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

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

1856-08-19 Superior Chronicle - Ironton

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

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

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


The Ashland Press

January 4, 1873

Ashland! It’s Growth During the Year 1872

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

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

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

~ TurtleTrack.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]


The Ashland Press

February 26, 1926

CITY OF ASHLAND IS 72 YEARS OLD TODAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

July 28, 1877

Recollections of Ashland

“OF WHICH I WAS A PART”
Number V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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


Interior Field Notes

Ironton Townsite

La Pointe Indian Reservation

Township 47 North, Range 1 West

Barber, Augustus H.

November, 1856

Notebook ID: [N/a]

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


Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from Spring of 1856.


Superior City Sept 15th 1856

Dear Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love for yourself and Amherst I remain

Your affectionate son

Allen


To be continued in the Fall of 1856

La Pointe Bands Part 1

April 19, 2015

By Leo Filipczak

lapointeband

(Click to Enlarge)

On March 8th, I posted a map of Ojibwe people mentioned in the trade journals of Perrault, Curot, Nelson, and Malhoit as a starting point to an exploration of this area at the dawn of the 19th Century. Later the map was updated to include the journal of John Sayer

In these journals, a number of themes emerge, some of which challenge conventional wisdom about the history of the La Pointe Band.  For one, there is very little mention of a La Pointe Band at all.  The traders discuss La Pointe as the location of Michel Cadotte’s trading depot, and as a central location on the lakeshore, but there is no mention of a large Ojibwe village there.  In fact, the journals suggest that the St. Croix and Chippewa River basins as the place where the bulk of the Lake Superior Ojibwe could be found at this time.

In the post, I repeated an argument that the term “Band” in these journals is less identifiable with a particular geographical location than it is with a particular chief or extended family.  Therefore, it makes more sense to speak of “Giishkiman’s Band,” than of the “Lac du Flambeau Band,” because Giishkiman (Sharpened Stone) was not the only chief who had a village near Lac du Flambeau and Giishkiman’s Band appears at various locations in the Chippewa and St. Croix country in that era.  

In later treaties and United State’s Government relations, the Ojibwe came to be described more often by village names (La Pointe, St. Croix, Fond du Lac, Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, Ontonagon, etc.), even though these oversimplified traditional political divisions.  However, these more recent designations are the divisions that exist today and drive historical scholarship.

So what does this mean for the La Pointe Band, the political antecedent of the modern-day Bad River and Red Cliff Bands?  This is a complicated question, but I’ve come across some little-known documents that may shed new light on the meaning and chronology of the “La Pointe Band.”   In a series of posts, I will work through these documents.

This series is not meant to be an exhaustive look at the Ojibwe at Chequamegon.  The goal here is much narrower, and if it can be condensed into one line of inquiry, it is this:

Fourteen men signed the Treaty of 1854 as chiefs and headmen of the La Pointe Band: 

Ke-che-waish-ke, or the Buffalo, 1st chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

Chay-che-que-oh, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

A-daw-we-ge-zhick, or Each Side of the sky, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

O-ske-naw-way, or the Youth, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

Maw-caw-day-pe-nay-se, or the Black Bird, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

Naw-waw-naw-quot, headman, his x mark. [L. S.]

Ke-wain-zeence, headman, his x mark. [L. S.]

Waw-baw-ne-me-ke, or the White Thunder, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

Pay-baw-me-say, or the Soarer, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

Naw-waw-ge-waw-nose, or the Little Current, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

Maw-caw-day-waw-quot, or the Black Cloud, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

Me-she-naw-way, or the Disciple, 2d chief, his x mark. [L. S.]

Key-me-waw-naw-um, headman, his x mark. [L. S.]

She-gog headman, his x mark. [L. S.]

If we consider a “band” as a unit of kinship rather than a unit of physical geography, how many bands do those fourteen names represent?  For each of those bands (representing core families at Red Cliff and Bad River), what is the specific relationship to the Ojibwe villages at Chequamegon in the centuries before the treaty?

