Lost North Shore Fishing Villages

Little Two Harbors c. 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)

Little Two Harbors was once a Norwegian fishing camp kept by about fifteen herring fishermen who lived in tar-paper shacks. The tiny facility also allowed boats to bring supplies for the Split Rock Lighthouse keeper and his family. Only a few building foundations remain.

Commercial fishing on the North Shore first began in 1834, when the American Fur Company set up fisheries on Encampment Island, Grand Portage, and Isle Royale. In 1839 they caught five thousand barrels of fish, but there was no market for the high yield. By 1842, the company ceased operations. The industry remained dormant until Scandinavian immigrants began arriving in the 1870s. Fisheries popped up in every settlement along the shore and Isle Royale, harvesting chubs, yellow perch, sturgeon, lake trout, and especially herring and whitefish by the ton. Outfits such as Duluth’s A. Booth Company supported their fisherman by sending steamers, including the America, to supply the villages, allowing mostly Norwegian (with some Finnish and Swedish) fisherman to spend more time working the waters. Booth and other fisheries found markets for their yield in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago, Kansas City, and St. Louis. (Find more about the Lake Superior Commercial Fishing Industry here.)

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