By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from Summer of 1855.

Johnson Sept 26th 1855

Dear Son

Although but two days have elapsed since I wrote to you & Augustus jointly, the spirit moves me to try it again, first to correct a very great error I committed at that time by enclosing the handbill issued by your Uncle Burr for the apprehension of the murderer of Abial Chase, I merely sent it that you might see it as I would have handed it to you to look at, if you had been here, but the soul & essence of all propriety chid me smartly for it calling it “foolish, childish & very improper” so I suppose it was, and if this will answer for an apology, I will pass on to the 2nd article.  That is the bursting up of the Bobkin concern, which took place this morning.

The murder of Abial Chase by Jefferson Fulton : on the 6th day of Sept. A.D. 1855, at Fletcher, and the suicide of Fulton on the 10th. With an explanatory account of the original difficulties between them, and the circumstances attending the death of each party.
~ by Wilson & Henderson; published by Messenger Print, St. Albans, VT; 1855.

There is considerable mystery attending the transactions for they have been making money rapidly and there is apparently no cause for such a move, I worked hard from breakfast to now removing property from their shop to my barn.  It looks as though they had got sick of their location and wanted to get away to some other.  Their stock of hides of all kinds are all done up & sent to market & their [pits?] empty, the copper boiler taken out, and sent off.  Old Bobin has been out west this summer & has probably found a place where he & Frank are going & perhaps Phelps too & they cut up this [shine?] to get rid of the place and turn their [???????] in to pay their debt to [Sen?] Knight about $230.

The Barber brothers, Augustus and Allen, surveyed the first three of six townships for the General Land Office during the Summer of 1855, which included what are now the Cities of Ashland and Washburn.  The Barber brothers continued their survey contract with the second three of six townships into the Fall of 1855; before, during, and after the 1855 Annuity Payment.

Hiram has been up to the cattle show at Hydepark to day and has got home just at dusk pretty well used up having been up on foot, as did Benton & Leo Hyde, though they are coming down by stage & Am footed it back.  I had no notion of going up there as I have long been sick of going there, so I took my name off and bode them a final adieu.  I go to Hydepark as seldom as possible because I love the place and people so well.

As I said in my last, I expected a letter from you at the same time my letter started, so I found it, for yesterday Morning I found one from Augustus which was right welcome as it brought news of the continued good health of you both.

“At Vanderventer’s Creek, near Washburn, was the Celebrated Gigito-Mikana, or “council-trail,” so called because here the Chippewas once held a celebrated council; hence the Indian name Gigito-Mikana-Sibiwishen, meaning “Council-trail Creek.”  At the mouth of this creek, there was once a large Indian village.”
~ Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, pages 432

I am glad Augustus is so punctual in writing and it seems as if you could give us a few lines once in a while as well as he.

Will you try it?  Benton delivered a lecture last evening to a full house.  Subject, the proper course of Education in relation to the remarkable progress of the age, as necessary to the requisite training & diciplining of the mind.

It rains & I have got to go and carry this to the office, so you must excuse my brevity.

May God bless you both

G.A. Barber

PS.  Some groaning about writing so often

Johnson Sept 30th 1855

Nedobikag-Sibiwishen is the Indian name for Bay City Creek, within the limits of Ashland.  Here Tagwagane, a celebrated Indian chief of the Crane totem, used occasionally to reside. Warren gives us a speech of his, at the treaty of La Pointe in 1842.  This Tagwagane had a copper plate, an heirloom handed down in his family from generation to generation, on which were rude indentations and hieroglyphics deonting the number of generations of that family which had passed away since they first pitched their lodges at Shagawamking [Chequamegon] and took possession of the adjacent country, including Madelaine Island.  From this original mode of reckoning time, Warren concludes that the ancestors of said family first came to La Pointe circa A.D. 1490.
~ Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, pages 430

Dear Sons

Having written twice within the last week I have but very little to say now that may be interesting to you, but as I have determined to write as often as once a week and oftener if any thing transpires worthy of the mention of it, I again set myself to the work.  In my letter of last Wednesday night I mentioned the [vainose?] of Mr Bobkin from these diggings and the attachment of all the effects of [Phelps ?] Bobkin on the debts of sundry individuals.  Thursday morning B’s little wife Jane went over to Montpelier to his father’s to go with them westward the Lord knows where.

Charles [Judivene?] who has lived in the house with them is going soon.  People think Phelps is soon to follow.  [Hawley?] Smith & family & [Hm?] Smith & family go this week.  I sent you a Methodist Paper with the notice for the dedication of our new Chapel therein and also was scribbled on it the startling news of the fall of Sevastapol which was telegraphed from Halifax the day before.  Some doubted but Boston Papers brought the news yesterday morning & this morning the [Sumlokg?] Tribune brought a full confirmation, with some of the particulars of the bloody encounter.

Detail of an Indian Sugar Camp (T48N R5W).

The Barber brothers included many details in their surveys, including this one of an Indian Sugar Camp (T48N R5W).

The Bombardment commenced upon the [Malakoff?] Little Redan at [Carediring Bay?] by the French & the Redan by the English at day break on the 5th & continued to Morn the 8th when the assault commenced.

You will receive the news of the battle by papers to be printed this week & probably this will reach you first.  So that I may be the means of giving you intelligence of great importance sooner than you would otherwise get it.

“According to Blatchford there was formerly another considerable village at the mouth of Whittlesey’s Creek, called by the Indians Agami-Wikwedo-Sibiwishen, which signifies “a creek on the other side of the bay,” from agaming (on the other side of a river, or lake), wikwed (a bay), and sibiwishen (a creek).”

~ Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, pages 430-1

Mum always says that it is useless to try to give early news because you will hear of it sooner or later, and what is the use of writing again so soon?  I always that if anything transpires worth relating that then is the time to tell it.  I have been to Meeting to hear Mr D all day as I usually do when at home, especially since the baptists [rave?] got their new man Mr Mirriman to preach to them and all creation are running to hear him on the new broom principle.  Mum and Am have gone to Cambridge to day to try to find a girl, & I see by her letter to you that she is complaining that I do not [figosure rup?] for her, & that She has too much to do &c&c.  I would at any time get a girl for her did I not know that it would only furnish [new?] grounds of complaints.  If I got a little girl then there would be trouble for thinking that She could get along with such help, that it was no help at all & made her as much work as it saved, while should I get an older girl she would soon discover certainly as soon as she got rested that she could get along without any or with a little [one?].  It is a fact, that her mind is not as stable and unchanging as the Green Mountains, and in regard to what she says of my not telling her my plans, I will barely say that so long as she does not know them she cannot combat them, which she surely would, whatever they were and in regard to my having run through all the [offices?] &c & taking a pretty clerkshop, it is all news to me coming from her [diseased brain?]

Detail of settlements and a trail along (Whittlesey?) Creek and Chequamegon Bay (T48N R5W)

Detail of T48N R5W:
Chequamegon Bay; 
an named settlement at the mouth of Boyd Creek;
the Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge;
and the trailhead of the Grand Footpath.

Boyd’s Creek is called in Chippewa, Namebinikanensi-Sibiwishen, meaning “Little Sucker Creek.”  A man named [Robert] Boyd once resided there, married to an Indian woman.  He was shot in a quarrel with another man.”

~ Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, pages 431-2

From this place northward, there were Indian hamlets strung along the western shore of the bay.  Father Allouez mentions visiting various hamlets two, three, or more (French leagues away from his chapel.  Marquette mentions five clearings, where Indian villages were located.

~ Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, pages 431

I have been talking with the [boiv’s?] about making my way into cloth for me: and I am convinced that by so doing I can realize 45 or 50 cents  per lb for my [westwhoaor?] should I sell it now I could get 34 ¢ per lb for 20 [place?] and only 25 cent per lb for the remainder.  It is the very thing that Mum proposed and urged to me weeks ago when I talked of selling it.  But now I have concluded to do so she is in distress for fear I shall have to go out there to sell it.  I have been thinking of going in [December?] to buy lumber & get it in the ground & make preparations for some improvements on the little farm and I think some good [G??? ???] into [franned?] will be good articles in [enough?] a [country?].  I am in hopes to have [on yes?] cloth or perhaps [?????] cloth & [?????? ?????? or more?].  So my object is to spend my money.  Mum says [???] when she sees in prospect [thall?] I [???] go [while?] no longer ago than yesterday she [pevondered?] why I did not go and be doing something on the place in Lancaster and garden from day to day [having?] down one day the plans she had built u the day before &c &c.

The hop harvest is about through and there is not only a small crop but the prices will be low this season – [same when?] I was at the Institute last week and was much surprised with Am’s performance as [cutic?], and if I can get it, will copy it for you that you may see how he is improving.

Detail of the Grand Footpath as a trail from Chequamegon Bay to the St Croix River (T48N R5W).

Detail of a trail between Chequamegon Bay and the Saint Croix River National Scenic Riverway (T48N R5W).  This is the Grand Footpath that was discussed in the Comments section of our Oshogay post.

“A short distance from Whittlesey’s Creek, at the western bend of the bay, where is now Shore’s Landing, there used to be a large Indian village and trading post, kept by a Frenchman.  Being at the head of the by a, it was the starting point of the Indian trail to the St. Croix country.”

~ Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, pages 431

I have just looked for it & cannot find it, but I think you will say when you see if that it is pretty tall for one only 14 years of age.  I think he is making pretty good progress in his studies though his mother is in great affliction if he is not bowed down to his books every moment.  She thinks he should be kept as close to his books as a hired man or girl at their work and if anything closer, because it is not work.

I shall have some [curly?] to carry with me when I leave this town and would like to get it into [law/land?] in some good place for in that way do I think it would be surest and increase fastest.

Detail of a sand stone boulder (T48N R5W).

Detail of a sand stone boulder (T48N R5W).

Still I know not what I shall do.  Perhaps I may live and die in Vermont after all, but I want to be in some more productive vicinity than Johnson and some more pleasant place than our old farm in Cambridge.  I can work yet but but as for [eritubing?] those hills & rocks I should beg to be [exensed?], though I should regret to have the wood land & sugar place more them all the rest for they [ground me aplenty?] in this or any other place.  But oh [such wish her?] the river has made with the banks within the [two ????] years.  It makes me sick when I see it and know that it cannot be helped.

“Further north is Kitchi-Namebinikani-Sibiwishen, meaning “Large Sucker Creek,” but whites now call it Bonos Creek.  [Boyd and Bono] creeks are not far apart, and once there was a village of Indians there.  It was noted as a place for fishing at a certain time of the year, probably in spring, when suckers and other fish would go up these creeks to spawn.

~ Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, pages 432

I have got to get supper for [Mrs?] Benton and milk and shall have to close this stupid letter.  What do you think of having Am & I out there through the winter?  Could we find room any where to lie down and could we find [syinge teethes being?] used to say ??.  You will see that I am economical of my paper I cast such an enormous square for postage THREE whole cents a week.  It is thought any [exlaws out?] Had I been as intent on (spending money as [reprebuted?] I should have gone to Quebec [last ??? in?] Excursion fare only $3.50 from Essex to Quebec & back again.  I am sorry that I did not go, as I am chgd with such a desire to spend money.

May you both prosper in all Laudable pursuits & live long is blessing to your parents & the world


Interior Field Notes

Township 48 North, Range 5 West

Barber, Augustus H.

Oct. 1855

Notebook ID: INT049W06

Original plat map of Town of Barksdale (T48N R5W). Details include: Long Island Bay, trails from Long Island Bay to the St. Croix River, settlements, and a large sandstone boulder.

Original plat map of T48N R5W.  Today, this is the Town of Barksdale.

Survey of Barksdale (T48N R5W) by: Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

Survey of T48N R5W by:
Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

First page of affidavit; continued below.

First page of affidavit; continued below.

Chainmen: J. Allen Barber 2nd & George I. Butler Axeman: Joseph Dennis (Joseph Dennis was a mixed-blood member of the Lake Superior Chippewa tribe.)

Chainmen: J. Allen Barber 2nd & George I. Butler
Axeman: Joseph Dennis
(Joseph Dennis was a mixed-blood member of the Lake Superior Chippewa tribe and eligible for a land grant under the seventh clause of the second article of the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe.)

The Barbers' original field notes for this township were rewritten decades later. Why?

The Barbers’ original field notes for this township were reproduced in 1891 “…for the reason that the original record is becoming illegible by the fading of the inks.

 [c. Oct 12, 1855]

Barbers Camp  Oct 1855

Dear Parents

Being unemployed today I have an opportunity though a poor one to write to you once more.

Detail of Fish Creek Slough (T47N R5W).

Detail of Fish Creek Slough (T47N R5W).

My health for a few days past has not been good – in fact I have been obliged to be idle the last two days from a kind of disentery very common here and apt to turn to bloody flux.  But I am much better today and hope to resume work tomorrow.

Detail of Me-ta-bi-Ki-ti-gue-ag River; also known as South Fish Creek (T47N R5W).

Detail of Metabikitigweiag-Sibiwishen; now known as South Fish Creek (T47N R5W).

“Metabikitigweiag-Sibiwishen is the creek between Ashland and Ashland Junction, which runs into Fish Creek a short distance west of Ashland.  At the junction of these two creeks and along their banks, especially on the east bank of Fish Creek, was once a large and populous Indian village of Ottawas, who there raised Indian corn.”
Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, page 430.

Our party now contains 3 halfbreeds, two to keep camp and one to ax.  At first I did not like the idea of having such looking fellows to work for us but they get up good victuals.  I don’t inquire how.  I have to cook occasionally but I can’t tell how I make it go.  Still my pancakes and fried pork and bean soup are generally devoured with an assiduity not often seen out of the woods.  The survey is going on pretty well lately.  The fourth town will be finished in 4 or 5 days.  Then there will be only two more.  We are having very good weather now, perhaps it is the beginning of our indian summer which they say is very fine on this lake.  I have not yet made up my mind what I shall do this coming winter.

Detail of trail from Chequamegon Bay to Lac Courte Oreilles (T47N R5W).

Details of a spring and trails along Fish Creek; and the footpath from Chequamegon Bay to the Mississippi River via Lac Courte Oreilles (T47N R5W).

It was from this place that the trail left the bay, leading over to the Chippewa River country.
Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13,
page 430.

If I make a claim I shall probably live and work on it.  I know of a place near the bay for as good a farm as can be made on the lake, good bottom land — some of it producing good hay now.  During the summer there has been some emigration to this country but there is room for more yet.  The only settlements about this end of the lake are at Superior, Iron river 27 miles this side, Bark Point bay, La point, this bay, Bad river, & Montreal river.  At Bark point there is only a fishery and at Bad river a mission.

Lapointe is a queer old town.  Standing in the midst of an almost unknown country it presents the appearance of and is in fact about the oldest town I ever saw.  Not a horse or carriage track can be seen in the streets and there is not a carriage road leading from the town.  The buildings were mostly constructed without sawed lumber and are mostly enclosed with high fences of sharpened posts.  Squaws, half breed children, indian dogs and lice are the principal commodities.  French and Ojibway are the principal languages spoken.

Detail of water bodies and trails in the area of the Badgerwood CAFO being proposed by Reicks View Farms in current events (T47N R5W).

Detail of water bodies and trails in the vicinity of the Badgerwood CAFO being proposed by Reicks View Farms in current events, described in 1855 by the Barber brothers as “an elevated ridge, much resembling the Mineral ranges of this region” (T47N R5W).

But a more beautiful bay can’t be found than La point bay.  I think it is always a safe and accessible harbour.

Oct. 21st.  Since writing the above I have recovered my health and been at work about a week.

Love to all


[Incomplete copy of letter]

[ca. 1855] Nov. 1

Father’s“letter of November 3, 1856, was written during a rough voyage down Lake Superior and Lake Michigan in the famed steamboat ‘Lady Elgin.'”

~ Barber Papers;
Scope and Content Note

This incomplete letter was misfiled as 1855; it was from the Fall of 1858.  Stay tuned.

Nov 1st The weather is quite different now from what it was 2 years ago yesterday when I left you to come down on the Lady Elgin & to day when we lay shut in by a NorthEaster at Copper harbor.

I have this A.M. recd a letter from Maime Burr & one from her bother.  Maime is a beautiful writer both as to matter & manner.

The folks at Lancaster were well except Cyrus who I fear is consumptive.

It is time for me to go to the House & almost time for the Mail to close.

May Heaven bless & protect you

G.A. Barber

Interior Field Notes

Township 47 North, Range 5 West

Barber, Augustus H.

Oct. 1855-Nov. 1855

Notebook ID: INT049W05

Original plat map of T47N R05W. This is now the Town of Eileen.

Original plat map of T47N R05W. Today this is the Town of Eileen.

Survey of T47N R5W by: Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

Survey of T47N R5W by:
Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

General description of T47N R5W.

General description of T47N R5W.


Chainmen: J. Allen Barber 2nd & George I. Butler
Axeman: Joseph (his mark) Dennis
Affidavit signed by: John W. Bell, Justice of the Peace for LaPointe County.

The Barbers' original field notes for this township were rewritten decades later. Where are the Barbers' original field notes?

The Barbers’ original field notes for this township were reproduced in 1885 “… for the reason that the original record is becoming illegible by the fading of the ink.”

Ashland Wisconsin   Dec. 16th 1855

Dear Parents

Once more I am seated to assure you of my continued good health and warm affection for the loved recipients of this letter.

Detail of Ashland City, LaPointe County (T47N R4W).

Detail of Ashland townsite, Wikwedong, and Fish Creek (T47N R4W).

Fish Creek is called by the Indians Wikwedo-Sibiwishen, which means ‘Bay Creek,’ from wikwed, Chippewa for bay; hence the name Wikwedong, the name they have to Ashland, meaning ‘at the bay.'”
Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, page 430.

Asaph Whittlesey founded Ashland in 1854 near the ancient village of Wikwedong.

