Surviving the Panic of 1857-3

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Second Visit of General Sherman.
Another event of war times was the second visit of General Sherman. Although not directly connected with the war, the visit was made necessary, perhaps, by the abrupt termination of the previous visit because of the impending and ominous national disagreement. Regarding the second visit Ashton wrote: The boys built bonfires in honor of him. There was an old cannon that was left here by the Regulars during the Indian scare in 1862. The boys loaded it up and attempted to fire it when they heard the rattle of the coach coming up Second Street, but it refused to go off, so they removed the charge and reloaded it, and attempted to fire it again. This time it exploded, just as the coach drove up to the hotel, scattering fragments of cannon in all directions.

Fortunately no one was hurt, but it broke several windows in the Avery House.

To receive General Sherman, with appropriate respect, Doras Martin, a gray-haired volunteer who lived on Minnesota Point, donned his Union uniform and, when he saw the general’s party crossing from Superior, marched to the landing place, where, rigid and at the salute, he constituted, in himself, “the army, to receive the inspecting general.” So the story has it.

Early Mining Operations.-The first mining company organized in northern Minnesota was, it has been stated, the North Shore Mining Company, a Minnesota corporation organized in 1857, and with an authorized capital of $400,000. Its incorporators were D. S. Cash, W. W. Spaulding, S. C. McQuade, W. W. Kingsbury, R. B. Carlton, Vose Palmer, John Parry, and W. G. Cowell.

Apart from the work of preliminary exploring, nothing was done to exploit, or open, the locations found until the Civil war was almost at the end. Sidney Luce then had a prominent part in the mining operations, regarding which he wrote as follows: Before my advent in Duluth, the country on the north shore of the lake for twenty or thirty miles had been temporarily explored for copper, and, finding many indications of it, the lands were at once entered upon by preemptors.

Before the survey of the lands, the lines to be determined after the survey (were) as nearly as practical to those marked in making the claim.

Companies were formed for the development of them, but the time was delayed until about 1864, when several of the principal stockholders met in Duluth, to arrange for the prosecution of the work, if, upon investigation, the prospect seemed to warrant it. The party was composed of: H. B. Payne, of Cleveland, Ohio; B. R. Carlton of our county; Nathan Myrick, E. A. C. Hatch and Earl Goodrich, of St. Paul.

The result of this examination was such as to encourage the prosecution of the work, and I was employed to superintend it. Not being a practical miner, I employed John Perry (Parry) to superintend the practical working party, while I employed such assistance and furnished supplies and all things needed for the prosecution of work and acted as financial agent. At times, the only means of transportation, both of men and supplies was by small boats, carrying six or eight men. … In several instances I had the courage to venture alone with a boat-load to the landing at Buchanan. The working of the mines was quite fortunate for a class of working men, who were in need of the results of employment, and stimulated the hope for a prosperous time in the future. As previously stated, I had no practical experience in mining, and being very desirous of the best results obtainable I requested my employers to relieve me as their agent, and secure a practical miner in my stead, which request was granted by the appointment of Frank Salisbury, who had previously been employed in the business in the Porcupine Mountains district, near Ontonagon.

The mines were one near Buchanan; the other one was called French River, about fifteen miles from Duluth. Under the supervision of Mr. Salisbury considerable money was spent. The time of working, as near as I can recollect, was about a year. The result proving unsatisfactory, work was suspended. Before the suspension of work, the company had employed an eminent geologist, from New York, a Mr. Moore, to make a thorough examination of their lands. He arrived in Duluth, and under the guidance of Mr. Salisbury … they proceeded in the investigations. After being out one day Mr. Moore was taken suddenly very sick with erysipelas, it appearing about the nose and head. The party returned at once to my house, where all effort available was used to relieve him, but without success; he passed away in a very short time, thus depriving the company of the result of a scientific exploration.

The finding of rich iron deposits on the Vermilion Range by Prof. H. H. Eames in 1865, and the more alluring gold rumors that spread quickly throughout Minnesota, and to many other places, during the fall and winter of 1865 attracted attention to the mineral possibilities of St. Louis County, and brought about a “rush” to the supposed gold fields of the Vermilion Lake region.

