History of Superior, Wisconsin

History of Superior, Wisconsin


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Superior is situated on the south side of a superb natural harbor at the west end of Lake Superior, across from Duluth, Minnesota. A trading post was established in the area around 1679 by a Frenchman, Daniel Greysolon^, Sieur duLhut. A North West Fur Company post, established around 1787, was replaced in 1816 by one of the American Fur Company.As a result of a government survey in 1852, a syndicate bought up land and platted a town which they named Superior. Its population included large numbers of Finns and Scandinavians.Superior developed economically primarily as a result of its excellent port. It was from Superior that the ore vessel Edmund Fitzgerald sailed to meet its destruction in a terrible storm on the morning of November 10, 1975 with the loss of all 29 men on ship. The event was immortalized by folk singer Gordon Lightfoot.Phrenology is a "science" that claims to be able to gauge a person's character by the conformation of his skull. Henry Lavery, a native of Superior, spent more than two decades developing the Psychograph, based on the principles ofphrenology. One of the original Psychographs is on display at the Fairlawn Museum in Superior.


Originally named Superior Normal School, the university was founded by Wisconsin legislators as a school to train teachers in 1893. Superior Normal School's first class graduated in 1897. In 1909, the institution became Wisconsin's first normal school to offer a full-scale training program for the new idea of kindergarten. It also was the first to offer a four-year program for high school teachers beginning in 1923. After authorization to grant bachelor's degrees in education in 1926, the school took on the new name of Superior State Teachers College. Graduate degrees were authorized in 1947 and first offered in 1950. In 1951 the state board of regents changed the institution's name to Wisconsin State College–Superior to better reflect its expanding role. Wisconsin's state colleges eventually were reclassified as universities, resulting in another name change in 1964 to Wisconsin State University–Superior. In 1971 Superior became part of the University of Wisconsin System and acquired its present name. [1] To respond to cuts in state funding, in 2018 UW-Superior suspended a number of academic programs, claiming the cuts were in order to encourage more students to graduate on time. [2] [3]

UW–Superior has been designated as the public liberal arts college in the University of Wisconsin System, and is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

The university's main campus is at the corner of Belknap Street (U.S. Highway 2) and Catlin Avenue. Its north section is the site of all academic buildings and most residence halls. The south section, at the corner of North 28th Street and Catlin Avenue, contains Hawkes and Ross residence halls, Wessman Arena, and the University Services Center.

Academic buildings Edit

  • Barstow Hall, named for regent Barney Barstow: science programs, Lake Superior Research Institute
  • Erlanson Hall, named for regent Clarence Erlanson: School of Business and Economics, Small Business Development Center, Transportation and Logistics Research Center
  • Gates Physical Education Building, named for regent Clough Gates: classrooms and labs, Mortorelli Gymnasium
  • Holden Fine Arts Center, named for campus benefactor Paul Holden: communicating arts, music, and visual arts programs, Wisconsin Public Radio studios, Manion Theatre, Webb Recital Hall
  • Jim Dan Hill Library, named for the university's fifth president (1931-1964): University Library, Markwood Center for Learning, Innovation, and Collaboration, Area Research Center
  • Marcovich Wellness Center, named for regent Toby Marcovich: athletics, health and human performance programs, recreation, Thering Field House
  • Old Main, the oldest building on campus: Chancellor's Office, Provost's Office, Financial Aid Office, Center for Continuing Education, Bursar's (cashier's) Office, Center for Academic Advising, University Relations, Human Resources, Multicultural Center, Office of International Programs, Veteran & Non-Traditional Student Center, Thorpe Langley Auditorium
  • Swenson Hall, named for campus benefactors James and Susan Swenson: social sciences, education, languages, mathematics and computer science, Technology Services, First Nations Center, Student Support Services, Erlenbach Lecture Hall
  • Wessman Arena, named for regent Siinto Wessman
  • Yellowjacket Union: Admissions Office, Jacket Book and Supply, Union Cafe, Union Desk Information and Services, Rothwell Opportunity Center and student organization offices.

