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
A Slippery Subject
A letter appeared in the January 24, 1885 issue of the PRESS written by a female resident of Bayfield who signed herself "A Sufferer." It complained about the unshovelled, snow-covered sidewalks of the town on which she had slipped,and urged the males of Bayfield to get up and shovel them off. It generated the following exchanges:
January 31, 1885: Mr. Editor: I would like to offer a "wee bit" of consolation to "A Sufferer." As it is an old saying, misery loves company, I will, with your permission, relate a little incident that came under my observation the other day, which may be a "sort of consolation" to all similarly afflicted. While sitting at my window, looking out upon the snowy scene (and there was not much else but snowy seen), hills, trees, housetops, fences and woodpiles, all covered with "the beautiful." Well, as I was saying, I was viewing my surroundings and watching the occasional passerby who had dared to brave the piercing wind and flying snow, my mind reverted to the "long ago" and "far away" where some of my former winters have been spent – where the sidewalks were kept free from snow and in consequence thereof, a woman could enjoy a walk in mid winter as at any season of the year. And I wished, yes, really wished to be the "voting population" of Bayfield just long enough to pass a law and see it enforced, that the walks should be kept free from snow, then I would be again a woman to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Just then my eye chanced to rest upon two of Bayfield's lawmakers, professional gentleman, who came flying along at a rapid pace, but reeling and staggering at a great rate. I knew them to be the staunchest advocates of temperance, so I decided they were trying to walk gracefully where the sidewalk is supposed to be, or rather about three feet above where it is supposed to be. I have not the least doubt that if the same amount of energy had been displayed in a better cause, success would have been its reward. But alas! A sliding, slippery place and down went the disciple of Blackstone. (There, I almost told!) Well, never mind, the disciple of Esculapius gave one backward look then bent all his energies to preserving his own equilibrium, leaving his companion to assume the perpendicular, and follow on. Although I could not hear aught that was said on the subject, and never learned how bruised and lame the gentleman was, I could not help but wondering how many such experiences must come to each voter of Bayfield to influence them to have a "different state of things;" to have our walks free of snow, so that a stranger coming will have no occasion to wonder why we have no sidewalks in Bayfield, when they are merely buried in the snow. //signed// S. S.
These letters produced the following response from "A Man," published in the February 7 issue of the PRESS.
Greeting: Presuming that you have so far recovered from your unseen bruises as to be able to reflect upon the justice of your attacks upon the male population of Bayfield, a few remarks from "A Man" may not result injuriously. "S.S." vainly wishes she was a man long enough to have a law to keep the sidewalks free from snow. The dear lady forgets that if she was one of those horrid men she would have to arm herself (or himself) with a shovel and proceed to set an example for the h. m. to follow by removing the from her (or his) sidewalk so that when her (or his) friend, "A Sufferer" passed, she would not think she was going to her "final reward," or, in her language, think that she had "started for the bottomless pit." "A Sufferer" can console herself with the certainty that when she gets to where she seems to expect to go, she will not be troubled with snow or cold weather. There will be a considerate gentleman there to keep the snow off the public streets. There will be no "snowy scene" there. The pun is copyrighted by "S. S." who thinks and says Esculapius was a lawmaker. What a startling discovery she has made! Her name deserves to be handed down through future ages, along with Mrs. Winslow, Lydia Pinkham, and other celebrates. One word of kind admonition and I am done. Instead of wishing "to wear the breeches" keep yourselves as orderly as you would have the sidewalks kept; sew on buttons and mend socks for the male members of your family and do other duties so often neglected by you; then if you must ease your mind, do it in a gentle way just as you do when you want some money to buy some article of dress, and I am quite sure it will do more towards improving our sidewalks than exposing your puns and knowledge of lawmakers to a tired public. Sweep before your own doors dear "A Sufferer" and "S. S." //signed// A Man.
