sawmill

Detail of “Austrian’s Saw Mill” on Pike’s Creek, Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior, circa 1852.
~ Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records

Upon arrival at LaPointe father entered into an agreement with Julius AUSTRIAN to come over to Pike’s creek and repair the little water mill that was built by the North American Fur Company, which at that time was owned by Julius AUSTRIAN. He made the necessary repairs on the little mill, caught plenty of brook trout and fell in love with the country on account of the good water and pure air and wrote home to us at Toledo glowing letters as to this section of the country. Finally he bought the mill and I think the price paid was $350 for the mill and forty acres of land, and that largely on time; however the mill was not a very extensive affair. Nearly everything was made of wood, except the saw and crank-pin, but it cut about two thousand feet of lumber in twelve hours. Some of the old shafting and pulleys can be seen in the debris at the old mill site now. Remember these were not iron shafts as we used wooden shafts and pulleys in those days. This class of the mill at the time beat whip-sawing, that being the usual way of sawing lumber.

Father left LaPointe some time in September 1855 for Toledo to move his family to Pike’s creek, which stream was named after we moved up here. Onion river and Sioux river were named before that time. On father’s arrival from Toledo from this country we immediately began to get ready to move. We had a large fine yoke of red oxen and logging trucks. He sold out our farm at Toledo, packed up our effects, and boarded a small steamer which took us to Detroit. Our family then consisted of father, mother, grandma PIKE, and my sister, now Mrs. BICKSLER, of Ashland. We stayed several days in Detroit to give father time to buy supplies for the winter; that is feed for the oxen and cow and groceries for the family to carry us through until Spring.

We then boarded the steamer Planet, which was a new boat operated by the Ward Line, considered the fastest on the lake. It was about two hundred fifty tons capacity. We came to Sault Ste. Marie, it being the Planet‘s first trip through the Soo, the canal as I remember was completed that fall. During this year the Lady Elgin was running from Chicago and the Planet and North Star running from Detroit, they being about the only boats which were classed better than sail boats of the one hundred and fifty tons.

Portrait of the Steamer North Star from American Steam Vessels, by Samuel Ward Stanton, page 40. ~ Wikimedia.org

Portrait of the Steamer North Star from American Steam Vessels, by Samuel Ward Stanton, page 40.
~ Wikimedia.org

We arrived at LaPointe the early part of October, 1855. On our way up we stopped at Marquette, Eagle Harbor, Eagle River, and Ontonagon. We left Ontonagon in the evening expecting to arrive at LaPointe early the next morning, but a fearful storm arose and the machinery of the Planet became disabled off Porcupine mountains and it looked for a while as though we were never going to weather the storm, but arrived at LaPointe the next day. There were some parties aboard for Superior who left LaPointe by sail.

We remained at LaPointe for a week or ten days on account of my mother’s health and then went to Pike’s bay with all our supplies, oxen and cow on what was known as the Uncle Robert MORRIN’s bateau. Uncle Robert and William MORRIN now of Bayfield, and if I remember rightly, each of the boys pulled an oar taking us across. We landed in Pike’s bay just before sundown, hitched up the oxen and drove to the old mill. Now, this was all in the fall of 1855.

1856-04-19 bayfield surveyed by mcaboy

Detail from William McAboy‘s 1856 Map of Bayfield.

“HON. JOHN W. BELL, retired, Madeline Island, P.O. La Pointe, was born in New York City, May 3, 1805, where he remained till he was eight years of age.  His parents then took him to Canada, where his father died.  He had gotten his education from his father and served an apprenticeship at three trades – watchingmaking, shipbuilding, and coopering.  He then moved to Ft. La Prairie, and started a cooper shop, where he remained till 1835, when he came to La Pointe, on the brig “Astor,” in the employ of the American Furn Company as cooper, for whom he worked six months, when he took the business into his own hands, and continued to make barrels as late as 1870.  It was in 1846 or 1847 that Robert Stewart, then Commissioner, granted him a license, and he opened a trading post at Island River, and became interested in the mines.  he explored and struck a lead in the Porcupine Range, on Onion River, which he sold to the Boston Company, and then came back to La Pointe.  In 1854 he was at the treaty between the Chippewas of Lake Superior and the Mississippi River, and was appointed Enrolling Agent on their new reservation, on the St. Louis River, where he went, but soon came back, as the Indians were not willing to stay there.  He was then appointed by the Indians to look up their arrearages, and while at this work visited the national capital.  He was appointed to County Judge for La Pointe County, and helt till 1878.  He was elected on the town board in 1880.  Has been Register of Deeds  a great many years.  Has held most all the different county and town offices, and at one time held or did principally the business for the whole county.  He has seen La Pointe in all of its glory dwindle down to a little fishing hamlet; is now Postmaster at his island home, where he occupies a house put up by the old fur company.  He was married in 1837 to Miss Margaret Brebant, in the old Catholic Church, by Rev. Bishop Baraga.  They had seven children – John(deceased), Harriette (now Mrs. La Pointe), Thomas (deceased), Alfred (now Town Clerk), Sarah F., Margaret (deceased), and Mary (now Mrs. Denome).”

~ History of Northern Wisconsin, by the Western Historical Company, 1881.

As I said before, the town was laid out on March 24th, 1856, and record made same at LaPointe by John W. BELL, who at that time was the “Witte” of all the country between Ontonagon and Superior; Julius AUSTRIAN being the “Czar” of those days and both God’s noblemen. [Note: This was a reference to Count Sergei Witte and Tsar Nicholas II, contemporaries of Capt. Pike. Witte was responsible for much industrial development of Tsarist Russia in the 1890’s.] The Territory now comprising the town of Bayfield was taken from LaPointe county. There were a number of very prominent men interested in laying out the townsite and naming our avenues and streets, such as Hon. H. M. RICE and men of means from Washington after whom some of our avenues were named.

Very soon after this they wished to build a large mill in order to furnish lumber necessary for building up the town. The Washington people decided upon a man by the name of CAHO, an old lumberman of Virginia, so he was employed to come up here and direct the building of the mill. A hotel was built directly across from the courthouse by the Mr. BICKSLER who afterwards married my sister. The saw mill was built about a block west of where my saw mill now stands. The mill had a capacity of five or six thousand feet per day and I think the machinery came from Alexandria, Virginia. Joe LaPOINTE was the only man recognized as being capable of running a mill from the fact that he could do his own filing and sawing. While they were constructing the mill they had a gang of men in the woods getting out hard wood for fuel, not thinking of using any of the sawdust, and they piled the sawdust out with the slabs as useless. Charley DAY, whom many of you will remember, who was the party who got out the hardwood as fuel for the mill.

Time has wrought many changes in our midst. As far as I know, I am the only white man living who was here at the time the town was laid out.

In conclusion I wish to say that at a banquet given in Bayfield some two or three years ago, I made the statement that when the last pine tree was cut from the peninsula on which Bayfield is located the prosperity of our town and vicinity will have just commenced. The pine has gone and now we are cutting the hemlock and hardwood which will last ten to fifteen years; and long before this is exhausted the cut over lands will be taken up and farms tilled, as is the history of other sections of the country.

"Elisha and R.D. Pike owned a private fish hatchery in Bayfield County from the 1860s to 1895. The Wisconsin State Legislature mandated the construction of a fish hatchery in northern Wisconsin in 1895, so R.D. Pike donated 405 acres (1.64 km2) from his hatchery to serve as the state hatchery. The state built the main hatchery building in 1897 using brownstone from nearby Pike's Quarry. The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway built a siding to the hatchery, and a special railcar known as The Badger brought fish from the hatchery to Wisconsin waterbodies. In 1974, new buildings and wells were constructed to modernize the hatchery. The hatchery was renamed in honor of longtime Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary Les Voigt in 2006, and the main building was named for R.D. Pike in 2011. The hatchery currently spawns five types of trout and salmon and also includes a visitor's center and aquarium." ~ Wikipedia.org

“Elisha and R.D. Pike owned a private fish hatchery [at Julius Austrian’s former sawmillin Bayfield County from the 1860s to 1895. The Wisconsin State Legislature mandated the construction of a fish hatchery in northern Wisconsin in 1895, so R.D. Pike donated 405 acres (1.64 km2) from his hatchery to serve as the state hatchery. The state built the main hatchery building in 1897 using brownstone from nearby Pike’s Quarry. The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway built a siding to the hatchery, and a special railcar known as The Badger brought fish from the hatchery to Wisconsin waterbodies. In 1974, new buildings and wells were constructed to modernize the hatchery. The hatchery was renamed in honor of longtime Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary Les Voigt in 2006, and the main building was named for R.D. Pike in 2011. The hatchery currently spawns five types of trout and salmon and also includes a visitor’s center and aquarium.”
~ Wikipedia.org

By Amorin Mello

Hercules Louis Dousman cosigned several treaties, including the 1837 land cession treaties with the Chippewa and Dakota (Wikimedia Images).

Hercules Louis Dousman 
“In 1827, the American Fur Company (AFC) achieved a monopoly on the fur trade in what is now Minnesota. The Company suddenly increased its prices by 300 percent; American Indians, returning from the hunt with expectations of trading for their yearly supplies, found themselves cast into a debt cycle that would increase in the decades ahead. American Indians would receive virtually unlimited credit as long as they maintained the most precious collateral: land.
As game was overhunted and demands for furs changed, the system collapsed under a burden of debt. In 1834, AFC departments were sold to partners who included the Chouteaus, Henry Sibley, and Hercules Dousman. The business strategy of the reorganized companies changed from fur trading to treaty making. In 1837, economically stressed Dakota and Ojibwe people began selling land in what became Minnesota. Fur traders, through their political connections, were able to divert government payments for American Indian land into their own pockets. In effect, land cession treaties became a vast government bailout of fur trade corporations.”
Relations: Dakota & Ojibwe Treaties

Henry Hastings Sibley Papers 1826-1848

Henry Hastings Sibley ~ Minnesota Historical Society

Henry Hastings Sibley
~ Minnesota Historical Society

Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center
History Center & Archives

“Papers of Minnesota’s first governor during his years as a fur trader, consisting primarily of correspondence among the various American Fur Company agents located in the Wisconsin Territory. Correspondence concerns internal company business; business with Hudson Bay Fur Company; company agreements with the Dakota Indians; company interest in United States government treaties with the Dakota, Ojibwa, and Winnebago Indians; attempts by the company to prevent war between the Dakota and the Sauk and Fox Indians; relations with missionaries to the Indians of the region; and company disputes with Indian agents Henry R. Schoolcraft and Lawrence Taliaferro.

