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 Infant Days continued

An interesting census of March 24, 1859, I also found and would like to give you a list of the names most familiar to us as it is given there: J. H. NOURSE, wife and 1 child. Miss B. NOURSE, N. A. LaBONTE, Wm. HERBERT, wife and three children. John McDONALD, B. F. BICKSLER, John B. BONO, wife and 5 children (Mrs. LaBONTE and Mrs. L. BACHAND were two of the five children), S. S. VAUGHN, Jas. CHAPMAN, George STARK, wife and two children, (Mrs. Mary THOMPSON and Mrs. Chas. LEIHY), F. HOCHDANNER, wife and three children, A. TATE, George DAY, Antoine and wife and 3 children (Perhaps it would be well to say the DAY family mentioned in this paper were Cleveland people and not the family living here now.) P. LANUETTE, (Mrs. TOUTLOFF's father) P. H. LEY, T. L. PATTERSON, Joe McCLOUD, W. B. McKEE, J. T. CAHO, John C. HANLEY, wife and three children, Wm. McABOY, Jas. PEET, W. S. WARREN wife and 3 children, George FIELD, A. PERNIER. Total population, 115. Among the names outside of town I find Elisha PIKE, wife, mother, and two children, Mrs. BICKSLER of Ashland and our genial, public-spirited citizen, Capt. PIKE, a man who unlike many, has spent every energy to improve Bayfield. Money he has made he has spent here, not by endowing schools in neighboring towns.

When the State Fish Commissioners were struggling to locate a state hatchery with Eau Claire, La Crosse, Superior, Butternut, Ashland, and many other towns offering every inducement possible for the prize, Capt. PIKE practically settled the matter by giving to Wisconsin a tract of two or three hundred acres through his most valuable meadow land, at Pike's Bay. The beautiful building and grounds also the knowledge the knowledge that this will in time be the largest fish hatchery in the world, we can thank Capt. PIKE for.

Among Papa's notes, I found the following: The earliest settler in Bayfield was Mr. Elisha PIKE who commenced milling operations in 1855, nearly a year before the settlement of Bayfield. The mill referred to was built on Pike's creek, just above the old homestead and run by water power. It was built by the North American Fur Co. in 1845, the oldest saw mill in Northern Wisconsin. Mr. PIKE abandoned this mill for one more modern, a little farther down the stream which has since burned. The old mill has gradually fallen to pieces until little is left of it.

In 1858, a large pile dock and warehouse were built at the foot of Broad street by Mr. Chas. RITTENHOUSE. During the years of 1864 and 1865, a company of paroled soldiers were stationed here and the warehouse was fitted up as a barracks for them. The plot around the depot and adjoining blocks being used as a parade ground. Various stories of Indian disturbances were around and the soldiers were sent here as a protection against them. The dock as allowed to go to pieces. The fort stood idle for many years and in 1888 was rebuilt into a box factory by Mr. H. O. COOK and Mr. Arthur ESPERSON. It burned in June 1899.

Mr. WHITTLESEY was the first legislator from this district. He represented it in 1855-56 going from LaPointe to Madison on snow shoes, with his pack on his back. There is, or was before the fire, a picture in the capitol illustrating the incident. After the closing of the session he returned to Ashland and in 1851 was appointed to the land office and moved here. Being unable to get a team of horses to bring his household effects over, he secured an ox, which he harnessed up with his cow, and drove over the ice, Mrs. WHITTLESEY walking. Mr. WHITTLESEY died December 15, 1879.

In August 1862, the largest store building Bayfield ever had, owned by Mr. McABOY and Mrs. DAY, and used as a general store, burned. It stood where the St. James Hotel is and ran through the alley, 120 feet in length.

Bayfield furnished seven soldiers for the civil war. Two of them, Frank ARTISHO and George LaRUSH, dying on the battlefield. The Bayfield Rifles, with R. D. PIKE, captain; John T. GONYON, 1st lieut., Duffy BOUTIN, 2nd lieut., and B. B. WADE, first sergeant, numbered 65 men, was organized in 1871. I wish I might take the time to give you the names of the members. They make most interesting reading, I assure you.

I am indebted to Hon. S. S. FIFIELD of Ashland for the following. On January 1, 1872, Ashland was in the hands of a drunken mob of railroaders. Six or seven teams were dispatched for the "Bayfield Rifles." Forty-two men, fully armed and equipped, under command of Cpt. PIKE arrived at midnight. They remained ten days. The company was of great service in keeping the peace and protecting property.