Asaph Whittlesey

I suppose Augustus has informed you of the completion of his contract.  Our summers work hung on rather late as nearly all of the last township was surveyed after the winter had fairly set in.  But we are having an easy time of it now.  We are keeping house in a little cabin at Ashland about two miles from Bay City.  I do all the house work as well as I can by a little stove exactly like our parlor stove and Augustus works at his notes preparing them for the office.  As yet I don’t know what I shall do this winter.  Between working with Augustus, going below, making a claim and a few other things, I must decide before long.  People are pitching upon claims all around me which I might have claimed when surveyed — yet I hold onto to my preemption right in hopes to find a more valuable location.  With my knowledge of the country I could make better selections than most of them do and with the means I could secure several valuable tracts.  (Eve.)  This evening Augustus and I have been singing with Mr. Whittlesey’s folks, who live only a few steps from us.  They are intelligent pious folks and very neighborly.  Mrs. W. brought us some apple dumplings the other night and has since sent us a whitefish nicely cooked.  I suppose they pity our want of skill in the culinary department of housekeeping.  I do some baking in the stove which I find a great help.  In regard to dish-washing I am rather fortunate as we have dishes enough for six men and can’t use them all at once so I only wash about once in two days.

Detail of Raspberry River and West Branch of Raspberry River (T49N R5W).

Detail of Raspberry River and West Branch of Raspberry River upstream from Sioux River Slough (T49N R5W).

Sioux River is a stream located just 4.3 miles from Washburn, in Bayfield County, in the state of Wisconsin, United States, near Sioux, WI. Alternate names for this stream include Miskwimin, Raspberry River and Miskwi Minikan.”


In the Ojibwemowin language, Miskwiwim is Raspberry and Miskwi Minikan is Blood Seed.

The propeller Ogontz survived numerous accidents and a lawsuit upon the Great Lakes.

Butler has left us and gone to Superior intending to go to St. Antony.  He did not appear to like the woods very much.  Dan Damon of Waterbury had just gone there (to St. Antony).  It is announced that there will be preaching here next Sunday by Mr. Warren a young Methodist minister at Bad river mission.  I may not be here as we intend to go to La Pointe and probably Superior in two or three days.  Provisions are scarce all round the lake I guess.  At Superior pork is 25¢ per pound.  Here nothing can be obtained by the quantity.  At Ontonagon prices are very high.  Two cargoes of provisions for Ontonagon have been discharged at some lower port on account of storms.  The propeller Ogonts began to unload at Ontonagon but a storm arising she was obliged to put out for a safer harbor and vessel and cargo were much damaged.  Last fall a steamboat with passengers for Superior and La pointe landed them at Ontonagon and started back for the Sault but was met by a northeaster and driven back to La pointe.  So you see vessels on this lake have to stand round for storms.  The bay is partly frozen over.  Thermometer this morning 2*-0. 

Detail of Sioux River; also labeled as the main branch of the Raspberry River (T49N R5W)

Detail of Sioux River; also labeled as the main branch of the Raspberry River (T49N R5W)

Joseph Alcorn was featured in the Spring of 1855.  He appears to have been close to George Riley Stuntz.

Heard today that Jo is at work at Iron River for Stuntz.

I do not know what Augustus will do about surveying this winter.  He could probably make it pay better than anything else, I suppose the job lies among the islands which will give plenty of meandering which could be done on the ice at the rate of 9 or 10 miles per day.  But nothing can be done about it yet until the channels are frozen over as the water is so full of icebergs part of the time that no small boat could live.

“From all this we see that the bay was from most ancient times the seat of a large aboriginal population.  Its geographical position towards the western end of the great lake, its rich fisheries and hunting grounds, all tended to make it the home of thousands of Indians.”
Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, page 433.

The trader of Allen’s yarn was likely present at the 1855 Annuity Payment.

I wish I had time to tell you a lot of yarns about the Indians and indian traders.  A Bad River indian came over here today to trade off a beaver skin for whiskey — he got about two quarts for it which made him feel pretty rich yet feeling he had not quite enough he bought a pint more for 50¢ which the trader brought and poured into his keg — but the last pint fortunately was nothing but pure brack water.  The same trader one night just after payment took about 75 dollars with only 8 gallons of whiskey well watered.

If we go to La pointe soon this letter will be mailed soon.  If not it may stay in this office a week or two.

Please excuse the bad writing, &c, &c.

Your affectionate son

J Allen Barber

Detail of spring and trail on original plat map of T49N R5W.

Detail of a spring along trail from the Sioux River Valley into the Bayfield Peninsula (T49N R5W).

Dear Mother

I am somewhat in arrears of my usual and promised amount of letter writing but I cannot help it.

Detail of sink holes (T49N R5W).

Detail of sink holes (T49N R5W).

In a short time I expect to have more favorable opportunities and a better chance to tell you what I shall do and where I shall be this winter.  If I stay about here you must not look for letters every week for it will be quite impossible for me to dispatch them oftener than once in two weeks; perhaps longer times will unavoidably intervene.  Am well and sound and feel pretty well able to stand a winter here on the lake, though I must own that to survey in mid-winter seems to me like undertaking a pretty [cool?] job.  Never mind, to be at work in the woods here is less tedious and less dangerous than to be on the black prairies of southern Wisconsin where roads are covered deep in an hour or two and no sheltering forest nor even fuel to protect the traveler from the bitter winds.  You may, I think, be tolerably easy about my health and safety, recollecting that I have been some time in this wild country and enjoyed better health than [two words illegible] others claim, and as for accidents, no place is known to be safe between the walls of the universe, but the peaceable prudent and prompt men may expect to walk in safety in all places as anybody.  Besides, there are men here who have shown that they are disposed to remember sundry little accommodations, and if I should need the care of friends at any time I doubt not I should receive all the attention that well disposed strangers could give.

Julius Austrian held the mail contract at LaPointe during 1855.

At present I don’t know much about my operations for the immediate future, but expect to know as I go along.  We are woefully neglected by the mails of late, but are no worse off in that respect than others.

Hoping this letter will not be as unsatisfactory to you as it looks to me.  I am as

Ever Your Affectionate Son

Augustus H. Barber

Interior Field Notes

Township 49 North, Range 5 West

Barber, Augustus H.

Nov. 1855-Dec. 1855

Notebook ID: INT050W01

Original plat map for T49N R5W.

Original plat map for T49N R5W.

Survey of T47N R5W by:
Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

General description of T49N R5W.

General description of T49N R5W.

Chainmen: J. Allen Barber 2nd & George I. Butler
Axeman: Joseph (his mark) Dennis
Affidavit signed by: John W. Bell, Justice of the Peace for LaPointe County.


The Barber brothers’ original field notes for this township were reproduced in 1891 “… for the reason that the original record is becoming illegible by the fading of the ink.”

[Incomplete copy of letter]

[undated circa 1855]

Ironton townsite claim at Saxon Harbor with trails to Odanah and the Penoka Iron Range. (Detail from Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records)

Detail of Ironton town property with trails to Odanah and to the Penokee Mountains (T47N R1W).  This was not part of the Barber brother’s survey in 1855.  Today this property is known as Saxon Harbor.

Is there not danger that by the decisions of the Secretary of the Interior lately rendered, you may be thrown out of your Ironton Town property?  Or is there perfect immunity from such loss in the hardship of the times that for the present render the property valueless & no temptation to sharks to seize upon them?  You can make your shares perfectly safe by ostensibly making your home there & from what you have hinted about the agent I presume it would be no great displeasure for you to sojourn occasionally with his family, at least enough to have your residence called at Ironton.

And this reminds me of seeing the name of your plan in one of the N.E. Counties of Wis.  I think in Marquette it was in an advertisement for proposals for carrying mails in Wis.  When do you suppose property of any kind will be saleable again about Lake Superior?

The Barber brothers’ Father appears to have become very familiar with other Lake Superior land speculators.

One thing is certain, it must be after [this?], if ever, I would like to hear how some of my acquaintances along down the northern shore are thriving & whether property in & around Burlington, Encampments, Rockville, Beaver Bay are commanding fabulous prices as they did last years.  I presume thousands of dollars were paid last year to be shown claims & for building shanties on them, by those who are forced to abandon them, & remain where they are in no danger of starving.  Has Perry told you that that note could not be paid for lack of money enough in Superior?  What did he say about it?  How did he expect I want him to get my pay?  I expect nothing but that I should lose all that debt, for I am fearful that Carleton will find some way to avoid the payment of it.

Did Perry talk or not as though he wished to have me paid up?  & what did he say about its ever being paid?  Does he gamble & drink yet? & how do they all appear in Superior?  Does the hardship of the time prevent the consumption of such quantities of rot gut as were formerly used?

Are Mr. [Barmite?] & Mr. [McCorble?] there?  Is Frasier there?  & Mr. Hall the young lawyer, Charly Port, White Perkins & Bradford?  If I can only get my affairs in Superior straightened out I can note if the whole place sinks to the “bottom of the sea, the sea, the sea” & half of its inhabitants with it if I could chose who should be saved.

This partial letter has also been misdated.  A response from Allen to Father regarding the Secretary of the Interior’s decisions was written during the Summer of 1858.  Stay tuned.

I have written more than I intended, as times hangs so heavily on my hands that I resort to writing as a pasttime.

