History | Potawatomi Property Owners Association

Historical Testimonies

“The McCormicks seldom came to the Island.  They came about a half a dozen times in the 15 years that Grandpa Eschui was the caretaker.  Nettie McCormick came one in 1892.  Then, after 1901, the McCormicks sent up parties of second generation McCormicks, they were a poor lot.  All except Fowler, who was a fine man and president of International Harvester.” May Barnes Eschuil and Gretchen Barnes

Testimonial Authors, Recollections of Island Lake

“W. R. Ford set all buildings on concrete foundations.  He put 3 cabins together and combined them into the Wanigan.  He build the lodge in 1950 and the foundation of the ice house was done on October 16, 1951.” Sylvia Ellison

Testimonial Author, Recollections of Island Lake

Northwest Wisconsin Outdoors January – February 1984 Island Lake Camp, now knows as Potawatomi, is near Barnes, in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, in the beautiful scenic area of the Eau Clair Lakes Chain.  March 12, 1982, Island Lake Camp was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  In this place of Northwestern Wisconsin, south of the Great Lake Superior, there is a history so rich and colorful, it is fairly shouting to be told.  Lost to antiquity are the hundreds of campfires that have glowed through the tall, dark Norway Pines of Island Lake or ‘Minnesagaegun’ as the Indians called it.

(Remainder of story coming soon…)

Irene Schroeder Davis

Testimonial Author, Island Lake Camp

1886

Mrs. Cyrus McCormick (husband invented the reaper) and Wm. Cunningham Gray (Editor of The Chicago Interior) purchased the land deeded to:

  • Anita McCormick Blaine, a widow deeded to:
    • Bernie Wise (July-December 1940) deeded to:
      • Eleanor Abbott Ford (August 30, 1941) Abbott Pharmaceuticals deeded to:
        • Willis Roland Ford (1966) gave to
          • Evanston YMCA (1966) deeded to:
            • Juneau Land Company (1967)

January – February 1984

ISLAND LAKE CAMP

By: Irene Schroeder Davis

Island Lake Camp, now knows as Potawatomi, is near Barnes, in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, in the beautiful scenic area of the Eau Clair Lakes Chain.  March 12, 1982, Island Lake Camp was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  In this place of Northwestern Wisconsin, south of the Great Lake Superior, there is a history so rich and colorful, it is fairly shouting to be told.  Lost to antiquity are the hundreds of campfires that have glowed through the tall, dark Norway Pines of Island Lake or ‘Minnesagaegun’ as the Indians called it.

On a moonless night when one hears the chilling sounds of coyotes, it makes on reflect upon the remote isolation of the woods, the island in the center of the Lake and the land around.  One is overcome with renascent feelings, as the very air seems to hang heavy with the history of the region.  Phantom voices whisper stories to the wind.  They tell of the great battles of the Sioux and the Ojibway, the loneliness of the hivernaut as he sat by his campfire awaiting the pelts the Scouts and the Indians would bring.  Pelts that would be taken to the Traders of the great fur companies at their posts on Rainy Lake, Gran Portage, LaPointe and the others scattered through the American and Canadian territories.  They tell of his struggles for life, his struggle to be found someday by the small wooden crosses that mark the places where he may have drowned, succumbed to disease, to the harsh winter of the northern forest or was killed.  The sad sounds of the wounded, the dying, the grieving when long ago the Native Americans made their way back to their island sanctuary.  The roguish sounds of half-tamed men in an untamed wilderness.  The sound of hoof beat, wagon wheels, driver calls; the tall old Norways, Aspen and Birch have witnessed the centuries of change and heard it all.  There is a timeless feeling here, in spite of the comings and goings of men who abused themselves and the land, nature has a way of reclaiming its own.  The campfires and the trails fill with fallen trees; seeds are caught in the sandy wheel tracks and grown into Jack Pine, Birch, Maple, Aspen, Norway Pine and Hazelbrush.  The magic of the Northwoods ifBrule River6 rejuvenated and another generation is again touched by the loveliness of the land much as it was centuries ago.  Patches of virgin timber still stand near Drummond, Wisconsin and along the Brule River.

In approximately 800 B.C., the geologists write, the Glacial Lake Aggaszi began to recede.  About 1500 A. D. the Ojibway began moving to the west on the Great Lakes, pushing the Sioux westward.

Ojibway, or Chippewa, is a name given to the Indians of the area by the French. The Ojibway name for themselves is Ahnishinabe. It means the Original People of Spontaneous People. They are part of the large Algonquian family that includes the Sauk, Fox, Cree, Menominee, Potawatomie, Cheyenne, Blackfoot and many others. We owe the Fox, Cree, Menominee, Potawatomie, Cheyenne, Blackfoot and many others. We owe the Algonquians names of rivers, towns and counties in Wisconsin, as well as other parts of our country. Opossum, raccoon, hominy, squash, moose and over 100 woods have passed to our language from theirs.

In the 1400’s, the Ojibway established a base at LaPointe on Madeline Island in Bayfield County in Wisconsin. For over a hundred years wars raged between the advancing Ojibway and the Sioux. To the south, down the Brule and the St. Croix toward advancing toward Minneapolis-St. Paul, to the north, up the St. Louis River and in from Grand Portage, the Ojibway advanced. Between the 1600’s and the 1700’s, the French fur trade grew rapidly, establishing forts and posts from Montreal to Lake Superior and beyond. This activity so fed the fires of combat and killing between Indian and Indian, white man and white man, Indian and white man, that Indian was by the time the first settlers had arrived, Indian was so disseminated that the few remaining went to the reservations where land was parceled out for homesteading and farming.

In 1609, the Virginia Colony was charted, claiming the interior of what is now Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 1641, at the mission of Sault St. Marie, a Montreal trading town, the folks there welcomed the Coureurs de Bois bringing back a canoe fleet loaded with furs. The fur trade began with a vengeance between the rival companies, continued with bloody intrigue and finished with most of the woodland animals near extinction. By 1654, this area near the junction of the Brule River and the St Croix River near Solon Springs, Wisconsin, was a beehive of activity as the voyageurs portaged across the marshy ground between the Brule and the St. Croix on their way to the Mississippi with their pelts. Pelts that were destined to grace the shoulders of the wealthy in the east and the royal courts of Europe. On Wisconsin Road ‘N’, Bayfield County, near Pigeon Lake, is a small wooden marker on which it is noted:

“At this spot an Indian murdered a white trapper. (It also noted) They (the Indians) became intoxicated with liquor he (the trapper) had given them for their furs. This event occurred prior to 1875.”

It was a deliberate practice and policy of the trade to foster alcohol consumption and dependency among the Indians, exchanging alcohol for furs, food, canoes and labor. Near Taylor Falls, a town at the falls of the St. Croix, in 1771, a major and decisive battle was fought between the Ojibway and the Sioux; with the Fox joining the Sioux.  The large party of Ojibway was led by Waubojeeg, a leader of the Lake Superior Ojibway.  Waubojeeg was a poet, singer and tribal and spiritual leader of the Ojibway.  Later one of this daughters, (Susan), married a white trader and settled at Sault St. Marie.  Susan and John Johnston helped to save the Cass Expedition at the Sault in 1820.  Later, their oldest daughter, Jane, married Henry Schoolcraft, known for his history and maps of the area.

As the Indian warfare came to an end, the fur trade flourished.  In 1808, John Jacob Astor founded the American Fur Company, establishing trading points along the trails south of LaPointe on Madeline Island, along the route  of the old St. Croix trail.  One of the managers of the Fort on Madeline Island was William Morrison, who had an Indian family, but later went back east to marry and return to the fort.