Correspondents prominent in the early history of Minnesota and Wisconsin include William Aitken, Frederick Ayer, Alexis Bailly, Bernard Brisbois, Ramsay Crooks, Henry Dodge, James Doty, Hercules Dousman, Jean Faribault, Alexander Faribault, Joseph Nicollet, Henry Rice, Joseph Rolette, Henry Schoolcraft, Lawrence Taliaferro, and Lyman Warren.”

 


New York April 17, 1848

To Geo Ebninger Esq.
Assignee Am. Fur Co.

Dear Sir,

Pierre_Chouteau_Jr

Pierre Chouteau, Jr.; son of French Creole fur trader, merchant, politician, and slaveholder Jean-Pierre Chouteau.
~ Wikipedia.org

We hasten to reply to you, of this date offering to sell “The American Fur Co Establishments at Lapointe” all the Northern Outfit Posts: – “The whole for twenty five hundred dollars ($2500)” provided we will take the goods remaining on hand there after this spring’s trade at New York cash for sound Merchantable goods everything else as its fair actual value & say that we regret you waited until the moment our senior was leaving for the west before making the above proposition & also some days after the departure of Mr. Rice. It is probable, if your letter had been received during his stay here, that we would have accepted it or made other propositions which would have been agreeable. We thought if you were desirous of selling the Establishments & goods that you would have apprised us earlier of your intentions & given us time to consult or reflect upon it. And we expect, and hope that you will give us time to communicate your proposition to the persons interested with us in Upper Mississippi & particularly with Mr. Rice who alone has visited the posts & has a correct idea of their value.

Believing that the delay we ask will not or cannot be prejudicial to your interests we will wait your answer.

Very respectfully
yr obd svt

P Chouteau Junr


New York 28th June, 1848

Mister P Chouteau Jr & Co

New York

Gentlemen,

Agreeably to what I had the pleasure to address you on the 14th April last, copy of which letter is annex I will sell you the late American Fur Company’s Establishment at La Pointe & as the terms and conditions as before named, delivery to be made to you or your agent on a date to be hereafter agreed upon between the First day of September and Fifteenth day of October next and ending Payments for the same to be made in New York to me in October or November next.

Please let me have your written reply to this proposition.

I am gentlemen bestly
Your Obedt Servt

George Ebninger

Assignee to P Chouteau Jr, St Louis


New York 30th June, 1848

To George Ebninger Esq.
Assignee Am Fur Co.

Dear Sir,

1843 View of La Pointe ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

View of La Pointe, circa 1843.
“American Fur Company with both Mission churches. Sketch purportedly by a Native American youth. Probably an overpainted photographic copy enlargement. Paper on a canvas stretcher.”
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

In reply to yours of 28th inst (with copy annexed of similar letters under date 14th April last) we have to say that under advises lately received from our Saint Louis house we accept in general terms your proposition for the sale of the American Fur Co’s trading Establishment at Lapointe and interior for the sum offered, of Twenty Five Hundred dollars. It may be well enough to observe how ever that we consider the sale as dating only from the time of delivery to our authorized agents. Until then received we shall consider the posts as the property of Late American Fur Co and to be as their risk and any destruction of property between now and the time you may fix for delivery to be their loss and not ours.

The terms of payments proposed by you are entirely acceptable. But we think it might be better to make it more definite and accordingly suggest that our agents who received the property draw upon us as forty days & nights for the amount.  Hoping that these slights exchanged may meet your sanctions and that you will name an early day for the delivery of posts & we remain very truly,

Your Obedt Servt

P. Chouteau Jr & Co


New York 5th July 1848

P Chouteau Jr Esq
Saint Louis

Dear Sir

Astorian Ramsay Crooks

Ramsey Crooks (also spelled Ramsay) was born in Scotland in 1787. He immigrated to Canada in 1803 where he worked as a fur trader and explorer around the Great Lakes. He began working for the American Fur Company, which was started by John Jacob Astor, America’s first multi-millionaire, and made an expedition to the Oregon coast from 1809-1813 for the company. By doing so he also became a partner in the Pacific Fur Company. In 1834 he became acting president of the American Fur Company following Astor’s retirement to New York. A great lakes sailing vessel the Ramsey Crooks was constructed in 1836 by the American Fur Co. A nearly identical sister ship was built in the same year and was called the Astor. Both ships were sold by the dissolving fur company in 1850. Ramsay Crooks passed away in 1859, but had made a name for himself in the fur trade not only in Milwaukee and the Great Lakes, but all the way to the Pacific Ocean.” ~ Milwaukee County Historical Society

On the 28th June I sold to your house the Establishments of the late American Fur Company at Lapointe agreeably to the letter I had written to you on the 14th April. Cash delivery to be made at some period to be agreed upon hereafter between the first day of September and fifteenth day of October next. I hope that it may be in my power to get to Lapointe and attend to the delivery to your agents but if not we must select some other to act for me, Mr. Crooks and myself are not on good terms in [cou-bethee?] ease as he has been opposed to the sale being made by from the bush. I have lately heard that Mr. Crooks has written the Establishment & at Lapointe (Mr. [Ludgem?] of Detroit told me so while in the city lately) and he must have written to him shortly after the offer was made to you here, and it remains to be seen what authority he can have to dish use of the property which has been assigned to me and over which I have acted as assignee for nearly the last six years. Mr. Crooks acts of leaving here shortly for the Northern Posts. Before then I shall know what he proposes to do to annul the sale I have (under the authority vested in me as assignee) made to you, and which has been made agreeably to his only Suggestions on the 14th day of April last, and the only objection he can make to the Sale is that you did not as once accepts of his but required only a reasonable time to reply to which I was willing to grant and would again give under such circumstances you being there on the eve of leaving here, but it was clear enough that Mr. Crooks never wished that you should have the Northern Outfit Establishment, but that his friend Borrup should. I shall however do all that I can to oppose his injust views on that score.

I am In Most Truly
Your Obedt Servt

George Ebninger


Senator Henry Mower Rice ~ United States Senate Historical Office

Aspring politician and future Senator Henry Mower Rice represented the Chippewas at the 1847 Treaty of Fond du Lac, and appears frequently here on Chequamegon History.
~ United States Senate Historical Office

St. Louis July 14, 1848

Mr.s Sibley & Rice
St. Peters

Dr. Sirs

We had this pleasure of the 7th inst by [Shamus Highland Many?] enclosing Invoice & Bill of Landing of C.O. English goods which we hope you will have received in good order and due time – The same day and as the time the boat was pushing off we addressed you a few lines in haste, advising you of the purchase made by our House in New York, of the posts at Lapointe. We have just received several documents in relation to that purchase of which you will find copies herewithin.

You will perceive from their contents how Mr. Crooks has acted in the matter, and that it has become urgent for us to take such steps as will answer the possession of the said posts. How we will be able to succeed, Doctr. Borrup being now in possession & having apparently purchased from Mr. Crooks, is a matter of doubt and can only be ascertained at Lapointe. We have purchased Bona Fide from Mr. G. Ebninger, the only person authorized to make sale, as the assigner of the late American F. Co. Mr. Borrup we are afraid, will (as you can see by Mr. Sanford’s letter) refuses to give possession, and in that case, in a country where there is no way of enforcing law, we may not be able to obtain possession before next year. Now, would it be desirable or advantageous to make the purchase and not get possession before that time? We think not.

borup

Oil painting of Doctor Charles William Wulff Borup from the Minnesota Historical Society:
“Borup and Oakes were headmen for the [American Fur Company]. All voyageurs, ‘runners,’ as they were called, were employed by said company. They would leave La Pointe about the beginning of September, stay away all fall and winter among the Indians in their respective districts, collect furs, and return about the beginning of June. They would take along blankets, clothes, guns, etc., to trade with the Indians for their furs. They took along very little provisions, as they depended mostly on hunting, fishing, wild reice, and trade with the Indians for their support. There were several depots for depositing goods and collecting furs, for instance at Fond du Lac (Minnesota,) Sandy Lake, Courtes Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau Mouth of Yellow River, etc.”
~ Proceedings of the [Wisconsin Historical] Society at its Sixty-fourth Annual Meeting, 1917, pages 177-9

Our object in this purchase has been more with our view to force Dr. Borrup to come to such arrangements as would prevent him from opposing us on the Mississippi and its dependencies, and more particularly with the Winnebagoes, far the best trade of all_ If then, it becomes impossible to obtain the Establishments at Lapointe unless by due course of law (which would prolong it till next year) We are of the opinion that it would be better for our interests to make such compromise with Dr. Borrup as would exclude him entirely from the west side of the dividing rift.

We are writing this day to our home in New York and to Mr. G. Ebninger that he must proceed immediately to Lapointe so as to be here from the 1st to the 15th September, and claim himself & in person the delivery of the posts. Any agent would not probably succeed, or objections would no doubt be made by Doctr. Borrup which said agent could not face or answer. You will therefore do the necessity of either of you going to Lapointe and meet them with Mr. Ebninger on the time appointed above.

Very truly yours,

P. Chouteau Jr & Co

It was only on the 10th inst that we were handed your forms of 25 june enclosing packing ‘℅’ of the U.S. postal M.R. #01037 for ℅ St Louis ℅ Chippewa outfit. Capt. Ludwick ought to be more particular with papers confided to his care.

Bernard Walter Brisbois was an agent for the American Fur Company.

Duplicates of this letter and documents enclosed, sent to the care of Mr. Brisbois of Prairie du Chien, by mail

You will notice by copy of telegraphic dispatch of the 10th that the Chippewa annuity will be paid at Lake Superior as heretofore.