The Fitch-Wheeler Letter

Chequamegon History spends a disproportionately large amount of time on Ojibwe annuity payments.  These payments, which spanned from the late 1830s to the mid-1870s were large gatherings, which produced colorful stories (dozens from the 1855 payment alone),  but also highlighted the tragedy of colonialism.  This is particularly true of the attempted removal of the payments to Sandy Lake in 1850-1851.  Other than the Sandy Lake years, the payments took place at La Pointe until 1855 and afterward at Odanah.  

The 1857 payment does not necessarily stand out from the others the way the 1855 one does, but for the purposes of our investigation in this post, one part of it does.  In July of that year, the new Indian Agent at Detroit, A.W. Fitch, wrote to Odanah missionary Leonard Wheeler for aid in the payment:

Office Michn Indn Agency

Detroit July 8th 1857

Sir,

 

I have fixed upon Friday August 21st for the distribution of annuities to the Chippewa Indians of Lake Supr. at Bad River for the present year.  A schedule of the Bands which are to be paid there is appended.

I will thank you to apprise the LaPointe Indians of the time of payment, so that they should may be there on the day.  It is not necessary that they should be there before the day and I prefer that they should not.

And as there was, according to my information a partial failure in the notification of the Lake De Flambeau and Lake Court Oreille Indians last year, I take the liberty to entrust their notification this year to you and would recommend that you dispatch two trusty Messengers at once, to their settlements to notify them to be at Bad River by the 21st of August and to urge them forward with all due diligence.

It is not necessary for any of these Indians to come but the Chiefs, their headmen and one representative for each family.  The women and children need not come.  Two Bands of these Indians, that is Negicks & Megeesee’s you will notice are to be notified by the same Messengers to be at L’Anse on the 7th of September that they may receive their pay there instead of Bad River.

I presume that Messengers can be obtained at your place for a Dollar a day each & perhaps less and found and you will please be particular about giving them their instructions and be sure that they understand them.  Perhaps you had better write them down, as it is all important that there should be no misunderstanding nor failure in the matter and furthermore you will charge the Messenger to return to Bad River immediately, so that you may know from them, what they have done.

It is my purpose to land the Goods at the mo. of Bad River somewhere about the 1st of Aug. (about which I will write you again or some one at your place) and proceed at once to my Grand Portage and Fond Du Lac payments & then return to Bad River.

Schedule of the Bands of Chipps. of Lake Supr. to be notified of the payment at Bad River, Wisn to be made Friday August 21st for the year 1854.

____________________________

 

La Pointe Bands.

__________

 

Maw kaw-day pe nay se [Blackbird]

Chay, che, qui, oh, [Little Buffalo/Plover]

Maw kaw-day waw quot [Black Cloud]

Waw be ne me ke [White Thunder]

Me she naw way [Disciple]

Aw, naw, quot [Cloud]

Naw waw ge won. [Little Current]

Key me waw naw um [Canoes in the Rain]  {This Chief lives some distance away}

A, daw, we ge zhick [Each Side of the Sky]

Vincent Roy Sen.  {head ½ Breeds.}

 

Lakes De Flambeau & Court Oreille Bands.

__________

 

Keynishteno [Cree]

Awmose [Little Bee]

Oskawbaywis [Messenger]

Keynozhance [Little Pike]

Iyawbanse [Little Buck]

Oshawwawskogezhick [Blue Sky]

Keychepenayse [Big Bird]

Naynayonggaybe [Dressing Bird]

Awkeywainze [Old Man]

Keychewawbeshayshe [Big Marten]

Aishquaygonaybe–[End Wing Feather]

Wawbeshaysheence [Little Marten] {I do not know where this Band is but notify it.}

__________

And Negick’s [Otter] & Megeesee’s [Eagle] Bands, which (that is Negicks and Megeesees Bands only) are to be notified by the same Messengers to go to L’Anse the 7th of Sept. for their payt.