Again good bye,

G. A. B.

I send you a blank % sheet for your use.  I bought squires like this for 34¢ last week & wish I could get some of it to you.

Map of Chequamegon Bay water routes associated with ancient villages and water migration routes. ~

This map is an image from Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 13, page 419.
Published in 1895, this map features the area surveyed by the Barber brothers during 1855 surrounded by Bayfield, LaPointe, and Bad River. 
After 1855, the Society’s annual reports were included in its Proceedings.
In 1855, the Barber brothers surveyed six townships (216 square miles) along Chequamegon Bay between Bayfield and Bad River.
The available mix of original documents and reproductions of the Barber brothers’ field notes feature these water/land routes; but do not feature any of these ancient villages.
During 1855, did the Barber brothers record these details separately for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin?

To be continued in the Winter of 1856

By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from Spring of 1855.

Superior, Douglas County, July 2nd, 55

Detail of Superior City townsite at the head of Lake Superior from 1854 Plat Map of Township 49 North Range 14 West.

Detail of Superior City townsite, Douglas County (T49N R14W).

Beloved Parents

It is now two weeks since I arrived in this country and I feel a little guilty for not writing sooner but as I have been somewhat prevented by circumstances and as Augustus has informed you of my safe arrival here I have neglected writing rather longer than common.

I suppose you would like to hear a great many particulars about your children in the woods which would be too long to write therefore I can only give a synopsis of my adventures.

The Military Road was authorized by Congress on July 18, 1850. The Minnesota Road Act authorized five ‘Military Roads’ and the funds for construction. They were for protection of the frontier and also provided access to remote areas for land-hungry settlers. The original survey laid out the road from Point Douglas, Minnesota to the falls or rapids of the St. Louis River, about 200 miles. On January 2, 1854, clearing of the route from Superior, Wisconsin to Chase’s Landing on St. Croix River in Minnesota was begun by residents of Superior and Douglas County under the leadership of Sidney Holmes of Superior. This was about 57 miles. On July, 1854, Congress designated Superior, Wisconsin as the northern terminal.”
~ Carlton County Historical Society
“[…] the pioneers who in 1853 established the first settlment at Superior and who on January 2nd, 1854, started cutting the “Old Military Road” from this point.  The road referred to on the marker was a 57-mile track cut out during the early months of 1854 between the settlement of Superior and Chase’s landing on the St. Croix River.  It was a shorter route to Taylors Falls than the official government road, and it continued to be used extensively in the winter months.  Several travelers, however, described it as absolutely impassible in summer.
~ Retracing the Military Road From Point Douglas to Superior by Grover Singley

On the boat we had a cold raw time and no danger of cholera we arrived at St. Paul on Sunday June 3d and took the stage for Stillwater 18 miles and then proceeded on foot 15 miles.  Monday we got to Taylors falls 17 miles where we were detained by the great difficulty in procuring necessary provisions for the trip.

Tuesday we started with an outfit sufficient to last us to Chase’s camp, about 100 miles up the St. Croix.  We camped out only three times in coming through, twice we stayed in deserted shantys [door/floor?]less, windowless and partly roofless.

We lost our trail Thursday or was misdirected and travelled all that afternoon among the swamps and thickets on the St. Croix bottoms and bluffs and finally camped on the bank of the river, and [eat?] our last provisions at night.  We [where?] not lost but had lost the trail by trying a new oneFriday morning we proceeded up the river about [6?] miles, waded across and got to camp about nine o’clock where we got a good [bush pack?] and a supply of provisions.

We got out again however the night before we got here on the copper range, twelve miles from here.  The road of the first hundred miles is very good walking, being mostly over pine barrens but from here to the St. Croix it is horrid much of the country is a complete network of swamps of all sizes up to a mile across.  I arrived here Sunday June 10th found Augustus sailing on the bay.  Since then I have been helping him build his cabin and do some other work.  Camping out did not disturb me so much as I had expected – at last the novelty of lying down in a gloomy forest with the trees moving over us, a big fire at our feet, the whippoorwill singing around us and the dew moistening our blankets was not sufficient to counteract the [f??ig??ts?] of a day’s travelling, so I slept soundly and felt well in the morning.  I have not seen a bed now for a month.  I sleep sometimes on a bear skin sometimes on boughs and sometimes on the ground, last night on an old tent.

Business Directory published in June 26th, 1855, issue of the Superior Chronicle.

Business Directory published in June 26th, 1855, issue of the Superior Chronicle.

I hardly know what to say about the country.

The air is pure and bracing.  Storms are sudden and frequent.  One we had was the worst I ever saw.  Hail, rain and sand filled the air so we could not see 30 feet.  The copper region is equal to [Pabor-dure?] for rain.  There is a steamboat aground in the bay near the entry – has been there all day, is now sending her freight to this wharf – will probably get away when the tide begins to go out.  All the country I have seen south of the lake is generally flat or gently sloping.  The soil of the points is sand thrown up by the lake and drifted into irregular mounds.  In the city and some other places the rock earth is the purest red clay I ever saw, back from the lake 4 or 5 miles the soil is pretty good and would compare well with the best parts of Vermont.  Some [branches?] of farming I think would pay well.  Hay meadows can be made [ikey?] some places by turning up alders and hay brings $[30?] every month.

I can tell better about farming when I see what effect the new canal has on prices about here.

As to making valuable claims there are a number of good chances open yet.

I have seen one as good copper show as there is in the northwest which I might get but there are some drawbacks to it that make me rather doubtful.

These “imps” are likely listed in the business directory above.
“Mr. Ladd” may have been Azel Parkhurst Ladd.

There are other chances pretty fair and much surer.  There are lots of Indians on this point very peaceable among themselves and towards others but some imps will furnish them with “scoo te wau bo” (firewater).  Several Indians are now at work here carrying in freight.  The squaws too are hanging round with their children and pappooses.  I guess Father, you misunderstanding me about the land Mr. Ladd owns.  A large share share of it is entirely clear of brush and ready to break, but all in a state of nature.  Augustus is going to put something in with this, so if there is anything more to write I will leave it for him to write.  Augustus received letters from home last night enclosing one from mother to me for which I was very thankful and I will try to give it more attention sometime.

With respect to all inquiring friends.

I remain

Your affectionate Son


Interior Field Notes

Township 48 North, Range 4 West

Barber, Augustus H.

July 1855-Aug. 1855

Notebook ID: INT040W01

Original survey map of Chequamegon Bay (T48N R4W). Details include: Long Island Bay, Lapointe Indian Reservation, Vanderventer's, Butterfield's, Haskell's, Rollin's, Danielson's, and other settlements. Today, this area includes Washburn and the east side of Ashland.

Original plat map of Chequamegon Bay (T48N R4W). Details include: Long Island Bay, Lapointe Indian Reservation, Vanderventer’s, Butterfield’s, Haskell’s, Rollin’s, Danielson’s, and other settlements. Today, this area includes the City of Washburn, the east side of the Township of Barksdale, the east side of the City of Ashland, and the northwest boundary of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indian Reservation.

T48N R4W title page

Survey of Chequamegon Bay (T48N R4W) by:
Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

General description of Chequamegon Bay (T48N R4W).

General description of Chequamegon Bay (T48N R4W).
(This handwriting appears to belong to Allen.)

T48N R4W assistants

Chainmen: George I. Butler & J. Allen Barber 2nd.
(Allen 2nd is Augustus’ brother; not their cousin)
Axeman: Albert A. Little.

Affidavit signed by: John W. Bell, Justice of the Peace for LaPointe County.

Affidavit signed by: John W. Bell, Justice of the Peace for LaPointe County.

 Johnson Aug 5th AD 1855

Dear Sons

A monoalphabetic cipher was written in the header of this letter upside-down with numbers (1-26). What was father's secret message to his sons?

A monoalphabetic cipher was written in the header of this letter upside-down with numbers (1-26). What was father’s secret message to his sons?

“13.9.14.- 12.1.25.- 14.4.- 1.2.7.- ~~~ 1.12.- 14.4.- 25.9.- 1.14.-”

Credit and gratitude goes to Eli Fredericks for cracking the Barbers’ code.

 “G.E.T.- S.A.M.- T.O.- R.E.A.D.- A.N.D.- I.N.T.E.R.P.R.E.T. ~~~

D.I.R.E.C.T.- Y.O.U.R.- L.E.T.T.E.R.S.- T.W.I.C.E.- A.S.- O.F.T.E.N.- T.O.- M.E.- A.T.- J.O.H.N.S.O.N.” 

There were no Sams listed in Superior’s business directory.
Who was Sam?
Samuel Stuart Vaughn at LaPointe?
Samuel Champner at Ashland?

