Ashland County in the News
Odanah - The ore trains are now passing through Odanah hauling ore from the mines to the docks at Ashland. The iron ore will be loaded there to be shipped to eastern ports to be smelted and manufactured into iron products.
The trains go thundering and rumbling past Odanah heavily laden with this precious ore. As the trains roll past, the houses shake and vibrate as though the village was in the middle of an earthquake, and the ground so fairly quivers. It is under such conditions as this that Joseph Stoddard, better known as Zo-sa-ence to his fellow tribesmen, entered my house. Zo-sa-ence is by no means a young man as he is well past the 80-year mark of life. He has seen the development of our Chequamegon region the trackless forests that it was once, to the present day prosperous agricultural.
As he entered the house, he said, "The trains as they go thundering past with their loads of ore remind me of the time when I was young on these grounds. I was an employed man working with a party of surveyors and we discovered the iron on the iron range (where he cities of Ironwood, Wakefield, Bessemer are now located), as a "toter" and we usually carried packs weighing about 150 to 200 pounds on our backs to the concentrated camps of the surveyors.
"I was working for a man by the name of Ludlaw. The other men of the party I do not remember, but I do remember Horace Greely being among them. Our nearest point of contact with civilization is now known as Ontonagon, Michigan.
"The only means of getting from one point to another was by means of following Indians trails. These Indian trials were used by the Indians as they moved from one place to another. The main Indian trail along the lakeshore branched at a point where now stands the city of Ironwood. The north fork was known as the Flambeau trail or better known in Indian as the "Torching Lake trail."
"We were camping on the Flambeau trail as we had walked all day with our heavy packs in order to reach this point. The reason we aimed to reach this point was that a spring, well known for cool refreshing waters, was located there. We reached this spring just before dark.
"We made our camp and supper was prepared by the cook. After supper was eaten, everyone was left to while away the time. Some were so tired that hey immediately went to sleep. Some of us walked into the woods and hid, to see the actions of the wild animal life at dusk.
"I walked away from camp and as I did so I followed the Flambeau trail. After walking a mile from camp I came to a creek. Thinking to get off the main trail, I crossed the creek bottom by stepping from one boulder to another. As I was almost across and had just stepped from a slab of rock I heard a loud clanging noise behind me. I was surprised. I turned around, looked and saw nothing unusual. So I retraced my steps on the rocks to find out what the unusual noise was. I was curious to know the cause. I stepped on the same identical stones that I did when I first crossed the stream. As I came to the slab of rock, and I stepped on it, the slab tilted slightly and as I stepped back off, it dropped back into place with a loud clang.
"I became more curious. I took hold of the slab to lift it, but I soon found it was too heavy and that it was much heavier than an ordinary stone of the same size. The slab weighed, I judge, about 150 pounds or more, it was about two feet long and about 12 inches across the top and about three inches thick. I picked it up again and dashed it upon the other rocks in order to break it. But I was not successful after several attempts and was about to give up breaking it, when if finally broke into three pieces. I picked up the smallest piece and brought it back to camp and before retiring I laid the piece of rock on a fallen log near my tent.
"The next morning I was awoken by loud taking in the camp. I wondered what all the excitement was about. I soon discovered it was all about the stone that I had brought into camp the night before.
"Mr. Ludlow the head surveyor was inquiring where the stone came from and who brought it into camp. I arose from my bed and said that I had found it and laid it there last night. If you have ever seen the actions of an excited man then you will know the actions of Mr. Ludlow. During the course of the day I took him to the spot where I found the iron ore. While we were in that neighborhood our compasses did not point to true north as they would under ordinary circumstances. We worked all day with the compasses and Mr. Ludlow claimed that we had struck a long vein of iron ore. Of course it was all Greek to me.
"The camp that night was hilarious and all the white men of the party did not sleep, but sang and danced and shouted all because we had found this rock. The next day Mr. Ludlow gave me five dollars and that was my reward for finding the ore.
"The next year I was working on the Ontonagon River as a boats man. It was my duty to pole a boatful of supplies to the lower falls, when I heard that Mr. Ludlow had begun mining operations in the region where I found that peculiar rock, that was claimed to be iron."
This is the story of Zo-sa-ence, as he related to me the finding of the iron ore on the iron range and his part in it. It is told lest it be forgotten and becomes one of the untold pages of history. Some of the old timers are living sho may know of the incidents as they occurred on that day. Furthermore it is told with the intention of emphasizing the part that the Indian played in the development of the region, unrelated in books as the Indian in those days had no means of recording events as they occurred.
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