 

Very respectfully

Your Obedt Servt,

A W Fitch

Indn. Agent

 

Rev. L H Wheeler

Bad River msn.

Source:  Wheeler Family Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society, Ashland, WI

This letter reveals that in 1857, three years after the Treaty of La Pointe called for the creation of reservations for the La Pointe, Lac du Flambeau, and Lac Courte Oreilles Bands, the existence of these bands as singular political entities was still dubious.  The most meaningful designation attached to the bands in the instructions to Wheeler is that of the chief’s name.  

Canoes in the Rain and Little Marten clearly live far from the central villages named in the treaty, and Nigig (Otter) and Migizi (Eagle) whose villages at this time were near Lac Vieux Desert or Mole Lake aren’t depicted as attached to any particular reservation village. 

Edawigijig (Edawi-giizhig “Both Sides of the Sky”), 1880 (C.M. Bell, Smithsonian Digital Collections)

Additionally, Fitch makes no distinction between Red Cliff and Bad River.  Jechiikwii’o (Little Buffalo) and Vincent Roy Sr. representing the La Pointe mix-bloods could be considered “Red Cliff” chiefs while the rest would be “Bad River.”  However, these reservation-based divisions are clearly secondary to the kinship/leadership divisions.

This indicates that we should conceptualize the “La Pointe Band” for the entire pre-1860 historical period as several bands that were not necessarily all tied to Madeline Island at all times.  This means of thinking helps greatly in sorting out the historical timeline of this area.

This is highlighted in a curious 1928 statement by John Cloud of Bad River regarding the lineage of his grandfather Edawi-giizhig (Each Side of the Sky), one of the chiefs who signed the 1854 Treaty), to E. P. Wheeler, the La Pointe-born son of Leonard Wheeler:   

AN ABRAHAM LINCOLN INDIAN MEDAL
Theodore T. Brown

This medal was obtained by Rev. E. P. Wheeler during the summer of 1928 at Odanah, on the Bad River Indian Reservation, from John Cloud, Zah-buh-deece, a Chippewa Indian, whose grandfather had obtained it from President Abraham Lincoln. His grandfather, A-duh-wih-gee-zhig, was a chief of the La Pointe band of Chippewa. His name signifies “on both sides of the sky or day.” His father was Mih-zieh, meaning a “fish without scales.” The chieftain- ship of A-duh-wih-gee-zhig was certified to by the U. S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs on March 22, 1880.

His father, Mih-zieh, was one of the three chiefs who led the original migration of the Chippewa to Chequamegon Bay, the others being Uh-jih-jahk, the Crane, and Gih-chih-way-shkeenh, or the “Big Plover.” The latter was also sometimes known as Bih-zih-kih, or the “Buffalo.”

A-duh-wih-gee-zhig was a member of the delegation of Lake Superior Chippewa chiefs who went to Washington to see President Lincoln under the guidance of Benjamin G. Armstrong, during the winter of 1861…

~WISCONSIN ARCHEOLOGIST. Vol. 8, No. 3 pg.103

The three chiefs mentioned as leading the “original migration” are well known to history.  Waabajijaak, the White Crane, was the father of Ikwezewe or Madeline Cadotte, the namesake of Madeline Island.  According to his great-grandson, William Warren, White Crane was in the direct Crane Clan lineage that claimed chieftainship over the entire Ojibwe nation.  

Mih-zieh, or Mizay (Lawyerfish) was a prominent speaker for the La Pointe band in the early 19th Century.  According to Janet Chute’s research, he was the brother of Chief Buffalo, and he later settled at Garden River, the village of the great “British” Ojibwe chief Zhingwaakoons (Little Pine) on the Canadian side of the Sault.

