July 22 seems to be one of those days when you don’t want to open the newspaper.
In 1910, the neighborhood was burning up:
Bayfield County Press, July 22, 1910
High winds have again caused forest fires throughout the Bayfield Peninsula to spring up, and assume alarming proportions. Although there were times when a heavy rainfall was expected, little rain came to relieve the extreme dryness, and the fires have full sway over the wooded portions of the Peninsula district. Large clouds of smoke are again overhanging the city and Apostle islands and are proving a serious hindrance to navigation.
Outside of a small amount of standing timber the loss thus far from the fires this week has been slight, but if no rain comes to relieve the situation, the losses will be immense. The rainfall of Wednesday evening relieved the situation very little, although it changed the wind which helped in some localities.
Sixteen years later, it was a tornado bringing misery:
Washburn Times, July 22, 1926
Leaving death and destruction in its wake a tornado of terrific velocity came out of the Port Wing region at seven o’clock last Friday evening, killing three people and doing property damage that is estimated will run into thousands of dollars.
For velocity the storm was one of the fiercest that has ever visited northern Wisconsin, and while the path of the storm was not wide, yet the damage it did where it hit was almost unbelievable, for sturdy barns and homes were laid flat and trees more than a foot in diameter were twisted and broken like so many pieces of straw.
The storm, according to newspaper accounts, had its origin in the northern part of Minnesota where rain fell in torrents and hail stones as large as hens’ eggs covered the ground. There was some wind at Minnesota points, but nothing compared to the wind which the storm developed after it had crossed Lake Superior and hit in the vicinity of Port Wing, where several barns were demolished and considerable damage was done.
Making another jump the cloud again descended in the vicinity of the Brink farm on the barrens where it cut a path several hundred feet wide through the brush and timber country of that territory, wrecking a school building in the west portion of the town of Washburn.
Again the twister raised from the earth coming down again in the vicinity of Pat Galligan ‘s farm in the town of Barksdale, which is located west of the Cherryville Road, where it hit in all its fury. The Galligan farm is surrounded by a fine stand of oak and maple timber, some measuring as much as 2 feet in diameter, and here the trees were laid flat in every direction, some torn up by the roots while others were snapped and twisted.
The twister passed over the Galligan garage, leaving in that building intact, while it laid flat the barn, chicken coop and other buildings and when it arrived at the house performed a most peculiar stunt, tearing the main part of the house from the kitchen addition, and leaving the family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Galligan and four children, uninjured.
The storm hopscotched around Barksdale and Ondossagon, wrecking buildings willy-nilly, then moved closer to Ashland, where things got worse:
It seemed to jump again next hitting in the German settlement west of Ashland, where it caused its first loss of life, at the Otto Johnson farm where two girls, Julia age 23, and Mabel, age 18, were killed when their home was demolished. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were in the barn milking at the time and they were both badly injured and were rushed to the hospital Ashland.
The farm where the two girls were killed presented an awful sight after the storm. The home was smashed to kindling and carried into the ravine 100 feet away, while the barn was also laid flat. The bodies of the two girls were found in the field several hundred feet away from what was their home, while the parents were lying helpless in the wreckage of the barn.
Continuing on its way the storm passed south of Ashland, destroying a railroad bridge on the Duluth & South Shore Railroad, hitting near Mellen and again at Upson. One boy was killed near Mellen when a barn door was blown on him and he was crushed.
The reports of damage went on for several pages, but there was just enough room that day to report a separate tragedy, much smaller in scale but equally devastating to those involved:
Washburn Times, July 22, 1926
Harry, 15-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Axel Pearson of Chicago, was drowned in Chequamegon Bay at a point near Memorial Park, in this city Tuesday morning at 11:40 when he got into water over his depth.
His plight was noticed by his mother and others who were on the beach watching the bathers and they immediately summoned Ed and Louis Anderson, manager of the park store, and a camper at the park, who hauled out a skiff and made for the boy and soon had him on land, where doctors Axley and Schlossmann were on hand to do what they could toward reviving him, assisted by others.
Every effort was put forward to resuscitate the lad and for a time it looked as if the efforts might be successful, for the lad’s heart continued to beat for a time, assisted by the administration of stimulants, but finally the flicker of life passed out and the lad was pronounced dead, but not until more than two hours time had been exhausted in trying to bring him around.
Fire, wind, and water. A few years after that, one of the Chequamegon region’s most memorable characters decided to return to the soil whence he came. Ed Vallely, cross-dressing boatbuilder, left the world much as he had lived in it: on his own terms.
Bayfield Press, July 22, 1933:
Ed Vallely, most eccentric Madeline Island character who hanged himself Monday night, was buried Tuesday noon in the Greenwood cemetery at LaPointe. Vallely, 85, perhaps the most picturesque character on Madeline Island, and who was known throughout the region for his eccentricities, one of which was the wearing of high-heeled shoes, committed suicide at his home at LaPointe Monday night about 11 o’clock by hanging himself.
Mr. Vallely was buried Tuesday in a casket which he made himself. The lumber was brought from Bayfield a short time ago and at the time his statement that he intended to make his own casket was not taken seriously. However, upon his death Monday it was found that he had prepared his own casket. The casket was built like a boat with bow and stern and a round bottom. The shape of the coffin recalls his life work which was boat building.
Mr. Vallely came into this region about 50 years ago. He opened and operated a boat livery at Bayfield for many years. Later he went out to Presque Island where he set up a shop and built boats. A large number of the water craft which have plied between LaPointe and Bayfield, many of which are still in use, were built by Mr. Vallely.
Besides being a boat builder, the eccentric old gentleman was also a shoemaker. He made shoes, not only for himself but for others, and many of the shoes he made were the envy of women who visited the island.
Perhaps the most outstanding eccentricity which made him well known was his habit of wearing high-heeled shoes. He made the shoes himself and put on them the high heels such as are worn by women. Having small feet, the imprints of his shoes were those of a girl.
Many years ago his peculiar habits of dress were more pronounced than of late years. At times he would put on a kimono and his high heeled shoes, do his hair up in brightly colored ribbons, and go downtown.
The alarm that Mr. Vallely had hanged himself was spread about 11 p.m. and the people of the village rushed to his home. He was still gasping when the first people arrived but efforts to revive him with artificial respiration failed.
July 22 — a hell of a day.