In The News, July 18

Bayfield County Press, July 18, 1913

Sand Island Fisherman Drowned

Ole Johnson, who has been engaged in the fishing business among the Apostle Islands the past few years, with headquarters at Sand Island, met death by drowning near that place Wednesday evening.

According to information we were able to obtain, Johnson, who was between 30 and 35 years of age and unmarried, set out from West Bay on Sand Island, to anchor his boat, taking with him a small skiff.

The skiff was found on the beach yesterday morning and from appearances, Johnson had not used it after anchoring the larger boat. In just what manner this accident occurred is not known, but it is believed the anchor became caught in the clothing of the man and pulled him under, or that in endeavoring to step into the skiff from the larger boat, he missed his footing.

We are unable to learn whether deceased had relatives in this city or not.

Surprising: not that a fisherman lost his life on the lake, nor that there was a guy on Sand Island named Ole Johnson, but that this incident took place off West Bay. The main settlement was on East Bay, and I am unaware of any fish camps on the island’s west side. This would have been right around the time that the West Bay Lodge was under construction, so perhaps his presence there was somehow related. Or maybe the Press got the story wrong. One more puzzle yet to solve…

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In The News, July 17

National Park Service Morning Report, July 17, 2009

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (WI) Rangers, Volunteers Rescue Kayakers Caught In Heavy Seas

On the morning of July 15th, Oak Island volunteer Merle Lang reported that a group of Boy Scouts in kayaks were struggling in the channel between Oak Island and the mainland. Within minutes, Lang reported at least one member of the group had capsized and fellow kayakers were attempting a rescue.

Sea conditions at the time were reported at two-to-three-foot waves with sustained winds in excess of 20 knots. An adult member of the group had flipped upside down and was unable to release his spray skirt and was trapped underwater for a short period of time. He was righted with the help of one of the guides and other members of the group, but had swallowed several gulps of water and was reported to be dizzy, nauseated, and extremely fatigued.

NPS maintenance employee Ken Eklund and park ranger Susan Mackreth aboard the NPS Grebe, who were transporting park volunteers Judy Michaels, a doctor, and Janice Carol, a nurse, were in the immediate area when they came upon the kayakers in distress and were on scene within minutes. They moved the injured adult aboard the vessel, where he was stabilized, monitored and transported to Buffalo Bay marina at Red Cliff.

NPS maintenance worker Steve Witt with park rangers Damon Panek and Jim Dahlstrom in NPS Eagle conducted a quick search to locate the rest of the kayak group. Two additional NPS vessels assisted in locating the remainder of the group within 30 minutes.

A total of 19 kayaks were involved and became separated over a two mile area due to increasing winds and wave conditions. By the end of the incident, winds were in excess of 35 knots and four- to five-foot seas were reported along their intended route.

That’s my girl!

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In The News, July 16

Washburn Times July 16, 1925

Terrific Blast Wrecks Buildings at DuPont Powder Works

A terrific explosion completely demolished nitroglycerin storage house number two and mixing house number two at the plant of the DuPont Co. at Barksdale at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday noon, caused by a bolt of lightning during a slight electrical storm. Luckily there was no loss of lives, although 11 workman were slightly injured by flying glass and splinters and were brought to the Washburn Hospital for treatment, while others were shocked and frightened.

Had the explosion occurred while the buildings were in operation there would have been loss of life, but luckily the men were in the change house eating their noonday lunch, and those injured were cut by flying glass and splinters.

The explosion occurred at just 12:15 o’clock. There was a flash of lightning, a puff of smoke, followed by a terrific roar and a dense cloud of smoke and debris was thrown into the air which could be seen for miles and people who rushed out of doors were immediately aware that an explosion of some kind had occurred.

Anxious wives and mothers, who have husbands and sons employed at the plant, rushed about the street wringing their hands and inquiring anxiously of everyone as to whom had been hurt and killed, and finally a report came through from the plant that no one had been seriously injured, which dispelled fear for a time until the cut and injured men began arriving at the hospital.

Guards were immediately stationed around Barksdale to prevent sightseeing individuals from getting into the plant and for this reason stories spread thick and fast as to the probable number killed or injured, but soon correct stories began to come through showing that no one had been seriously hurt.

The damage done to buildings at the plant was extremely heavy. The buildings where the explosions occurred were blown to atoms and nothing marks the spot where they stood except a hole in the ground, while heavy damage is also done to the shell house and dope house and the oil lines running through the ravine. At the main office windows were broken and plaster was shaken from the wall, while in most of the buildings on the plant windows were broken.

The force of the explosion could be plainly felt in Washburn and Ashland where buildings were rocked and at the Charles Howarth residence in this city a table is reported to have been overturned by the blast, but little damage is reported at either place.

Despite the highly explosive nature of the product manufactured by the DuPont Co. at the Barksdale plant explosions have been few and far between in the number of major accidents has been very light compared to other manufacturing plants.