Bizhiki, of course, is Chief Buffalo, the most famous of the La Pointe chiefs, who died in 1855.  Gichi-Weshkii, his other name, is usually translated meaning something along the lines of “Great First Born,” “Great Hereditary Chief,” or more literally as “Great New One.”  John Cloud and E. P. Wheeler identify him as the “Big Plover,” which is interesting.  Buffalo’s doodem (clan) was the Loon, but his contemporary Zhingwaakoons was of the Plover doodem (Jiichiishkwenh in Ojibwe).  How this potentially relates to the name of Buffalo’s son Jechiikwii’o (identified as “Snipe” by Charles Lippert) is unclear but worthy of further investigation.

The characterization of these three chiefs leading the “original migration” to Chequamegon stands at odds with everything we’ve ever heard about the first Ojibwe arrival at La Pointe.  The written record places the Ojibwe at Chequamegon at least a half century before any of these chiefs were born, and many sources would suggest much earlier date.  Furthermore, Buffalo and White Crane are portrayed in the works of William Warren and Henry Schoolcraft as heirs to the leadership of the “ancient capital” of the Ojibwes, La Pointe.  

Warren and Schoolcraft knew Buffalo personally, and Warren’s History of the Ojibways even includes a depiction of Buffalo and Daagwagane (son of White Crane, great uncle of Warren) arguing over which of their ancestors first reached Chequamegon in the mists of antiquity.  Buffalo and Daawagane’s exchange would have taken a much different form if they had been alive to see this “original migration.”

Still, Cloud and Wheeler’s statement may contain a grain of truth, something I will return to after filling in a little background on the controversies and mysteries surrounding the timeline of the Ojibwe bands at La Pointe.

 TO BE CONTINUED

“Chippewa Indians Fishing on the Ice” (Digitized by New York Public Library from Heroes and hunters of the West : comprising sketches and adventures of Boone, Kenton, Brady, Logan, Whetzel, Fleehart, Hughes, Johnston, etc. Philadelphia : H. C. Peck & Theo. Bliss, 1859.)

On June 9th, I transcribed and posted two letters related to the Sandy Lake Tragedy (the attempted removal of the Lake Superior Ojibwe in the fall of 1850, which claimed as many as 400 innocent lives). The letters, digitized by the Wisconsin Historical Society, were from the Warren Family Papers. One was from missionary Leonard Wheeler to William Warren before the tragedy, and another was from Indian Agent John Watrous to Warren during a second removal attempt a year later.

That post sought to assess how much responsibility Warren and Watrous bear for the 400 deaths. It also touched on the role of the Protestant A.B.C.F.M. missionaries in the region. This post continues those thoughts. This time, we’re looking at two more letters and evaluating one of the missionaries himself.

Both of these letters are from the Wheeler Family Papers, held by the Wisconsin Historical Society at the Ashland Area Research Center. I went directly to the original documents for these, and while I’ve seen them referenced in published works, I believe this is the first time these particular letters have been transcribed or posted online.

The first is from Sherman Hall, the founder of the La Pointe Mission, to his colleague Leonard Wheeler, who operated the satellite mission at Odanah. Hall traveled to Sandy Lake for the annuity payments and sent this letter to Wheeler, who was visiting family back in Massachusetts, after returning to La Pointe.


Lapointe. Dec. 28th 1850

Brother Wheeler:

I wrote you while at Sandy Lake and promised to write again when I should reach Lapointe. That promise I now redeem. I started from Sandy Lake on the fourth inst. and reached home on the 16th having been absent from home just eight weeks. I was never more heartily glad to leave a place than I was Sandy Lake, nor more glad to reach home after an absence. Of course winter here has justly begun. The snow was some ten inches deep on the Savannah Portage. On reaching the East Savannah River we found the ice good and clear of snow and water. This continued to be the case most of the way to the Grand Portage at Fond du Lac. From Fond du Lac to Lapointe the traveling most of the way was hard, and it was not till the seventh day from F. du L. that I reached home. Besides bad traveling I had to carry a pack which I found, when I got home weighed 60 pounds. With this however I found it not difficult to keep up with most of my traveling companions who were much heavier loaded than I. This is my first experience of carrying a heavy pack on a long journey and I am fully satisfied with the experiment. I had no alternative however, bet either to throw away my blankets and clothes, or carry them. Every body was loaded with a heavy pack, and I could employ no one. I however got through well—did not get lame as many others did, nor do I feel any furious[?] by ill effects of my journey since my arrival.

