By Amorin Mello

The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

January 5, 1878.

The Survey of the Penoka Range and Incidents Connected with its Early History.

Number VII.

The “great commercial storm” was the Panic of 1857; a precursor to the American Civil War.  It had dramatic impacts across the United States including Milwaukee and the south shore of Lake Superior.
“Cream City” refers to Milwaukee and its manufacturing of bricks made with light yellow-colored clay from the Menomonie River Valley.

Upon the arrival of Gen. Cutler and myself at Milwaukee, December 25th, 1857, we found that the affairs of the Wisconsin & Lake Superior Mining and Smelting Company were in a very different condition, financially, from what they were when we left home, nearly eight months before. The great commercial storm, that, like a tidal wave, had swept over the country that year from Maine to California, had left its mark in wrecking many of the best business men of the “Cream City,” as well as elsewhere. Among these were some of the original stock holders of our company, who, unable to stand their assessments any longer, had, previous to our arrival, given place to others as green as they were originally themselves. Even some of the new stock holders were also subsequently compelled to sell out to other parties, not being any better able to respond when the call for more money was made upon them, than had their illustrious predecessors, thereby losing not only all they had invested, but what they had in prospect to make, as well.

Dr. Henry Harrison Button’s wife was a distant cousin of Thomas A. Greene.  The two men signed a partnership agreement on October 1, 1848 to operate a wholesale and retail drug business in Milwaukee and remained in business together for the rest of their lives. Greene was an amateur geologist who collected 75,000 specimens of fossils and minerals.
John W. Pixley was a merchant and land speculator in Milwaukee.
Simeon N. Small and John B.D. Coggswell were introduced in Numbers III and IV of this series.
R.B. Bell & Co. was a wholesale merchant of alcohol and tobacco in Milwaukee.

Among those who stepped into the trap at this time and who remained in to the end were Messrs. Green & Button, who yet hold stock, John W. Pixley, Simeon N. Small, J.B.D. Coggswell and R.B. Bell, a one-horse banker who came to our city about that time. The outs being John Lockwood, who, in imagination, had been a large capitalist, and worth at least two hundred thousand dollars; but whose liabilities so far exceeded his ability to pay when brought to the front as to make him a hopeless bankrupt, was, with Palmer, Greves and Cummings, compelled to retire.

The amount of money expended up to this time, in order to obtain possession of this imaginary bonanza had not only floored these gentlemen, leaving them high and dry upon the shoals of commercial bankruptcy, but had so far exceeded the amount originally contemplated, as to make those of us who remained fear the wrath to come in view of the stringency of the money market, as well as the general stagnation of business, particularly, as from past experience, it was not possible to calculate with certainty what further amounts would be required, in order to insure success. A large force was still upon the Range, neither could it be withdrawn until the lands were entered, except at the risk of losing all that had been done. These men were to be paid as well as fed during the winter, which would of itself, require no inconsiderable sum; besides we must pay the Government for the land. Money must be raised, consequently, to go back was impossible; to go forward, equally so. But to go ahead was our motto, and the amount necessary for these purposes was at once raised by assessment upon those of us who were yet solvent, and the “pot kept a boiling.”

Wheelock townsite claim at Ballou Gap in the Iron Range with sugar maples, springs, and useless compasses. (Detail of Stuntz survey from May of 1858)

Wheelock’s unmarked townsite claim at Ballou Gap in the Iron Range with sugar bushes, artesian springs, and useless compasses. (Detail of Stuntz’s survey during September of 1857)

According to the July 8th, 1871 issue of the Bayfield Press, only “a few hundred pounds” were ever extracted by the Wisconsin & Lake Superior Mining and Smelting Company.  This means they extracted more maple sugar than iron from the Penokee Mountains.

During the winter the improvements upon the Range spoken of as contemplated were pushed steadily forward under the skillful management of A.B. Wheelock, who was in every way, the man for the place, as in addition to completing the two block houses in good shape, twelve hundred pounds of sugar and forty gallons of molasses were made under his direction during the spring. The tubs for holding the sugar and syrup were all made during the winter at Penoka, by that Jack of all trades, Steve Sanborn, who could do almost as good work with a hatchet, knife, saw, auger and draw shave, as half the coopers and carpenters in the country, with a full set of tools.