[Illegible]


The New York Times

September 29, 1851

“Indian Moneys”

There is no greater abuse in the governmental policy of the United States, than the past and present system of Indian payments; and the Indians would be benefited if the money thus appropriated were cast into the Lakes, rather than made the cause of such much distress and swindling as it is.

The author of this article is not identified.

In the August of 1848 we were present at a payment at La Pointe, and we have no hesitation in saying that every dollar paid to the Indians there was a disadvantage rather than a benefit to them.

The payment was fixed for August, and Indians from West of the Mississippi were called together at La Pointe to receive it.  They gathered at the appointed time, and the payment was not made for three weeks after the time specified.

The money collected at the Saut Ste. Marie Land Office, the most convenient point, had been transported, as per Government order, to Chicago, and the Paymaster received drafts on that point where he was compelled to go for the specie, and the payment was thus delayed.

la pointe beaver money

La Pointe Beaver Money of the American Fur Company’s Northern Outfit from “The Beaver in Early Wisconsin” by A. W. Schorger, Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters, Volume 54, page 159.

Meantime, the Indians gathered at La Pointe were without the necessaries of life, and the agents of the North American Fur Company, and a few old traders who were posted in the business, supplied them with provisions at exorbitant rates, and forced them to buy with every ounce of pork or flour which they needed, an equal amount of dry-goods and gewgaws, which had no value for them.  These sales were made on credit, to be settled at the pay-table.  At the payment, some $30,000 in cash, and a stipulated quantity of blankets, guns, powder, tin pails, calicoes, ribbons, &c., were distributed; and this American Fur Company, and the favored traders, raked from the Paymaster’s table as it was counted out to the bands, over $12,000 for provisions furnished to, and trash forced upon the Indians, while they were delayed after being summoned to the payment.

Some $14,000 more was spent among forty traders and the remaining $4,000 the Indians carried home; about one dollar each.

Their blankets, about the only valuable thing they received in the way of dry goods, were on the night after payment, mostly transferred to a mercenary set of speculators, at a cost of a pint of whiskey each, and came down to the Saut as private property on the same propeller that took them up as government gratuity.

Such was the result of a payment for which thousands of Indians traversed many miles of forest, wasted six weeks’ time, and lost the crop of wild rice upon which they depended for their winter’s subsistence.

If a white man with a white soul, writes the history of the Indians of the West, the American government will gain little credit from his record of Indian payments.

For more context about these American Fur Company partners and their affairs following the 1848 La Pointe annuity payments, please read pages 133-136 of Last Days of the Upper Mississippi Fur Trade by Rhonda R. Gilman, Minnesota History, Winter 1970.

But the swindle of 1848 was not gross enough to suit certain grasping parties.  La Pointe was too easy of access.  So many traders sought a market for their goods there, that the old monopolists could not obtain a thousand per cent on the goods they sold; and even in 1848, it was whispered that they were using all their influence to have the future payments made at some point so far West that competition would not force them to be content with moderate profits.

For more context about the Lake Superior Chippewa following the 1848 La Pointe annuity payments, please read our The Sandy Lake Tragedy and Ojibwe Removal series here on Chequamegon History.

To effect this it was necessary to remove the Chippewas further West, and by some influence, not, perhaps, distinctly marked, but yet more than suspected, this order of removal was secured.

It was uncalled for, useless, and abominable; and we are glad, for the sake of humanity and justice, that the Administration have resolved that for the present the edict shall not be enforced.  We trust it may never be.

By Amorin Mello

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

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

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

1852 affidavit 1 1852 affidavit 2 1852 affidavit 3

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

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

Page 75.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The New York Times

[December 11, 1852]

The Region about the Southwest End of Lake Superior.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1852

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

Title page.

1852 Iron River assistants

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


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

By Frank Abial Flower, 1890

Portrait of Steven Bonga, pg. 7

Portrait of Stephen Bonga, page 7.

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

Portrait of George Riley Stuntz, pg.

Portrait of George Riley Stuntz, page 26.

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

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

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

[…]

HUSTLING FOR TOWNSITES [pages 58-60]

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

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

VI. – Superior.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The New York Times

[June 19th, 1858]

WESTERN LAND FRAUDS.

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

Washington, Thursday, June 17, 1858.

Senator Henry Mower Rice ~ United States Senate Historical Office

Senator Henry Mower Rice
~ United States Senate Historical Office

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

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

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

Eye of the Northwest, pg. 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The pre-emptive right. Homesteads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

By Dwight Edwards Woodbridge, et al, 1910

GEORGE R. STUNTZ. [pages 229-231]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 To be continued in 1854

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

The Ashland Weekly Press is now the Ashland Daily Press.

November 10, 1877
For the Ashland Press

The Survey of the Penoka Iron Range and Incidents Connected With Its Early History.

Samuel S. Fifield served on the Wisconsin State Assembly (1874-6) and the State Senate (1876-81); and was the 14th Lieutenant Governor (1882-5).
James-S-Buck

James Smith Buck (1812-92) “For 19 years, Buck was a building contractor, erecting many of the city’s earliest structures. He is best known for his writings on early Milwaukee history. From 1876 to 1886, he published a four-volume History of Milwaukee, filled with pioneer biographies and reminiscences.” (Forest Home Cemetery)

Friend Fifield:- Being one of the patrons and readers of your valuable paper, and having within the past year noticed several very interesting and well written articles entitled “Early Recollections of Ashland” in its columns, and more particularly one from a Milwaukee correspondent, in a recent number, in which my name, with others, was mentioned as having done some pioneer work in connection with your young city, I thought that a few lines in the way of a “Reminiscence” from me as to how and by whom the Penoka Range was first surveyed and located, might be interesting to some of your readers,- if you think so, please give this a place in your paper and oblige.
Truly Yours,
J.S. Buck.

Edwin Palmer was a master carpenter at Palmer & Bingham in Milwaukee.
Horatio Hill and James F. Hill were brothers from Maine and commission merchants in Milwaukee.
Dr. James P. Greves investigated animal magnetism and was a bad egg.
John Lockwood later became a Postmaster in Milwaukee.
John L. Harris may have been a builder or realtor in Milwaukee.
John Sidebotham was an Englishman and cabinet maker in Milwaukee.
Franklin J. Ripley was an investor from Massachusetts.
William Herbert (born in Wales, United Kingdom) signed the 1855 LaPoint Agreement to stop whiskey trade.  Although he was deemed eligible for a mixed-blood allotment he never received one; however he did purchase many land claims in Douglas/Bayfield/Ashland/Iron Counties.

I first visited Lake Superior in the month of May, 1857, in the interest of the Wisconsin and Lake Superior Mining and Smelting Co., a charter for the organization of which had been procured the previous winter.– This company was composed of the following gentlemen: Edwin Palmer, Gen. Lysander Cutler, Horatio Hill, Jas. F. Hill, Dr. J.P. Greves, John Lockwood, John L. Harris, John Sidebotham, Franklin J. Ripley and myself. Edwin Palmer, President, J. F. Hill, Secretary – with a capital of (I think) $60,000. Our first agent was Mr. Milliam Herbert, with headquarters at Ironton, where some five thousand dollars of the company’s money was invested in the erection of a block-house and a couple of cribs intended as a nucleus for a pier – and in other ways – all of which was subsequently abandoned and lost – the place having no natural advantages, or unnatural either, for that matter.– But so it is ever with the first and often with the second installments that such greenies as we were, invest in a new country; for so little did we know of the way work was done in that country that we actually supposed the whole thing would be completed in three months and the lands in our possession. But what we lacked in wisdom, we made up in pluck — neither did we “lay down the shubble and de hoe,” until the goal was reached and the Penoka Iron Range secured – costing us over two years time and $25,000 in money.

The company not being satisfied with Mr. Herbert as agent, he was removed and Gen. Cutler appointed in his place, who quickly selected Ashland as headquarters, to which place all the personal property, consisting of merchandise principally, was removed during the summer by myself upon Gen. C.’s order – and Ironton abandoned to its fate.

Hon. Henry M. Rice had “and to Bayfield” inserted into the language of the St. Croix & Lake Superior Land Grant Act passed by Congress on June 3rd, 1856 to bypass Ashland as a destination.
“This Bayfield Townsite Company was organized with Hon. Henry M. Rice of St. Paul at the head and some very enterprising men from Washington D.C. Major McABoy arrived here about the first of March [1856] and made his headquarters with Julius Austrian of LaPointe. Julius Austrian in those days being the Governor General of all that part of the country west of Ontonagon to Superior; Ashland and Duluth being too small to count.  The major spent probably two weeks at LaPointe going back and forth to Bayfield with a team of large bay horses owned by Julius Austrian, being the only team of horses in the country.”
~ Captain Robinson Derling Pike (Bayfield 50th anniversary celebrations)

The company at this time having become not only aware of the magnitude of the work they had undertaken, but were also satisfied that Ashland was the most feasible point from which to reach the Range, as well as the place where the future Metropolis of the Lake Superior country must surely be — notwithstanding the and to Bayfield clause in that wonderful charter of H.M. Rice.

The cost of getting provisions to the Range was enormous – it being for the first season all carried by packers – every pound transported from Ashland to the Range costing from five to eight cents as freight.

Samuel Stuart Vaughn was an early businessman in the Chequamegon Bay area.

This was my first experience at surveying as well as Mr. Sidebotham’s, and although I took to it easily and enjoyed it, he never could. He was no woodsman; could not travel easily, while on the other hand I could outwalk any white man except S.S. Vaughn in the country. He was then in his prime and one of the most vigorous and muscular men I ever met; but I think he will tell you that in me he found his match.

Albert Conrad Stuntz kept diaries of his government land surveys between Bayfield and St. Paul.
No record found for Frank Gale or Matthew Ward.  If you know what they were notorious for, please let us know in a comment below.

By our contract with Albert Stuntz we were not only to pay him a bonus equal to what he received per mile from Government, but we were also to furnish men for the work and see him through. In accordance with this agreement some eighteen men and boys, to be used as axemen and chainmen, were brought up from Milwaukee who were as “green as gaugers” and as the sequel proved, about as honest. A nice looking lot they were, when landed upon the dock at La Pointe, out of which to make woodsmen. I think I see them now, shining boots,– plug hats, with plug ugly heads in them, (at least some of them had), the notorious Frank Gale, Mat. Ward and one or two other noted characters being of the number. Their pranks astonished the good people of La Pointe not a little, but they astonished Stuntz more. One half day in the woods satisfied them – they were afraid of getting lost. In less than two weeks they had nearly all deserted and the work had to be delayed until a new squad could be obtained from below.