Residence halls Edit

  • Crownhart Hall, named for regent Charles Crownhart
  • Curran Hall, named for regent Robert Curran
  • McNeill Hall, named for first president Israel McNeill (1896-1907)
  • Ostrander Hall, named for regent Frank Ostrander
  • Ross Hall, named for regent Frank Ross (president, 1903)
  • Hawkes Hall, named for regent Elizabeth Hawkes

Satellite locations Edit

The university manages two field research and education properties:

    , on Barker's Island in the Superior harbor, accessed from U.S. Highways 2/53
  • Nelson Outdoor Laboratory, 76 acres, on the Lake Superior shoreline within the city of Superior, at the end of Moccasin Mike Road

UW-Superior hosts four regional research centers and has three other research institute affiliations.

  • Area Research Center, in Jim Dan Hill Library, collects public, historical, and genealogical records for Douglas and Washburn counties, in partnership with the Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve studies the estuarine environment of the St. Louis River and the south shore of Lake Superior
  • Lake Superior Research Institute conducts original research within the Lake Superior basin and beyond in Wisconsin
  • Transportation and Logistics Research Center studies regional transportation issues

Affiliated research institutes:

  • Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute is a shipping research consortium of UW-Superior and the University of Minnesota-Duluth
  • International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review is affiliated with the university's Center for Continuing Education Institute has its Lake Superior regional office at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve

UW–Superior’s athletic teams, nicknamed the Yellowjackets, are affiliated with the NCAA’s Division III class. Most teams complete in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) and competed prior to 2015-2016 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). Men's and women's ice hockey teams continue to compete in the WIAC. The men's hockey team won the NAIA national championship in 1976 and the NCAA Division III national championship in 2002.

Men's sports Women's sports
Baseball Softball
Basketball Basketball
Cross Country Cross Country
Ice Hockey Ice Hockey
Soccer Soccer
Track and Field Track and Field
Golf Golf
Tennis Tennis
Volleyball

Radio station Edit

KUWS, the university's radio station, broadcasts with 83,000 watts at 91.3 FM. KUWS is an affiliate of the Wisconsin Public Radio Ideas Network, and also originates its own jazz, alternative rock, and other music programming as well as UW-Superior sports broadcasts. The KUWS studios also serve as the WPR Northern Bureau and provide programming to stations WHSA, WHWA, WSSU(FM), and WUWS.

Student newspaper Edit

The Promethean is the student newspaper for the University of Wisconsin–Superior. It began as The Peptomist, in 1920. Students voted to change the name to Promethean in 1974. The name was changed again at the start of the 2007-2008 academic year, to The Stinger. In Fall 2009, it became primarily an online newspaper, publishing a print magazine compilation at the end of each term. In 2013, the newspaper returned to print, publishing bi-weekly. In 2015, the name returned to Promethean. [5]

The University of Wisconsin–Superior has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1916 and was a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools prior to its dissolution. [1]


Superior Genealogy (in Douglas County, WI)

NOTE: Additional records that apply to Superior are also found through the Douglas County and Wisconsin pages.

Superior Birth Records

Superior Cemetery Records

Superior Census Records

Federal Census Douglas County, ED215, Ver. 1 1880 US Gen Web Archives

Federal Census Douglas County, ED215, Ver. 2 1880 US Gen Web Archives

United States Federal Census, 1790-1940 Family Search

Superior Church Records

Superior City Directories

Superior Death Records

Superior Histories and Genealogies

Superior Immigration Records

Superior Map Records

Bird's eye view map Superior, Wisconsin "the New Steel Center." 1913 Library of Congress

Bird's eye view map of Superior, Wis. county seat of Douglas county 1883. Library of Congress

Perspective map of the city of Superior, Wis., 1893 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, 1914 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, 1949 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, 1955 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, April 1884 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, October 1889 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, September 1887 Library of Congress

The twin ports, map of Superior, Wisconsin, Duluth, Minnesota, 1915 Library of Congress

Superior Marriage Records

Superior Newspapers and Obituaries

Farmers Telegram 1895 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Superior Chronicle 1855-1863 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Superior Telegram 05/19/2006 to Current Genealogy Bank

Superior Times 1870-1910 Newspapers.com

Superior times 09/08/1870 to 08/27/1910 Genealogy Bank

The Superior times. (Superior, Wis.) (from Sept. 8, 1870 to Aug. 27, 1910) Chronicling America

Offline Newspapers for Superior

According to the US Newspaper Directory, the following newspapers were printed, so there may be paper or microfilm copies available. For more information on how to locate offline newspapers, see our article on Locating Offline Newspapers.

