Posted tagged ‘Clara Henning’

“Iron Pioneers” Celebrates Five Year Publication Anniversary

February 26, 2011

Five years ago today, Iron Pioneers was published. I started writing The Marquette Trilogy in 1999 and nearly seven years later, I finally had the first volume published. It was a scary and exciting moment for me as I wondered whether what I had spent so much time writing until I loved the book like it was my own child would be received by the public. Obviously it was since I now have eight books to my name.

To celebrate Iron Pioneers five year anniversary, I am posting not the Prologue or the first scene but the second scene of the novel, following when Clara and Gerald have arrived in 1849 to the little wilderness settlement called Worcester and whose name was soon after changed to Marquette. In this passage, Clara meets the Harlow family and Peter White, who are among the most famous names in Marquette history. To get a copy of the full novel, visit http://www.marquettefiction.com/iron_pioneers.html

Enjoy!

From Iron Pioneers:

            When Clara woke, it took her a few seconds to remember she was no longer on a boat, or a train, or in her comfortable bed back in Boston. Above her was a wooden roof with a crack that revealed the sky. She crawled out of bed and onto boards laid across a dirt floor. Since Gerald was already gone, she feared she had slept later than she should; from the crack in the ceiling, she could tell it was already daylight. Last night, she had been relieved to have a roof over her head and a bed to sleep in, but now this dingy little partition of a room made her hope Gerald would not be long in building her a decent house.

            Last night, she had hardly more than glanced at the other buildings in the village. She had noted the rough exterior of the Harlows’ house and that of Mr. Harlow’s assistant. Both buildings had been rundown fishing huts moved from farther down the lakeshore to serve as temporary residences. Clara was surprised to find herself envious that Mrs. Harlow had her own house, no matter how dilapidated its condition. Even if at this moment, Gerald were purchasing them a plot of land to build on, she knew she could not expect more than a small one-room cabin this first year. Winters here were supposed to be long and harsh and to arrive early, so Gerald would have to build soon and spare no time for fancy details if they were to have a shelter before the first snowfall. It was August, but as Clara emerged from her makeshift bedroom, she could already imagine the fierce winter winds.

            She found Mrs. Wheelock in the kitchen cooking breakfast.

            “Your husband went to look around the village, but he told me to let you sleep,” said Mrs. Wheelock. “I know how tiring the long journey here can be.”

            Clara thanked her hostess as Mrs. Wheelock placed eggs and bread before her. She wished Gerald were here, but she understood he had work to do. Mrs. Wheelock said he had promised to return by noon, and he had suggested she call on Mrs. Harlow that morning.

            “I’ll visit her as soon as I finish eating,” Clara replied. Mrs. Wheelock planned to go wash up the dishes, but Clara asked her landlady to stay and talk while she ate, in return that she help her with the dishes. Clara had never washed a dish in her life, but she was not so spoiled that she did not understand she would have no servants here as she had in Boston.

            Mrs. Wheelock gladly sat down to rest a few minutes. She told Clara how quickly her boarding house had filled with guests, and that she had her hands full cooking and doing laundry for the inmates. She was thankful to have a female guest if only to have someone to talk with. Clara had nearly finished her breakfast when a young man stepped into the house. He was about her age; Clara assumed he was Mrs. Wheelock’s son until he introduced himself.

            “Hello, I’m Peter White,” he said. “I’m a boarder here. You must be Mrs. Henning.”

            “Yes, I’m pleased to meet you,” she replied, taking his offered hand.

            “Peter is one of the youngest and most active members of our settlement,” said Mrs. Wheelock. “In fact, he helped to build the first dock. Peter, why don’t you tell Mrs. Henning about it?”

            Peter laughed as Clara prepared herself for a humorous tale.

            “Well, any city needs a good dock,” began Peter, “and we were determined ours would be one of the best. Captain Moody was in charge, and in no time at all, he had us hauling entire trees into the water and piling them crossways until we had built two tiers from the lake bottom up level with the water. Then we covered it all with sand and rocks. In just two days, we had the dock finished. We believed we had accomplished the first step in transforming Worcester into a future industrial metropolis. We imagined a hundred years from now our descendants would look upon the dock and praise us for our ingenuity.”

            Clara smiled at Peter’s self-mocking tone.

            “Next morning, imagine our surprise when we discovered one of Lake Superior’s calmest days had been enough to wash the dock away. Not a single rock or log was left behind to mark where it had been. The sand was so smooth you never would have known the dock existed. How easily man’s grandest schemes succumb to Nature’s power.”

            There was a moment’s pause while Peter smirked. Then Mrs. Wheelock scolded, “Peter, be fair. Finish the story.”

