By Amorin Mello

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

… continued from Number V.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number VI

by Asaph Whittlesey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATISTICS IN GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number VII

 

By Amorin Mello

Originally published in the July 14th, 1877, issue of The Ashland Press. Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

… continued from Number III.

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ASHLAND.

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART.”

Number IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number V

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland press 1877

Originally published in the March 9th, 1878, issue of The Ashland Press.  Transcribed with permission from Ashland Narratives by K. Wallin and published in 2013 by Straddle Creek Co.

… continued from Number III.

Early Recollections of Ashland: Number IV

by Asaph Whittlesey

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

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

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

ARRIVAL OF THE SECOND FEMALE UPON THE TOWN SITE.

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

I next call your attention to the

FIRST CELEBRATION OF THE 4TH OF JULY

upon the “town site” July 4th, 1855.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued in Number V