Chronicle. (Superior, Wis.) 1984-1987

Daily Leader. (Superior, Wis.) 1890-1891

Evening Telegram. (Superior, Wis.) 1890-1905

Evening Telegram. (Superior, Wis.) 1922-Current

Lake Superior Sentinel. (West Superior [I.E. Superior], Douglas County, Wis.) 1888-1889

Leader-Clarion. (Superior, Wis.) 1903-1919

Morning Leader. (Superior, Wis.) 1902-1903

Sunday Leader. (Superior, Wis.) 1890-1902

Sunday Mercury. (Superior, Wis.) 1892-1893

Sunday Morning Call. (West Superior [I.E. Superior], Wis.) 1887-1888

Sunday Morning Forum. (Superior, Wis.) 1894-1900

Superior Chronicle. (Superior, Douglas County, Wis.) 1855-1863

Superior Gazette. (Superior, Wis.) 1864-1870

Superior Gazette. (Superior, Wis.) 1877-1878

Superior Inter-Ocean. (Superior, Wis.) 1882-1886

Superior Leader. (Superior, Wis.) 1891-1902

Superior Telegram. (Superior, Wis.) 1905-1922

Superior Tidende. (Superior, Wis.) 1893-1962

Superior Times. (Superior, Wis.) 1870-1912

Superior Tribune. (Superior, Wis.) 1869-1870

Superior Weekly Telegram. (Superior, Wis.) 1892-1893

Ugebladet. (Chicago ) 1890-1929

Vindicator and Union Label Advertiser. (West Superior [I.E. Superior], Wis.) 1898-1899

Wisconsin Inter-Ocean. (West Superior [I.E. Superior], Wis.) 1886-1887

Superior School Records

Superior, WI High School Alumni Notes 1913-1917 Old Yearbooks

Superior, WI High School Commercial Department Alumni Notes 1916 Old Yearbooks

The Gitche Gumee - 1938, Superior State Teachers College (Superior, Wis.) Genealogy Gophers

The Gitche Gumee - 1940, Superior State Teachers College (Superior, Wis.) Genealogy Gophers

The Gitche Gumee - 1942, Superior State Teachers College (Superior, Wis.) Genealogy Gophers

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History

Back in the early 1980's, when the legislature passed the law that an estimated fair market value be included on all tax bills, was a time across Wisconsin when Assessors for the over 1800 municipalities were not required to assess property at market value during any time interval. As a "truth in taxation" measure, the legislature thought it was important for their constituents to know what in terms of value their assessment actually meant. Because the DOR already prepared municipal "equalized values," the legislature thought that these estimates made at the municipal level should be provided at the property level. This was an easy answer to their problem.

Remember, the intent was to show whether the assessment on a property was at all accurate. It was never meant to actually be your individual property estimate. But, at least from the taxpayer's standpoint, it meant more than the assessment--at that time. For instance if the assessor was assessing property in your municipality at 10% (and you had no idea of that fact) and your tax bill showed an assessment of $10,000 you might think "boy am I getting a good deal--I know my house is worth at least $60,000." However, if you realized that the $10,000 actually equated to approximately $100,000 you might not be so happy. (Since 1986, after this was enacted, the legislature tightened the law and we now are required to assess within 10% of market value at least once in every four year period.)


History

At UW-Superior, you will engage in historical analysis, collection and evaluation of historical evidence, and the creation of historical arguments to understand not only the events of history but also the people, conflicts, tensions, politics and social atmosphere of a time period.

Combining knowledge, historical process, critical thinking, and global awareness, history students at UW-Superior are prepared for a wide variety of careers.

Knowledge

A collection of knowledge about the past is only the raw materials of history to a historian. Interpreting and reinterpreting the past are at the heart of historical study.