But I must close. In my next I will give you an account of my life on the Range.      J.S.B.

By Leo Filipczak

When we last checked in with Joseph Austrian, or Doodooshaaboo (milk) as he was known in these parts, we saw some interesting stories and insights about La Pointe in 1851.  The later La Pointe stories, however, are where the really good stuff is.

Austrian’s brief stay on the island came at arguably one of the most important periods in our area’s history, spanning from a few months after the Sandy Lake Tragedy, until just after Chief Buffalo’s return from Washington D.C.  Whether young Joseph realized it or not, he recorded some valuable history.  In his memoir, we see information about white settlement and land speculation prior to the Treaty of 1854, as well as corroborating accounts of the La Pointe and Bayfield stories found in the works of Carl Scherzer and Benjamin Armstrong.

Most importantly, there is a dramatic scene of a showdown between the Lake Superior chiefs and Agent John Watrous, one of the architects of the Sandy Lake removal.  In this, we are privileged to read the most direct and succinct condemnation of the government, I’ve ever seen from Chief Buffalo.  It is a statement that probably deserves to be memorialized alongside Flat Mouth’s scathing letter to Governor Ramsey.    

So, without further ado, here is the second and final installment of Joseph Austrian’s memoirs of La Pointe, and fifth of this series.  Enjoy:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   

 

Memoirs of Doodooshaboo

… continued from La Pointe 1851-1852 (Part 1).

 

Scherzer, Noted Traveller Pays Us a Visit.  1851.

Carl Scherzer and his companion Moritz Wagner recorded their travels in Reisen in Nordamerkia in der Jahren 1852 und 1853.  An e-translation of Chapter 21 appeared in English for the first time this fall on the Chequamegon History website.  You can read it here, here, and here.  The second installment records his time with Joseph Austrian.  From Austrian’s account, it appears Wagner did not accompany Scherzer through the Lake Superior country.  (Wikimedia Images)

During this summer a noted Austrian traveler Carl Scherzer arrived one Sept. night.  He had been commissioned by the “Academy of Science” of Vienna (a Government Institution) to make a tour of America to familiarize himself with the country and gather information to write a book for the Academy. This interesting book which he wrote is called “Scherzer’s Reisen.”  Mr. S. sent me a copy of this book which I have in my library.  In this book, mention is made of me and my cordial reception of him and his travelling companion, an Attache of the French Legation of Washington who accompanied him on his trip.  Scherzer was a highly educated gentleman, cultured and charming, tall and of imposing appearance.  Scherzer arrived at La Pointe at midnight coming from Ontonagan 90 miles in a small row boat.  To his dismay, he found that there was not a hotel in the place.  The boatman told him that he thought that one Austrian might give him shelter for the night, so he came to the house and knocked at the door.  Henry Schmitz, my fellow employee, who roomed with me opened the door and called out “Joe step auf freund von below sind da,” whereupon I cordially invited them to enter and made them as comfortable as possible.  They remained with us about three days and profoundly appreciated our hospitality.  Even making mention of it later on in his book.  Once on going to a fishing boat for our supply of fish, Scherzer went with me and begged the privilege of carrying two of the large fine white fish, one suspended from each hand.  He much enjoyed meeting the good Father Skolla, his country-mate, also an Austrian, and from him obtained more valuable and authentic information concerning that part of Lake Superior country that he could have otherwise gained.  From La Point Scherzer planned to go to St. Paul.  There were no railroads here at that time.  There were but two roads leading to St. Paul.  One was simply a footpath of several hundred miles through the woods.  The other led via St. Croix [Brule?] & St. Croix river shortening the foot travel considerably.  Scherzer chose the latter road.  I fitted out for him, at his request, a birch bark canoe and utensils and all necessary for the trip and Scherzer and his companion started on their way to St. Paul.

In Reisen in Nordamerika, Scherzer contradicts Austrian’s statement that the voyageurs who brought the travel writer from Ontanagon also brought him down the Brule and St. Croix.  The men who departed with him from La Pointe are identified only as Souverain, an older man, and Jean-Baptise, a young man.  Souverain Denis is the likely suspect for the captain, and if Austrian is correct here, it appears Jean-Baptise Belanger (Balange) was his partner.

He had engaged one “Balange” their voyageur who had brought them from Ontonoagan and a friend of his to take them through.  They were well acquainted with the route which at times necessitated their carrying the canoes around through the woods across the portage, where the river was inaccessible through rapids, obstacles and otherwise.  Scherzer arrived at St. Paul safely and wrote thanking me for my assistance and requesting me to send him a copy of the wording of a French rowing song (the oarsmen usually sang keeping time with their oars).  I sent it to him and received a letter of thanks from New Orleans whence he had gone from St. Paul by steamer via the Mississippi River.  This song is embodied in his book also.

A Steamer was a rare occurrence at La Point and when one did come, we often got up an Indian war dance or other Indian exhibit for the amusement of its passengers, and which they enjoyed greatly.  In the fall of the year steamers were sometimes driven there by the storms prevailing on the lakes, as the harbor offered the best of shelter.  We kept a good supply of cord wood on the dock which we sold to the steamers when they needed fuel.

 

Indians Decline to be Removed by Gov.  I attend Grand Council.  1851.

Although the Government had botched the previous year’s removal, leading to hundreds of deaths, John Watrous illegally told the Ojibwe chiefs in 1851 that they would have to remove to Sandy Lake again.  The Lake Superior bands adamantly refused.  Some of the details here, however, suggest that this may actually depict the Buffalo-Watrous showdown, over the same issue, that occurred at La Pointe in the summer of 1852.  Scherzer’s visit, described above, was in 1852, but Austrian (writing over fifty years later) puts it in 1851.  For more on the politics of the years following Sandy Lake, read (Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013.), and Bruce White’s section of (McClurken, James M., and Charles E. Cleland. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights / James M. McClurken, Compiler ; with Charles E. Cleland … [et Al.]. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UP, 2000).

During the first summer of my stay at La Point, the Indian Agent, Mr. Watrous was directed by the Secretary of the Indian Dept. at Washington to summon the chiefs of that part of the Chippewa tribe residing in the vicinity of Bad River, Bayfield, & Red River for a council.  The Agent accordingly sent runners around to the chiefs of the different lodges some of which were quite remote, summoning them to meet him on a certain day at La Point.  They came in obedience to the summons many bringing their squaws, papooses and their Indians of their lodges with them.  Near the lake shore the put up their wigwams, which were made of birch bark leaving an opening over hung with a blanket which served as a doorway.  It made an interesting Indian settlement.  The meeting was held on the appointed day, in my brother’s store which was a long wooden structure.  When the meeting opened the chiefs sat on the floor arranged along the left side of the room, with their blankets wrapped around them, and each one smoking a long stemmed pipe, which they make themselves, the sign of peace, many ornamented with paint and feathers.  On the other side of the room was seated the Indian Agent with an interpreter who translated what either had said.

I naturally felt greatly interested in witnessing their proceedings.  The President of the U. S. was known by the Indians as the Great Father and the Agent addressed them telling them what the Great Father wanted of them; namely that they remove from their reservations to interior points in order to make room for while settlers; pointing out to them that the proposed location was more suited for them, there being good fishing and hunting grounds.  The government offered to pay them besides certain annuities, partly in money and partly in Indian goods–such as blankets, cotton, beads, provisions, etc.  The proposition of the Government was met with murmurs of disapproval by the chiefs & Indians present, and Chief Buffalo made a most eloquent and impassioned speech saying,

“Go back to the ‘Great Father’ and tell him to keep the money and his goods.  We do not want them but we wish to be left in peace.  Tell him we will not move from the land that is our own, that we have always been peaceable and were always happy until the white man came among our people and sold ‘Matchie Mushkiki [majimashkiki (bad medicine)]’ (poison-whiskey) to them.“

(The real name of whiskey in Indian is “Ushkota wawa [ishkodewaaboo]” – fire water).

The Indians did remain and to this day are still occupying the same land.  I was present at this meeting and it so impressed me, that although it took place over fifty years ago it is still vivid in my mind.  Later on the Government encouraged the same Indians to engage in farming work on the reservation, and furnishing them with implements and seeds for that purpose, and in the course of a few years they had their own little farms on which they raised potatoes and other vegetables easily cultivated.  Schools also were established by the Government.  One of their large settlements today is on Bad River, and not far from Ashland Wis., known by the name of Odana.

 

Brother Marx Experience with Indians.  1851 .

Marx Austrian did not immigrate until 1853, or marry his first wife Malea until a year later.  His received a land patent for this claim from the General Land Office in Superior City during 1857.  This would date his pre-emption to the winter of 1855-1856, a few months before Bayfield was established by the Bayfield Land Company, not 1851.
Exciting research is being done on the land speculation and corruption in this area (much of it involving the Austrian brothers), just before and after the Treaty of 1854.  It was Henry M. Rice, richer and more powerful than even Julius Austrian, who eventually cashed in on the plots that became Bayfield.

Our blind brother Marx Austrian with brother Julius’ assistance at that time, preempted 160 acres of land near Bayfield from La Point, complying with preemption laws.  He built a small log house living there with his wife.  One night during their first winter in their new house, there was a knock at the door, and when opened they were confronted by a number of Indians, who were evidently under the influence of liquor and who swinging their tomahawks vigorously, making all sorts of threatening demands.  An old Indian who knew Marx interceded and enabled him and his wife to escape without injury who thoroughly scared fled panic stricken in the dark about two miles at night, over the ice, on the Bay which was covered with a foot of snow to La Point for safety.  The poor woman having the hazardous task of leading her blind husband over this long and difficult road, not to come back again and glad to escape with their lives and thus abandoning their right of preemption.  This place was later on platted and is now known as the Bayfield Addition.

