By Amorin Mello

The following is a set of three articles collected and edited from the Superior Chronicle newspaper, followed by my personal thoughts on this matter :

 




 

Superior Chronicle newspaper July 7th, 1855, page 2.

Lake News.

These were exiting times for American settlers on Lake Superior as the Soo Locks had just opened one month earlier in June of 1855.

We find in the Lake Superior Journal the following paragraphs of lake news:

The brig Columbia, which carried the first cargo of ore through the Sault Ste. Marie Canal.”
~ The Honorable Peter White, by Ralph D. Williams, 1907, Chapter XIV.

Johnson & Tisdale, of Cleveland, have just built a small side-wheel steamer, for J. H. Garrett, of Ontonagon, and intended to be used on that river as a passenger boat, and also for towing between the mouth of the river and the mines. Her dimensions are : length of keel, 85 feet; beam, 14 feet; depth of hold, 2 feet. She has two engines, and will draw about fifteen inches water.

The Garrison stable at the Sault Ste. Marie, containing two horses was set on fire on the morning of the 29th ult., and, with its contents, totally consumed.

The Canal Company showed their patriotism on the Fourth of July, by exploding about one hundred and fifty barrels of damaged powder.

The brig Columbia carried the first full cargo shipment of iron ore down the Soo Locks one month later in August 1855.

The first locomotive for the Iron Mountain Railroad, from Lake Superior to the Iron Mountains, left Buffalo on Tuesday by the brig Columbia, for Marquette.

 


 

Superior Chronicle newspaper, October 23rd, 1855, page 2.

Man Shot.

George Riley Stuntz
Deputy U.S. Surveyor, and Chequamegon Bay land and minerals speculator.

On Tuesday night last an affray occurred on Minnesota Point, which resulted in the shooting of a sailor, attached to the brig Columbia. The vessel was lying at the wharf of Messrs. Stuntz & Co., and the crew, under the influence of liquor, went on shore for the purpose of having a frolic; in the course of their spree they came across some Indians, encamped on the Point, and one of the men soon provoked a quarrel with an Indian. The Indian was being beaten severely, when the captain coming up, interfered, whereupon he was attached by the man. The captain, being small in statue, and unable otherwise to defend himself, drew a pistol and fired at his assailant, the ball entering his side. The wounded man was brought to town, his wound dressed, and is now said to be doing well, the ball not having penetrated to any serious depth.

 


 

Superior Chronicle newspaper, November 6th, 1855, page 2.

Death of Louis Gurnoe — Inquest by a Coronors’ Jury — Verdict, etc.

There were more than one Chippewa mixed-blood named Louis Gurnoe.

Captain Justus O. Wells
J. Baker was counted as a “Colored”
man living alone in Superior City during the 1855 Wisconsin Census.  No further sources about J. Baker could be found.
Alcohol was prohibited on Minnesota Point and the Minnesota Arrowhead region by Article 7 of the 1854 Treaty at La Pointe.  This prohibition is not recognized anywhere in this article written one year after the Treaty.

Several weeks ago we gave an account of the shooting of a half-breed named Louis Gurnoe by Captain Wells, of the brig Columbia. The affray occurred on Minnesota Point, opposite Superior. It appears that Gurnoe was a man of very intemperate habits, and several nights previous to his difficulty with the captain, was engaged in a row at a low groggery on First street, kept by a negro named Baker. A dance was being held at that place, and Gurnoe, under the influence of liquor, challenged those present to a fight; he was then set upon, knocked down, and kicked and beaten in a cruel manner. The injuries he sustained, aided by excessive dissipation, ensued his death, just as the vessel was leaving our port. At La Pointe, a coronor’s inquest was held on the body, and the verdict rendered was that death was caused by bruises received at Baker’s house. We hope this matter will be brought before the grand jury at the next sitting of our circuit court, and while we may not expect to see the murderers brought to justice, we hope, at least, that sufficient cause may be shown why this miserable den should be removed. It has been tolerated too long already, and for the good order and character of our town, if for no other consideration, some effect should be made to put a stop to the disgraceful proceedings there enacted.