The sensational events of the middle sixties have been dealt with fully in the Vermilion Range chapter of this work. And while the gold-mining expeditions were destined to end disastrously, the rumors undoubtedly had a beneficial effect upon the county. Indeed, it is quite possible that the recovery of the region from the effects of the money panic of 1857 may be dated from this gold “rush” of the winter of 1865-66. Outsiders rushed to the region; and while they failed in the quest of gold, they became converted to the possibilities of the Head of the Lakes, and many remained. Capital, also, was induced to think more kindly of that “backwater.” The greatest capitalist, or financier, in America came himself to Duluth in 1866, and while his visit was ostensibly only to study conditions at Duluth, in their particular relation to the proposed establishment of the railway ter- 163minus point, there can be little doubt that the mineral possibilities of the region had great weight in inclining the financial magnate favorably toward Duluth.

Early Railroad History.-As to the earliest endeavors to bring railway facilities to the Head of the Lakes, George R. Stuntz’s review of these activities is the most authoritative. He wrote: In looking over a picture of early days, I recognize a large number of old landmarks, and memory vigorously recalls the many incidents of complicating interests the early settlers had to contend with in getting fairly started in the building up of this young city.

In the first place, Superior was backed by a powerful company of Democratic politicians and government bankers in Washington, while the northern and northeastern portions of the State were still held by the Indians. The Superior Company sought a connection with the Mississippi River, to obtain which they urged in Congress the passage of a land-grant bill, offering ten sections to a mile to aid in the construction of a railroad from Milwaukee to some point on Lake St. Croix, on the western boundary of the State of Wisconsin.

The people of Hudson organized a railway company to build a railroad from Lake St. Croix to Superior and elected William Barstow, a prominent man in Wisconsin, president of said company in the year 1855. He was elected in the fall of that year to be Governor of Wisconsin. Things were prospectively floating along all right; Barstow, Governor, and also President of the Superior Railroad Company.

The Milwaukee Railroad Company was constructing a road from that city to La Crosse on the Mississippi River, and the land grant was to aid in building a railroad from some point on that line east of La Crosse to a point on Lake St. Croix and then to Superior.

In the booming season of 1856 Governor Barstow called a special session of the Legislature of Wisconsin to meet at Madison to dispose of this grant; this was in the month of September. The St. Croix and Superior road had sufficient means to build the ninety miles of railroad from Superior to St. Croix Falls at that time without the grant of ten sections to the mile. At that time I had large tracts in Douglas and Bayfield counties. I went to Madison to watch proceedings. I had been there but two days when I discovered that a compact had been entered into by which the Milwaukee and La Crosse Company was bound to become possessor of the whole grant.

I immediately interviewed one of the Northwestern directors of the St. Croix and Superior Company. He confrmed the rumor, and I saw that the country had been set back twenty-five years in development.

Then we began to look around for a connection with St. Paul, and the first move was to get a charter and secure a land grant to aid in the construction of a railroad from Lake Superior to St. Paul, and the people of Duluth are largely indebted to Commodore H. Saxton and the Hon. Thomas Clark, both in necessary legislation and as engineers. Clark examined and surveyed the route, Saxton acting as commissary, and spent between two and three years in getting the charter for the Lake Superior and Mississippi River railroad.

A route was explored by the exertions of Saxton and Clark. The practicability of the route was demonstrated, the land grant applied for and obtained, and the road construction was commenced.

The permanent growth of Duluth commenced in 1867 and 1868, with the construction of the above railroad.

As before stated, Sidney Luce and Luke Marvin had much to do with bringing the railway to Duluth. And Sidney Luce has left, in manuscript form, much information regarding the struggle. In part, he wrote as follows: Jay Cooke and an associate friend visited Duluth, I should say, in the summer of 1866. He had previously sent here a friend of his from Sandusky, Ohio, for the purpose of locating pine lands with agricultural college scrip, which was then worth about 60 cents an acre. He located quite a large quantity on the Cloquet and Nemadji Rivers, the location being made from an examination of the field notes of the surveyor in the land office. Mr. Cooke was about to assume the task of floating the bonds of the Lake Superior and Mississippi River Railroad Company. I inferred that his visit was for the purpose of satisfying himself as to the proposed routes, terminus, cost and prospective earnings -of the road. … 164It would be worth-while to insert here an interesting account of the visit of Jay Cooke written by George M. Smith, who for many years was agent of the Omaha Railroad in Duluth, but who was then an alert active boy in his ‘teens, particularly expert as a boatman.