Perhaps a short sketch of this singular mortal, so well known to many of Ashland’s early men, may not be uninteresting to your readers.

Steven Sanborn was introduced in the Number VI of this series.
Pike’s Peak is located among the copper ranges south of Superior City.  However, this Pike’s Peak could be a reference to Mount Ashwabay in the Pikes Creek watershed southwest of Bayfield.

In height he was about five feet six inches, broad shoulders, arms long and sinewy, head large and wide; dark complexion, long, dark brown hair, blue eyes, face smooth and beardless, high cheek bones, long, wide, projecting chin, that was always getting up a muss with his nose, which was also long, and slightly hooked. He walked heavily, his knees usually about six inches in advance of his toes, giving his legs, which were bowed, the shape of an obtuse angle. Such was his personale. His conversational powers were not of the highest order – in fact he seldom spoke to any one; was fond of hunting and trapping, a vocation he usually followed every winter, remaining out alone for weeks together, at the Marengo, living upon mink, martin, muskrat, or any other kind of rat. He was always restless and uneasy, and could get outside of more bean soup and shanty bread at a sitting than any two men upon the Range. Such are my recollections of Stephen Sanborn. The last known of him was at Pike’s Peak, where, if living, he is no doubt following the same hermit life he loved so well upon Lake Superior.

The General Land Office in Superior City was the epicenter of scandals that received nationwide media coverage.  The topics of the Superior office and the boys’ “little affidavits” will be featured on this blog in the future.
Abandoning the Gogebic Iron Range with implies that the company obtained fraudulent preemption claims.

At length, after a winter of unusual mildness, similar to what the present one promises to be, gentle spring once more showed her smiling face, a signal to us to hurry up and complete our work; and as the returns of the survey were now all made, and the lands subject to entry, the necessary funds for entering them were placed in my hands, with which I returned to the Range, took the boys to Superior City, where they made their little affidavits, got their duplicates, and returned with me to La Pointe, where we met the General, who had followed me from Milwaukee, where the work of transferring the titles to the company was at once commenced and completed successfully with all except A.S. Stacy, who traitor-like, (to use a commercial term), “laid down” on us, refusing to convey, unless paid a bonus of one thousand dollars, which, if my memory is correct, and I’ll bet it is, he never got. The duplicates once in our possession, the patents were soon forthcoming, through influence brought to bear at Washington, after which, there being no prospect of doing anything with the lands at present, owing to the financial condition of the country, as well as the almost total prostration of the iron interest. The personal property was placed in store at Sibley’s and other points, until again wanted, and the Range abandoned about July 1, 1858. This abandonment, however, which was at the time supposed to be only temporary, proved in the end, to us at least, eternal. The fruits of our labors are not enjoyed by others. “We shook the bush and they caught the bird.” Notwithstanding that a railroad,- the Ashland and Iron Mountain, of which I, with others, was a corporator, was chartered in 1859, it was, as is well known, never built. We were finally compelled, after all, to see this whole thing, upon which we had spent so much money, and suffered so many hardships, slip from our grasp, and pass into the hands of those who had not labored for it. But so it is ever; one planeth, and another gathereth.

Such, Mr. Editor, is the history in brief, of the way, as well as by whom, the Penoka Range was first surveyed and located, and although we underwent much hardship and privation, yet I look back today upon that summer, as the pleasantest, in many respects, that I ever spent in Wisconsin. Neither would I hesitate, even now, to undertake the same again, and would like very much to see the old cabin at Penoka, which I am told is yet standing, in which I spent so many happy days in 1857.

The history of the Range from that time to the present is as well known to you as to me, and need not be dwelt upon further than to say that its possession did not make millionaires of any of us.

Increase A. Lapham surveyed the Penokee Iron Range on behalf of the Wisconsin & Lake Superior Mining and Smelting Company during 1858.

Increase A. Lapham surveyed the Penokee Iron Range on behalf of the Wisconsin & Lake Superior Mining and Smelting Company during 1858.