You may perhaps wonder that letters from home are less frequent than formerly.  Now that the injunction of silence is partially removed by the recpt of a very welcome letter from Augustus, the first news I have had from either of you for nearly a month.  I will once never try to write you a few words, having adopted the rule “measure for measurethat is write when I am written to, and endeavor to make up in quantity what it lacks in quality, I have for three weeks wanted to write to you but waited to get something from you first, and the longer I found my box empty when I went to the P.O. in the morning the more determined I was that the long silence might grow still longer before I would break it.  I have all along written about two letters to every one I have recd from either of you within the past year and really began to think as your mother does that I “write more than there is any need of” & that you were getting to be of her mind on that [score?], and that if I graduated the number of my letters to those recd from you, I should then know just how often you wanted to hear from home.  We are all well, as usual, (the lack of a sofa, centre table, chairs, new carpet, and a few more articles, now forgotten, excepting and even without them we are blest with good health, as any one could reasonably expect under such privations.  It is a very healthy time in the village & through the town.  Old Martin Smith brother to old Calvin was buried last Sunday having died of an injury that affected his [urinary?] organs.  To day Abram [Ferry’s?] wife is dead of consumption.

Last week was commencement week and Am. went down in the Stage starting at 5 A.M. [dined?] with By at the fall, and attended the exercises in the P.M. and evening.  Commencement exercises next day & stayed till Friday night before he started for home, living with [Alvira?] all the time & then had hard work to get away.  Of course he had great times.  He was in the village and saw a company of Firemen from Montreal 300 or 400 in number come into Burlington on Thursday & their reception & the speeches, Band, &c pretty tall time for Hiram.

He got home safely at 2 o’clock Saturday morning.  The long expected new bell has arrived and was duly installed into office yesterday, and to day has proved itself a real “church going bell” at [???] its arguments in favor of attending meeting were loud and convincing.  The Bell weighs 1137 lbs and has a very fine good musical tone, enough to incline anybody churchward.

I went to Cambridge & got Harvey [Butts?] to come with his tackle & rigging to hoist it into the belfrey which he did to the satisfaction of all.  Even Mr D. was so much better to day that he has preached two sermons the first we have had from him for 4 or 5 weeks on account of ill health.  He went to Montreal after Sarah, left there Monday (2 weeks tomorrow) at one o’clock P.M. & at [Rausis?] Point a little boy (a relative) wanted to get out of [sight?] for a moment & Sarah took him out of the car & stopped back again, the boy did not come in till the cars started, when [Minites?] sprang out to find the boy, & the cars went on then he remembered that he had Sarah; tuked in his pocket, and she had not a cent of Money with her, but she kept on, told her story was believed & got home at one at same night, but the excitement anxiety and fatigue consequent, overpowered him so that he has been quite feeble ever since, till to day.

Week before last we had a most disgraceful performance in shape of an Indian Show.  Some two weeks before a fancy team with a couple of drunken [bloats?] came along, engaged ground for a big tent in the little meadow we used to occupy near Judge [Tom’s?] & put up mighty big [posters?] representing Indians riding &c &c. & on the day appointed the folks began to pour in [torrents?] to – be – humbugged.

The company arrived and after dinner the natives [Kaw shaw gaw?] as leader 5 in number & as many more whites dressed and painted like Indians paraded themselves through the street, on horseback, the horses, & themselves, decked out with feathers and sham Indian finery, well, had you seen the rush you would have been convinced that fools are plenty this year.  Mum & Am were obliged to go with [Ransom?] & his wife though against their inclinations.  One more notable thing has happened since I wrote last.  Uncle Burr and your Aunt Martha have been here and staid 2 nights & we had a pretty good visit.  [Pung?] has [bud?] all up and [awas?] in and around St Albans over three thousand dollars. [Sand?] Morgan & Ike Manning will lose about $200. by [signing forkin?] & what is most deplorable the little Devil has got drinking so that to see him drunk was no rarity.  He went off with an Irish butcher over the line (45*) & came back as drunk as a fool & he was drunk at the County Convention at Bakersfield.  His wife’s Piano & his books have been taken on his debts – Poor foolish fellow.  Crops of all kinds are good except Grass & that is not as good in Cambridge as last year, but called about the same around here.  [Prein?] have a down on [Butter?] & [breadstuffs?], but we shall have another hard winter that will bring them up again I fear.

You will see by the Grant County Herald that lands entered under the graduated prices, cannot be sold again without forfeiting the land to the government, so that the next man can go and pay the same price, and take the lands as though it had never been entered, so that Allen must not alienate his title to his land as I had advised him in case he wanted to make a preemption claim. 

Portrait of U.S. Representative Alvah Sabin; in office between 1853-57. ~

Portrait of U.S. Representative Alvah Sabin (Vermont); in office between 1853-57.

It would be very agreeable to hear from you oftener, for we do feel some anxiety to know where you are, what you are about, how you are getting along, and above all to learn that you are alive and well & kicking.  I am glad to hear that you receive favors occasionally from Elder Sabin, & though not of great intrinsic value in and of themselves, there is some pleasure in receiving them as a token of remembrance and esteem and another thing it will give those who know you have such documents sent from such a source a favorable opinion of your [anteredents?]. 

It is so long since I have written to you that I have hard work to get on the truck, and harder still to keep on I believe I have pretty much exhausted my stock of news.

Your Aunt [Betsy?] tells me to send her love to you and [aprise?] you that there is no one in the house who misses you more than she does. (Perhaps she is mistaken after all) & that she does not want you to come home ust so that she can see you, but to come when you get ready & she will be very happy to see you.  Mr [Atwood?] was up yesterday with Levi & Oscar & left [Onen?] here with Am to stay a day or two, Levi [took thin] and [pale?] and is unable to do much of any thing, says he rakes hay some &c.  The Methodist Meetinghouse is up and will be finished in a few weeks.  The Baptist house is progressing slowly but it is evidently their intention that it shall surpass the [Cory?] house for elegance and convenience.

The Barber brothers’ father appeared to be busy purchasing lands in the Lake Superior region.

I am buying land warrants in co. with Mr Pike and in such a way as to make something on them.  The business of the office will bring me in a pretty good sum when I go out which will probably be this fall, though I confess that for the sake of the profits I should like to hold on, but I have nothing to complain of as I consider I have had my full share for the last four years.


G.A. Barber

Interior Field Notes

Township 49 North, Range 4 West

Barber, Augustus H.

Aug. 1855

Notebook ID: INT040W02

Original survey of Houghton's Point & Sioux River Beach (T49N R4W).

Original plat map of Houghton’s Point & Raspberry River Beach.  
Details include: Long Island Bay, Long Island, Raspberry River, multiple settlements, and multiple roads including the Talking Trail.  
Today this area is known as Houghton Falls State Natural Area, Sioux River, Friendly Valley Beach, Chequamegon Point, and Town of Bayview.  Curiously, none of the settlements were attributed to their owners.

Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

Survey by: Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

General description of T49N R4W.

General description of T49N R4W.

T49N R4W affidavit 1

First page of affidavit; continued below.

Chainmen: J. Allen Barber 2nd, George [?]. Butler. Axeman: A.W. Burtt. Affidavit signed by: John W. Bell, Justice of the Peace for Lapointe County.

Chainmen: J. Allen Barber 2nd & George I. Butler.
Axeman: A.W. Burtt.
Affidavit signed by: John W. Bell, Justice of the Peace for Lapointe County.
(This handwriting appears to belong to Allen.)

Lake Superior, Aug 12th 1855

Dear Parents

Detail of Ashland City, LaPointe County (T47N R4W).

Detail of Ashland townsite, LaPointe County (T47N R4W).

Allen was likely at their surveying camp in or near the new townsite of Ashland.

Although this is the first time I have written to you for a long while I suppose you have been informed of my whereabouts often enough by Augustus.  I was pained to learn of your anxiety before you heard of my arrival at the lake.  But as you fears are once more dispelled I hope they are permanently banished.

Today is Sunday and I am not at work that is not in the woods still I have not been idle.

The new Catholic Church in La Pointe was very controversial in LaPointe politics, as previously posted in The Enemy of My Enemy.

I have sowed untill my fingers are tired and now I am trying to write a few words to send with Augustus’ letter.  It really seems a privilege to live in sight of a church if it is a catholic church in La Pointe 18 miles distant.  As to health I am confident I shall be as healthy here as in any part of the world.  Sickness is almost unknown here except slight ailments the result of an improper diet.  Surveying I think agrees with me.  I feel best in the woods and like camp life.  Our party is very pleasant and agreeable one and this is a beautiful and interesting part of the country so I ought to enjoy myself life if ever a surveyor did.  I suppose Augustus has told you about our little shipwreck so I need not dwell upon it.  I will surely say in justice to the boat that it was all the result of carelessness and bad management and we have probably learnt a useful lesson though as a dear price.  The mosquitoes are getting thick and it is growing dark so I must wind up.

A.W. Burtt was an axeman in their party of surveyors for T49N R4W.