We publish the entire testimony elicited at the inquest, verdict of the jury, and an affidavit made by Gurnoe previous to his death, exhonorating Captain Wells from all blame whatsoever.

Joseph Stone, one of the hands on board, being duly sworn said:

That on Tuesday evening last, the brig Columbia, Captain Justus Wells, from St. Clair, was opposite Superior; there was a noise between [Sandy?] and deceased, Louis Gurnoe; Louis wanted to fight; captain wished him to stop; deceased knocked captain down; Louis then challenged captain to fight; he then got hold of the captain by the hair of the head; captain told him several times to let go; captain said if he did not let go he would shoot him; told him five or six times to let him go; he did not let go; the first thing I heard was the report of a pistol; [Sandy?], captain, and myself carried him to a tent; I stopped there till four o’clock; captain directly sent two men away to get a physician; deceased was in liquor at the time; he had been very quarrelsome; he shipped at Saut Ste. Marie this trip; he had been bruised on the face the Saturday previous; on the Monday previous when leaving Superior wharf he was so intoxicated that he fell off the provision chest; he was sick coming up; he was unable to do duty after Saturday.

Simeon Nelsonn being duly sworn said:

Simeon Nelsonn could not be identified. His version of the story is different than what was published in the earlier article from October 23rd.
Between this “little Irishman” and Patrick Sullivan at the 1855 La Pointe Annuity Payments, it is evident that the Irish were treated as a minority group by the average settlers and and tourists on Lake Superior during 1855.

We went on shore at Superior, on Saturday evening last; at Baker’s there was a dance; the dance went on nicely till about twelve o’clock; Louis said something to the effect that no one in the room was able to fight him; with that a little Irishman took it up; I went in and hauled Louis back; some one took me off from him, shoved me on one side and commenced at Louis; knocked him down with his fist, and several men piled on him; they then commenced kicking him in the side, breast, and once or twice in the face; after a while they were parted; then Louis commenced drinking again – had been drinking during the evening. After having got all pacified we went on board about two o’clock in the morning; he went to sleep; when he woke he swore he would have a row with somebody before he left the place; on going on shore he commenced drinking; we unloaded the vessel on Monday and Tuesday, and on that afternoon we went over to Minnesota Point; in the evening all went ashore to have some sport; Louis said, before he went ashore, he was bound to have a row with the captain; after going on shore, everything went on well till about two o’clock in the morning. (Wednesday;) I was lying in the lodge; Louis came in and commenced at me; I told him that I did not want any fuss with him and that everything he said I was bound to knock under to save a row; at that the captain heard the words from Louis and came out from another lodge; as Louis was going to come in at me, the captain grabbed him by the shoulders, hauled him back, and said to him, “Louis we did not come here for a row, we came to have sport;” Louis turned on him, and knocked him down; they were then parted; the captain balloed “enough;” Louis was going at him again; the captain stepped back, pulled out a revolver, and said, “If you don’t leave me alone I will shoot you;” Louis opened his breast to him, and said, “Here’s a clean breast shoot;” captain stepped back, and Louis went at him again; caught the captain by the hair of the head; captain told him if he did not let go he would shoot him; we tried to part them again; couldn’t part them; captain wanted to let go, but Louis wouldn’t; captain again said “If you do not let go I will shoot you;” as Louis was drawing back his foot to kick the captain in the face, he being down about knee high, the captain again repeated his caution, gave him one minute to let go, and then shot him; Louis then let go; says he, “I’m dead’ I’m dead.” – Captain said “I thought it would turn out that way – I told you I would shoot but you would not mind me;” captain said “If there is anything I can do I will do it;” the captain, Joseph Stone and myself, carried him into the lodge; the other two boys that were with him commenced dressing his wounds; captain sent John Scott and myself aboard the vessel after the boat to go for a physician; we went aboard and got the boat; got the second mate and Benj. Rassau to go for the doctor; went to Superior; couldn’t find a physician; captain, second mate, Joseph Chapman, a Frenchman living on the point, and myself, got the deceased into the boat and brought him aboard; before we got him aboard a physician came; about eight o’clock in the morning I saw deceased lying in the cabin; said he felt better; about four o’clock p.m. we endeavored to put him into one of the berths; he seemed to be in convulsions; on Wednesday night he got out of his berth, went on deck, and walked fore and aft; Thursday morning he left the cabin and sat on the rail aft; I said “Louis, you will be falling overboard;” he said “there is no fear of that;” he then left the rail; I was standing at the helm; he came up; looked me very hard in the face; I said, “what is the matter?” he gave no answer, but went directly into the boat; deceased had been very quarrelsome all the way up; he remained in the boat about three minutes; he was sitting in the boat with his arm on the taffrail; I took him to be asleep, and tried to wake up; I lifted his arm up, and eased him down into the boat to keep him from falling overboard, and went down after a lantern, (about five o’clock a.m.;) before I had time to time to come with a lantern, some one hard me talking to him and was there before me with one; the captain was also there; I looked at him, and said he was dead; then we took him out of the boat, and laid him forward of the cabin, and put a mattress under him; he was warm at the time, and we thought he might recover; one of the passengers then said life was not gone but he was dying; deceased frequently complained of his bruises received on Saturday night.