Process

Through UW-Superior's history program, students develop the intellectual tools to interpret the past, practicing those skills to gain a thorough understanding of that process.

Career

Through the study of history at UW-Superior, students are prepared for careers in businessinternational work local, state and national public service law publishing library and museum work and historical research and teaching among others.

Critical Thinking

Students learn critical thinking and effective communication and apply these through expanded global awareness and intellectual flexibility to proper in a rapidly changing world.

Global

UW-Superior offers coursework in a broad range of world regions, creating experiences to understand and appreciate the variety of human experience and an awareness of historical issues and themes that transcend geography.


About

The Douglas County Historical Society can trace its roots back to September of 1854. At that time it operated under the name of the Superior Historical Society and its president was Colonel R. P. Carlton, the oldest resident of the area. By 1902, the Superior Historical Society still had no collection and was holding meetings only once every four years. The meetings were then discontinued due to lack of interest until October of 1931 when, under the leadership of John A. Bardon, a collection was developed that included photographs, objects and documents. In 1934 the group’s name and mission was changed to include all of Douglas County.The new Douglas County Historical Society was offered the home of the A. A. Roth family to use as their museum in 1938. After remodeling the building, the collection was moved to this location in 1939. It wasn’t long, however, before the Historical Society began to outgrow this home. By the 1960’s they were looking for a larger space to house their ever-increasing collection. An old armory at 16th Street and John Avenue was considered in 1961, but then they received news that the Superior Children’s Home was closing and an even grander scheme developed. Yet even this would have its hurdles to overcome.

The Superior Children’s Home had been in service for 42 years, since the Victorian-era mansion that housed it had been left to the Children’s Home and Refuge Association by its owner, Grace Pattison, when she left Superior in 1920. Built by her husband, Martin Pattison, in the late 1800’s, it was Mrs. Pattison’s wish that the Children’s Home Board destroy the building and sell the property rather than use it for something other than a children’s home. At first it seemed unlikely that anyone would be able to convince them otherwise, but City Attorney Marcovich pointed out that Mrs. Pattison had left an alternative: let the title to the home revert to the Pattison heirs for disposition. The Pattison heirs, it turned out, felt that the home should be preserved and then turned the title for it over to the City of Superior.

The Douglas County Historical Society moved its collection into this grand home in May of 1963. The home, known as “Fairlawn,” served as its headquarters for many years. In later years, gala events, such as Victorian teas and murder mystery dinner theaters, were held on Fairlawn’s grounds by the Historical Society, making their name and that of Fairlawn nearly synonymous. In 1999, however, the lease for this property was lost and the organization again went in search of a place to call “home.”

For two years, the Historical Society was located in the lower level of 1401 Tower Avenue, in the heart of Superior’s old downtown business district. The building, known as the “Old Post Office,” dates to around 1905 and once served as the city’s post office and federal building. Today it has been renovated and restored to its original grandeur and contains the offices of a number of local businesses. This location, however, simply could not house the society’s large collection and so the search for permanent headquarters continued.

In November 2002, The Douglas County Historical Society was pleased to announce that the search was finally over. The organization had purchased and moved into another historic building in Superior. Located at 1101 John Avenue, it was built in 1925 for $35,000 and was known as the Vasa Temple.

Newspaper articles of the time inform us that it was erected by the Svea and the Freja lodges of the Vasa Order of America, which was a Swedish American organization. Lidgerwood-Mundy bought the building in 1948 and has been there until recently, when they moved their engineering and accounting divisions to their main headquarters. They have maintained the building very well, keeping the wiring updated and re-roofing the building in 1991.

Not only does our Great Hall serve as our exhibit room but it is also home to the History Theatre a feature unique to DCHS in the upper Midwest. In addition the building’s 40 by 60-foot hall is also large enough to utilize for meetings, weddings, funerals, musical and theatrical productions.

As DCHS moves forward, we will need more caring volunteers to join our team and help us preserve and protect this vital asset of our treasured history. Current Archivist and Former Board President Bob LaBounty states “celebrating and educating the public of the history of the many unique communities of Douglas County, providing a base for historical outreach and for being a trusted and respected neighbor within the community DCHS future is bright.”


