Bayfield County Press, October 13, 1883
Friday, October 12th will ever remain a memorable day to the citizens of the “Harbor City,” that being the date of the completion of (its) iron pathway to the outer world. On the morning of that day, conductor Hickey’s construction train was at Austrian’s clearing and he promised to have the track in and his train at the depot ere the setting of the sun.
All day long the workmen were surrounded by an anxious throng of men, women, and children, wrought up to a high pitch of excitement, and as the day wore on the trainmen and tracklayers seemed to imbibe a portion of this spirit and redoubled their efforts to reach their goal.
As the hands of the clock pointed to the hour 4:04, the train halted in front of the depot, the Star Spangled Banner was flung to the breeze, the old brass cannon belched forth flame and smoke, the whistles of the various steam vessels in the harbor united with those of the locomotive and the bells of the churches and schools in one prolonged salute that echoed and reechoed from hill-top to hill-top, while from the throats of the excited throng pealed cheer after cheer. Its completion to the old pioneers who have waited so long for its arrival – so oft been disappointed – seems more like a dream than a reality and they stand dazed in the light of their long delayed good fortune.
The importance of this event to Northern Wisconsin and the Great West as well as this immediate locality is incalculable. It forms a grand highway from the rich plains of the far west to this inland seaport over which their products may find rapid and cheap transit to the markets of the East. It opens up and renders available to settlement a grand territory of valuable timber lands and gives outlet to the great pineries of the northwestern part of the state, thus pioneering the way for the capitalist and the laborer to rich fields for their enterprise and skill. It renders available for maritime business one of the grandest harbors in the world and its coming is hailed with rejoicing by the storm-tossed mariner as well as by those who heralded its coming by settling upon its shores long years ago.
Great news indeed for Bayfield!
The only trouble is, railroad tracks had already reached Ashland six years earlier, giving the city at the head of Chequamegon Bay an unbeatable head start in the race for commercial primacy. By the time the first train arrived at Bayfield, there were not one, but two, railroads terminating at Ashland: the original Wisconsin Central line, which connected to points south, and the brand-new Northern Pacific connection to Superior and the far west beyond. In another year the first ore dock would rise over Ashland’s harbor. Vessel traffic would boom, and before long, the rickety 1858 lighthouse on Long Island would be replaced by a pair of beacons, better sited to guide captains into the bustling port.
Late to the dance, Bayfield had no chance.