Lake Superior History

As this island is destined to become celebrated for its mineral riches, and also a place of great resort during the summer months, for health and pleasure, I will give you a brief description thereof.

There is land enough capable of cultivation for the support of a very large mining population — the best potatoes in the world are here raised, and all kinds of kitchen vegetables in great abundance — indeed, there is as much good land on the island as can be found in the same number of square miles in New Hampshire.

To the invalid this lovely spot is attractive on account of its pure cool, transparent waters — its invigorating, health-restoring climate; and its delicious fish. Those seeking a healthful relaxation from business, will come here to admire the wildest, most splendid, and most beautiful scenery in the world — to enjoy the manly sport of trout-fishing and hunting — to row and sail upon the crystal waters of the bays, among evergreen islands, and hunt for agates upon the pebbled beaches with "sweethearts, wives and children." And those desirees of increasing their worldly treasures will surely come, by reason of the inexhaustible mineral wealth deposited here. Correspondent for the Boston Courier.

Source: Lake Superior News & Mining Journal (Sault Ste,. Marie), September 18, 1847

A correspondent of the Wisconsin, from Buffalo, writes this of the "Gem of the Lakes."

The next evening brought is to Mackinaw, where soldiers, fresh fish, Indians, grocers, cannon, and papooses abound in the highways and byways. Mackinaw, with its wooded hills, pleasant residences, and the fort-frowning from that steep hill top, its pure bracing air and beautiful sand beach washed by the water of the lake scarcely less transparent than the air.

Talk of Saratoga and other fashionable watering places as resorts for invalids — one single inspiration of the air of the gem of the Northwestern ;lakes, would inspire a languid sufferer with more life than a dozen draughts of mineral water, and a moonlight walk over the hills or along the shore listening to the soft murmur of the waves stirred by the summer breeze, would be more healthful than a season at a Saratoga hotel with its round of balls and fashionable parties.

People are beginning to find out how healthful and pleasant the Island is, and it must become a place of resort in the hot season for those who seek health, coolness, and a greatful change from city life.

Source: Lake Superior Journal August 24, 1850


We are off for a short visit to Copperdom; we could not have chosen a more pleasant afternoon to go out upon the great lake. It seems to be the beginning of that calm, dreamy and delightful season of the year, known as the Indian Summer, which is nowhere else so charming as in this northern latitude. It was within two hours of sun-set when the lines were cast off from the pier at the head of the Portage and our noble vessel glided out into the clear and beautiful current of the upper Ste. Marie River.

We sat on the upper deck as long as we could see to admire the splendid and ever varying scenery along the river, and never before had it appeared to us half as beautiful. The roar of the rapids grew gradually and "beautifully less" till no murmur reached the listening ear, and the village soon was lost in the dim distance; then came the charming pic-nic groves of Pointe Aux Pincs. Upon either side, near and far, the splendid hills rise up with their ever varying forms of beauty. The frosts of autumn have visited the forests, and they have doffed their summer green, and put on their magnificent array of "Fall Styles".

All except the ever-greens have changed their colors. In this wild, mountainous region nothing in nature can be compared, in richness, to the varied splendor of our forests at this season of the year, except the gorgeous thunder clouds that sometimes rise up before a summer sun-set.

We passed Gros Cap just as the last rays of the setting sun were gliding the high and rocky summit; soon the steep promontory and all the neighboring hills assumed dark and indistinct forms and sank down on either side of the broad lake, which we were now entering upon; and while the passengers have betaken themselves to the cabin to read and to chat over books and new papers, we are compelled to be unsociable to our fellow travelers for the sake of being social to the readers of the Journal.

But listen to the conversation going on in our elbow: "What a change," says one, "is taking place on the shores of this vast lake. Six years ago there were but two small sail vessels on the lake, and not more than one or two white families were to be found within the distance of 400 miles, from the Saut to La Pointe. Now there are three large propellers and half a dozen sail vessels. There are four light houses where there were none four years ago, and several thousand inhabitants scattered along the coast and upon the Copper and Iron hills, along the lake."

"But this is nothing," remarks another, "in comparison to the change that must inevitably take place within as many years to come. The mines are increasing every year in richness and in number, and the long hidden wealth of this wild, unvisited country will soon be made known, and its shores will teem with life and business; towns and cities will speedily spring up on its borders and pleasant fields will take the place of these unbroken forests."

"Not till a ship canal," continues another, "shall be built around the Ste. Marie Falls will the great impetus be given to this change. When this great work shall be completed, think of the rush that will be made for Lake Superior. Steamers, Propellers, Brigs, Schooners and Fishing Smacks will throng around the canal locks, anxious for admission to this inland sea. Here then will spring up an immense addition to the already rich commerce of the lakes. Copper, iron, lumber and fish, will, within ten years, give freight for 100 times the amount of tonnage as is now employed."