 

My Experience in Lumbering

Brother Julius had a small saw mill operated by water power about two miles back of Bayfield on Pike’s Creek, near which were Pine lands.  In the winter I was sent with some woodsmen to look after the cutting and hauling of Pine logs for the mill.  These logs were hauled by ox teams to the mill.  In the spring I was again sent there to assist in the sawing of these logs into lumber.  We lived in a little log hut near by.  When the snow melted toward spring time, the creek was high and swollen.  One day the force of the waters burst through the dam, carrying it away and the great volume of water rushing down cut a new channel in the bed of which had become a river, and undermining to foundation of our little log house causing it to topple over into it, also carrying away the logs, many of which floated down into Lake Superior and were lost.

Jewish-immigrant brothers, Julius and Joseph Austrian, were prominent La Pointe residents at this time.

Pg. 218-219 (Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892).

In the winter when logging was going on, once I was sent across from La Point with a heavy load of provisions and supplies for the men.  This was loaded on a so called “Canadian flat sleigh.”  The road on the way to the mill led down a very steep high hill which half way down had a sharp bend and at this curve stood a tree.  After having started down the hill, the horse was not strong enough to hold back the load, which got the better of him, and pushed him swiftly down the hill with his hind legs dragging after him wedging him against and partly into the tree with his front legs up in the air.  I could not move the heavily laden sleigh with the horse wedged in so tightly I found it impossible to extricate him, and had to go to the mill for assistance.  The sled had to be unloaded before we could free the horse.  See Armstrong’s book in which mention and illustration is given of this as “Austrian up the tree.”  The book is in my library.

 

Ferrying Oxen Across the Bay in Row Boat.

My brother Julius had also a large tract of meadow land on Bad River, where he had a number of men employed in making hay, in order to gather this hay for stacking, a span of cattle and a wagon were needed to haul it.  There being no other means of ferrying them across the bay, one of the large Mackinaw boats of about twenty-five feet keel by six feet beam had to be used to get these over to the other side across a distance of about three miles to the mainland from where they could be driven to the meadow.  I was commissioned to attend to this assisted by four competent boatmen, we finally managed with coaxing and skill to get the two big oxen into the boat, standing them crosswise in it.  We tied their horns to the opposite side of the boat.  The width of the boat was not sufficient to allow them to stand in their natural position which made them restless.  The first thing we knew one of the oxen raised his hind leg and stuck it out over the side of the boat into the water, his other leg soon followed and we had aboard an ox half in the boat, with the weight of his body resting on and threatening to capsize the boat.  We quickly cut the rope which held his head and he fell backward overboard floundering in the water.  Little did I think that we would see the ox alive again.  Imagine my surprise on my return to the Island to find he had swam back to shore safe and sound.  When the other ox saw his mate go overboard, he tried to follow and it required much coaxing and extra feeding to restrain him and finally landed him all right on the opposite shore.

 

Lost in the Woods

Ervin Barnes Leihy was one of first American settlers of this area whose primary employment was not specifically the Indian trade or the missions.

I returned to the Island and the next morning I started for the meadow fields in a birch bark canoe with a Mr. Lehigh who had a little saw mill about five miles up Bad River.  We were obliged to sit in the bottom of the little boat in a most uncomfortable and cramped position, having been warned by the boatman in charge not to move as the least motion is apt to cause the frail craft to capsize.  On arrival at the meadow I found the men busily at work.  They were about to take dinner and I gladly consented to join them, and being hungry relished the spread of fried pork, crackers, and tea.  My companion Mr. Lehigh was bound for his little saw mill up the river where he lived, and I having business to attend to there started with him on a foot trail through the woods.  He loitered on the way picking wild raspberries, just ripe and tempting, but musquitos were thick and vicious and pestered us terribly.  I not being accustomed suffered more than my companion.  Asking him the distance we were still to go, and on his telling me three miles, I became impatient and went ahead alone to get away from the musquitos.  After walking on some time I came to a potato field into which the trail led, but was concealed by the high vines.  Crossing the field I struck a trail on the other side and took for granted it was the one leading to the mill.  On and on I went when it struck me that I had gone further than the three miles, and it dawned on me that I must have taken the wrong path from the potato field and I concluded to turn back and try to reach the meadow.  The sun had gone down, it grew dusk very soon amongst the tall pine and maple trees, in the dense forrest.  It grew so dark that I could not see my trail and became entangled in the underbrush and roots of trees, tripping and falling many times.  I had with me my double barrel shot gun, both barrels being loaded I shot these off to attract Lehigh’s attention. I listened breathlessly for some answer but there was no sign of a human soul and I became thoroughly frightened at the prospect of being lost in the woods but resolved to make the best of it.  I stumbled around and found a log hut near by, which had been put up for temporary use by the Indians in sugar making time.  I had neither matches nor ammunition, by feeling around, I discovered that what had been the doorway was closed up with birch bark. By climbing up I also discovered that the roof had been taken off the hut and I let myself down to see what might be inside.  I found there three rolls of birch bark and a rude bench made of rough poles laid along on one side lengthwise about a foot along the floor, which served as seats for the Indians while boiling the maple sap.  Being tired out I laid down on the rough bench and tried to rest, tying a handkerchief over my face, and with each hand up in the boot sleeves to protect myself from large and ravenous musquitos which tortured me nigh to desperation.  Having no matches with me to kindle a fire or create a smoke I was entirely at their mercy.  Presently I heard a noise on the outside as though of something stealthily climbing over the wall.  The moon was then shining brightly, the sky was clear and on looking up I saw the outlines of a young bear sticking his head over the wall looking down on me.  I sprang up and as I did so the bear jumped back and ran off.  No doubt the odor of the sugar attracted him more than I did.  Under these circumstances rest was out of the question.  I climbed out of the hut and made another attempt to find the lost trail by moonlight, crawling on hands and feet in some places.  In doing so, I placed my gun against a tree and had a hard time to find it again.  I decided there was no use to trip further and climbed back in the hut to stay there till day-light, then with renewed effort after repeated disappointment I finally struck a trail, but at this point I was confused and at a loss to know which direction to take.  I reached a steep hill that I did not remember having passed the day before.  As a last resort I ran up this hill and hallowed & yelled.  An answer came from the valley, from me working there.  Following the sound I reached the meadow.  My face was so swollen from the musquito bites that I was a sight to behold.  After resting and partaking of some food, I again started out for Lehigh’s place one of the me volunteering to show me the way and I arrived there a couple of hours after, and found that it was only one mile from the potato field where I had lost the trail.

For many miles in all other directions in this dense forrest there was not a single habitation nor likelihood of meeting with a soul and here a short time ago a man had been lost and never heard from again.  Hence I was lucky indeed to have found my way out of the woods.  Lehigh cooly informed me that when I saw him that he heard the report of my gun, but had paid no heed to it thinking I would eventually turn up.

 

Lost on the Ice and Night

Alexis was a common name among the mix-blooded families of La Pointe.  Alexis Carpenter Sr. was probably Julius Austrian’s trusted Frenchman.  This was probably Alexis Carpenter, Sr.

One time during the winter Brother Julius sent me with his trusted Frenchman Alexis, to look up certain Indians who owed him for goods and whom he thought would have considerable fur.  This tramp meant about ten miles each way through the woods on an Indian trail the ground being covered with snow.  Taking our faithful dog, who had been trained to hauling with the little toboggan sled, on which to bring back the fur which he hoped to get in payment for our debt.  We started from La Point, and I met with good success gathering quite a little fur.  On our return we reached the Bay shore late in the evening from where we had four or five miles to cross on the ice in order to reach the Island.  We rested for about an hour at an Indian wigwam and partook of some tea (such as it was) that the Indian squaw made for us and then started on. Alexis, acting as pilot went ahead, followed by the dog & then by me.  It was a clear cold night the moon shown brightly, but about half an hour afterwards snow clouds sprang up shutting out the moonlight, Still we pushed ahead.  Soon however Alexis lost his bearings and was uncertain as to direction, but on we went for several hours without reaching the Island.  Presently we encountered ice roughly broken and piled high by the force of a gale from the open lake, which indicated that we were too near the open water and that we had gone too far around the Island instead of the straight for La Point.  We stumbled along, and after having been out about two hours on the ice, with continued walking we managed to reach the shore and with guidance of Alexis tramped along toward La Point reaching there two hours afterwards almost exhausted by the hardships we had endured.

 

Trip to Ontonagon in Row Boat for Winter Supplies.  1851

It was in 1851 when brother Julius expected the last boat of the season would touch at La Point which was usually the case and deliver all his supplies but the quantity was not sufficient to induce the Captain to run in there and consequently he skipped La Pointe, thus leaving us short of necessary provisions for the winter, hence it was necessary to procure the same as best we could.  I was commissioned by my brother Julius to undertake the job which I did by manning a mackinaw boat with five voyageurs.  The boat was loaded with as many barrels of fish as we could carry.  We started for Ontonagon about the middle of November, intending to trade the fish for supplies required.  It was cold, the ground frozen and covered with snow. The wind was fair.  We hoisted our two sails and made good time reaching Montreal River late in the evening where we ran in and tied up for the night.  We had no tent with us but found a deserted log house by the river in which we spent the night.  There was a large open fire place, and my man cutting down a dry tree kindled a brisk wood fire in the fire place.  I slipped into a rough bunk in the room wrapped myself in my blankets and tried to sleep, but in vain.  The smoke from the fire was so dense it nearly suffocated me.  My met lighting a few tallow candles amused themselves playing cards until late at night.

The next morning early, we set sail and again had fair wind, reaching Iron River about noon and Ontonagon that night, next day succeeded in exchanging my fish for provisions and the following day started on our return trip to La Point.  We had mostly fair wind and reached there on the third day in good shape.

 

Another Trip to Ontonagon for Provisions.  1852.

