Early St. Louis County Part 3

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Burlington Bay
Burlington Bay must have been platted in 1856, or before. John J. Hibbard, later a resident at Duluth, referred to the place thus, in his autobiography: … About the middle of June, 1856, I arrived in Superior, Wis., on the old side-wheel steamer “Lady Elgin.” I spent three weeks in faithfully exploring the country from the east end of Saint Louis Bay, along the Wisconsin side, to Fond du Lac and Knife Falls on the St. Louis River. Thence down the Minnesota side to Encampment Island, on the North Shore. On my return to Superior, I made and closed a bargain with the proprietors of the townsite of Burlington Bay, D. A. Currier, Hiram Hayes, M. S. Bright, S. S. Moore, E. C. Clark, and Orrin Rice, to build a sawmill there the next summer, to-wit: 1857. I then returned to Canada, where I had a foundry and machine shop, and commenced making the machinery for the mill. In the fall of 1856, I also sent a man by the name of Berry to Burlington Bay, to cut and hew the timber for the mill.

William Epler, before mentioned, was in the vicinity of Burlington Bay in 1856. He testified that: In September, 1856, soon after my arrival in Superior, and after I had looked around the country a little-Duluth, Fond du Lac and elsewhere-I accepted a position with William Burt, a Deputy United States Surveyor. Our trip to Burlington Bay, the field of our work, was made in a birch bark canoe.

Mr. Burt, another young man and myself, left Superior shortly after noon, paddled up the bay, portaged just about where the ship canal now is, and proceeded on down the lake.

This portage across Minnesota Point was used by all travelers up and down the lake, and became a kind of meeting point. Our first work, as surveyors, was meandering the lake shore, from Burlington Bay around to Agate Bay. At these two bays, I am informed, is located the city of Two Harbors. Our field work, of locating township lines, extended back into the country and on down to Beaver Bay.

Regarding Burlington Bay, Walter Van Brunt wrote as follows, in 1914, in answer to a Two Harbors correspondent, who wished to know “what became of the settlers at Burlington Bay”: … On August 11, 1857, John J. Hibbard and wife, his brother, Ashley Hibbard and wife, and Mrs. J. J. Hibbard’s brother, Lewis A. Hill, arrived at Burlington Bay from Bradford, Can., a town about forty miles from Toronto, on the steamer “Manhattan” from the Sault, with a single circular sawmill, all of which, except the boiler, they had made themselves before starting. They at once proceeded to set it up. It, however, was never 123run, except to saw what lumber was necessary to inclose the machinery, and stood idle until 1864, when it was sold to a man on the South Shore, who removed only a part of the machinery. There was another man there, by the name of David Currier, who only remained about four months, and then went to Superior. Lewis A. Hill was the next to leave, going back to New York State, where they all originally came-from, thence to Missouri, where he died in 1889. Ashley Hibbard left there in the spring of 1858, going to Superior, where he was engaged as engineer on a small steamer, running from Superior to Bayfield.

J. J. Hibbard and his wife remained there all during the winter of 1858, and part of the summer of 1859, and were back and forth from then until 1861, when they came to Duluth, and lived on what is now East Second Street, near the Presbyterian Church, and stayed there until the next year, when they moved to Superior, where they remained until 1870, when they returned to Duluth, where they lived until Mr. Hibbard’s death, Feb. 21, 1909. His widow is still living at 418 Second Avenue East. Alice Hibbard, a daughter of Ashley Hibbard, was the first and only white child born at Burlington Bay.

Through Mlr. Hibbard’s instrumentality, Thomas Clark, of Superior, who, by the way, had legal Minnesota residence, having gone to Beaver Bay in the previous year, secured the nomination to the state senate in 1858, and was successful at the election.

The town of Saxton, at Two Island River has been referred to.

The only other townsite of 1856 that it is necessary to write of is Beaver Bay.

Beaver Bay.-Beaver Bay was a typical German colony, settled in the characteristically thorough way of that people. McLean records that: “The steamer Illinois, on one of her trips in June, brought up the Veiland brothers and several other families, with their horses, cows and other stock, and landed them at Beaver Bay.” And Mr. Peet’s diary contains many references to the colony. His first entry reads: Friday, August Eighth (1856). Arose at 3 … This morning I saw the sun rise from the water, for the first time in my life. Reached Beaver Bay about 4 o’clock P. M. We have come thirty-five miles. The shore has been very rocky. Only one or two men living between Knife River and Beaver Bay. Beaver Bay has three cabins and two families. The Postoffice is here. Camped on North Shore of Beaver Bay, near store”.

Mr. Peet had, apparently, accompanied the mail carrier on his route, Superior to Grand Portage, but at Beaver Bay he decided not to go further, “there being no families between here and Grand Portage.” He resolved to stay at Beaver Bay until the mail carrier returned from Grand Portage, unless he could get back to Superior sooner. That night he “slept on floor in store, 10 by 12 feet square.” Next day, the Sabbath, he noted in his diary: This is to me a lonely Sabbath, far away from the Sanctuary and pious people, among a few Germans. No religious service, because only three or four can understand the English language. Time hangs heavily. Within eight niles are thirteen men, two women and eight children, all Germans. … I have no privileges in this house. I camp out close by the house. They furnish me with provisions which I eat outdoors. Retired to bed on floor of store cabin; slept with Mr. Weiland in his store.

