Bayfield County Press

Compiler's Note: Currie G. Bell, my great-grandfather, became the editor and publisher of the Bayfield, Wisconsin weekly newspaper, the BAYFIELD COUNTY PRESS, in the fall of 1882. The paper remained in the Bell family until July 1927. In addition to the usual birth, marriage and death announcements, THE PRESS printed local "chit-chat" columns that provided snippets of information on the residents of Bayfield and the surrounding towns. On a time-available and experimental basis, we have decided to post some of this data in the hopes it may be of use to family historians researching their Bayfield county ancestors. --John Griener

Bayfield's Infant Days

[Note: Following are two items concerning the early days of Bayfield; the first written by Mrs. Alonzo H. Wilkinson, nee Lillian TATE, whom I believe to be the daughter of Andrew TATE, although he is only referenced as "my father" in the text. The second is a response to the article making a few corrections. The author was not identified except as an "old resident." Together, they present a detailed account of the early days of Bayfield.]

Taken from the 25 March 1904 issue of the Bayfield County Press

The Bayfield Women's Club held an unusually interesting meeting Monday afternoon at the Island View hotel parlors. The occasion being "Bayfield Day," the program was made up to correspond and those who attended as visitors were treated to a general surprise. The infant days of the Harbor City were reviewed in a manner that reflected great credit upon the writer. The compiling of these historic notes represents a heap of hard labor as it is one of the most complete pages of history that has ever been given to the people of Bayfield. Through the courtesy of Mrs. WILKINSON we herewith publish in full the paper read at the meeting entitled "Early History of Bayfield."

In the early fifties LaPointe, as you all no doubt know, was the only settlement, with the exception of Superior, on this end of the lake. It was the county seat of LaPointe county which included what are now Douglas, Ashland, and Bayfield counties. The North American Fur Company, formerly the Hudson Bay Fur Company, had its principle post there. The regular Indian payments were made there, bringing hundreds of the braves from the surrounding country every year, and fully a thousand whites made it their home. But LaPointe, with its interesting history or the privations endured by her white people, is not for me to dwell upon today and I must turn to the subject chosen for me.

The Early History of Bayfield

The land upon which the town stands was originally owned by Hon. H. M. RICE, formerly of St. Paul, a gentleman prominent in the history of Minnesota. Mr. RICE was a firm believer in a glorious future for our little town and was frequently spoken of as the father of Bayfield. Bayfield was named for Lieut. Bayfield, an officer in the British navy, and for many years we were the only town in the United States bearing his name.

On the morning of the 24th of March 1856, the inhabitants of LaPointe were startled to see smoke curling up through the trees on this thickly covered shore. Thinking a band of Indians had come over land and were camped here, a few men came over and found a party of nine men under the charge of John C. HANLEY, had driven down on the ice from Superior and landed on the point where Mr. C. G. BELL's house now stands and it was there the first trees were cut. The first cabin built was nearly opposite Mr. BELL's residence, and about where the old land office stood. The cabin was finished on the 26th and on the 27th of March, Major McABOY, a civil engineer, and his assistants arrived and the work of surveying and laying out the town was begun on the 28th. The hauling of timbers for the dock was also begun on the 27th of March, and the first crib sunk on the 30th. The dock was finished on the first day of May. It was known until very recently as the "Vaughn dock." In 1890 it was bought by Mr. DALRYMPLE, rebuilt and extended, and in 1903 it became the property of the Dormer-Boutin Fish company.

The first boat to land at the new town was the schooner Algonquin. May 8, 1856, and among her passengers from Superior were Mr. HANLEY's wife and children, the first family to come here. Mrs. Julius AUSTRIAN, now of Chicago, then living in LaPointe, came across on the ice by dog train to see the work being done at the new town and thus has the honor of being the first white woman to put her foot upon the soil of Bayfield. The first funeral in Bayfield was that of Florence Nelly STEEL, aged 15 months, died August 19, 1857. Rev. WARREN preached the funeral sermon August 20. The first white child was born in a little house where Henry WACHSMUTH's residence now stands and was a son of L. KITSTINER. Mr. H. M. RICE presented the babe with a town lot for the privilege of naming him "Bayfield."

The first steamer to visit Bayfield was the Lady Elgin, June 16, 1856. She was lost on Lake Michigan with 600 excursionists from Milwaukee on board in 1860. The steamer brought the engineer and carpenters to build a mill. July 27 the Mineral Point arrived bringing the engine and other machinery for the mill also one of the owners John T. CAHO. The mill was built about where Capt. PIKE's mill now stands, was finished and began sawing in September, 1856, and thus begun the industry that was to rob Wisconsin of her grand old forests, and put millions of dollars into the pockets of the lumberman. It is very hard for us to realize that these shores were ever covered with thick forests, but all the timber cut at that time was between here and Houghton point, and brought to the mill in rafts. On January 12, 1859, the mill was totally destroyed by fire. In July a second mill was started on the old site and finished August 28 of the same year. The first dwelling house erected was built by J. C. HANLEY in 1856, and is the low part of the building now occupied by August TURNQUIST. I have an order given by my father on the mill company for lumber with which to build the first sidewalk. It ran from the corner below SAYLE's barn, diagonally down the street to the dock.