In publishing the letter from "A Man," editor BELL noted, "The articles appearing in the PRESS lately, entitled "A Slippery Subject" seem to have provoked one of our voting population into replying thereto, which he does in this issue. Unless the PRESS greatly misjudges the metal of the ladies, "A Man" will receive a stinging reply to his rather lame defense of the male population of the village." [Note: Currie BELL and the PRESS were strong and early advocates of women's right to vote.] The PRESS was not disappointed, for the exchanges were ended with a flourish in the Valentine's Day issue of the paper, February 14, 1885:
To: "A Man"
Mr. Editor: The buttons are all sewed on, the socks all mended, the wood box filled, the kindling made ready for the morning etc. Now, while baby is asleep and husband gone to the post office, allow me to offer a word or two of explanation for the benefit of the writer who signs himself "A Man." Mr. Editor, we all know there is a class of men who when engaged in an argument or debate in public think they are gaining great advantage if they can twist and turn the language of their opponents, and thus by perverting their meaning, expose them to the ridicule of the superficial observer. But I trust "A Man" does not belong to this class, hence I explain. "A Man" asserts that I think and say that Esculapius was a lawmaker. He has made a great mistake there. I suppose he refers to my alluding to a "disciple of Esculapius" as one of Bayfield's lawmakers. Am I wrong in thinking that our village laws are made by our village voters? If so, I wish to be corrected, as I made that assertion in good faith. Mr. Editor, I would suggest that "A Man" take his shovel and do sidewalk duty occasionally, and then notice how cheerfully his wife, if he has one, will replace all missing buttons and mend his socks etc. etc. But if he is so unfortunate as not to be blessed with a wife, how much it will enhance his prospect of obtaining one, if he is seen by the fair ones of Bayfield using his strength and influence to add to their convenience and comfort by having clean sidewalks. One word more and I retire from the view of a "tired public." Yes, the condition of our sidewalks can but be a source of weariness to the public. I confess to weariness myself from that source. Weeks and weeks in the past of wading and wallowing through snow and no prospects of a change for weeks to come is tiresome indeed. //signed// S. S.
To: "A Man"
Yes thank you, my bruises are healed and any reflections I may have indulged in have not changed my opinions upon the subject discussed; i.e. sidewalks. No, neither "S.S." or "Sufferer" forgets for a moment the duties following upon the right of women to vote. She would probably be just as capable of casting an intelligent vote as many of the present "voting population." Perhaps, though, I might qualify that assertion. I doubt if she could hold her own in the art of squirting tobacco juice, refining her language with oaths, buttonholing a "doubtful" while they sought a retired spot and imbibed some inspiring beverage, intended, of course, to fire them with such zeal in the cause of truth and right and the "purity of the polls" that they could walk with unsteady steps to that "mighty power" the ballot box, and cast seventeen votes if they thought they wouldn't get caught at it. But alas! The familiar cry is "women haven't been educated up to the right point yet." But my dear "man" when those of you who are honest and can see more good and honesty in the intelligent votes of wives, mothers, and sisters than in the bribery of fools and whiskey bottles, just extend to them the "patent right" and see what they will do about it. Until then, we will gladly "stay at home and sew on buttons." You laugh at "S. S." for calling a disciple of Esculapius a lawmaker. As I interpret her meaning, she is right. Is not every voter a lawmaker and is not that the connection she means? You think that "considerate gentlemen" will provide a warm corner for me when I shall have reached my reward. Well, if you arrive first, don't try to appropriate it yourself. Now, are your buttons all on? Is that the source of your advice upon that subject? If they are, we will wager you did not burst them off shoveling sidewalks. So, you express your views of woman's duties in your "kind admonition." If they were like your opinions they would be narrowed down to nothingness. You must have been deprived of a mother in your childhood days, for no man reared by a loving mother, one who was perhaps honored and beloved near and far for the good deeds and sweet charity she found time outside her "narrow kitchen walls" to bring to many hearts and homes, could ever have such conceptions of woman's duties and privileges. Such a mother would have taught you that while buttons all in place, mended socks, and an orderly house were the requisites, certainly, of a true house wife, and were to be neither neglected or despised, she found time for other things. She would have shown you that a woman can be an intelligent, trustworthy, sensible, companionable being, an equal and safe associate for intelligent men, desiring neither to "wear the breeches" or despising to "sew on buttons," but all in all a being you "voting population" can't get along without – and you know it. //signed// A Sufferer