Washburn was started in 1883 and in 1892 they succeeded by fair means –or foul– in removing the county seat. The only regret Washburn had was their inability to take our brownstone courthouse, erected in 1883 at a cost of $40,000. The clock, the only removable part of the building, was a source of so much anxiety to them they determined to move it and succeeded in getting it as far as the depot when the Bayfield people arose in indignation and ordered it back to its place in the court house where it still strikes the hours, and we can rejoice in the fact, small though it is, we have the only city clock on this side of the lake that marks the hours for all.

The Bayfield Press of November, 1878, in mentioning the arrival of the instruments for the first band, says they came from Lyon & Healey of Chicago, are all good instruments and cost $130. The band boys were Joe ATKINSON, Frank HERRICK, L. A. WARNER, J. M. EDWARDS, A. C. HAYWARD, John McCLOUD, Sam MAHAN, Tom DOHERTY, B. B. WADE, W. J. HERBERT, Chas. HERRICK, Bert BARKER, Al ANGUS, and Wm. WHITESIDES.

Before closing, I would like to speak of the privations as well as the pleasures endured by early settlers. As it was almost impossible to get groceries after navigation closed, an effort was made to have the last boat bring enough to last until spring. Each boat would bring a "trader" who would have a well-stocked store on board, also a great many head of cattle, and much of the fresh meat was obtained in this way. A neighbor falling short would be helped out from some other more amply supplied larder, often running woefully short themselves. The Indians too were constantly calling for help and but for the generosity of their "white brothers" would have suffered greatly.

I am indebted to Mrs. Julius AUSTRIAN for the following: "One Spring, the ice in huge cakes had drifted back and forth in the bay, preventing the fishing boats from starting. We were so short of provisions that all we had left was corn meal of which I baked a cake. I ate but a small piece going to bed hungry, for that cake might be all we would have for some days. In the middle of the night we heard a boat whistle. I jumped up, dressed and went down, and found a "trader" on the boat and quantities of provisions, went back home and ate up all of my corn cake. It was necessary to go to Ontogonon in a small boat for a physician. These are LaPointe notes before the settlement of Bayfield, but as much the same conditions existed here, I have ventured to give them. The Indians were very friendly, people never thought of locking their doors at night. My father said ot was no unusual thing for him to enter his office from his sleeping room which adjoined it, and find three or four Indian men wrapped in their blankets asleep on the floor. New Year's was their great day, and a visit from house to house with theor baskets, beautiful baskets which they made themselves, for any dainty they might be given, was the order of the day, and they were frequently given choice cakes or pies to get rid of them as quickly as possible, for they usually insisted on giving a New Year's kiss to all within reach. I remember one year my mother and Mrs. CRUTTENDEN were receiving at our house. They had neglected to lock the back door, a shadow across the table and a grunt caused them to look up when to their dismay, they saw three braves coming toward them. Instantly the women began to pile bread, cake and cookies – anything in reach – into their baskets. When the excitement subsided they found in their confusion they had given away their best cakes. As I look back upon the day, it seems a greater part of it was spent under the bed where I fled for safety when the Indians first appeared, for I was very much afraid of them and their caresses. The Indians with their blankets and paint, also an occasional "feather beauty" were frequently seen on our streets twenty-five years ago.

Dancing was the favorite past time. Anyone with a room large enough was expected to do their share toward entertaining. Nothing unusual was a dance beginning at eight in the evening, lasting all night with a stop long enough to prepare breakfast, and begin immediately afterwards, dancing until dinner time. A favorite hall for dancing, too, was over Mr. VAUGHN's store. Refreshments would be served down stairs, the counters used as tables and people stand either side of them. Several courtesies were more frequently exchanged between here and Ashland when to reach there meant a walk or drive over the ice and the possibility of being snow bound for days, than now when the trip is made in an hour in comfortable steam-heated cars. I have heard my father tell of walking all day to reach Ashland in time for a party, dance all night and walk back the next day.

The building now occupied by Mr. DOWNS was built for a carpenter shop and was in great demand for parties, dancing upstairs and suppering down. The benches making most excellent tables.