Yeah, well, unfortunately, things didn’t always turn out so favorably at the big plant just outside of Washburn: over its 70 years of operation, 36 men were killed in explosions and other accidents. There’s a small monument to them in the city cemetery.

I’ll be doing a program on the history of the Barksdale works as part of the Tony Woiak History Festival on August 21.

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In The News, July 15

Washburn Times, July 15, 1920

35,000 Pounds of TNT Available For Farmers

35,000 pounds of TNT blasting explosive will be available for the farmers of Bayfield County the latter part of August according to county agricultural agent V. E. Brubaker who received word during the past week from the Department of Agriculture. The cost of this explosive to the farmer will be at the rate of nine cents per pound, which is about half the cost of dynamite, and the explosive will be distributed to the farmers in not-to-exceed 200 pound lots.

The explosive will be distributed to the office of county agriculture agent V. E. Brubaker whose address is Washburn, Wisconsin. No orders will be taken except by written order or letter and orders must reach the county agency office as early as possible.

There will be 550,000 pounds of the explosive available for distribution throughout the northern counties of the state.

TNT as a blasting explosive is equal to dynamite in almost every respect and very satisfactory work has been done by the farmers. As the TNT is lighter than dynamite, two-thirds of a pound of the explosive is used where a pound of dynamite is ordinarily used. TNT will not freeze, and there are no bad effects upon the persons using the explosive. It does not subject the user to headaches as is the case with dynamite.

Why the need for all this go-boom stuff? Stumps me… oops, sorry about that. But that’s the whole thing– in order to clear all this cut-over timberland, farmers needed explosives to blast out the stumps. There are accounts of farmers who ended up spending more money on dynamite for stump-clearing than they paid for the land itself.

And by the way, if you like seeing all the lupines along Highway 13 every June, thank Mr. Brubaker– he was the guy who encouraged planting them.

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In The News, July 14

Bayfield County Press, July 14, 1905

It is said that hereafter government vessels only will be allowed to land at Devils Island. Owners of boats are being notified that they must avoid this island in the future. The government has possession of the island and wishes to preserve the property in good shape. Tourists have been committing various depredations, and it is thought to interrupt and prevent this that the new mandate is issued. The government purchased Devils Island several years ago to be used for lighthouse purposes.

Well, the good news is that Devils Island is open to the public these days. The bad news is that it is harder to access than it used to be, ever since the National Lakeshore management made the decision a couple of years ago to eliminate the traditional cleats on the rock landing, meaning you can’t tie a boat there anymore. (To be precise, the NPS did not remove the cleats, they just decided not to replace them in the spring, as had been the practice at least since the days of President Coolidge’s visit.)

August 22, 1928- the President’s party has lunch on the rocks at Devils Island.

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Keeper’s Log, July 13

Sand Island Light Station, July 13, 1899

N. E. breeze and cloudy with fog outside. At 9:00 A. M. N. E. fresh with fog. Keeper worked in garden til noon. At 1:40 P. M. Keeper and folkes were startled by the blast of a steamer whistle just under the east side of the island, not more than a half mile from the station. It was the first sound of a whistle since the fog set in which was at 9:00 A. M. , when it would get very thick at times but pass off again.

No fog signal at Sand Island, which meant it was okay for the keeper to putter around in the garden while the fog got thick, instead of rushing to boil up a head of steam for the whistle.

Keeper left the dinner table and started at once in the direction of the whistle, which called for help. I had not gone far til I see she was on the shore where there is a rocky reef that extends out. I went out to her to see what could be done and learned her name and where she was bound for.

The name of the steamer Lizzie Madden of Bay City loaded with 650 thousand feet of lumber taken on at Bayfield and Buffalo Bay, and bound for Duluth to pick up her three vessels…

“Her three vessels” – an extreme example of the tug and consort system.

…which is also loaded with lumber and bound for Detroit, Michigan. Capt. J. M. Madden of Port Huron, Mich. is master of her with a crew of eleven men and two ladies. Name of owner, T. F. Madden of Bay City. The Str. is of 517 ton burden. She is broadside to the island and out of water forward 2 feet and aft 8 inches.

The Capt. waited for the Str. Hunter, which arrived at 4:30 P. M. . And the Keeper took the mate out to board the Str. Hunter to go to Ashland to call for tugs and help, but failed, and was obliged to telegraph to Duluth for tugs. It was very thick during evening and most of the night but quite calm, so the steamer was resting easy.

Cause of casualty, compass deranged.

Don’t you just love that last line? I get a mental picture of the compass doing a Jack Nicholson bit as it points the boat straight at the rocks.

Anyway, this would not be the Lizzie Madden’s last misadventure among the Apostle Islands. Six years later, it would be towing the lumber barge Noquebay past Stockton Island when the latter vessel caught fire, causing complete loss.

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In The News, July 12

Bayfield County Press, July 12, 1928

Hans Christensen, Mrs. Christensen and their son Elmer were at the mercy of a northeaster off the Red Cliff Point for a time Friday afternoon last week. In a new government lighthouse tender Mr. Christensen was towing the old boat to Bayfield when the engine of the new boat became so hot it stalled and stopped just off Red Cliff. Mrs. Christensen was in the new boat with him while Elmer was steering the boat that was being towed.