James Chapman
~ Madeline Island Museum

James Chapman, being duly sworn, said:

More details on James Chapman later.

The quarrel commenced about a squaw; in other respect; he corroborated the testimony of the previous witness.

Daniel Weihl, a passenger, being duly sworn, said:

I saw the doctor probe the wound, and he followed the rib, one or one and a half inches; I turned away as he found the ball; I do not think the wound was sufficient to cause his death; no inflamation existed; deceased went forward so many times that I concluded he had the diarrhea.

A. W. [Groveract?], being sworn, said:

I told the captain not to use the weapon there; after the shot, saw the deceased standing by a tree; he vomited blood; had not seen deceased vomit blood previous to the shot; he bled very near a pint; the blood from the bruise on his face might have got into his mouth and he threw it up.

John [Babner?], being sworn, said:

I corroborate the testimony given by Mr. Nelsonn.

Mr. Hancock, (a passenger,) being sworn, said:

I corroborate the testimony given by Mr. Nelsonn.

Calvin Ripley, being sworn, said:

Captain Calvin Ripley (“Old Rip”) began shipping copper ore on Lake Superior in 1845.  Ripley’s Rock in Marquette harbor is named in honor of his ship encountering it during a September 1848 storm.

Deceased had been sick about six weeks previous to his shipping, and was sick again when about two days out; was drunk every night, while at Superior, that I saw him; kept the forecastle a day after the fight at Superior; doctor said the wound would not injure him at all – that deceased was worse off in other respects; doctor said it was better for deceased to be on shore; he might suffer from the bruises; deceased wished to come on board and go down.

E. M. Raymond, being duly sworn, said:

I saw the doctor drawing the ball out, and left; saw nothing out of the way till last evening; noticed that deceased thrashed about the chains, and made unnecessary noise; I think deceased was not in his right mind last evening.

Daniel Weihl, being recalled, said:

The wound did not cause mortification; the worst bruise is the one at the rim of the belly; have seen a person kicked in the same place vomit about a quart of blood.

J. E. Rogers, (passenger,) being sworn, said:

That he observed that that deceased, during the time he lay in the cabin, hawked and spit, and about one-third of it appeared to be blood and the rest yellowish matter.

At the conclusion of the testimony, the following verdict was rendered by the jury:

La Pointe County Judge John William Bell Sr. also presided over the 1856 Inquest on the Body of Jerry Sullivan.