I found the mission family well on my arrival. They had felt somewhat lonesome while so many were absent from this place. Things in the community here are generally in a quiet state at present. I apprehend that there will be considerable pinching for provisions before spring. It has been a very windy and stormy fall. The people have taken but little fish. Many nets have been lost. The traders have but a small quantity of provisions, and if they had the people have but little to buy with. The bay opposite to this island is now principally covered with ice so that the Indians are on the ice some to spear fish. The ice has once broken up since it first closed, and a heavy wind would break it up again, as it is yet very thin, and the weather mild. If the lake is frozen the Inds will probably get considerable fish; but if it should be open they must suffer.

Our Indian meetings are pretty well attended, and I feel that there is ground for encouragement. Simon I think is exerting a good influence. His Catholic friends have tried to draw him back to their church; but seems stable. His oldest brother, who has recently lost his wife, has expressed a wish to hear the word of God. I hope he will yet become a sincere listener.

Our English exercises are attended by a smaller number than formerly since many have left this place. I think however for our own good, as well as on account of others, we ought to keep them up. Mr. Van Tassel has returned to remain here till spring. I have heard nothing from Bad River for some time past. I had formed a design to go there this week, but have been prevented by the state of the ice. I intend going as soon as the ice gets a little stronger. I suppose there are very few Indians there. More are about the Lake.

I heard that Mr. Leihy has lost both his horses which will be a serious inconvenience to him in this mill enterprise I presume.

Mr. Pulsifer has received one letter from you, and by our last mail he heard through his correspondent at Lowell that you had arrived at that place.

I suppose you find some changes have taken place in the wide world during the times you have been shut up in the wilderness. Do you find calls enough to keep you busy? I have been expecting a letter from you. I want to hear what you have to say about the things you see, and how you like visiting, etc.

I have just had a letter from Mr. Ely, who says, “We are [snugly by quarters?] in St. Paul. My home is full of music—am employed as choir leader in Mr. [Mill’s?] (Prs.) church—sing two evenings a week at Stillwater, and the rest of my time is well filled with the private scholars & tuning Pianos, of which there are 7 or 8 at St. Paul.” Perhaps Br. Ely will find this a more lucrative business than cutting and hauling pine logs. I am glad he has found employment.

Our children all attend school except Harriet. Marydoes very well. Please give my regards to your friends at Lowell. I am writing to Mr. Treat by this opportunity. [Wish?] kind regards to Mrs. W. I remain