Wisconsin Historical Society | Explore our historical collections, research your family history, teach and learn Wisconsin history, preserve historic properties, donate, volunteer and more.

The Wisconsin Historical Society connects people to the past by collecting, preserving, and sharing stories. Collecting history as it happens is a critical step in using the lessons of our past to inform the future. Learn More

COVID-19 continues to have a major impact on all of our lives. Explore resources that will take you on an adventure through the past to better understand today. Explore BIG History Is Happening


Discover digital objects and collections curated by the UW-Digital Collections Center.

The History of UW-Superior Collection includes images that represent a cross-section of this campus's history and evolution. They document student life, academic activities, athletics, the campus, and campus traditions.

The collection may eventually include additional books, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, maps and other resources deemed important to the study of our campus. The materials included in this rich and growing collection were selected by archivists and librarians.

For more information about UW-Superiors's history, contact the University Archives at the Jim Dan Hill Library at the UW-Superior.


Ojibwe History

The Ojibwe stretch from present-day Ontario in eastern Canada all the way into Montana. Oral traditions of the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi assert that at one time all three tribes were one people who lived at the Straits of Mackinac. From there, they split off into three different groups. Linguistic, archaeological, and historical evidence suggests that the three tribes do indeed descend from a common ethnic origin. The three languages are almost identical. The Ojibwe call themselves "Anishinaabeg," which means the "True People" or the "Original People." Other Indians and Europeans called them "Ojibwe" or "Chippewa," which meant "puckered up," probably because the Ojibwe traditionally wore moccasins with a puckered seam across the top.

The Ojibwe are believed to have made contact with Europeans in 1615 when the French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived at Lake Huron, where some Ojibwe lived. In 1622, one of Champlain's men, Etienne Brule, explored Lake Superior and made contact with Ojibwe groups farther to the west. Many Ojibwe lived near the rapids of the St. Mary's River, and the French began to refer to the Ojibwe there as "Saulteaux," derived from the French word sault, or rapids. In 1641, French Jesuits first visited the area of Sault Ste. Marie (as they called the rapids of the St. Mary's River), and by 1667 had established a Christian mission there. Like other Indian groups, the Ojibwe were forced westward beginning in the 1640s when the League of the Iroquois began to attack other tribes in the Great Lakes region to monopolize the fur trade. The Ojibwe did not suffer as much as other tribes, however, and by the 1690s they had won some impressive victories against the Iroquois. Because of this the League of the Iroquois sued for peace with the French and their Indian allies in 1701.

Contact with Europeans

Like other Indian tribes, the Ojibwe allied themselves to the French militarily and economically. They traded with the French who entered the Great Lakes in the 1660s, and their desire to obtain European trade goods drove the Ojibwe to expand westward into Lake Superior to find richer fur-bearing lands. Soon, they came into contact with the Eastern, or Santee, Dakota (commonly known as the Sioux). During the 1730s, the Ojibwe and Dakota began to fight over the region around the western point of Lake Superior and the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota and this war lasted until the 1850's. The Ojibwe were generally successful, and they managed to push the Dakota farther west into Minnesota and North and South Dakota. The main Ojibwe settlement in Wisconsin at this time was on Madeline Island in Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior. In 1745, the Ojibwe of Lake Superior began to move inland into Wisconsin, with their first permanent village at Lac Courte Oreilles at the headwaters of the Chippewa River. Later, the Ojibwe expanded into other parts of northern Wisconsin, particularly Lac du Flambeau. The name of this village in French means "Lake of the Flames" because the Ojibwe speared fish at night using torches attached to the end of their birchbark canoes.

The Ojibwe sided with the French during the wars that France and Britain fought between 1689 and 1763. The Ojibwe were particularly active during the final conflict, the French and Indian War, or Seven Years' War, from 1754 to 1763. When France lost Canada and the Midwest to the British between 1761 and 1763, the Ojibwe did not trust their new colonial overlords. Unlike the French, the British treated the Indians with contempt and disdain, causing an Ottawa chief at Detroit named Pontiac to lead a pan-Indian rebellion against the British in 1763. The Ojibwe at the Straits of Mackinac participated along with some Sauk by massacring the entire British army garrison there. However, the Ojibwe of northern Wisconsin and the southern shore of Lake Superior did not join the uprising Jean Baptiste Cadotte -- a trader of French-Canadian and Ojibwe descent -- urged them not to fight the British. Their participation would probably not have done much good anyway, since the British suppressed the revolt by 1765. Afterward, the British took a more conciliatory approach to the Indians and established better relations with the tribes. Like most Midwestern Indian groups, the Ojibwe became staunch allies of the British afterward.