An inquisition taken on board the brig Columbia, Captain Justus Wells, in the port of La Pointe, on the 18th day of October, 1855, before John W. Bell, one of the justices of the peace for La Pointe county, Wisconsin, upon the view of the body of Louis Gurnoe, there dead, by the jurors whose names are hereunto subscribed, who being duly sworn to inquire on behalf of the people of this State, where, in what manner, and by what means the said Louis Gurnoe came to his death, upon their oaths do say:

That the deceased came to his death in consequence of bruises received at Superior, at Baker’s residence, from the hands of individuals to the jury unknown, but with whom he was engaged in a fight;

That he was at the same time, and had been, suffering from the effects of continued hard drinking, following sickness, from which he had only partially recovered previous to shipping;

That we acquit Captain Wells of all guilt as to the shot fired by him, and that we do not deem it as a mortal wound, or one that accelerated the death of the deceased.

In witness whereof, the said Justice of the peace and the jurors of this inquest have hereunto set their hands the day and year aforesaid.

JOHN W. BELL Justice of Peace,
S. S. VAUGHN, Foreman,
M. H. MENDELBAUM,
R. D. BOYD,
JOHN M. BRADFORT,
JULIUS AUSTRIAN,
A. CARPENTIER.

Copy of a settlement made at Minnesota Point for assault and battery:

Minnesota Territory, Superior county,
Dock at Minnesota Point,
October 17, 1855.

Know all men by these presents, That whereas the brig Columbia, of one hundred and seventy-six tons, commanded by Capt. Justus Wells, from St. Clair, Michigan, District of Detroit, laying at Minnesota Point now and for a few days previous, and among other hands on board said brig was one Louis Gurnoe, a half-breed, and this man was in a state of intoxication, and was making a quarrel with other parties; and whereas, the said captain interfered for the purpose of introducing peace measures, and the said Gurnoe opposed the said captain, and they came to blows and a clinch; and whereas Gurnoe held the said captain firm by the hair of the head, and the said captain requested the said Gurnoe to let go of him, and he would not, and the said captain shot the said Gurnoe in the skin of the side to get clear of him, which would was only a flesh wound, entering the skin against the rib and running along under the skin outside of the rib; and the said captain sent a boat to Superior City for a doctor, and he came and dressed the said wound, and said captain paid said doctor five dollars for his fee for crossing St. Louis river from Wisconsin; and the said Louis Gurnoe having [diver?] other fights, was badly bruised before this; and whereas the said captain has made arrangements in Superior City for the taking care of said Gurnoe to the amount of twenty-five dollars, which we receive of the said Captain Justus Wells, and discharge him of all expense whatever that may arise in an action of assault and battery or any other action for the said causes as the said Gurnoe has received a full compensation for all injuries by the said captain on the ground that the said captain seems not to have done anything more than to defend him or his own personal safety, and what he gives is of good heart and a charitable act received by me.

This settlement is to be construed no further than the said parties have a right by law to settle actions and causes of action. In this settlement the said captain does not mean to have it understood that he acknowledged that he has done anything or [ac?] whereby he may be liable to the law, but for the purpose to buy his peace and a general good will to the said Gurnoe.

(Signed)

LOUIS (his X mark) GURNOE,

In presence of JOSEPH GURNOE,
[DORUS MARCUS?], and CALVIN RIPLEY.

 




 

Amorin’s Commentary

Hi, Amorin here again.  I don’t always add commentary to my reproductions of Chequamegon History, but when I do… it is because I am still trying to understand the rest of the story.

First and foremost, the death of Louis Gurnoe was horrific.  It is unfortunate that these articles disrespected him and served him no justice.  The October article doesn’t even mention his name.  The only real biographical information gleaned from the November article about Louis Gurnoe is that he was a Chippewa mixed-blood who came aboard the brig Columbia at Sault Ste. Marie.  Apparently, his death was far more newsworthy than his life to Americans.  

The language stereotyping Louis as a drunk Indian is disgraceful, and makes me question whether the references to the negro and little Irishman were perjury.  To be clear, yes, I do believe this entire inquest was a fraud.  One red flag, for example, is that the doctor was never identified by any of the witnesses for verification.