yours

S. Hall.

“I was never more heartily glad to leave a place…” According to Chief Buffalo, 150 Ojibwe died at Sandy Lake that fall, and as many as 250 more died returning home along the route Hall describes. While still a very harsh journey, La Pointe would have been easier to reach alive than other Ojibwe villages inland from Lake Superior.
The Savannah Portage connects the West Savannah River (Mississippi watershed) to the East Savannah River (Lake Superior watershed). It was one of the most difficult parts of the route from Sandy Lake to Fond du Lac.
The Old Mission Church, La Pointe, Madeline Island. (Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: 24827)
“…and if they had the people have but little to buy with.” This is because the government failed to honor its treaty obligations and pay the annuities at Sandy Lake as promised.
The Indian meetings were prayer services conducted in Ojibwe. The ABCFM put a lot of effort into translating scriptures and hymns, and missionaries like Hall produced many of the earliest published works in the Ojibwe language. Simon is mentioned in both of the letters in this post. Rather than guess who he is, I will do more research and find out. From context, it seems he was one of the small number of mix-blood converts, or even fewer Ojibwe converts.
The 1850 US Census and 1855 Wisconsin State Census list William Van Tassel a blacksmith, Charles Pulsifer a teacher in the mission, and Erwin Leihy among the early American settlers of the Chequamegon Region.
A former colleague of Wheeler and Hall, Edmund F. Ely had left the missionary business by this time. His journals, edited and published by Theresa Schenck in 2012, provide some of the best insight available about this area in the 1830s.
Selah B. Treat was Secretary of the A.B.C.F.M. back in Boston.
Two months later, Hall is compelled to write the Wheelers in Massachusetts again. The reverend’s December predictions of “considerable fish” have not materialized, and the Ojibwe of La Pointe without their annuity payments, are starving.
This time, Hall addressed the letter to Harriet Wheeler, Leonard’s wife. She apparently had written to Hall’s teenage daughter (also named Harriet). It is unclear if Harriet Wheeler had expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the missionary efforts in that letter, but Reverend Hall’s letter back seems to suggest it does. In trying to convince Wheeler to “come back home,” Hall reveals his own doubts and beliefs. Taken in the context of the recent horrors of Sandy Lake and the continued starvation and suffering in the winter of 1851, it is a chilling letter to read–as much for Hall’s statements about the people he’s trying to “save” as it is for the hardships it describes.

Harriet Wheeler, pictured about forty years after receiving this letter. (Wisconsin Historical Society: Image ID 36771)

…your note to Harriet” Harriet Hall was Sherman’s oldest daughter, about 19 years old at this time.

“Generally they do not want to improve their condition.” This paragraph highlights, in part, why the missionaries gained so few converts. For them, conversion didn’t just demand a change in faith. It required that Indians fully adopt a particular kind of American Protestant worldview.
“But as long as they continue to waste their summers in idleness they must starve in the winter.” Hall neglects to mention that the government actively discouraged the Ojibwe from planting gardens or gathering wild rice in the summer of 1850, saying they would be removed to Sandy Lake and the annuity payments (which never arrived) would see them through the winter.
Many Ojibwe leaders, including Hole in the Day, blamed the rotten pork and moldy flour distributed at Sandy Lake for the disease that broke out. The speech in St. Paul is covered on pages 101-109 of Theresa Schenck’s William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader, my favorite book about this time period. (Photo from Whitney’s Gallery of St. Paul: Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID 27525)
Naw-waw-ge-waw-nose, the Little Current, was one of nine men from the La Pointe Band to sign the Treaty of 1854 as a “2nd Chief (Buffalo was the only member of the band to sign as a “1st Chief). According to Charles Lippert on Wikipedia, the modern spelling would be Naawajiwanose, translated as “Walks through the Middle of the Current.” In History of the Ojibways, William Warren mentions a man named the Little Eddy living at La Pointe in the early 1850s. According to Warren, he was part of the war party that killed trader John Findley and a group of voyageurs in 1824 at Lake Pepin.
“Such are the methods the heathens & Catholics take to deceive us. We could make many converts with flour and pork, especially at this time.” This statement brings to mind the Great Famine in Ireland, also going on at this time. Some Protestant aid societies would only serve soup to starving Catholics who gave up their faith. This phenomenon, known as “souperism,” continues to weigh heavily on the Irish popular imagination.
Mary Warren (1835-1925), was a teenager at the time of the Sandy Lake Tragedy. She is pictured here over seventy years later. Mary, the sister of William Warren, had been living with the Wheelers but stayed with Hall during their trip east. (Photo found on University of Connecticut Radio website, scanned from Frances Densmore photos in the Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology)

Lapointe, Feb. 24th 1851.

Mrs. Wheeler,

By our last mail I wrote to Mr Wheeler, and by this I will address a few lines to you. From your note to Harriet I suppose you are happy among your friends. I am glad you are so, and hope you will not only spend your winter pleasantly, but that you will find the present season of relaxation from the severe duties of your station here, the occasion of reconnecting[?] your health and spirits.