But what a change have these twenty years brought to the members, as well as the employees of the old company! Of the company, Palmer, Gen. Cutler, H. Hill, Sidebotham, Pixley, J.B.D. Cogswell, Small and Ripley have passed from earth. Lockwood and Harris are in New Orleans; J.F. Hill, J. Cummings and myself in Milwaukee, and Greves in California. Of the others I have no knowledge. Of the employees, Wheelock is upon a farm in Dakota; J.C. Cutler, at his home in Dexter, Maine; Whitcomb is in Milwaukee; Valliant, Stevens and Chase were killed in the late unpleasantness, and H.C. Palmer died in Milwaukee. Of the others I know not.

The “late unpleasantness” is a folk name for the American Civil War.
Asaph Whittlesey’s spiel about Augustus Barber’s death was featured in Numbers III and V.

There are, however, many yet living with whom I became acquainted at that time, in Ashland and vicinity, for whom I have ever cherished the warmest personal friendship. If these sketches and reminiscences of long long ago have interested or amused them, I am glad. The writing of them has brought to mind many scenes and faces, that were almost forgotten, but which are as vivid now as though occurring yesterday. I hope, the coming season to see you all, and talk over old times, and make a trip to the Range over the old trail, every foot of which is accurately mapped in my eye. And now, as my task is done, at least for the present, I will bid the Press readers good-bye, and

Let Brother Whittlesey “spiel” it a while.
About that wonderful siege of Barlile.

J.S. Buck
Milwaukee, Dec. 18, 1877.

By Amorin Mello

The Ashland Weekly Press became the Ashland Daily Press.

December 22, 1877.

The Survey of the Penoka Range and Incidents Connected with its Early History.

Number VI.

Joseph C. Cutler came to work with his father; GeneralGray Devil Cutler.
George Spaulding may have been a pastor and clerk from the St. Croix River valley, or a musician from Brodhead that served in the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry band.

At length, somewhere about the 25th of October, the General returned from below, accompanied by his son, Joseph Cutler, George Spaulding, a young man who had formerly been in his employ in Maine, and Henry C. Palmer of Milwaukee, a son of President Palmer, who all came to hold claims for the Company, if wanted. He also brought two cook stoves and two metal kettles, the stoves for housekeeping, the kettles for sugar making. Both of the kettles and one of the stoves were subsequently sent to the Range, where they did good service during the winter and following spring, and are no doubt in use somewhere in the country today.

Houghton was a small settlement at what is now the City of Washburn. (Detail from A.H. Barber's survey during August of 1855)

Houghton was a small settlement in the Town of BayPort, located northeast of what is now the City of Washburn. Captain Steven Butterfield and Peter B Vanderventer lived at what is now Washburn.  (Detail from Augustus H. Barber’s survey during August of 1855)

Houghton was named for Dr. Douglass Houghton, an early American geologist of the south shore of Lake Superior.  He came to La Pointe during the 1840 Houghton Expedition with Bela Hubbard, possibly on the Jane.
Captain Stephen Butterfield came from New York and married Marie Lamoreaux, an Ojibwe from La Pointe.
Peter B. Vanderventer was a grocer from New York and married Caroline Lamoreaux, an Ojibwe from La Pointe.
Antoine Gordon was an entrepreneurial Ojibwe from La Pointe, owned the schooner Algonquin, and later settled the town of Gordon at the ancient village of Amik along the Grand Footpath between Chequamegon Bay and the St. Croix River.
Antoine Gordon from Noble Lives of a Noble Race (pg. 207) published by the St. Mary’s Industrial School in Odanah.