The following year, in 1852, I agains made a similar trip for like reasons but did not have nearly as good luck as on the previous trip.  It was fraught with some danger and combined with a great deal of hardship.  The distance from La Point to Ontonagon is nearly 100 miles, all exposed to the storms of Lake Superior which in the Fall are generally very severe.  On our first day out we encountered a severe snow storm, which compelled us to make a landing near the mouth of Bad River to save the boat, which was threatened to be dashed to pieces on the shore or carried out into the open lake.  So she had to be beached and in order to do this her cargo of fish had all to be thrown overboard when we touched the beach, to lighten her and when this was done she was hauled up on the beach with a block and tackle and fastened to stump of a tree.  The boatmen had to go almost waist deep in the water and roll the heavy barrels up on the beach.  After completing the landing we sought shelter in the nearby woods from the raging storm, we were not equipped for camping, so we took the sail from the boat and stretched it over as far as it would reach for our own protection.  As before the men cut down a dead tree kindled a fire, hanging over it our camp kettle, made tea, tried some pork and this together with some crackers with which we were supplied composed our supper.  To get further away from the wind and snow we had gone further back into the woods to find some protection and there we rolled ourselves in our grey blankets and laid down keeping our faces under the protection of the sail as much as possible.  Being very much exhausted, we fell asleep, in spite of unfavorable conditions.  Toward morning when I awoke I tried to pull my blanket over me a little more but found I could not move it, and discovered that the snow had drifted over us to such an extent that we were fairly buried in it, nothing visible but part of our faces, our breath having kept that free for the time.  After daybreak we again started a fire, and this made things worse as the heat melted the snow on the trees around and water dripped down on our blankets, getting them wet.  We had to hang them near the fire to dry as we collected them later on.  They fairly steamed and we were delayed a whole day in getting arrangements completed to start again on our trip.  Toward morning the wind had subsided considerably, and the snow storm had abated somewhat and again we ventured on our trip.  After going through the same routine of reloading as on our previous occasion.  At 10 A.m. we started on our perilous voyage making good head way, the wind being favorable.  We reached Iron River after midnight.  We detected an Indian wigwam near by, thinking we might be able to get something to eat.  We tied up and investigated.  We peeped into the wigwam and found the same occupied with an Indian family.  The Indian squaw and papooses all tight asleep.  Not wishing to arouse them or to lose further time we moved on stopping early the next morning in a small bay on our route.  Kindling a fire as previously described, preparing a meager breakfast , the best scant supplies would permit.  These boatmen were accustomed to cooking (such as it was) as well as boating it being often a necessity, as they were accustomed to make long coasting trips in the pioneer days of the Lake Superior regions, which was sparsely settled and vessels were very scarce.  Supplies and all merchandise had to be transported all the way from Detroit to Lake Superior on those small Mackinaw boats.  After breakfast we set sail and continued our journey with fair wind enabling us to make good time, but it had grown bitterly cold and as we were but poorly protected for such severe weather.  It cost us untold suffering.

We finally reached Ontonagon River after dark, and to our great consternation found that the river was frozen over about an inch thick with ice.  This was not easy to break through with flimsy craft, but desperation gave strength to our men and they were equal to the situation.  With their heavy oars they pounded and broke the ice managing finally to get inside of the river to the dock of the merchant with whom I expected to do my trading in the town of Ontonagon, which was the Lakeport for the Minnesota and other copper mines in that vicinity, at that time being just developed.  On the following morning I attended to the selling of the load of fish, purchased our supplies and intending to start back for La Point the next morning.

 

Ordered to go to Eagle River.  1852.

Closely connected by marriage and business, the Bavarian-Jewish families Austrian and Leopold became titans of Great Lakes shipping.

In the meantime the propeller Napoleon arrived from there bringing for me a letter from brother Julius, instructing me if still in Ontonagon to take this steamer for Eagle River and to enter the employ of Mr. Henry Leopold, who had a small store there.  His man had left suddenly and he was anxious for my services.  I started for Eagle River just as I was and not until the following spring did I get my trunk.  I began working for Mr. Leopold as bookkeeper and general clerk, and thus abruptly terminated my business career at La Point.  My boatmen under direction of Mr. Henry Schmitz started without me on their return trip to La Point as planned when between Montreal River and Bad River, they encountered a terrific gale and snow storm.  It was so severe that to remain outside meant to be lost, and as a last resort, they ran their boat through the breakers, trying to beach her.  She was swamped with all the supplies, and tossed up on the beach and had to be abandoned for the time being.  Later on another boat was sent on from La Point to get the damaged cargo.  The Napoleon got abreast of Eagle River, this place being on the open shore of Lake Superior without any protection, it being too rough there for the boat to make a landing, therefore she went on to Eagle Harbor, about nine miles distant, where she could safely land.  On arrival there I put up at Charley King boarding house for the night.

To be continued after La Pointe 1852-1854

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Special thanks to Amorin Mello and Joseph Skulan for sharing this document and their important research on the Austrian brothers and their associates with me.  It is to their credit that these stories see the light of day.  This is the end of the La Pointe section, but the original handwritten memoir of Joseph Austrian is held by the Chicago History Museum and contains many interesting stories from the life of this brief resident of La Pointe.

Identified by the Minnesota Historical Society as “Scene at Indian payment, probably at Odanah, Wisconsin. c. 1865.”  by Charles Zimmerman.  Judging by the faces in the crowd, this is almost certainly the same payment as the more-famous image that decorates the margins of the Chequamegon History site (Zimmerman MNHS Collections)

A staunch defender of Ojibwe sovereignty, and a zealous missionary dedicating his life’s work to the absolute destruction of the traditional Ojibwe way of life, may not seem like natural political allies, but as Shakespeare once wrote, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

In October of 1855, two men who lived near Odanah, were miserable and looking for help.  One was Rev. Leonard Wheeler who had founded the Protestant mission at Bad River ten years earlier.  The other was Blackbird, chief of the “Bad River” faction of the La Pointe Ojibwe, that had largely deserted La Pointe in the 1830s and ’40s to get away from the men like Wheeler who pestered them relentlessly to abandon both their religion and their culture.  

Their troubles came in the aftermath of the visit to La Pointe by George Manypenny, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, to oversee the 1855 annuity payments.  Many readers may be familiar with these events, if they’ve read Richard Morse’s account, Chief Buffalo’s obituary (Buffalo died that September while Manypenny was still on the island), or the eyewitness account by Crockett McElroy that I posted last month. Taking these sources together, some common themes emerge about the state of this area in 1855: 

  1. After 200 years, the Ojibwe-European relationship based on give and take, where the Ojibwe negotiated from a position of power and sovereignty, was gone.  American government and society had reached the point where it could by impose its will on the native peoples of Lake Superior.  Most of the land was gone and with it the resource base that maintained the traditional lifestyle, Chief Buffalo was dead, and future chiefs would struggle to lead under the paternalistic thumb of the Indian Department.  
  2. With the creation of the reservations, the Catholic and Protestant missionaries saw an opportunity, after decades of failures, to make Ojibwe hunters into Christian farmers.
  3. The Ojibwe leadership was divided on the question of how to best survive as a people and keep their remaining lands.  Some chiefs favored rapid assimilation into American culture while a larger number sought to maintain traditional ways as best as possible.
  4. The mix-blooded Ojibwe, who for centuries had maintained a unique identity that was neither Native nor European, were now being classified as Indians and losing status in the white-supremacist American culture of the times.  And while the mix-bloods maintained certain privileges denied to their full-blooded relatives, their traditional voyageur economy was gone and they saw treaty payments as one of their only opportunities to make money.
  5. As with the Treaties of 1837 and 1842, and the tragic events surrounding the attempted removals of 1850 and 1851, there was a great deal of corruption and fraud associated with the 1855 payments.

This created a volatile situation with Blackbird and Wheeler in the middle.  Before, we go further, though, let’s review a little background on these men.

This 1851 reprint from Lake Superior Journal of Sault Ste. Marie shows how strongly Blackbird resisted the Sandy Lake removal efforts and how he was a cultural leader as well as a political leader. (New Albany Daily Ledger, October 9, 1851. Pg. 2).

Who was Blackbird?

Makadebineshii, Chief Blackbird, is an elusive presence in both the primary and secondary historical record.  In the 1840s, he emerges as the practical leader of the largest faction of the La Pointe Band, but outside of Bad River, where the main tribal offices bear his name, he is not a well-known figure in the history of the Chequamegon area at all.  

Unlike, Chief Buffalo, Blackbird did not sign many treaties, did not frequently correspond with government officials, and is not remembered favorably by whites.  In fact, his portrayal in the primary sources is often negative.  So then, why did the majority of the Ojibwe back Blackbird at the 1855 payment?  The answer is probably the same reason why many whites disliked him.  He was an unwavering defender of Ojibwe sovereignty, he adhered to his traditional culture, and he refused to cooperate with the United States Government when he felt the land and treaty rights of his people were being violated.     

One needs to be careful drawing too sharp a contrast between Blackbird and Buffalo, however.  The two men worked together at times, and Blackbird’s son James, later identified his father as Buffalo’s pipe carrier.  Their central goals were the same, and both labored hard on behalf of their people, but Buffalo was much more willing to work with the Government.  For instance, Buffalo’s response in the aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy, when the fate of Ojibwe removal was undecided, was to go to the president for help.  Blackbird, meanwhile, was part of the group of Ojibwe chiefs who hoped to escape the Americans by joining Chief Zhingwaakoons at Garden River on the Canadian side of Sault Ste. Marie. 

Still, I hesitate to simply portray Blackbird and Buffalo as rivals.  If for no other reason, I still haven’t figured out what their exact relationship was.  I have not been able to find any reference to Blackbird’s father, his clan, or really anything about him prior to the 1840s.  For a while, I was working under the hypothesis that he was the son of Dagwagaane (Tugwaganay/Goguagani), the old Crane Clan chief (brother of Madeline Cadotte), who usually camped by Bad River, and was often identified as Buffalo’s second chief.  

However, that seems unlikely given this testimony from James Blackbird that identifies Oshkinawe, a contemporary of the elder Blackbird, as the heir of Guagain (Dagwagaane):

Statement of James Blackbird: Condition of Indian affairs in Wisconsin: hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs, United States Senate, [61st congress, 2d session], on Senate resolution, Issue 263.  pg 203.  (Digitized by Google Books).