I do not feel that the time has yet come when the churches ought to close their efforts to save these Indians. I do not think they are entirely beyond the reach of hope. The prospect however looks dark. But I think the greatest cause of discouragement arises from their character, and not from their present political condition. Generally they do not want to improve their condition. They are satisfied with their ignorance and degradation. All they think of is to supply for their present wants without their own exertions, while they wish to live in idleness and sin. This is the cause of their keeping so much aloof from the influence of the missions. Their minds are dreadfully dark respecting the things of the future world. They seem to have no ideas of happiness superior to that derives from the gratification of the lowest animal appetites and passions. This is the reason why the truths of the gospel so little effect on them. These things present to my mind much stronger grounds of discouragement than their present political difficulties, though those at present are not inconsiderable.

But as stupid as is the conscience, and as dark as is the understanding and the heart, and as much as they are given up to [?]ality and sin, I believe there is a Power that can quicken them into life. My only hope is that He who has made them, and has power to save them, will come and add his blessing to the preaching of his own gospel, and make it to them the power and wisdom of God. Thousands of others as dead in trespasses and sins, have been saved. Why may not they be saved? Come back home and let us try still to do something for them. Tell Christians to remember them and pray for them, that the word of God among them may have free course and be glorified.

It is a time of great scarcity of food among the Indians. There is some one in our houses almost every hour of the day begging for food. Very few get more than a meal a day; many not half of one. I have been told by several individuals, that they have tried three or four days in succession to catch fish, and have been obliged to return to their starving families each night with nothing for them. I am frequently importuned to spare a little provisions till I am obliged to go away out of sight to get rid of their pleading. I have spared the last potatoes I dare let go. Corn we have none. We have but a small quantity of flour over what will be required to sustain our families till we can expect to obtain a new supply. For a long time I have not known fish so scarce as the present winter. That is almost the only dependence of this people. For a month to come there will be many hungry ones. Many of the French and half-breeds are but little better off than the Indians. All we can do is to divide a little morsel with the hungry ones who come to beg. We have not much to give to those who importune for something to carry to their families. But as long as they continue to waste their summers in idleness they must starve in the winter.

The young Hole-in-the-day has been down to St Paul and there made a public speech in which he attributes the sickness at the payment last fall to the bad provisions which were dealt out to the Indians, and imparts much blame to the officers of the government for the way in which they [were with?]. In time they had some flour dealt out to them which was much damaged. But I think there were other causes for the sickness which prevailed besides the bad provisions. I think however that in some [aspects?] the Indians were wronged. Treaty stipulations were not carried out. H is very confident that many of the Indians are not satisfied with the manner in which they have been dealt with, and recent events have not served to strengthen their attachment to the Government.

We had our communion yesterday. I think there is a [?]ably good state of feeling among the native church members at this time. Simon has been frequently sick this winter. But his trials appear to bring nearer to God. He appears to be growing in the knowledge of God and in piety.

You will probably recollect Mo-ko-kun-ens-ish, an Indian with a bunch[?] between his shoulders, married into the family of the Little-current. He is, by profession, a Catholic. About a week ago, he made me a visit, and said his priest had offended him, and he wished to join us. A short time since he lost a child, and when the priest came to bury it, he said he “scolded him” because he had not cleaned away the snow from the gate of the burying yard, and made a better path for him to come to the grave. He told a long story. I suspected his object was to get some provisions of me. I told him we should be happy to see him at our meetings, and told him where and when they would be held. He said he should attend only sometimes he might be obliged to fish to get something to eat, and be occasionally away. I said a few words to him on religious subjects, and he left without asking for anything. The next day he came with a small piece of cloth and asked me to give him provisions for it. I told I had not provisions to trade. He then enquired about meeting. I told him we were to hold one that evening in the school-house. He said he should attend. The evening came, the meeting was held—but he was not there. Nor have we seen him at any other meeting. Such are the methods the heathens & Catholics take to deceive us. We could make many converts with flour and pork, especially at this time.