Distrust of the United States

The fur trade prospered in the Lake Superior region during Britain's tenure of control. The United States gained all lands south of the Great Lakes after the American Revolution ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. However, British fur trading companies in Canada, particularly the mighty North West Company, continued to operated trading posts in the Ojibwe lands of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota until 1815. The United States became concerned with the growing British influence in the region. An 1805-1806 expedition led by American army officer Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike attempted to undermine British influence and end the Ojibwe-Dakota wars, but it had little effect. British and French-Canadian traders continued to operate in the Lake Superior country, and the Ojibwe-Dakota war continued. Like other Indians in the Midwest, the Ojibwe sided with the British because they believed that the United States would take their lands. Many Ojibwe became adherents of Tecumseh and the Shawnee Prophet (or Tenskwatawa), Shawnee brothers in Ohio who preached a doctrine of resisting American expansion. Tecumseh and the Shawnee Prophet formed a pan-Indian confederacy that fought alongside the British during the War of 1812. Many Ojibwe from the region around Detroit fought against the U.S., but Ojibwe bands in northern Wisconsin generally stayed out of the fighting despite being pro-British.

After the war ended in 1814, the Ojibwe of northern Wisconsin continued to distrust the Americans and often traded with British traders across the border in Canada. They also continued to harbor a hatred for the Dakota, and the war between the two tribes intensified in the early 1800s. The United States tried twice to make peace treaties between the Ojibwe and Dakota. The first was at Prairie du Chien in 1825, and a second treaty was held at Fond du Lac, Minnesota in 1826. Neither resulted in a lasting peace. Once the lands that separated the Ojibwe and the Dakota were purchased and settled by the Americans, warfare between the two tribes ceased.

Land Cessions and Reservations

The federal government made two major land cession treaties with the Wisconsin Ojibwe. The first was in 1837, when the Ojibwe sold most of their land in north-central Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. The next was finalized in 1842, and the Ojibwe ceded their remaining lands in Wisconsin and Michigan's upper peninsula. Soon, American lumberjacks fell upon the rich pine stands, and miners began to exploit the copper mines along the southern shore of Lake Superior.

The United States hoped to remove the Ojibwe from northern Wisconsin in the 1840s, but the Indians did not want to leave their homes. Many Ojibwe chiefs went to Washington in 1849 and begged President Zachary Taylor to allow them to stay. They asserted they had signed the 1842 treaty thinking they could stay on their ceded lands. Taylor refused to listen to them. After Millard Fillmore became president on Taylor's death in 1850, another Ojibwe delegation visited Washington in 1852. Fillmore was more amenable to the Ojibwe chiefs, and he agreed to hold another treaty with them in 1854. By this treaty, the Ojibwe ceded the last of their land in Minnesota to the United States, and in return received reservations of land. The 1854 treaty created four of the modern-day Ojibwe reservations in Wisconsin: Bad River, Red Cliff, Lac du Flambeau, and Lac Courte Oreilles.

St. Croix and Mole Lake

Once the reservations were created, the Ojibwe were unable to sustain themselves by hunting and gathering, and many Ojibwe men worked as lumberjacks for White-owned companies. While lumbering brought some economic benefits to the Wisconsin Ojibwe, it also bought continued land loss. Congress passed the Dawes Act in 1887, designed to help Indians live more like Whites by dividing up reservation lands so they could all own individual farms. The land in northern Wisconsin was not good for farming, and many Ojibwe sold their land to lumber companies to supplement their wages. On some reservations, over 90% of the land passed into White hands.