In September, John and West McCLOUD of St. Paul moved here and erected a building which they occupied for years as a hardware store. It stood on the corner below the hotel and was torn down when the boulevard was built. The first general store was built in October by S. S. VAUGHN. It stood on the corner where the Pharmacy now stands and is now occupied by O. ANDERSON as a barber shop. A postoffice was also established in October and Joe McCLOUD, a brother of the two men before mentioned, was appointed postmaster. Mail was received twice a month being carried overland between here and St. Croix Falls by August LaRUSH. The same year, congress passed several land grants to aid in the construction of railroads. The Northern Pacific was surveyed, also the Portage, Winnebago, and Lake Superior now known as the Wisconsin Central, and thus began the weary wait for a railroad.

On December 25, a large hotel was commenced by the Bayfield Land company on the vacant lot opposite the court house and finished in June 1857. It was opened by Mr. J. H. NOURSE. He was succeeded by Mr. Geo. G. LIVINGSTONE as proprietor, January 10, 1861, it was totally destroyed by fire. John B. BONO opened the first hotel in the place on the corner occupied by Duffy BOUTIN's saloon. In 1862, Capt. P. W. SMITH bought the hotel of Mr. BONO, improved and enlarged it, until it covered the entire front of the block with the exception of a small yard at the alley which was almost entirely taken up by a fountain, made most attractive to strangers by its quantity of brook trout. The Smith Hotel and Capt. SMITH were widely known and during the twenty-five years of its existence, sheltered many of the prominent men of our country. In 1874, Mr. Wm. KNIGHT ran the hotel for six months. It burned June 1877.

My father organized the first school which opened in December, 1856, in the room over the Vaughn store and was taught by Miss Rebecca McABOY. Among her first pupils were Matilda DAVIS, Mrs. N. LaBONTE, her sister Marie DAVIS, Mrs. McGUIRE, and a half sister Alice BONO, Mrs. A. WELCOME, both deceased, Mike HOCHDANNER, two of the McABOY children, Dora HANLEY, also Amis and Mary DAY. This school closed in March and was opened the following October with Rev. Jas PEET in charge. I think great credit is due those struggling few, cut off from the world as they were during the long cold winters and with only an Indian trail through the forests to connect them with civilization, for their efforts in the first steps towards the magnificent schools of which we are so justly proud today.

At the first town meeting April 7, 1858, my father was elected town superintendent of schools. The first school meeting was held May 1. J. C. HANLEY was elected director, A. J. DAY, treasurer, and Wm. S. WARREN, clerk. The first public school was opened July 19, 1858. Miss Sarah MAHAN, of Oberlin, Ohio in charge.

In 1858 the county seat was moved from LaPointe. The county records were kept in a building which burned in 1874, and aside from a knowledge that my father was the county treasurer, I have been unable to get any information regarding the first county officers.

This little band of people were not unmindful of their religious duties either, and during the year 1856, services were held in various houses, Rev. Wm. S. WARREN acting as their minister. A Methodist church was organized in July 1857, with Rev. Jas. PEET in charge. Also a Presbyterian church with Rev. R. S. EIDER in charge. They erected the building afterwards occupied by Mrs. NOURSE as a residence, and now used as a flat building not of the up to date style exactly. The hill back of the church was used as a cemetery. In 1859 the town appropriated $500 for a cemetery out on "Pike's Bay hill." But it was not until the 80's that the last of the graves were removed from the town.

In the summer of 1871, the Catholics erected a church and Father CHEBEUL was their pastor. Who among the people here at that time do not remember Father CHEBEUL, a friend to all, Catholic or Protestant, and a welcome guest in every home. His rare personality, sympathetic yet jovial disposition, made him truly beloved by all. It was also in the summer of 1871 the Episcopal church was erected, with Rev. James CARRINGTON, who had conducted lay readings here the two previous years, in charge.

July 4, 1857, the Bayfield Mercury, a weekly newspaper edited by R. W. HAMILTON and Alonzo HATCH, made its first appearance and was published about a year in the building recently remodeled for an office by I.H. WING. It stood on the corner where the WHALEN saloon now stands. It was afterwards bought by James CHAPMAN and used as a general store. His store was a great rendezvous for all the guests in town. Every one interested in out of doors sports receiving a hearty welcome. In Mr. CHAPMAN's side yard and about where the bank now stands, he built a fountain many feet deep which was well stocked with brook trout. A particularly well introduced stranger, or old out of town acquaintance, was allowed the pleasure of drawing one fish from the lot and being from two to four pounds in weight, the fortunate angler felt satisfied with his curtailed opportunity.