Has Levi Atwood got well yet.  I think a year or two in this country would do him good.  Burt of our party came here with consumption but is now free from it [scribbles] too dark [scribbles].

too dark

Love to all


Johnson August 26th 1855

Dear Sons

Yours of Aug 7th came duly to hand relating the misfortunes you experienced, which has caused me to feel considerable anxiety on account of your losses just as you were entering upon your undertaking.  But all your [pecuniary?] losses are forgotten when I think that you are safe and unscathed after passing through such deadly peril.  yes all else is but a trifle, when compared to life and health, & though your loss was more than you can conveniently bear, or repair in a long time, still with good fortune on your side for the future, you will in time outgrow it, and come out brighter for having passed through affliction.

vermont whig conventionSince I wrote to you last there has not been much worthy of record transpiring in this [dully?] town.  Last Monday morning I set out by stage for [Bellow’s Falls?] via Burlington and staid at Rutland, reached B.F. next morning [at &?] attended a Convention on State Council (as you please) & went over the river into [Walpole?] & staid with Tom. [Keyes?] that night he having found & invited me to do so.  The object of the convention was to make a nomination for State Officers if thought [expudient?], so that it was as necessary for those opposed to an independent nomination to attend as for those in favor of it.  There were almost enough of those in favor, to carry the day, but [we the?] wiser and more prudent finally prevented it being done & now Judge [Rayes?] stands with only 3 opposed in the field.  [Meritt?] Clark [suce fase?], Judge Shafter the Temperance candidate & President John Wheeler the old line Silver Grey [??? saving, Blue Belly ?????? ??????] whig.

vermont know nothing convention

Wednesday morn I left [Walpole?] and came home [via?] Winson, White River Junction, & Waterbury heading home before 10 o’clock, at night, probably faster than you can run a line in the thickets and forests on Lake Superior.  While walking near the Depot at B.F. a fellow came out bareheaded and asked if I was not Mr. Barber, said he knew me well, but I was stumped for once and could not make him out “no how“.  It was George Enslow, I told him if I had heard him crow, I should have known him.  He lives in Rutland and goes on the passenger train from there to B. F. every day at 30 Dolls per month & he board himself.  I guess he is a poor wild improvident coot as usual.  Marshal Homer is in town with his family at old man’s & he is compassing Heaven Earth & Hell to get me out of his house so that he can come into it.  But all his threats, & and artifices will avail nothing, he will wait till 1st April next before he gets possession until I see fit and find I can do as well or better to give him the premises.  Not all his & his wife’s storming, or his fathers blab, shall make any difference with me.  I will let him understand that when he lets a house for a given time he will find it not so easy to drive the tenant out as he might wish.  I shall keep on the defensive, and see that no chance is given for him to resume the occupancy of the house.  After all it is very unpleasant and annoying to know that I am in any one’s way, and equally so to hear stories every day of what Marsh’ or his folks say about it, and also the 1001 questions by other people, where I am going and when &c and what was most provoking was Old H’s saying to our women that “it is to bad to have to move now.

I have consulted [Forrier?] & Benton upon the case, and am assured that there is no trouble on my part so you need give yourself no trouble about our being pitched into the road head forward.  We shall all live just as long and wide as though there were not one [Hosmer?] this side of Hell.  Enough of this.

King Wallance has been here some days and report says that he is worrying [S.C.D.?] & it is quite possible that is a fact though I do sincerely hope it is otherwise, for I think her much too good a girl for such a [churl?] as H. M. Wallance.  Yet it is her business and not mine, and she will have to abide by the consequences be they for weal or for woe.

[Hayes Hyde?] was in a [???] a few days ago to a Miss [Whiternob?] of Springfield [N.Y.?]  The [matter?] between Jo. C. Hayes & [Abby?] does not progress so fast now.  Heman is not married yet, but will be this fall.  Our Houses of worship are getting along finely.  The Methodists chapel is completed outside, and the inside will be finished in September.  The exterior is very handsome with the exception that it has no portice in front, but the steeple is the finest in the county [in shot?] of Burlington being a [colonnade?] of 12 columns standing on the bell deck 4 on a side & those [swrindunted?] by a roof & heavy jet & a [balustran?] or battlement on the roof.  The Baptist house will have a bell as soon as finished and a clock (with 4 faces that are now put up) so as to be seen from every part of this large town.  I have been to hear Mr D. & Mr [G?]. both today and Hiram has been to the Plain to attend a tent meeting of Saturday folks under a tent that is carried around for the purpose [large?] enough to convene 2000 people.

Our County Convention and town caucus come off this week and as there is a mighty strife on foot for the officers there will probably be some fun growing out of it.

[Places?] are fewer than expectants or aspirants, and some who are the most greedy are those most Anoxious to the people.  However “we shall see what we shall see.

My good neighbor Caldwell’s mouth is wide open ready to close upon any thing offered, but how can any man of common sense expect office when he is hated by every one like poison and so crooked in his deal that he is shunned by all who know him.

[Riddler?] is also in the field but he has smelt too strong of rotgut for months to pass for a very good temperance man.  I think it more than probably that we shall not choose a representative this fall.  Capt Sam expects Judge of Probate but it will be a hard pill for Johnson folks to swallow.  Well, let them [squizzle?] and suit themselves

The Barber brothers’ father appeared to be enjoying success with land speculation in Wisconsin.

Wheeler was here one week ago today.  “Same Coon.”  Mr. Benton is here again and boards with us next [turn?], as [very?] pleasant & good a boarder, as anybody.  Prospect for school I should think not any flattering.  I sent the Land Warrants Pike & I had bought to Ladd and got returns showing a profit of $68.45 over cost.  I think of going down to Cambridge to morrow to see if I can find any there that I can buy. 

Uncle Hamilton appeared to be travelling to both ends of Lake Superior for the Barber family’s business affairs.

There is no risk and possibly some thing to be made.  I recd a letter yesterday from your Uncle Ham. who has been to the Saulte and also at Lancaster.  I recd one from Mr Burr who says that he & your Aunt Martha will set out for Lancaster the week after Election & they think of buying some place there perhaps Homer’s, for they see that they have got to come to it sooner or later, and may as well make a grab now as to wait till there is no chance for them.  Well knowing that you will be sufficiently tired with this [one?] what your Mum is writing I shall not take the trouble to double line the sheet but will endeavour to write you again as soon as I hear from you.

So till then Adieu

G.A. Barber

A.H. & J.A. Barber

I will make Am write this week

I sent a [waverty?] Magazine from Burlington & [one?] N. Y. [Daily Times?] & [1?] [Caladonian Times?] & I intend to furnish you occasionally with a stray paper as well as letters.

Mead has just been along and says that Johnny was [put?] under the [sod?] yesterday.  So I stop the press to announce the fact.

Interior Field Notes

Township 47 North, Range 4 West

Barber, Augustus H.

Sept. 1855

Notebook ID: INT039W05

Original survey map of T47N R4W. Details include: Ashland townsite; Fish Creek sloughs; Long Island Bay; and trails to Bad River, the White River, and the Penokee Mountains.

Original plat map of Ashland (T47N R4W).
Details include: Ashland townsite; Fish Creek sloughs; Long Island Bay; and trails to Bad River (Odanah), the White River, and the Penokee Mountains.
Detail NOT included: Wiiwkwedong (now Prentice Park).

Survey by: Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.

Survey by: Augustus H. Barber, U.S. Deputy Surveyor.
(The handwriting in these field notes does not belong to either of the Barber brothers.)

General description of Ashland (T47N R4W).

General description of Ashland (T47N R4W).
“Springs are of a good quality and White River in the South East part of Township is a good mill stream. Native copper has been found in this Township, but the formation does not indicate a mining locality.”

First page of affidavit; continued below.

First page of affidavit; continued below.

Chainmen: J. Allen Barber 2nd & George [I?]. Butler. Axeman: Bernard Hoppen. Affidavit signed by: John W. Bell, Justice of the Peace for Lapointe County. (not actual signatures)

Chainmen: J. Allen Barber 2nd & George I. Butler.
Axeman: Bernard Hoppen.
Affidavit signed by: John W. Bell, Justice of the Peace for Lapointe County.

The Barbers' original field notes were rewritten decades later. Why? Where are the original field notes for this township?

The Barber brothers’ original field notes for this township were reproduced in 1901 by The State of Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands.  “This copy is made in accordance with the Chapter 177 Laws of 1885 for the reason that the original record is faded and worn from use and is becoming illegible.”

To be continued in the Fall of 1855

By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from Winter of 1855.

Lancaster  March 23rd, 1855

Dear Father,

The Barber brothers, Augustus and Allen, received expert legal advice and political updates from Uncle Joel Allen Barber (Senior) regarding their affairs while on Lake Superior.

It is not long since I wrote to you but I thought I would write just a word though it may not do any good.  Uncle Allen says you would do better to send land [????] than money.  So many will be drawing land under this new bounty land law, that you can probably get them cheap.

Pine lands may be better in the eastern part of the state [?? ???????] but not worth half as much as in the western part.  Lumber that sells in Oshkosh for 8 or 10 dollars brings 18 to 23 or 4 dollars here or any where along the river.  Do you know anything about the culture of [osiers?] for willow baskets.

I saw an advertisement in the Tribune which says they will yield 100 to 150 dollars proffit per acre.  This would be a good place to raise them I should think.  Willow baskets are used here more than any other for all purposes.  This I suppose is because there are so many [foreigners?] here who understand making them.

This is a beautiful warm day and the snow is going off in torrents.

Brothers William and Joseph Alcorn, of Ireland, were listed as residents of Lancaster, Grant County, during the 1855 Census of Wisconsin.