Yours Truly,

S. Hall

[Written in margins]

All send love though I have not room to write it.

Mary goes to school and is doing very well.

 

 

20130711-160019.jpg

20130711-160041.jpg

These are the originals of the paragraph about Hole in the Day’s speech in St. Paul. I couldn’t quite decipher all of it. Let me know what you see (Wheeler Family Papers, Personal Correspondence 1851, Wisconsin Historical Society Ashland Area Research Center).

In the June 9th post, we tried to determine how much William Warren and John S. Watrous were at fault for the deaths resulting from the 1850 Sandy Lake removal attempt. In this post, we will do the same for Sherman Hall.

Before we begin, it’s worth reviewing the facts. By 1850, Hall had lived at La Pointe for twenty years. He knew the people who lived here, and he knew the promises the Ojibwe were given at the Treaty of 1842. He was certainly aware of the Ojibwe position on the removal.

Rev. Hall did not order the removal. Compared with the government and Fur Company officials, he was fairly powerless within the Lake Superior region. However, he had a power of a different sort. As the primary voice of the ABCFM in Ojibwe country, he had powerful friends in the eastern states. Many Americans perceived the missionaries as the only neutral voice in the area. Hall admits in the December 28th letter that the Ojibwe were wronged. He could have advocated for their cause in the summer of 1850 as the illegal removal was unfolding. Instead, he largely went along with government efforts.

To his credit, in other letters Hall did blame the government for the failure of the Sandy Lake payment. The best book I’ve encountered about this time period is William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader by Theresa Schenck (Nebraska UP, 2007). On page 94, Dr. Schenck quotes a letter from Hall to ABCFM Secretary S.B. Treat. It is dated December 30, and is probably the letter referred to in the letter to Leonard Wheeler above. Hall is honest about Ojibwe feelings on the removal and seems to empathize somewhat. On page 155, Schenck details how the La Pointe mission did eventually turn against government removal efforts later in 1851.

So, it probably seems that I am defending Sherman Hall. Why? Truthfully, it’s because I want to have some balance in this post because, quite frankly, these two letters are some of the most disgusting, horrifying documents I’ve ever read. I felt especially sick typing up the February 24th letter to Harriet Wheeler. For a man who claimed to be “saving” the Ojibwe to be so heartless in the midst of so much suffering is appalling.

Was the mission running low on food? Sure, but doesn’t true Christian charity demand sharing to the last?

Should Hall’s language be judged by the standards of the racist times he lived in? Absolutely, but to say the things he says about human beings, his neighbors of twenty years, is inexcusable in any time period.

Is it possible he was traumatized by his experience at Sandy Lake, and this was a way of dealing with his personal guilt? This is possible. He does seem to be speaking to himself in the letter as much as he is to the Wheelers.

There is a danger in judging too much from just two letters, but I think Hall needs to be held to the same standard as Warren and Watrous were in the June 9th post. He could have spoken out against the removal to begin with. He didn’t. He was an eyewitness to Sandy Lake. He knew what the Ojibwe had been promised, and he saw the consequences of the government breaking those promises. His letters to the Wheelers in Boston could have been used to help right those wrongs by uniting the missions behind the Ojibwe cause. Instead, he chose to blame the people who had been wronged to the point of 400 deaths. For these reasons, I think when we list the villains of Sandy Lake, the Reverend Sherman Hall needs to be among them.

Sources:
Densmore, Frances. Chippewa Customs. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1929. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
KAPPLER’S INDIAN AFFAIRS: LAWS AND TREATIES. Ed. Charles J. Kappler. Oklahoma State University Library, n.d. Web. 21 June 2012. <http:// digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/>.
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.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.