The 24th of March was celebrated for years by a banquet or dance. Private theatricals were also very popular and many good things were given. The Bayfield Press of January 1, 1879, compliments "The Temperance Society" people taking part in "Ten Nights in a Bar Room." The familiar names in the cast are A. J. ANGUS, C. T. HERRICK, Frank HERRICK, Frank HERBERT, Nelson BACHAND, Lizzie HERBERT, Lydia BOUTIN, Louisa KINTZ, and Katie GUILDAULD.

The Omaha Railroad was finished through here in 1883, an event people spent years looking forward to.

Bayfield was called the "Fountain City," and rightly named so, nearly every residence on the flat had a fountain in the yard and all took great pride in keeping them in good condition. At the foot of Washington avenue between the docks, a large fountain was built some time during the '70's. The square around it was sodded and balsam trees were planted, the whole enclosed by a wire fence and make a most attractive spot. It was removed to make way for the railroad tracks a few years ago.


[Note: The following article, correcting some information given in the above, first appeared in the Bayfield Gazette and then was reprinted in the Bayfield Press on 15 April 1904]


Two weeks ago, a very interesting article appeared in the Bayfield Press entitled "Bayfield's Infant Days" To the few old settlers now remaining, it was no doubt interesting as well as to the young and present population. There are a few corrections I would like to make in regards to dates and so forth. The first cabin built here was in August 1765, not March 1856. It was built by Alexander HENRY, a trader, just below where Mr. CHAPMAN's store used to stand. M. CADOTTE, who has or used to have many descendants in this vicinity, was a partner of Mr. HENRY. The first receiver in the U.S. Office was E. B. DEAN who was succeeded by T. Rush SPENCER in 1858 instead of Dr. SPRUCE.

In regard to the Ashland riot, no such company as the Bayfield Rifles existed at that time. On January 1, 1873, Sheriff Nelson BOUTIN, Capt. R. D. PIKE, and a party of seventy-five men went over to Ashland to quell the railroad riot. After stopping there ten days, they returned. They then conceived of the idea of forming a military company and joining the state militia. The company was organized February 25, 1873, with the following officers: R. D. PIKE, captain; John GONYON, first lieutenant; and Duffy BOUTIN, second lieutenant.

As the writer of the article says, much credit is due to the ones who struggled so bravely to make our little town what it is today and among its most earnest and energetic workers, I think Currie G. BELL should be given a prominent place. Mr. BELL came to Bayfield in July 1882, and bought what there was of the Press plant and began through its columns to advertise Bayfield and its many advantages. I think I am safe in saying that the Bayfield Press has done as much as any other weekly of its age in advertising Northern Wisconsin and its many advantages. During the Garfield and Arthur administrations, Mr. BELL was appointed receiver in the land office, a position which gave him the title of major, but he does not care enough about public honor to ever wish to be addressed as major. No other man has ever been so long at the head of our town, serving twelve years as chairman of the county board and for seventeen years as chairman of the town board, many years without opposition whatever, and doing his utmost for the welfare of the town. In 1892, he built the first stone and brick building in the town thereby setting an example for others to follow. I could tell of a number of prominent positions he has held which all go to show that he is recognized as a public spirited man and does not hesitate to sacrifice time and money in the interest of his home town.

When the contest between the different towns for the state fish hatchery came up, Mr. BELL saw plainly that we would have to offer great inducements to get the hatchery located here. He went to the owners of the land around Pike's bay and asked them if they would be willing to donate a site for the hatchery. At first they all refused, but finally agreed after much persuasion to sign a contract, one of the gentlemen saying, "We had better sign it for if we do not, BELL will say it was our fault, and I do not believe he can get the hatchery up here anyway." The result shows it would have been their fault...I know as a fact that Mr. BELL refused an offer of $2000 a year and traveling expenses as member of the State Board of Control so as to accept a membership on the State Fishing Commission which pays nothing so he might work in the interest of Bayfield....

When the Island View burned, which was March 10, 1887, not '72, Mr. BELL organized the stock company that built the Island View and was appointed president. He subscribed $500 worth of stock, Colonel WING taking five thousand dollars worth. Other prominent men took stock to the amount of one thousand dollars or less...

To Mr. BELL belongs the credit of the return of the town clock. Instead of being taken to the depot, it was taken on a sleigh at night by the county sheriff to Washburn and stored there nearly two years. Mr. BELL was chairman of the town board the year the county seat was moved. The next year he did not run as he was appointed postmaster and the clock remained in Washburn. Then the following year he was again elected chairman and at once took steps to have the clock returned, which was done in short order.

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