"You are setting it up steep," remarked a copper speculator, his eyes brightening with the prospective richness of his location; " but let the canal be built, and the change that must follow will astonish the natives, undoubtedly."

Thus the evening passed away pleasantly, with much conversation of like kind, on the past present and future condition of our noble lake; but travelers must sleep, and one by one pops into his state room, to dream of-rich copper veins, of home, or friends.

Excerpt from Voyage from Detroit to Michillimackinae 1721

Lake Superior Journal 1850

This lake is two hundred leagues long from east to west, and in many places eighthy wide from north to south, all the coast is sandy and pretty straight; it would be dangerous to be surprised here by a north wind. The north side is more convenient for sailing, because it is all along lined with rocks, which form little harbours, where it is very easy to take refuge; and nothing is more necessary when we sail in a canoe on this lake, in which travelers have observed a pretty singular phenomenon. They say that when there will be a storm they have notice of it two days before. At first they perceive a little trembling on the surface of the water, and that lasts all that day, without any manifest increase; the next day the lake is covered with pretty large waves, but they do not break all the day, so that one may sail without danger, and may also make a great deal of way if the wind is fair; but the third day, when it is least expected, the lake is all on fire; the ocean, in its greatest fury, is not more agitated, and one must have instantly some asylum to fly to for safety; which we are sure to find on the north side, whereas on the south coast, one must from the second day encamp at a good distance from shore.

Lake Superior Journal 8-7-1850

You will perceive by the heading of these few lines, that I am not prepared to furnish you with a minute description of the different points of interest on Lake Superior, and I will therefore confine myself to a few thoughts and ideas as they occurred to me while wending my way up and back over this beautiful lake. I meant to have said something in the beginning in praise of our boat, the "Manhattan," but as her merits are already widely known, I will confine myself by saying that she is all the traveler could desire and that the captain is "some pumpkins!"

Our trip, from which we have just returned, has been pleasant in the extreme, the weather being just cool enough to make one feel perfectly comfortable. We had on our trip up, some fifty passengers, which may be embraced in three classes: the capitalists, seeking investments; the invalid; and the man of travel and lover of nature. To the first, the rich mineral region bordering on this Lake presents all the inducements his heart could desire-to the second, the pure and invigorating atmosphere of this country proves a certain panacea for all ills-to the third, the beautiful and ever varying scenery exceeds even his wildest imagining, and well repays him for his trip up and back. Thus, all return satisfied and highly delighted, glorying in their country, and ready to exclaim with the poet—

"Lives there a man with soul so dead,

That never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!"

The travel to this region, is however, not the one-hundredth part of what it should be, and if I thought I could induce but few of those who pass a miserable summer at the fashionable watering places in the east and south, to visit this country and drink in the beautiful scenery and healthy atmosphere of this region, I should make appeal to them with all the power I am possessed of—but of this I despair. It must first become fashionable. Thousands who spend their summers abroad, would rather risk body and soul at a fashionable place, than they would step one jot beyond these limits, and while many call themselves travelers, they know but little beyond the confines of "Saratoga," or "Niagara Falls." We have scenery in this country that vies with the world, and attracts hundreds from beyond the ocean, and we have many people who turn up their noses at their mention, and are delighted with the pestilential sink holes of Europe, and forsooth because they are fashionable.

But I am digressing. Government has as yet done but little for this part of the country. Three beacon lights to cheer the mariner on his midnight journey, are evidences that they are not entirely forgotten. The fourth light is now in a state of erection at Eagle Harbor, and the fifth one will be erected at the mouth of the Ontonagon River, in the course of next summer. If Government will give the wherewith the erect the sixth one at little Carp River, the mariner will have but little reason to complain on this score. There is, however one improvement which Government has no fur, criminally neglected—the construction of a ship canal around the rapids of this place. It is a matter of general surprise to those who are at all conversant with the situation that this much needed improvement should have been thus long neglected by our Government. The cloud, however, which has so long overshadowed this and other improvements has cleared off, and that the north-west will ere long rejoice in the possession of those rights which have been so long denied them.

Next to this, the improvement of the mouth of Ontonagon River will commend itself strongly to the consideration of Congress. The expense of this would be but trifling, while the benefits derived would be immense. There is a twelve feet of water inside the bar in this river, and by extending out two piers to an equal distance, the current would clear away the bar, and make one of the best harbors on the north-western lakes. This improvement is much needed, and it is to be hoped that Congress will turn a willing ear to this prayer. If they should require that the death shriek of the mariner should ring the want of this improvement on every gale, of if the wail of the widow and orphan is necessary to convince them of its necessity, they need but neglect it a few years, and evidence will pile upon evidence to their hearts content.

But Mr. Editor, as I notice that you have taken hold of this matter in a spirit, which if followed up, cannot help but succeed. I close these few hasty lines by wishing you from my heart "God speed."