The heavy sea was washing the two powerless boats onto the rocky shore when Christensen finally got out an anchor at the end of 100 feet of chain. The pitching of the anchored boats made Elmer and his mother quite sick during the hour and a half it took the hot engine to cool enough so it could start again.

This would be Mr. Christensen, in a photo taken on Devils Island a year later:

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In The News, July 10

Bayfield Press, July 10, 1878

A picnic party went over to Bass Island last Friday. While there, several small boys of the party entered the residence of Judge McCloud during his absence, and ransacked the house from cellar to garrett, even going so far as to open and examine the contents of trunks, valises and boxes. They also went to the cupboard and over hold that, eating anything they found that was extra palatable. These boys should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law on account of the cowardly and mean trespass they committed.

The first recorded incident of vandalism in the Apostle Islands maybe? Dunno.

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Keeper’s Log, July 8

LaPointe Light Station, July 8, 1895

Nothing done today. Lots of visitors today from Bayfield.

LaPointe Light Station, July 8, 1906

N.W. heavy rain. From the 3 day of July to the 8 the flies were so bad it was most impossible to be out doors.

It’s always something.

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Keeper’s Log, July 7

Raspberry Island Light Station, July 7, 1930

Painted skiff. Trimmed grass around buildings. worked at Sand Island Painting dome and trimming on tower and inside of dome. The aeroplane “Silver Cloud” from St. Paul, landed at Sand Island at 12:10 P.M., with people who lease the dwelling there. Remained until 4:10 P.M., then left for St. Paul. Keepers returned to Raspberry about 5 P.M.

“The people who lease the dwelling there” would be the family of Gert Wellisch, who actually held the lease. The “aeroplane” belonged to (or perhaps was hired by) her brother Walton, known to friends as “Bun,” who was quite the aviation enthusiast. The picture below shows the plane at East Bay, perhaps on the 1932 occasion described by Burt Hill:

“We were given quite a surprise on Decoration day when Bun Wellish landed on our beach with his sea plane. His pilot took Mae up in the air for a short spin and she thought it was wonderful. I did not care to go up, so Bun took me for a spin on the lake. Although going at a speed of forty miles an hour, it did not seem any different than traveling in our old boat at seven miles an hour. Anyway, it did not give me any more thrilling experience.”

Silver Cloud at Louis Moe’s dock.

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In The News, July 6

Dry Hard Wood! Dry Hard Wood! Dry Hard Wood!
In Any Quantity! In Any Quantity! In Any Quantity!
At the OAK ISLAND WOOD YARD!


My Wood Yard has a large dock where boats of any draught can lay in perfect safety in all kinds of weather and load. The Yard is situated on the direct channel to Duluth, on Oak Island, and a large quantity of dry hard and hemlock wood is kept constantly on hand.

Wm. Knight
July 6, 1873

-Advertisement, Bayfield County Press, July 6, 1873

The Knight/Chapman development on Oak Island appears to be the earliest large-scale logging operation in the Apostle Islands. A news item three years earlier gives and idea of its scope:

Oak Island is being improved in the way of buildings quite rapidly. Chapman and Company have put up one large dwelling and barn, besides several smaller buildings, to be used by wood choppers through the winter.

The company designs getting several thousand cords of wood cut this winter, for the purpose of supplying steamboats next season. Last winter they put in a dock 400 feet long and we hear they propose enlarging in the coming winter, so as to meet the increasing trade.

It is their intention to clear their land as they go, and as fast as they divest it of wood to plow and put in potatoes, grain, hay, etc.. By this means they will soon have a large producing farm and not only get the benefits of the growth of timber but of the soil also.

The soil of this island is said to be well adapted to agricultural purposes, having been well tested by Mr. Benjamin Armstrong, over ten years ago, whose house yet stands crumbling and wearing away by time and the elements.

-Bayfield County Press, Oct. 27, 1870

The southwest tip of Oak Island is one of the most richly layered historic sites among the Apostles: not only the scene of several successive logging episodes, but also the home site of the noted Indian advocate Benjamin Armstrong, and the well-known eccentric Martin Kane.

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Keeper’s Log, July 5

Outer Island Light Station, July 5, 1912

Cleaned and trimmed Lamps and Lens. Scrubbed canvas rugs, and engine covers. Cleaned up Fog Signal, tended same. Tender “Amaranth” arrived at Station 1 PM. Came ashore with 5 tons of soft coal. Had a bad accident while making a landing. The scow struck a boulder outside of the docks which caused the scow to fill up and turn up side down. All the coal sank to the bottom. The crew saved themselves by crawling on top. She was taken in the harbor where we repaired her so that they got away by six o’clock. The “Amaranth” went around to the West side of this Island and dropped anchor for the night.

For more about the lighthouse tender Amaranth, visit the excellent article on my friend Terry Pepper’s comprehensive web page.

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