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

These kettles and stoves came very near sending Gen. Cutler, myself and Mr. Sidebotham, who had been stopping at La Pointe for several weeks, awaiting events, to a watery grave, during the run from that place to Ashland, in the Jane, a large two-masted boat formerly used by the Government upon the lake coast survey. Nothing but the coolness and skill of Captain Steve Butterfield, who was at the helm, saved us from going to the bottom. It was a long time before the recollections of that November day ceased to haunt us. The idea of going down in 150 feet of water with such a load, was not a pleasant thing to contemplate. Mr. Sidebotham was wholly unconscious, until after he reached the shore, of the peril we were in, owing to his ignorance of nautical affairs, but not so the General. He realized it as keenly as I did, not a word was spoken for over an hour, but in that hour we lived a lifetime. At length we succeeded in reaching the land at Houghton, where the high rocky shore furnished a lee. I shall never forget that ride while I live. We stopped for dinner at Antoine Gordon‘s, who lived at that time a little to the westward of Houghton, after which we ran down the shore to Pete Vanderventer‘s old place before venturing to cross the Bay to Ashland, which however, we finally did, reaching there in safety about sunset. Here we left Mr. Sidebotham to remain until wanted, and with J. Cutler, Palmer, and Spaulding, started the next morning for the Range, reaching there the second day at noon. Immediately upon our arrival, an interview was had with Stuntz, who informed us that if the fine weather we were then enjoying should continue for three weeks more, the survey to complete which he was making every possible exertion, would be finalized. This was to us indeed joyful news, as we were getting very anxious to return to our homes for the winter; whereupon all of our spare men were at once detailed to assist him, leaving me alone at Penoka, the General, in the meantime, visiting the different locations, and arranging for the winter, during which a blockhouse was to be built at Penoka, and one at the Gorge, which was done, the lumber for both being manufactured upon the ground, with a whip saw. Up to this time there had been no snow except the usual light fall we had every year, about the 1st of November. This, however, had all disappeared in three days after it fell, after which the weather was beautiful. In this way the time passed along, I seeing no one except Gen. Cutler, who came occasionally, or some of Stuntz’s men, who came for supplies, which were at this time kept mostly at Penoka, until the 12th of November, when it being certain that one week more would finish the survey, General Cutler left for Ashland, after Mr. Sidebotham, who by the requirements of the pre-emption law, must sleep upon his claim the 30th, in order to hold it, at least we so understood it at the time, leaving me entirely alone.

The weather continued fair up to the 18th, when there came a change. Saturday, the 17th, was as fine an Indian summer day as I ever saw, nearly all of which I slept seated upon a log in front of the cabin, listening to the singing of the birds, many of them not yet having left us for their homes in the south, and watching them as they were fitting around me, in search of food. At length old Sol sunk in the west, and night once more spread her dark mouth over the surrounding landscape. A strange feeling of loneliness, such as I had never felt before, crept over me as I closed the door of the cabin for the night, and sought my couch of balsam boughs, where I slept soundly until 6 o’clock the following morning, when presto! what a change met my eye! The air so soft and clear the previous evening, was now filled with snow, while upon the ground it was two and a half feet in depth, and increasing rapidly. You can easily imagine that I was not a little startled at the outlook, as being snowed in upon Lake Superior was no joke; and from the rapidity with which it was falling, it was apparent that it would be six feet in depth in twenty-four hours, if it kept on. I quickly saw that the first thing to be done was to lay in a supply of wood, the nearest pile of which was thirty rods distant. To this a track was quickly made, and the work of moving it commenced; neither did it stop until 2 P.M., at which time the whole pile, one and a half cords was in the cabin. The snow was now three feet in depth, but very light. My wood secured, I proceeded to cook some food, of which I felt the need, after which my thoughts began to wander after Stuntz and party, who were fifteen miles south. Neither did they reach the Range until the fourth day, as they had but one mile to run, in order to complete, when the storm came. This done, they started, and were three days in making that fifteen miles, during one of which, the last, they had nothing to eat, and one of them, Wilhelm Goetzenburg, literally nothing to wear, being clad in duck pants, hickory shirt, and stoga boots, no stockings, coat or vest. They were all badly used up when they got in; Stevens, in particular, who gave out when within only three miles of the Range, where he remained until his companions had reached the cabin, and two of them returned to him with some food, after which he came in, but as weak as to render it necessary to lead him. It was several days before he fully recovered his former strength. Goetzenburg, although nearly naked, stood it the best of them all. Perhaps a short sketch of this curious mortal, who certainly exhibited upon this occasion, powers of endurance equal to the gay and festive mule may not be inopportune, in this connection, before closing this article.