            Peter grinned but obeyed.

            “The entire episode was so comically tragic I could not help but feel some record of it should remain for the city’s future annals. I took a stick and wrote on the sand, ‘This is the spot where Capt. Moody built his dock.’ Well, Captain Moody took one look at that and wiped it away with his feet. He was apparently not as amused as I was, and he told me I would be discharged from his service at the end of the month.”

            Clara had been smiling, but the story’s conclusion saddened her.

            “What a shame. You didn’t mean any harm by it, and it was as much your work as his that failed.”

            “I was sorry to offend him,” Peter confessed, “but he hasn’t dismissed me yet. Either he quickly got over his temper or he’s forgotten about it. I’m certainly not going to remind him.”

            “I’m sure Captain Moody has forgiven you by now,” said Mrs. Wheelock. “He realizes what a blessing you’ve been lately. Mrs. Henning, I don’t wish to scare you, but there’s been an outbreak of typhoid fever here. Nearly everyone has now recovered, so there shouldn’t be anything to worry about, but we can all thank Peter for his hard work. He has bravely cared for the sick, even bathing them at risk to himself.”

            Peter ignored the praise to explain further. “We recently had a large number of foreigners arrive in the settlement. Mr. Graveraet brought them up by boat from Milwaukee to work. Most of them are German, but there are a few Irish and French among them. Almost all of them got typhoid on the trip here and several died before they arrived. It’s a sad situation, so I did what I could for them. Everyone has been taking turns helping.”

            “It isn’t as bad as we first feared,” Mrs. Wheelock told Clara. “We thought it might be cholera; that was enough to scare the local Indians into deserting the area, but then Dr. Rogers determined it was only typhoid, though that’s bad enough.”

            “There’s only a handful still recovering,” Peter added. “And no one else has contracted it, so it can’t be contagious anymore. I’m sure it’s nothing to be concerned over, but we could use a little more help caring for the sick.”

            “Oh,” said Clara, terrified at the thought, yet anxious to do her share of work in the new community; she knew she would need friends to lend her a hand in future hardships. “I’d be happy to help with the nursing.”

            “We wouldn’t want you to become ill too,” warned Mrs. Wheelock.

            “Oh, but I can’t let those people suffer if I can help them,” Clara said to mask her fears.

            “I could show you the building we’re using for a hospital,” Peter offered. “Then you can decide if you want to help.”

            “All right, I should be free this afternoon,” Clara replied, “but I promised to call on Mrs. Harlow this morning.”

            Peter agreed to come fetch her after dinner and thanked her in advance for her help; Clara felt a sudden fondness for this young man who seemed so bright and capable. She did not believe even typhoid could lessen his liveliness.

            After Peter rushed off, Clara helped Mrs. Wheelock wash up the breakfast dishes. She also inquired more into Peter’s history.

            “Oh, Peter is quite an adventurer,” replied the landlady. “He’s been all over the Great Lakes working on boats, doing various types of work.”

            “How old is he?” asked Clara.

            “Only eighteen,” said Mrs. Wheelock, “but he’s already an old timer in terms of knowing this country. His family is from New York, but when he was nine, they moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Then when he was fifteen, he basically ran away from home and went to Mackinac Island; ever since, he’s been exploring the Great Lakes and working at whatever he can find. Last spring, Mr. Graveraet hired him to help with the iron company, and he’s been living here since.”

            “What an adventurer,” Clara said. Even Gerald’s courage in coming to this region seemed small beside a fifteen year old boy traveling all over these dangerous lands.

            Once the breakfast dishes were finished, Mrs. Wheelock went to start the laundry before she needed to prepare lunch. Clara decided to act on her promise to visit the Harlows. Mrs. Wheelock pointed the way to their dilapidated hut; then Clara started down the path through the little settlement. Along the way, she glanced at the tall, unfamiliar trees that surrounded the few scattered buildings. She had never before seen so many trees stretching for so many miles. She wondered what ferocious beasts might lurk in those woods. Even in the forests of Massachusetts, it would only be a mile or two until a person saw a house or farm, but here one could walk for days without seeing another human being. Worse, a bear might be encountered. Frightened by the thought, Clara scurried to the Harlows’ hut, wishing someone were in sight in case of danger.

            She found Mrs. Harlow and her mother, Mrs. Bacon, occupied with sorting the new supplies Mr. Harlow had brought from Sault Sainte Marie. After introductions, Clara’s first remark was about how nervous she felt to be outside alone, but Mrs. Bacon assured her she was perfectly safe. “No one will harass you here, and we aren’t established enough to worry about such social proprieties as a woman walking without her husband. You’re as safe here as on the streets of Boston.”