Things began to improve for the Wisconsin Ojibwe in the 20th century. Under the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ojibwe communities along the St. Croix River in northwestern Wisconsin and those at Mole Lake in northeastern Wisconsin -- which had not received reservations in the 1854 treaty -- received reservation lands. The St. Croix Ojibwe received 1,750 acres in 1938, and the Mole Lake band received 1,680 acres in 1937.

Treaty Rights Reclaimed

The Wisconsin Ojibwes' greatest victory in reclaiming their treaty-reserved rights came in 1983. When the Ojibwe signed the 1837 and 1842 treaties, they reserved the right to hunt and fish on the lands they had ceded to the United States. For many years, the state of Wisconsin convicted Ojibwes who fished and hunted off their reservations without licenses. In January 1983, the federal district court in Chicago affirmed that the two treaties guaranteed Wisconsin Ojibwes' right to hunt and fish on the land they ceded to the United States. Despite their victory, things did not go smoothly when the Ojibwe tried to assert their rights. Ojibwe fishermen were harassed at boat landings throughout northern Wisconsin and often had to withstand racial slurs and physical assaults by non-Indians. The state of Wisconsin attempted unsuccessfully to fight the federal court's decision. It even offered the Wisconsin Ojibwe millions of dollars if they would relinquish their treaty rights, but they refused to enter into any such agreement. During the 1990s, violence at boat landings has died down somewhat. The Wisconsin Ojibwe have helped ease tensions by stocking walleye in the lakes where they spearfish. Indeed, the Ojibwe put more fish into the lakes than they take out, and the number of fish they spear is very small compared to the number non-Indian sport fishermen take out every year.


OBJECT HISTORY: The SS Meteor

The SS Meteor was launched as the SS Frank Rockefeller in Superior, Wisconsin by the American Steel Barge Company in 1896. The last remaining of only 44 “whaleback” ships ever built, she was designed by a Scottish immigrant named Alexander McDougall. She is 380 feet long, 45 feet wide and 26 feet deep. You may notice that the SS Meteor looks somewhat different from most steam ships of the era. That was intentional: she was not meant to look like a normal ship. This ship was designed to meet the specific requirements for shipping in the frigid choppy waters of the Great Lakes and for traveling through the shallow locks at Sault St. Marie.

McDougall’s innovative ships earned the name “whaleback” for their cigar-shaped steel hulls which rode very low in the water when loaded with cargo. This low profile was an attempt to make them more stable than other vessels. The Meteor also has a system of turrets, or rounded rooms, on her deck, which allowed the crew to move between decks and machinery spaces without letting water inside. Her unique design allowed the Meteor to be remodeled for a number of different uses. The whalebacks were also built with flat bottoms for more hauling capacity, and a conical bow and stern for improved hydrodynamics. Rounded decks allowed waves to wash over much of the ship instead of pounding against the bulwarks as they would on a conventional steamer.

A whaleback ship, the SS Joseph L. Colby, at the Soo Locks between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Image from wikimedia commons.

Whaleback ships are a product of the Great Lakes. Of the 44 whaleback ships ever built, all but two were assembled in the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. Of the two that were assembled elsewhere, one was on the west coast by a short-lived shipbuilding company created by McDougall, while another ship was built in Europe after one of McDougall’s whalebacks made an impression there during an overseas expedition. Throughout his life, McDougall had a hand in the workings of numerous shipyards across North America, and he even designed the only passenger whaleback, the Christopher Columbus, which ferried more than 1.5 million fairgoers during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

The SS Christopher Columbus was outfitted as an excursion liner to carry people to Chicago’s World’s Fair. Image from wikimedia commons.

McDougall’s whaleback ships were built to meet the specific conditions of Great Lakes shipping at the end of the nineteenth century. They were meant to be small and pull barges behind them when the locks could only accommodate a small capacity. However, at the turn of the century, the canals connecting the lakes were improved to allow deeper, wider, and longer ships to pass between the lakes. By the early 1900s, conventional ships had reached 600 feet in length—nearly twice as long as a whaleback ship. In the size race that began in the late 1890s and inspired the renovations to the locks, the relatively shallow and short whalebacks could not compete. Although no whalebacks were built after 1898, many of them continued to travel the lakes for decades before they were scrapped for various reasons.


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