Was it not [fl??ging?] smart that Thode Burr could not come out with Uncle Thode.  His folks were swift to have him come but as the time approached had to give it up.  Grand Mother has just come in, walked up.  We are pretty well all but Aunt [Lib?], who was sick yesterday but better today.  Have not seen anything of Cad yet.  Jo. Alcorn has taken Dr. Woods farm.

Love to all

J. Allen Barber 2nd

This letter appears to be written by Allen in the name of his Cousin Allen 2nd.

This letter appears to be written by Allen, using the name of his Cousin Allen 2nd.

Johnson April 1st, 1855

Dear Son

Allen’s brother Augustus worked for George Riley Stuntz with land surveys and copper speculation in Douglas and LaPointe Counties by Lake Superior.

I do think you hurt yourself writing so often and so much as you do to us.  Once in two weeks is a short time to you I suppose to intervene between the times of writing home, but it seems very long to me to wait for news from my absent children.  The last letter from Augustus was dated Jan 17th but he is where he cannot write and at a distance of 30 miles from any P.O. as Mr. Stuntz has probably told you.  But you are where you could write oftener and more if you would, and as we cannot hear from Augustus do let us here from you.  Yet if you do not want to hear from home but seldom, just set the pattern and I will write as often as you do, and relieve you from the trouble of writing, or reading my letters any oftener than you choose.  Everything is going on at the usual snail pace about here.


There was a great dance in the Town Hall Friday 23rd at the Public at the [close?] of the [dancing?] school.  Somewhere from 60 to 70 couples in attendance, and what was strangest of all, some of those little lambs in the flock who have recently passed from death unto life, instead of giving living evidence of their having been with Jesus, showed their preference for gayer company & went to see the show.

It was but two days before the holy commission and Mr. Caldwell and [men?] somehow or other concluded not to show their faces there before their august teachers and the mangled remains of their adorable savior so soon after patronizing the company of Jake Dodge, Henry Daniels, Frank Atwell, [Morse’s & Patrk’s?] boys [Jo Read?] and [Almy Ferrier?].  Oh the folly of Sinners.

I thought it would look just as well for old cripples who were just ready to emigrate to the kingdom come to stay away and let the young, the wealthy, proud & gay have their [partihase?] & recreation to themselves and not betray our weakness by going to gaze at them and thereby evince to them & to the world our regrets that we are no longer fit associates for [Jo. Reads?] &c. But some folks act curiously at times like there was a partial insanity in their case.

I felt very well at home & so did Am as we did when Ossian & Dodge was here & Mum went.  It is getting to be mad times.  Give my love to Mother and to my other Friends if I have any.  I have written about twice as much now as you write and have not got half through but time forbids more at present.

G. A. Barber

[ca. 1855] Apr.

Lancaster Apr.

Dear Mother,

Having rec’d several lines from you and Amherst without sending any full equivalent I will now try to write a few words though they may not be very interesting.  Today is a beautiful Sunday.

It is now about two o’clock.  I have not been to meeting.  Shall probably go this evening.

You see my prejudice in favor of evening meetings is not altogether overcome.

I am dressed up in my new vest and boots, clean shirt, thin brown coat and brown hat &c.  This morning Uncle Allen drove up with his carriage with his children, [and?] Ham. and three other children.  I took Thody and got in (Myron was at meeting) and had a delightful ride on the prairie.  Such beautiful spring weather I never saw before.  Every day seems unequated.  The earth has got green in spite and there are some flowers out.  They look just like yellow daisies only they grow as low and humble as violets.

Night before last I got a letter from Augustus at Galena.  They are having colera considerable and a number have died on the river or been put ashore in consequence of colera.  You may not see anything of it in the papers as they try to keep it mum but John [Henry?] who was down there says it is so.  No wonder for he says the mercury stood at 90* one day that he was there.  Every boat up the river has 6 or 800 passengers.

Augustus appears to be in fine spirits.  He is swift to have me come up that way.

The ground here is warm and dry as any ever need to be, gardens are being made and crops are being put in with all delight.

Uncle Jay and Cyrus will have splendid gardens in a short time.  In fact, Uncle Jays garden now is the finest I know of about here, he has enlarged it this spring.

Aunt Fanny has considerable of a start in her garden because the place was made by a fellow who took great pains to have everything that he could get growing.

I am quite anxious to go up the river and see the elephants and would like not a little to see Augustus.  Uncle Thode is farming and sleeps in his house and that is all I have got to say about him at present.  Father requires me to write so much to him that I can hardly find any thing more to write to any one else.  Little Thody is not very well – has a bad cold.  My love to all.  We expect Uncle Ham here every day.

Your affectionate Son


Lancaster May 2nd 1855

Dear Father

Perhaps I have neglected writing to you too long but as I have been rather busy of late and have written to mother not long since I hope to be [?????]


“William Alcorn was very well known in the community, operating a general store, member of the Masonic Lodge, and a skilled carpenter. He came from Ireland to New York City in 1833. He left New York in 1845 and settled in Grant County, where he married Miram Lockhardt of Indiana in 1849, and she bore ten children with eight surviving. There is some puzzlement in this family concerning Joseph. John Alcorn, Sr., found in the 1855 census, died on 20 October 1861, at Lancaster. His estate papers contain a letter by his son William, in this letter he states that he is the only heir of John Alcorn, Sr., that his brother John had died earlier, whose estate papers state that he died on 9 December 1855, and left a widow, Antoninette. She remarried on 26 June 1859, at Beetown to Joseph Sykes. How Joseph Alcorn fits into this family is puzzling.
Joseph Alcorn appears to have been with Augustus and Stuntz at Lake Superior previously.

Day before yesterday I made Jo. Alcorns folks a visit.  They appear to feel pretty well.  The girls were all at home.

I took dinner there and looked over the farm some.  Jo is building stone wall on the farm for Dr. Wood.  I begin to think we have about all the herbs here that grow in Vermont.  [Spikenard?], bloodroot, coltsfoot, leeks, wild onions, wild summer savoury, balm, and a great many more grow in abundance.

Uncle Allen has spoken to me about studying law but nothing deffinite has been proposed on either side.  Two fellows start from here today to go to Lake Superior.  They have to walk over 200 miles so I suppose they would not wish to carry any extra burden and Jo says he thinks Augustus would not care anything about that vest up there.  I am really anxious to go up there but I guess I shall not this summer.


Must close rather abruptly for want of time.  Have been looking some days for a letter from you.

Love to all


All is well but Aunt Fanny who is most [used?] up with a severe cold

Lancaster May 14th /55

Dear Father

It seems to me I have not written to you for about a week and as there is just 25 minutes between [illegible words] a few words. I have nothing of special interest to write but dont want to keep you waiting for a letter.  For some time we have been wishing for a little rain for which we would be very thankful although a great deal is needed.  We now have a prospect for a good shower.


~ 15th Uncle Vest Phelps and all his family have arrived in town today I understand.  I am most tired to death, have been planting corn all day with Cyrus and I have about a days work more to do alone to finish it and fix the apple trees.  I have a wet cloth on my neck to cure a sunburn.  Whatever the effort may be ultimately, it saves me a great deal of pain at present.  I am thinking quite [strong?] nowadays of pottering off up to the lake.

Jo is here yet and would go with me.  I should want no better companion.

There is no serious obstacle that I know of to hinder.  While I wish to go for many reasons.

So far as I know I have had excellent success in grafting although I have not done a great deal only about 600.  I cant tell exactly about the wheat there was not much of it all a great deal of that was wasted.  I have never said a word to Shoemaker and dont want to.  He is a foolish howling Methodist and nothing else.  I sold 5 bushels of

[Incomplete copy of letter]

MOTHER Dear Mother


Lancaster Wis. May 20th 1855

Dear Mother

Last night I was much gratified by the reception of another Salvo of letters all in one envelope from home.

It is pleasing to thus find myself kindly remembered at home but letters written in the spirit of one I received from father last Tuesday are not quite so agreeable and allow me to say I think they are rather tend to defeat their object.  The accounts of the season in Vermont seem rather dismal.

Can it be possible that no leaves were visible on the 13th of May.  Here fruit trees were going out of blossom.  A fortnight Three weeks ago today (April 26th) the poplar trees appeared to be in full foliage but the leaves were not fully grown wild plum trees were white and crabapple trees were blossoming.

Lilacs are now out of blossom.  Gooseberries plums currants and cherries are about as [as peas?] – plums rather larger apples are as large as beans.

I ate rhubarb pie at Uncle Jays May 3rd made of new plants.  it is somewhat doubtful about my going up to the lake this summer.  Jo dont wish to go untill after harvest or about the last of August but I guess I could get him started now if I [???] really anxious about it.

It is principally on account of my health that I prefer going up there to reading law at present.  Today is a beautiful [??????] I have not been to any meeting this forenoon but guess I shall go to the choir meeting this afternoon.

Aunt L is not very well yet.  Yesterday I cut out a lot of willows that grew around the best spring on the east side of the farm.