He writes: During the summer of 1867 (?1866) Jay Cooke and his wife arrived at Superior, via steamer, and took a room at the old Superior Hotel. That evening the proprietor of the hotel sent for me, told me that Mr. Cooke wanted to make a boat trip to Duluth, and that he had recommended me … as the best person to take him over. He also said that Mr. Cooke wanted to see me about it. I was a lad in my ‘teens then, and I gladly hailed this opportunity to see the great man. I was taken to Mr. Cooke’s room. We made satisfactory arrangements for the trip, and at 5 o’clock the next morning I called at Mr. Cooke’s room and found him in readiness to leave at once, even to the wearing of his invariable light-colored silk hat.

Just before we left the room Mr. Cooke went to a trunk and took therefrom several small rolls of specie and carelessly dropped them into his outside overcoat pocket. We then wended our way down the bank to the shore of the bay, and, after seating Mr. Cooke in the stern of the boat, I took up the oars and started to row up the bay. It was a most beautiful morning, the water was still, and Mr. Cooke appeared to enjoy the ride immensely. He had hundreds of questions to ask, and nothing seemed to escape his attention.

He “pumped” me for about all that I knew, but in return he told me many stories of his travels and other experiences which he knew would interest a boy.

As we rowed up the bay we gradually neared Minnesota Point and skirted along its shore, and in the stillness of the early morning the ride was as beautiful as one can imagine. When we were about three miles below Duluth, Mr. Cooke noticed the birchbark wigwams of the Indians, who at that season of the year always camped on the Point, devoting their time to picking blueberries and fishing. The berries and fish were sold to the residents of Superior.

Immediately, Mr. Cooke wanted to know what they were, and if there were any Indians there. When I gave him an affirmative answer he insisted upon going ashore to see them. This was about 6 o’clock in the morning and the Indians had not yet made their appearance. This didn’t make any difference to me and I routed them out. Then I explained to them … just who their distinguished and early visitor was, talking to them in the Chippewa language. Mr. Cooke stepped upon a large stump, and, taking off his silk hat and holding it in his hand, made a little speech to the Indians. He told them that he was the man who had negotiated the sale of the United States Government bonds during the Civil War; that he was going to build a railroad from the Mississippi River to the head of Lake Superior; that he was going to build a railroad from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean, and many other items of interest.

The Indians called him the “Great Father,” and would not listen to any other name for him. They were greatly excited and talked and jabbered continuously after the speech had been interpreted to them, bowing down before Mr. Cooke and waving their hands wildly over their heads, and back and forth in their wild enthusiasm and admiration of the noted gentleman who had favored them with this early morning call.

After Mr. Cooke had finished his talk to the Indians, he took out of his pocket a roll of the specie and gave each one of the adult bucks and squaws a bright shining new 25-cent piece. To those who were younger, he gave a new silver dime, and to each of the little tots and papooses a 5-cent piece.

This was the occasion for more wild demonstrations on the part of the Indians.

Mr. Cooke then shook hands with each one of them, and we started for the boat. As we reached the shore an Indian, who had been out to lift his nets, came up in his canoe. Mr. Cooke shook hands with him and gave him one of the silver 25-cent pieces. Then, noticing a whitefish which was lying in the canoe, Mr. Cooke asked the Indian how much he would take for it, offering him 25 cents for it, which you may be sure the Indian took without any further parley. I ventured to expostulate with Mr. Cooke for paying such an exorbitant price, and explained to him that he could have bought as many whitefish as he wanted for the regular price of five cents each, but my remonstrances only brought a smile to Mr. Cooke’s face. He carefully placed the fish in the bottom of the boat and we started again toward Duluth.

As we went along Mr. Cooke again began to question me. He wanted to know about the land-locked harbor; the depth of the water; the distance 165 166up the St. Louis River that was navigable; and scores of other questions pertaining to the country.

Click on “2” for the rest of the story….


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