Besides dishonoring Louis’ life, it seems that the sole purpose of the Verdict in the November article was to acquit George Riley Stuntz and Captain Justus O. Wells of any guilt with the incident as reported in the October article.  The Judge and Jury of the mystery Louis were all white Euroamerican settlers of La Pointe that were very involved with Lake Superior Chippewa mixed-bloods by marriage and/or business, yet there does not seem to be any amount of empathy expressed by them for Louis Gurnoe.

Although these articles dishonored Louis (and failed to identify exactly which Louis Gurnoe he was) they revealed just enough information to hint at what his life may have been like before boarding the brig Columbia at Sault Ste. Marie in 1855.  The Gurnoe/Garneau/Gournon/Gornow/Gaunaux/etc. families of Chippewa mixed-bloods (a.k.a. Metis) were very active in the cosmopolitan politics of Lake Superior throughout the mid-1800’s.  There is more than one Louis Gurnoe this could have been, so unfortunately the Louis Gurnoe that boarded the brig in 1855  may only be known as a mystery to Chequamegon History.  

Consider, for example, the Louis Genereaux [Gurnoe] that authored an August 29, 1855 letter to Indian Affairs Commissioner George W. Manypenny via the Mackinac Indian Agency on behalf of Saginaw Chippewa/Odawa Tribe trying to locate their reservation lands in lower Michigan.  While it may have been possible for someone to travel from lower Michigan to western Lake Superior within this time frame, there doesn’t seem to be any compelling correlation suggesting that this Louis Genereaux would be the same Louis Gurnoe from the brig Columbia.

Another example Louis Gurnoe that we may consider is the one featured in the bottom right of the following photograph from 1855 at Sault Ste. Marie;

the elder Louis Gurnoe.  

1855 photograph from the Soo Evening newspaper labeled “Five of the Earliest Indian Inhabitants of St. Mary’s Falls” [Sault Ste. Marie] and identified from left to right:
1) Louis Cadotte; 2) John Bouche; 3) Obogan; 4) O’Shawn; 
5) [Louis] Gurnoe.
Read Metis-History.info/ by Richard Garneau (Gurnoe) for other possible identities of the first four men in this photograph.

We can reasonably eliminate the elder Louis Gurnoe as a possibility because of his age at the time (born 1790) and later death record (1863).  It appears that the elder Louis Gurnoe had more than one wife over time, and that some of his children relocated from the Bay Mills area of Lake Superior to the La Pointe area during the mid-1800’s.  A July 5, 1890 article about the elder Louis Gurnoe in the The Democrat newspaper of Sault Ste. Marie reveals that he had at least one son named Louis, while other records in Richard Garneau’s research seem to suggest more than one son named Louis.

It is possible that the Louis Gurnoe from these articles was one of this elder Louis Gurnoe’s sons.  Louis Gurnoe’s Settlement at the end of the November article was signed by another son, who is featured in the bottom center of the following photograph:

the Indian Agency interpreter Joseph D. Gurnoe.

Top: Frank Roy, Vincent Roy, E. Roussin, Old Frank D.o., Bottom: Peter Roy, Jos. Gourneau [Joseph Gurnoe], D. Geo. Morrison. The photo is labelled “Chippewa Treaty in Washington” and dated 1845 by the St. Louis Hist. Lib and Douglas County Museum, but also dated 1855 by the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center. It was probably taken during the Bois Forte Treaty of 1866, which was these men acted as conductors and interpreters in Washington, D.C.  Photograph digitized by Mary E. Carlson for her book The Sawmill Community at Roy’s Point.

I cannot begin to imagine what it may have been like for Joseph to be a witness to the last hours and words of his suffering relative (especially if the inquest into his death was a fraud).  And I may never solve the mystery of exactly which Louis Gurnoe died in 1855.  On the other hand, I will speculate that this Louis Gurnoe’s life may have been similar to his relative Joseph’s life up to this point. 

Superior Chronicle newspaper November 4, 1856

I will share details about Joseph D. Gurnoe’s life, and his professional relationship  to James Chapman, but these details will have to wait to be published in another post in the future.  This concludes my thoughts for this post.

Until next time,
Amorin