But whether James’ grandfather was a prominent chief or not, his father Blackbird certainly had become one by 1855.  Both Morse and McElroy record him as speaking for the majority of the assembled Ojibwe.  The big issue of debate at that council was how to distribute the payments and how to handle the claims of traders who said they were owed money by the Ojibwe for debts.  The agent, Henry Gibert, asked that all the money go to him so he could evaluate the claims and then distribute the money to individual families.  Some chiefs, including Naaganab of Fond du Lac and Jayjigwyong (Little Buffalo) of La Pointe, along with most of the mix-blooded Ojibwe favored this plan. Blackbird’s larger group wanted to see the money go directly to the chiefs for distribution.

It seems Commissioner Manypenny left La Pointe before the issue was entirely settled, because a month later, we find a draft letter from Blackbird to the Commissioner transcribed in Wheeler’s hand: 

Mushkesebe River Oct. 1855

Blackbird.  Principal chief of the Mushkisibi-river Indians to Hon. G. Manepenny Com. of Indian Affairs  Washington City.

Father;  Although I have seen you face to face, & had the privilege to talking freely with you, we did not do all that is to be attended to about our affairs.  We have not forgotten the words you spoke to us, we still keep them in our minds.  We remember you told us not to listen to all the foolish stories that was flying about–that we should listen to what was good, and mind nothing about anything else.  While we listened to your advice we kept one ear open and the other shut, & [We?] kept retained all you spoke said in our ears, and.  Your words are still ringing in our ears. The night that you left the sound of the paddles in boat that carried you away from us was had hardly gone ceased before the minds of some of the chiefs was were tuned by the traders from the advice you gave, but we did not listen to them.  Ja-jig-wy-ong, (Buffalo’s son) son says that he & Naganub asked Mr. Gilbert if they could go to Washington to see about the affairs of the Indians.  Now father, we are sure you opened your heart freely to us, and did not keep back anything from us that is for our good.  We are sure you had a heart to feel for us & sympathise with us in our trials, and we think that if there is any important business to be attended to you would not have kept it secret & hid it from us, we should have knew it.  If I am needed to go to Washington, to represent the interests of our people, I am ready to go.  The ground that we took against about our old debts, I am ready to stand shall stand to the last. We are now in Mr. Wheelers house where you told us to go, if we had any thing to say, as Mr. W was our friend & would give us good advice.  We have done so.  All the chiefs & people for whom I spoke, when you were here, are of the same mind.  They all requested before they left that I should go to Washington & be sure & hold on to Mr. Wheeler as one to go with me, because he has always been our steadfast friend and has al helped us in our troubles. There is another thing, my father, which makes us feel heavy hearted.  This is about our reservation.  Although you gave us definite instructions about it, there are some who are trying to shake our reserve all to pieces.  A trader is already here against our will & without any authority from Govt, has put him up a store house & is trading with our people.  In open council also at La Pointe when speaking for our people, I said we wanted Mr. W to be our teacher, but now another is come which whom we don’t want, and is putting up a house.  We supposed when you spoke to us about a teacher being permitted to live among us, you had reference to the one we now have, one is enough, we do not wish to have any more, especially of the kind of him who has just come.  We forbid him to build here & showed him the paper you gave us, but he said that paper permitted him rather than forbid him to come.  If the chiefs & young men did not remember what you told them to keep quiet there would already be have been war here.  There is always trouble when there two religions come together.  Now we are weak and can do nothing and we want you to help us extend your arms to help us.  Your arms can extend even to us.  We want you to pity & help us in our trouble.  Now we wish to know if we are wanted, or are permitted, three or four of us to come to which Washington & see to our interests, and whether our debts will be paid.  We would like to have you write us immediately & let us know what your will is, when you will have us come, if at all. One thing further.  We do not want any account to be allowed that was not presented to us for us to pass our opin us to pass judgement on, we hear that some such accounts have been smuggled in without our knowledge or consent.

 

 

The letter is unsigned, lacks a specific date, and has numerous corrections, which indicate it was a draft of the actual letter sent to Manypenny.  This draft is found in the Wheeler Family Papers in the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center. As interesting as it is, Blackbird’s letter raises more questions than answers.  Why is the chief so anxious to go to Washington?  What are the other chiefs doing? What are these accounts being smuggled in?  Who are the people trying to shake the reservation to pieces and what are they doing?  Perhaps most interestingly, why does Blackbird, a practitioner of traditional religion, think he will get help from a missionary?

For the answer to that last question, let’s take a look at the situation of Leonard H. Wheeler. When Wheeler, and his wife, Harriet came here in 1841, the La Pointe mission of Sherman Hall was already a decade old.  In a previous post, we looked at Hall’s attitudes toward the Ojibwe and how they didn’t earn him many converts.  This may have been part of the reason why it was Wheeler, rather than Hall, who in 1845 spread the mission to Odanah where the majority of the La Pointe Band were staying by their gardens and rice beds and not returning to Madeline Island as often as in the past.

When compared with his fellow A.B.C.F.M. missionaries, Sherman Hall, Edmund Ely, and William T. Boutwell, Wheeler comes across as a much more sympathetic figure.  He was as unbending in his religion as the other missionaries, and as committed to the destruction of Ojibwe culture, but in the sources, he seems much more willing than Hall, Ely, or Boutwell to relate to Ojibwe people as fellow human beings.  He proved this when he stood up to the Government during the Sandy Lake Tragedy (while Hall was trying to avoid having to help feed starving people at La Pointe).  This willingness to help the Ojibwe through political difficulties is mentioned in the 1895 book In Unnamed Wisconsin by John N. Davidson, based on the recollections of Harriet Wheeler: 

From In Unnamed Wisconsin pg. 170 (Digitized by Google Books).

So, was Wheeler helping Blackbird simply because it was the right thing to do?  We would have to conclude yes, if we ended it here.  However, Blackbird’s letter to Manypenny was not alone. Wheeler also wrote his own to the Commissioner. Its draft is also in the Wheeler Family Papers, and it betrays some ulterior motives on the part of the Odanah-based missionary:   

  

example not to meddle with other peoples business.

Mushkisibi River Oct. 1855

L.H. Wheeler to Hon. G.W. Manypenny

Dear Sir. In regard to what Blackbird says about going to Washington, his first plan was to borrow money here defray his expenses there, & have me start on.  Several of the chiefs spoke to me before soon after you left. I told them about it if it was the general desire. In regard to Black birds             Black Bird and several of the chiefs, soon after you left, spoke to me about going to Washington.  I told them to let me know what important ends were to be affected by going, & how general was the desire was that I should accompany such a delegation of chiefs.  The Indians say it is the wish of the Grand Portage, La Pointe, Ontonagun, L’anse, & Lake du Flambeaux Bands that wish me to go.  They say the trader is going to take some of their favorite chiefs there to figure for the 90,000 dollars & they wish to go to head them off and save some of it if possible.  A nocturnal council was held soon after you left in the old mission building, by some of the traders with some of the Indians, & an effort was made to get them Indians to sign a paper requesting that Mr. H.M. Rice be paid $5000 for goods sold out of the 90,000 that be the Inland Indians be paid at Chippeway River & that the said H.M. Rice be appointed agent.  The Lake du Flambeau Indians would not come into the [meeting?] & divulged the secret to Blackbird.  They wish to be present at [Shington?] to head off [sail?] in that direction.  I told Blackbird I thought it doubtful whether I could go with him, was for borrowing money & starting immediately down the Lake this fall, but I advised him to write you first & see what you thought about the desirability of his going, & know whether his expenses would be born.  Most of the claimants would be dread to see him there, & of course would not encourage his going.  I am not at all certain certain that I will be [considered?] for me to go with Blackbird, but if the Dept. think it desirable, I will take it into favorable consideration.  Mr. Smith said he should try to be there & thought I had better go if I could.  The fact is there is so much fraud and corruption connected with this whole matter that I dread to have anything to do with it.  There is hardly a spot in the whole mess upon which you can put your finger without coming in contact with the deadly virus.  In regard to the Priest’s coming here, The trader the Indians refer to is Antoine [Gordon?], a half breed.  He has erected a small store house here & has brought goods here & acknowledges that he has sold them and defies the Employees.  Mssrs. Van Tassel & Stoddard to help [themselves?] if they can.  He is a liquer-seller & a gambler.  He is now putting up a house of worship, by contract for the Catholic Priest.  About what the Indians said about his coming here is true.  In order to ascertain the exact truth I went to the Priest myself, with Mr. Stoddard, Govt [S?] man Carpenter.  His position is that the Govt have no right to interfere in matters of religion.  He says he has a right to come here & put up a church if there are any of his faith here, and they permit him to build on his any of their claims.  He says also that Mr. Godfrey got permission of Mr. Gilbert to come here.  I replied to him that the Commissioner told me that it was not the custom of the Gov. to encourage but one denomination of Christians in a place.  Still not knowing exactly the position of Govt upon the subject, I would like to ask the following questions.

1.  When one Missionary Society has already commenced labors a station among a settlement of Indians, and a majority of the Indians people desire to have him for their religious teacher, have missionaries of another denomination a right to come in and commence a missionary establishment in the same settlement?

Have they a right to do it against the will of a majority of the people?

Have they a right to do it in any case without the permission of the Govt?

Has any Indian a right, by sold purchase, lease or otherwise a right to allow a missionary to build on or occupy a part of his claim?  Or has the same missionary a right to arrange with several missionaries Indians for to occupy by purchase or otherwise a part of their claims severally? I ask these questions, not simply with reference to the Priest, but with regard to our own rights & privileges in case we wish to commence another station at any other point on the reserve. The coming of the Catholic Priest here is a [mere stroke of policy, concocted?] in secret by such men as Mssrs. Godfrey & Noble to destroy or cripple the protestant mission.  The worst men in the country are in favor of the measure.  The plan is under the wing of the priest.  The plan is to get in here a French half breed influence & then open the door for the worst class of men to come in and com get an influence.  Some of the Indians are put up to believe that the paper you gave Blackbird is a forgery put up by the mission & Govt employ as to oppress their mission control the Indians.  One of the claimants, for whom Mr. Noble acts as attorney, told me that the same Mr. Noble told him that the plan of the attorneys was to take the business of the old debts entirely out of your hands, and as for me, I was a fiery devil they when they much[?] tell their report was made out, & here what is to become of me remains to be seen.  Probably I am to be hung.  If so, I hope I shall be summoned to Washington for [which purpose?] that I may be held up in [t???] to all missionaries & they be [warned?] by my […]

 

The dramatic ending to this letter certainly reveals the intensity of the situation here in the fall of 1855.  It also reveals the intensity of Wheeler’s hatred for the Roman Catholic faith, and by extension, the influence of the Catholic mix-blood portion of the La Pointe Band.  This makes it difficult to view the Protestant missionary as any kind of impartial advocate for justice.  Whatever was going on, he was right in the middle of it.

