Script No. 71
We'll begin with a couple of translations. The first expression is "Scansin",
which is the native's way of saying Wisconsin, thus "speak Scansin"
means to talk like the natives, also known as cheeseheads. And when we say
"go by" Bayfield, we're simply saying "go to Bayfield. So
Today Bayfield is best known to most tourists as a jumping off place for
excursion boats to the Apostle Islands. Chicago Tribune travel writer Alan
Solomon described the place as ". . . a town with no traffic lights.
In fact, there are no traffic lights in the entire county. House doors aren't
locked at night. Car keys are left in the ignition 'in case somebody has
to move it.' There is no McDonald's here, no Wal-Mart, no Holiday Inn."
Sounds about as close to paradise as you can get.
Julius Austrian of the American Fur Company had begun milling lumber in
the area sometime around the year 1840. Then in 1856, the year after the
Soo locks had opened Lake Superior to large vessels, U. S. Senator Henry
M. Rice, of St. Paul, founded the Bayfield Land Company, which he named
for his hydrographer friend Commodore Bayfield, on March 24th. It was anticipated
that a rail link with St. Paul, would soon be established. A road was cut
between Bayfield and Ashland, at the head of Chequamegon Bay, following
an Indian trail.
It would be some time before the peninsula would get its rail link. A few
little matters like a devastating financial panic in 1857 and a Civil War
in the first half of the following decade would get in the way. I wasn't
until 1883 that the Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota and Omaha Railroad would
reach as far north as Bayfield. Meanwhile fishing (especially for whitefish
and lake trout) and lumbering would become important to the area. In 1879
there were 130 men employed by one local fishery; the amount nearly doubled
the following year. By the 1890s fisheries hired close to 500 year-round
Hindered by a relatively late start, the city never became another Chicago
or Duluth, but it proceeded to grow steadily. The same year the railroad
arrived, architect John Nader's two-story Neo-classical Revival sandstone
courthouse on Washington Avenue was completed. Tourism flourished for several
decades, waned for several more when the automobile opened new horizons,
then revived somewhat, with excursion boats becoming one of the main activities,
even today. One of Apostle islands, Basswood, across a narrow channel, provided
a third industry - Lake Superior brown sandstone. The material for many
of Milwaukee, Chicago and Brooklyn's brownstone buildings came from the
area. If any trees still grow in Brooklyn, chances are they're in front
of Basswood Island stone buildings.
© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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