In 1859, October 1, the Bayfield Press, edited by Jas. H. CAMPBELL, was started and continued until the fall of 1863. In 1870, a newspaper was again published here by "Hank" FIFIELD and his brother, Hon. S. S. FIFIELD, now of Ashland. The first edition of the Ashland Press was published here and taken over to Ashland on the Eva Wadsworth. In 1872, Mr. FIFIELD moved the Press to Ashland, and we were without a paper until June 1, 1877, when S. S. FIFIELD moved the plant back and the Bayfield Press again came to life. It has had many managers and owners until 1882, when the present enterprising editor bought the plant and today it ranks at the head of the weekly newspapers published in Wisconsin, with its finely equipped press rooms and modern machinery.

In December 1858, Bayfield was made a port of entry and in May, 1859 the revenue cutter John B. LLOYD arrived for service on Lake Superior and was stationed here. On May 6, 1859, the Lady Elgin arrived at LaPointe, but could not get across to Bayfield on account of the ice, and on May 15, the North Star got within 20 miles of Superior but turned back on account of the ice and left her passengers at Bayfield.

These two extracts were taken from the diary of Rev. Jas. PEET, and I am indebted to his son, E. L. PEET, of Grantsburg, for them. The U. S. Land Office was moved here from Superior in 1860. Maj. Wm McABOY was register, Dr. SPRUCE, receiver. Mr. McABOY was succeeded in 1861 by F. W. BARTLETT. In 1867 he was succeeded by Dr. V. SMITH and in 1871, Col. J. H. KNIGHT was appointed. In 1872 he was succeeded by I. H. WING who remained until 1883 when Mr. C. G. BELL was appointed. In 1884, L. T. BOYD was appointed and in 1886 the office was moved to Ashland. The U.S. Indian Agency was also moved here in May, 1860, Col. C. K. DREW as agent. Mr. WHITTLESEY was the next agent and Col. KNIGHT succeeded him. Gen. L. E. WEBB was the fourth agent, followed by S. M. CLARK, who built a very fine agent's residence at Red Cliff, and it was during his successor's term, Dr. I. L. MAHAN, in 1878, that it burned. S. S. MAHAN acted as agent for a short time and was relieved by W. R. DURFEE, who was agent at the time of its removal to Ashland in 1882.

On the 30th of March, 1857, a meeting was held at the store of S. S. VAUGHN to organize a literary association to e known as the Lyceum. On October 19, 1858, a library was started in connection with the Lyceum and my father was chosen librarian. An interesting bit of reading on the subject I found among my father's papers. It is headed "Libraries of Bayfield" and gives the names of each person owning books. March 24, 1859, the number shows 2600 volumes among eighteen owners. At that time there were 59 houses, estimated value $35,000, and an estimated value of personal property $15,000. The Bayfield Lyceum continued until 1875 when it changed to the Bayfield Public Library association and incorporated under the state laws. At that time it contained over 600 books, many being valuable, it was kept in the old court house which was built in 1875 on the site opposite by WERDER's saloon.

On February, 1883, the court house burned with all of the library and most of the county records.

In 1869 Capt. PIKE built what was then a large and most up to date saw mill and in the same year the N. and F. BOUTIN Fish company was organized. These two at that time large industries, giving employment to so many men, both summer and winter made Bayfield self-sustaining and practically assured her future.

The inhabitants had by their indomitable courage and energy, struggled through some of the darkest periods that ever visited Lake Superior, and while Bayfield has not reached the enormous proportions planned for it, we have by no means retrograded. Every year finds an increase in size and business. We have struggled bravely through all such calamities as the removal of the county seat, Indian agency, and land office, also the destruction by fire of five hotels and many other fine buildings or residences. We can look on our fine system of water works with its reservoir of pure water pumped directly from the bay no expensive filtering plant necessary to an elevation of 295 feet, capable of holding a hundred and sixty thousand gallons providing such ample fire protection, and turn back upon the praiseworthy efforts of the pioneers, when they sought to supply their little village with drinking water and fire protection from the little stream that used to flow down Rittenhouse avenue to Mr. CHAPMAN's corner, then across through Mr. PASQUE's and Mr. BELL's yards to the lake. At the corner of Mr. VAUGHN's store a box was built in the creek and a cup left where all that thirsted might be refreshed. The course of this little stream has twice been changed and now it flows down the alley and gradually been covered until it can only be found by going to the ravine where the first tiny "dam" with its modern logs, gave place to a second, a little larger. Then a third then the stone wall, a little farther up than the others, across the ravine between the hills, forming a natural reservoir and which seemed large enough, only a few years ago, to amply supply our needs, now abandoned for the larger one on the hill. The electric fire alarm system, also the electric light plant, the first town of our size to install one in Wisconsin and none more complete with voltage sufficient to supply all business and nearly all of the residences large and small. The fine up-to-date mills owned by Capt. PIKE, Wm. KNIGHT, the Red Cliff Lumber Co., the planing mill, the three fish companies, which mean so much to Bayfield, particularly during the dull season between summer and winter when hundreds of men are employed and thousands of dollars are put into circulation. Our fine schools with all the opportunities of a city for the fortunate boys and girls enrolled there. We can look upon all these with a feeling of pride in our up-to-date little town, and I am proud to be a daughter of one of her earliest and most devoted settlers.

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