So, what did happen here?

From Morse, McElroy, and these two letters, it’s clear that Blackbird was doing whatever he could to stop the Government from paying annuity funds directly to the creditors.  According to Wheeler, these men were led by U.S. Senator and fur baron Henry Mower Rice.  It’s also clear that a significant minority of the Ojibwe, including most of the La Pointe mix-bloods, did not want to see the money go directly to the chiefs for disbursement.  

I haven’t uncovered whether the creditors’ claims were accepted, or what Manypenny wrote back to Blackbird and Wheeler, but it is not difficult to guess what the response was.  Wheeler, a Massachusetts-born reformist, had been able to influence Indian policy a few years earlier during the Whig administration of Millard Fillmore, and he may have hoped for the same with the Democrats. But this was 1855.  Kansas was bleeding, the North was rapidly turning toward “Free Soil” politics, and the Dred Scott case was only a few months away. Franklin Pierce, a Southern-sympathizer had won the presidency in a landslide (losing only Massachusetts and three other states) in part because he was backed by Westerners like George Manypenny and H. M. Rice.  To think the Democratic “Indian Ring,” as it was described above, would listen to the pleas coming from Odanah was optimistic to say the least.

“[E]xample not to meddle with other peoples business”  is written at the top of Wheeler’s draft.  It is his handwriting, but it is much darker than the rest of the ink and appears to have been added long after the fact.  It doesn’t say it directly, but it seems pretty clear Wheeler didn’t look back on this incident as a success.  I’ll keep looking for proof, but for now I can say with confidence that the request for a Washington delegation was almost certainly rejected outright.

So who are the good guys in this situation?

If we try to fit this story into the grand American narrative of Manifest Destiny and the systematic dispossession of Indian peoples, then we would have to conclude that this is a story of the Ojibwe trying to stand up for their rights against a group of corrupt traders.  However, I’ve never had much interest in this modern “Dances With Wolves” version of Indian victimization.  Not that it’s always necessarily false, but this narrative oversimplifies complex historical events, and dehumanizes individual Indians as much as the old “hostile savages” framework did.  That’s why I like to compare the Chequamegon story more to the Canadian narrative of Louis Riel and company than to the classic American Little Bighorn story.  The dispossession and subjugation of Native peoples is still a major theme, but it’s a lot messier.  I would argue it’s a lot more accurate and more interesting, though.

So let’s evaluate the individuals involved rather than the whole situation by using the most extreme arguments one could infer from these documents and see if we can find the truth somewhere in the middle:

Henry Mower Rice (Wikimedia Images)

Henry M. Rice

The case against:  H. M. Rice was businessman who valued money over all else. Despite his close relationship with the Ho-Chunk people, he pressed for their 1847 removal because of the enormous profits it brought. A few years later, he was the driving force behind the Sandy Lake removal of the Ojibwe.  Both of these attempted removals came at the cost of hundreds of lives.  There is no doubt that in 1855, Rice was simply trying to squeeze more money out of the Ojibwe.

 The case for:  H. M. Rice was certainly a businessman, and he deserved to be paid the debts owed him.  His apparent actions in 1855 are the equivalent of someone having a lien on a house or car.  That money may have justifiably belonged to him.  As for his relationship with the Ojibwe, Rice continued to work on their behalf for decades to come, and can be found in 1889 trying to rectify the wrongs done to the Lake Superior bands when the reservations were surveyed.

From In Unnamed Wisconsin pg. 168.  It’s not hard to figure out which Minnesota senator is being referred to here in this 1895 work informed by Harriet Wheeler. (Digitized by Google Books).

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

Antoine Gordon 

The case against:  Antoine Gaudin (Gordon) was an unscrupulous trader and liquor dealer who worked with H. M. Rice to defraud his Ojibwe relatives during the 1855 annuities.  He then tried to steal land and illegally squat on the Bad River Reservation against the expressed wishes of Chief Blackbird and Commissioner Manypenny.

The case for:  Antoine Gordon couldn’t have been working against the Ojibwe since he was an Ojibwe man himself. He was a trader and was owed debts in 1855, but most of the criticism leveled against him was simply anti-Catholic libel from Leonard Wheeler.  Antoine was a pious Catholic, and many of his descendants became priests.  He built the church at Bad River because there were a number of people in Bad River who wanted a church.  Men like Gordon, Vincent Roy Jr., and Joseph Gurnoe were not only crucial to the development of Red Cliff (as well as Superior and Gordon, WI) as a community, they were exactly the type of leaders the Ojibwe needed in the post-1854 world.

Portrait of Naw-Gaw-Nab (The Foremost Sitter) n.d by J.E. Whitney of St. Paul (Smithsonian)

Naaganab

The case against: Chiefs like Naaganab and Young Buffalo sold their people out for a quick buck.  Rather than try to preserve the Ojibwe way of life, they sucked up to the Government by dressing like whites, adopting Catholicism, and using their favored position for their own personal gain and to bolster the position of their mix-blooded relatives.

The case for: If you frame these events in terms of Indians vs. Traders, you then have to say that Naaganab, Young Buffalo, and by extension Chief Buffalo were “Uncle Toms.”  The historical record just doesn’t support this interpretation.  The elder Buffalo and Naaganab each lived for nearly a century, and they each strongly defended their people and worked to preserve the Ojibwe land base.  They didn’t use the same anti-Government rhetoric that Blackbird used at times, but they were working for the same ends.   In fact, years later, Naaganab abandoned his tactic of assimilation as a means to equality, telling Rice in 1889:

“We think the time is past when we should take a hat and put it on our heads just to mimic the white man to adopt his custom without being allowed any of the privileges that belong to him. We wish to stand on a level with the white man in all things. The time is past when my children should stand in fear of the white man and that is almost all that I have to say (Nah-guh-nup pg. 192).”   

Leonard H. Wheeler

L. H. Wheeler (WHS Image ID 66594)

The case against:  Leonard Wheeler claimed to be helping the Ojibwe, but really he was just looking out for his own agenda.  He hated the Catholic Church and was willing to do whatever it took to keep the Catholics out of Bad River including manipulating Blackbird into taking up his cause when the chief was the one in need.  Wheeler couldn’t mind his own business.  He was the biggest enemy the Ojibwe had in terms of trying to maintain their traditions and culture.  He didn’t care about Blackbird.  He just wanted the free trip to Washington. 

The case for:  In contrast to Sherman Hall and some of the other missionaries, Leonard Wheeler was willing to speak up forcefully against injustice.  He showed this during the Sandy Lake removal and again during the 1855 payment.  He saw the traders trying to defraud the Ojibwe and he stood up against it.  He supported Blackbird in the chief’s efforts to protect the territorial integrity of the Bad River reservation.  At a risk to his own safety, he chose to do the right thing.

Blackbird

The case against:  Blackbird was opportunist trying to seize power after Buffalo’s death by playing to the outdated conservative impulses of his people at a time when they should have been looking to the future rather than the past.  This created harmful factional differences that weakened the Ojibwe position.  He wanted to go to Washington because it would make him look stronger and he manipulated Wheeler into helping him.

The case for:  From the 1840s through the 1860s, the La Pointe Ojibwe had no stronger advocate for their land, culture, and justice than Chief Blackbird.  While other chiefs thought they could work with a government that was out to destroy them, Blackbird never wavered, speaking consistently and forcefully for land and treaty rights.  The traders, and other enemies of the Ojibwe, feared him and tried to keep their meetings and Washington trip secret from him, but he found out because the majority of the people supported him.

I’ve yet to find a picture of Blackbird, but this 1899 Bad River delegation to Washington included his son James (bottom right) along with Henry and Jack Condecon, George Messenger, and John Medegan–all sons and/or grandsons of signers of the Treaty of 1854 (Photo by De Lancey Gill; Smithsonian Collections).

Final word for now…

An entire book could be written about the 1855 annuity payments, and like so many stories in Chequamegon History, once you start the inquiry, you end up digging up more questions than answers.  I can’t offer a neat and tidy explanation for what happened with the debts.  I’m inclined to think that if Henry Rice was involved it was probably for his own enrichment at the expense of the Ojibwe, but I have a hard time believing that Buffalo, Jayjigwyong, Naaganab, and most of the La Pointe mix-bloods would be doing the same.  Blackbird seems to be the hero in this story, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a political component to his actions as well.  Wheeler deserves some credit for his defense of a position that alienated him from most area whites, but we have to take anything he writes about his Catholic neighbors with a grain of salt.

As for the Blackbird-Wheeler relationship, showcasing these two fascinating letters was my original purpose in writing this post.  Was Blackbird manipulating Wheeler, was Wheeler manipulating Blackbird, or was neither manipulating the other?  Could it be that the zealous Christian missionary and the stalwart “pagan” chief, were actually friends? What do you think?  

Sources:
Davidson, J. N., and Harriet Wood Wheeler. In Unnamed Wisconsin: Studies in the History of the Region between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi. Milwaukee, WI: S. Chapman, 1895. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print. 
McElroy, Crocket.  “An Indian Payment.”  Americana v.5.  American Historical Company, American Historical Society, National Americana Society Publishing Society of New York, 1910 (Digitized by Google Books) pages 298-302.
Morse, Richard F. “The Chippewas of Lake Superior.” Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Ed. Lyman C. Draper. Vol. 3. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1857. 338-69. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Pupil’s of St. Mary’s, and Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Noble Lives of a Noble Race. Minneapolis: Brooks, 1909. Print.
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.