Bayfield County Journal
Bayfield County Journal Yesteryear Column

Zoe von Ende Lappin, granddaughter of P.J. Savage, editor of the Iron River PIONEER from 1898 to 1952, has obtained permission for us to post the Memories and Yesteryear columns that are printed weekly in the Bayfield COUNTY JOURNAL, successor  to the PIONEER and other newspapers in the county. The COUNTY JOURNAL announced the upcoming Web postings in its Dec. 3O, 1999, edition with the headline, "Genealogy columns to appear on the web".

I would like to thank Eric Sharp, Editor of the Bayfield County Journal for his willingness to work with us in our genealogical search. We look forward to the wonderful articles that will appear here. Thank you also to Zoe von Ende Lappin for all her work and the hours of typing.

County Journal, Oct. 14, 1999. Yesteryear (from Washburn).


Tony Woiak

From the Washburn Bee, March 14 1885

(For probably the first time in Yesteryear’s history, a column has been taken out of a Washburn Bee, the town’s second newspaper after the Washburn Itemizer. Our historical society doesn’t have any Bees, so I would like to thank my friend, Kurt Larson, who copied the first edition of the Bee from the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison. The following is some early Washburn history from that newspaper.)

When the Omaha Railroad Company graded the road bed to Bayfield in the fall of 1882, the secret of the Town of Washburn was  hidden in the deep foliage of the trees, which mysteriously sighed when tossed by the winds, for the time was coming when their majestic heads would be laid low.

The town was laid out by the Bay Land & Improvement Company, comprising of (sic)  366 acres and divided into 2,230 lots. The location of Washburn was happily chosen, being entirely free of ravines and low, swampy ground. The land rises from the bay at a gentle incline, having a rise of from two to three feet to the hundred, affording to (sic) the town natural facilities for a perfect system of sewage.

On May 12th, 1883, the steamer City of Ashland landed at the small wharf down by the old mill (McCellan’s, near Memorial Park), having aboard Messrs. (Dan) Corning, (John) Anderson, (Jack) Walker and (Fred) Swain. These gentlemen were Washburn’s first arrivals. The steamer returned to Ashland, while the above named gentlemen remained to look the new field over.  (They were) like Pilgrim Fathers,landing on the shore still dense with primeval forests, and although the hardships experienced were not severe, they were assailed by hunger, but the natives came not to relieve their sufferings.

Dan stumbled across one native that had the essentials to bless man’s existence on the lake shore, viz: tea, whiskey, crackers and little tobacco. Dan said, “The boys don’t know how good a meal of just whiskey and crackers made.”

Next week I will give you more early history, plus the 50, 25 and 10 year columns will be back. The following is what I’ve been up to:

I am almost done with the Homecoming Book, “Yesteryear 2000.” Right now the book is over 400 pages, without any photos. I have Yesteryear from 1882, before Washburn was even founded, and give or take a year or two here and there, right up to 1922. This will be like a family tree for many early Washburn families. Then I have Walker and Washburn High School photographs, trivia and so on. The book also has well over 1,200 nicknames, from the 1880s to now. Plus, I’ve interviewed dozens of people, wandered through graveyards, went through thousands of old newspapers and burned the midnight oil since March (1999), trying to get the book done.

A few things I discovered about Washburn’s past which may surprise you... The first graduating class was not 1891 but 1889. The town was actually dark for over two years because Washburn couldn’t afford to pay for the lighting of the streets. The book cannot only give you the person with the town’s first automobile, but the next seven or eight as well. Around 1916, there was a “mad dog” scare, and a youngster by the name of Gordy Fraser was bitten as were many folks in town. Jack Walker (John Elder) was one of our forefathers. He worked on the Mississippi River and lived to be 100. He actually met Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant before they became  world figures in early 1860. He also was friends with another riverboat captain, by the name of Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain).

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