It is a noble spring and might easily be made to run to go building spot on the South end of the farm on the road near the S.E. corner Cyrus thinks of selling his place in town and building on his farm but Aunt Fanny is strongly opposed to it.  Going to Lake Superior is not so much of an undertaking as when Augustus first went.  I should have to foot it about 200 miles.  A great many people are going through every few days but probably I shall not go without Jo as he understands all the minutia of providing necessary articles and food, coaching, camping out &c &c.  Well I must close this and write a few words to Father.

Receive with this the Love of

Your affectionate Son

J Allen Barber

Lancaster May 20th 1855

Dear Father

It was my good luck to receive a letter last Tuesday and another on Saturday so I must write again soon or get behind in my correspondence.  Uncle Allen says I can find plenty of land though not very near town but the country is filling up so fast that it will all be worth the [??] government price.  He says he will go out with me in a day or two [a?] land hunting as he has some plots only a few days old and wants more land.  I should not be able to enter more than 80 acres at present but if I dont go to the lake you can send me more money and I will try to make the best disposal of it (21st) Old Ben’s auction goes off today.

There is undoubtedly money to be made in village property here but not near so much as on wild land.  Well Old Bens auction has come off and proved to be a kind of mock auction – all but one bargain was struck to off to his bidder, Jim [?evens?].

I got Jo to promise to day to go to the lake in two weeks but he will alter his mind before night I am afraid.  There is a terrible amount of sickness on the Mississippi and Missouri boats.  The boats are all overloaded often carrying over 600.

This is a very warm day.  We had a little rain this morning but not enough to do any good.  Other places not 11 miles from here have plenty of rain.

It is common here to have thunder here whenever it rains.  If it rains 3 days the thunder cracks around all the time night and day.  Then look out for cholera.  There are a lot of old telegraph posts standing between here and [Potosi?] and more than half of those that stand in open country are split down by lightning.  Jo is fiddling here while I write he remains firm in his resolution to go to the lake in two weeks.

If I go I intend to come back next fall if nothing prevents still as far as health and comfort are concerned I had rather winter there than here if I could have as good accommodations.

I am glad to hear that some of the old faces once so familiar have again visited Johnson although I was not there see them.  It really does me good to see their names written.  How we are scattered.  Albe reminds me of fast day two years ago.

He and John Cook & Charlie and I ate sugar on the catnip farm and had a good time.  Now each breathes the air of a different state.  It would give me great pleasure to attend the commencement at Burlington this summer.  Probably at no other place in the world should I ever meet so old friends.  Where is Homer [Wetherly?] now?  I had a letter from when he was in Glover and would answer it sometime if I knew where to direct.  Aunt Fanny wants me to tell you she is all well and anunt Lucy says when her pen gets started it will with a vengence!  They think I write home so often there is no use of any ones writing any more.  It may be a disappointment to you to have no more land entered but I shall not have time to receive any money from Vermont if I go up country this summer.  What land there is now in market about here is of course of poorer quality and some and I think I had rather enter land north of Wisconsin where there is plenty and lumber cheaper timber plentier.

Ahalf section” is 320 acres; or 1/2 of a square mile.

However I dont know what I shall do.  I want to enter a half section all that I can enter under the graduation [act?] and it must all be adjoining or adjoining land I now own.

If I find any land very tempting perhaps I had better borrow the money of Uncle [?????] and you could remit the amount to him.

The interest would not be much for a [month?] or two – at any rate it appears that I have got to act as I think best.  A Mrs. [?tig?] opened a lot of bonnets and other goods for sale this morning and the streets are full of women all crazy for a new bonnet.  I hope it will have a good effect on the weather as we need rain badly.

Today I had a talk with Shoemaker.  He raised 9 bushels of wheat and says he will give up your share if I will sign a receipt in full of all demands.  He suffered considerable waste and ought to smart for it.  But I suppose he lost money by taking the farm, of about 50 bushels of oats his share after paying for threshing and other helping was only 6 bushels.  I can have things well enough this summer.  The corn I planted among the hops and appletrees I shall let Cyrus have to remunerate him for the trouble I have made him.  I have not done near enough here to pay my board as he has been so situated I could not very well.  There are two or three other boys here that want to go up to the lake and perhaps will go with us.  If you dont get this in season to answer before the 4th of June direct to Superior.  I think this with Mothers and Ams will do for one letter.  Shall probably write again before I leave and look for about two more letters from you.

Your affectionate Son

J. Allen Barber

Johnson June 17th 1855

Dear Sons

I expect you are now together and I will address this to you both thereby saving some scribbling paper, postage &c which is no small consideration with some folks, and I must acknowledge is to me a convenience I went to St Albans last Monday to see my father previous to his departure from this country perhaps forever, though I did not then know how so soon he was going but on arriving there found that he had fixed on the Wednesday following for leaving.  I accordingly remained till that time & then accompanied him as far as [Run??’s] Point & there parted with him.  Thode Burr goes to Sandusky with him, & from thence I expect your Uncle Ham will escort him to Lancaster.

Father felt very much affected at parting with your Uncle B’s folks and they as much so as though they were consigning him to the grave.  Returning from St Albans I came to D Fairchild’s and stayed over night & made one more visit on my way through [Georgia?] & arrived at Johnson Thursday night in safety, but I [presumed?] not many hours before Father & Thode reached Sandusky.  I found that Am. had recd a letter from Augustus & one from [me?] requesting a deposition to establish your his age.  I have made it and also one for Allen thinking that he might want to make a preemption claim in that region, and if he would be deferred from making such claim on account of owning land, would it not be best for him to convey his title to his lands in Wisconsin to me or some other person to be held for him whenever he might wish to resume the ownership again.  Augustus will best know how that business can be managed.  I have a draft that I shall forward by mail tomorrow morning to J. Allen B. Esq. for the sum of $80.00.  I think Allen’s purchase a very good one.

The Barber Family followed national slavery issues.  The American Civil War did not begin until 1861.

You will see by the Tribune that Messrs Bell & Hale are [listed?] to the U.S. Senate by the Legislature of N.H. & probably will [eybise thereat?] & further that the National [R.N.?] Convention are having hot times on the subject of slavery, & that the whole pro slavery concern will be blown sky high, as all attempts to silence freedom of discussion should be now and forevermore Amen.


Giles Addison Barber, father of Augustus and Allen, was enrolled into the Vermont Constitutional Convention in 1850 as a delegate for Charlotte, Lamoille County.

I am now thinking of going to Burlington on the 27th to attend a State Convention [the call?] for which you will see in the [Freeman?].  It is now almost 3 years since I have been there to step my feet on the ground & for that as well as a wish to participate in the doings of the convention I shall like to be there very well.

Portrait of Cadwallader Colden Washburn; U.S. Representative from Washburn between 1855-61. ~

Portrait of U.S. Representative Cadwallader Colden Washburn (Wisconsin); in office between 1855-61.

Portrait of U.S. Representative Alvah Sabin; in office between 1853-57. ~

Portrait of U.S. Representative Alvah Sabin (Vermont); in office between 1853-57.

This morning I recd a [Pub. Doc.?] from Hon. A Sabin ‘sectry of the [Amaroo?] [pant ???] by [Lieut?] [Gibbon?] with an atlas, also another [Corernoned?] at the presentation of the [swant?] of Gen Jackson, [??? Brainiere? into?] me a Biggon’s battery of the [Amaroo?] just the same thing last winter so that I now have two & if you do not receive one from Mr Sabin I will give you one of mine when you come.  I think you will continue to require favors from Mr S. while you [remain?] at the Lake & that Mr C.C. Washburn will not neglect you.  If Allen has arrived at the lake how does he like it & how does he propose to spend the summer?  He is so great a [mineral agent?] and so patient an explorer I shall look for great exploits by him, & certainly I hope you will both be fortunate in discoveries, and that you may realize ample remuneration for all your privations and toils.

The Barber Family’s speculation in Lake Superior copper was supported by federal legislators from Vermont and Wisconsin.

I hope to hear soon of Allen’s safe arrival and hope you will both write often and I will try to do likewise.

Accept my best wishes for your welfare and happiness.

G.A. Barber

A.W.B & J.A. Barber

[fragment, c. 1855, June]

thought but to not enter it without knowing that it was worth something.  I have not seen it but Uncle Allen says it is first rate.

I am glad to hear that Am is no worse off but cannot conceive why he should continue at school this summer.  The letter r in the map represents a high sand rock like a monument about 12 feet high standing on the point of a bluff.  It is biggest at the top and looks very picturesque.  That 40 would be a first-rate meadow just as it is and would produce 2 ½ or 3 tons of hay every year, plenty of water could be had on it by digging a few feet.

But what is of some consequence is the land is the very richest quality much better than prairie land will average and it is not more than two miles from a first rate gristmill.

I hope you will come out here and see my great purchase before many years and enter as much more some where.  The land in [Richland?] in a short time will come down to .75 ¢ per acre.

I wish the old farm could be sold so that you could all come out here.  I should feel a great deal better and I know you all would like your new home.  Jo is more than half undecided about going to the lake but I guess he will go.

He thinks now he can’t go so soon as Wednesday.  Perhaps I cannot but I want to.  Hoping to hear from you once more before I leave I remain

Your affectionate Son


To be continued in the Summer of 1855