On Tuesday, he wrote: The Germans here are friendly to me, as a fellow being, but they appear to have no regard for my ministerial office. … Had I a bark canoe, I would start alone for home.

The next day, August 13th, he wrote: It is six weeks today since this colony of Germans landed at Beaver Bay, since which they have made their land claims, built two shanties, seven houses, chopped twelve acres, four of which they have got into crops, made seven miles of road, and cut about twelve tons of wild hay; and they hope to find grass for fifty to one hundred tons.

The Weiland brothers were evidently settlers of the best type, not merely townsite promoters. In June, 1857, the Weiland brothers “took possession of all the rights and interests that Ramsey, Newton and Clark had at Beaver Bay.” .

First Newspaper.-The first newspaper founded on the North Shore was the “North Shore Advocate,” established at Buchanan by Stephen Walsh, one of the land commissioners, in 1857, or at latest before the land office was removed from Buchanan to Portland, which important decision was taken in May, 1859.

“The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness.”-The “Advocate” was probably not so forceful an advocate of the Head of the Lakes as the “Superior Chronicle” which first shouted in printer’s ink on June 12, 1855, under the editorship of Washington Ashton and John C. Wise, natives of Virginia, and reporters on the “Congressional Globe” at Washington, D. C., before coming to Superior. The ‘Chronicle,” it was once stated, “was really ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness,’ to proclaim to the world the Gospel of city building and fortune making.” Mr. Wise on one occasion gave a very interesting account of Pioneer days at the Head of the Lakes. Regarding the year 1856, he said: The year was one of great activity among the speculators at Superior.

They platted new towns on both sides of the lake, formed mining companies without end, organized new railway corporations, and projected all sorts of pools and combinations by which they hoped to make their fortunes. Colonel Carlton owned and platted the site of a future great city at Fond du Lac; Capt. John W. Veale platted the Sweetzer tract west of the waterworks plant, and called it Vealeburg; E. F. Ely had located and was laying the foundations of a city at Oneota. … Rice’s Point, at the head of the Bay, and Conner’s Point, on the Wisconsin side, previously pre-empted, were laid out: Captain Markland pre-empted Endion, Minn., which he afterwards platted into suburban lots “for capitalists doing business at Superior”; John D. Howard was the founder of Portland, on the Minnesota side; in the spring Messrs. George R. Stuntz, George E. and William Nettleton, Orrin W. Rice, John D. Ray, and others, pre-empted the city of Duluth, at the upper end of Minnesota Point. I remember the day they returned, and how enthusiastically they spoke of their new venture, and, as every new town and city of reasonable pretensions is not considered really started on the road to future greatness until it has enjoyed a newspaper “write-up,” the “Chronicle” performed this mission.

During the year 1856, wealthy and enterprising Kentuckians, with their pockets literally full of money, swarmed up to Superior, bringing blooded horses and cattle, carriages, gigs, and other vehicles galore. Each and every one had his satchels, as well as his pockets, to use the words of one of the old settlers “crammed full of Kentucky banknotes,” and during the year the man who did not have at least one pocketful of this kind of money was considered pretty small potatoes. * * The Rev. J. M. Barnett gave out the following, as an instance of the enterprise of some of the townsite promoters of the North Shore: I came over to the village on Minnesota Point. … At that time there was a population of about 100 persons, though I remember a young man who owned some lots on the Point went down into the State of Kentucky with some handbills advertising the place, and the population given on the bills was in the neighborhood of 5,000.

Optimistic enterprise in real estate was not unknown, evidently, in pioneer days-even before the war, and even in Minnesota. One unfortunate Kentuckian, whose wealth suddenly left him in the burst- 125ing in 1857 of the first bubble of realty blowing at the head of Lake Superior, will be named later in this chapter. Still, the prices asked for Minnesota Point (possibly Duluth and Portland) lots was about $25.00 a lot in the ’50s, stated the Rev. J.- M. Barnett. So that, had the national conditions been propitious, the heavy investor in Duluth land would have done well.

The First Temperance Society.-The pioneers at the head of Lake Superior were, in the main, men of strong character; yet, few were teetotalers, in all probability-the total abstainer was the exception, in those days. The Rev. James Peet noted in his diary on October 9, 1856: “The ‘Lady Elgin’ came in; brought heavy cargo of provisions and enough whiskey to keep the whole town drunk all winter.” Five days later Mr. Peet made another significant entry in his record: Went to the temperance meeting in the school house, of which I acted as chairman, pro-tem. The Young Men’s County Temperance Association was organized. Constitution adopted and officers appointed: Mr. Hiram Hayes, president; Rev. Mr. McCorcle, vice-president; R. Washington Newton, secretary and treasurer; George Newton, C. Felt and R. Relf, executive committee.

The First Temperance Society on North Shore.-While on the subject, it may be stated that probably the first temperance society organized on the North Shore was the Oneota Temperance Society, to the functioning of which Mr. Peet makes several references in 1859. On fourth of July, 1859, he wrote: “We had quite an interesting Temperance Celebration at Oneota today; oration by Jerome Merritt … over sixty present.”

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  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
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