William Gotzehenberger was introduced in PSI: Number V.  His brother in Ontonagon has not been identified.
Low Dutch refers to Hollanders.
Equimaux is French for Eskimo.
New Zealander refers to Māori.

Wilhelm Goetzenburg, or Gutsenburg, as George Miller once spelt it when directing a letter for him to his “bruder” in Ontonagon, was not an Adonis, in the strict sense of the term. No sir! his keel was laid for a jumping jack, but from some unexplained cause, that plan was abandoned by his builder, who finally modeled him after the tubs the performing elephants use in the circus, broad at the base; in fact, his basement story was the largest part of him, in fact, nearly all of him; his legs, which were bowed, were short; his arms were long; his chest was short, and shaped like the dummies we see in the windows of ladies’ furnishing stores; his shoulders were broad, upon which a head covered with a thick mat of coarse hair, in color like that of a North Carolina clay-eater; a short nose, and a mouth that if open would have fooled a badger. Taken as a whole, he looked like a mixture of Low Dutch, Esquimaux and New Zealander combined. But beneath that iron frame, beat as honest a heart as ever beat in Ashland, or any other land. Good luck to thee, honest Wilhelm, I shall never see thy like again, but wherever thou arts or goest, may beans be plenty and clothing cheap. But en resume.

George Kilburn and Asaph Whittlesey came from the Western Reserve, Ohio, to Chequamegon Bay in 1854 and co-founded the first townsite claim near the ancient village of Wiiwkwedong.
George Kilburn was affectionately known as “Uncle George” to many early settlers.
No record found for Steve Sanborn. He may have been related to future Wisconsin Senator Albert W. Sanborn.
Records not found for Elie Valliant or William Pell.  William Pell could possibly be John W Bell Jr.

The fifth day brought Gen. Cutler from Ashland, accompanied by Mr. Sidebotham, George Kilburn, Sibley, Steve Sanborn, and George Miller, with the pack horses, who all came to break the road, except Sanborn, who came to stay through the winter. The boys had also now got in from the different claims, and the old cabin was full. Here they all remained for two days, when there came a thaw and melted the snow, after which Uncle George and Sibley returned to the Marengo, and George Miller with the horses to Ashland. The rest remained until the 30th, when their claims secured, and the arrangements for the winter completed. Mr. Arthur E. Wheelock was placed in charge of the week with J. Culter, Palmer, Steve Sanborn, Spaulding, and Elie Valliant, a French Canuck, formerly a resident at Ironton, a ship and house carpenter by trade, as companions. This done, Gen. Cutler and myself, Sidebotham, McClelland, Chase, and Al. Stevens accompanied by two of Stuntz’s men, whose names I have forgotten, left for home. We camped the first night at the Marengo, where the boys, as usual, hid the sugar from Mr. Sidebotham, reaching Ashland the second day. Here we remained for two days, when leaving Mr. Sidebotham, as previous stated, we took our departure, going directly across the bay upon the ice, for Pete Vanderventer’s. Before reaching the shore, however, Chase, who led the party, broke in, and came very near drowning, as in addition to his pack and snowshoes, which were also carried, he had on rubber boots, the legs of which held water enough to run a milk factory for a week. He was finally pulled out and inverted a few moments to let him drain, after which we proceeded, reaching Antoine Gordon’s at dark, and reached Bayfield the second day, the last six miles being made in an open boat, obtained, from the Indians at Sioux River, which was returned by Wheelock and William Pell, who had accompanied us thus far on the way.

From Bayfield to Superior City on snow shoes, occupied seven days, during which we camped on the snow every night. This, although a hard tramp, was very much enjoyed by all. The last three days our route lay along the shore of the lake, where many laughable scenes occurred in the way of tumbles from the ice bergs that lined the shore. From Superior City via St. Paul and La Crosse, to New Lisbon by stage, occupied nine days. From New Lisbon by cars to Milwaukee, one day, reaching that place Dec. 25, 1857.       J.S.B.