            “But are there any Indians nearby?” Clara asked.

            “Yes, but the Chippewa are perfectly friendly,” Mrs. Harlow added. “They’ve been very kind to us since we arrived a few weeks ago.”

            “Olive, tell her about your first meeting with a Chippewa,” laughed Mrs. Bacon.

            “Oh,” Olive laughed. “My first morning here, I was determined to see everything I possibly could about my new home. I stepped out my front door and practically the first thing I saw was a wigwam. I’d never seen one before, and I was just so curious it never suggested itself to my brain that it might be someone’s home. So I went over and opened up the blanket door, and to my amazement saw two squaws. At first I was surprised, and a little frightened, but they smiled and giggled, and then I giggled back and retreated.”

            “I would have been terrified!” Clara gasped. “You’re lucky they weren’t male Indians.”

            “Oh, the male Indians are just as kind as the women,” replied Mrs. Harlow. “They’ve already assisted us a great deal. Chief Marji Gesick has been very kind by stopping to inquire how we are all coming along, and Charley Kawbawgam has an Indian village not far away on the Carp River. He’s been showing the men the best hunting and fishing grounds, and some white men are even staying in his lodge house. Granted, we’ve only been here about a month, but so far, there’s been no need to worry, and our hearts are strong. Now that my husband has brought us some more supplies, we should have little trouble getting by for several months. I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but I feel this little settlement will grow and prosper faster than one might suspect.”

            “Yes,” said Mrs. Bacon, “the men had the dock built in just three days, and the sawmill and forge should be finished before winter arrives. It may not be until next year that we really become a businesslike town, but it will happen soon enough.”

            Clara smiled, but she was presently more concerned about the settlement’s safety than its prosperity.

            “I can’t believe how this country is changing,” added Mrs. Bacon. “I was born just about the time President Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase, and since then the country has more than doubled in size. When I was a child, no one ever would have imagined Michigan becoming a state, and here it’s already been one for a dozen years. Just imagine, Mrs. Henning, how much this town will have grown by the time you’re my age.”

            “Yes,” said Clara, “but I’m afraid it will be a lot of work along the way.”

            “Hard work is what we’re put on this earth for,” replied Mrs. Bacon. “Besides, we have it easier now than any of our forefathers ever did, and after how they struggled to make this nation what it is today, we have to carry on the tradition of that hard work.”

            Clara recalled her grandmother uttering similar sentiments. She thought again of her ancestress, Anne Bradstreet, trembling upon arrival in the New World, only to become a famous poetess and one of the first ladies of the land, daughter, wife, and sister to colonial governors. Clara wondered whether someday she might equally be remembered as a pioneer of this rugged place. If the iron ore recently discovered made them all as rich as predicted, and Worcester grew as large as Boston, she might delight her mother by becoming a leader of Worcester society.

            But Clara had not come to gain wealth or social position. She reminded herself she had come to support her husband, and to prove she had the courage to surmount challenges rather than settle for the dull social rituals of Boston. For the first time, she felt excited to be living along the shores of Lake Superior. Her travel fatigue was lifting, and she felt anxious to see the rest of her new home, despite what dangers might exist in the forests. So Mrs. Harlow and Mrs. Bacon could return to their work, she soon excused herself.

            “I think I’ll go for a walk along the lake before Gerald returns at noon.”

            “Go ahead,” said Mrs. Harlow. “You might as well enjoy your first day here.”

            “Yes, I told young Mr. White I would go to the hospital this afternoon to help.”

            Mrs. Bacon and Mrs. Harlow exchanged approving glances. Clara’s heart glowed inside her–she had been afraid people would think her some frail young miss from high society, but already she felt she was proving herself.

            As she stepped out of the wooden hut, she scanned the other log cabins under construction. A few wigwams and a lodge house were in the distance; she wondered whether Indians resided in them or had white men taken possession. Scarcely enough buildings existed to qualify as a village. She looked down to the lake where the lone dock stood. The schooner had already disappeared from sight, leaving no chance to escape. Lake Superior stood before her–the only source of communication with the outside world–so large she could not see Canada across it. How long before another ship would come, before ships would come regularly? It might be years before there was a railroad or even paved streets, before there would even be stores in which to buy trinkets, or cloth, or even food. There wasn’t even a butcher–Gerald would have to hunt for their meat, and they would have to plant their own vegetables. She wondered how much land they would have to plant to feed themselves. Mr. Harlow had told Gerald sixty-three acres had been purchased for the village to expand upon, but only a few acres were now cleared. She could not imagine the settlement ever growing enough to cover that much land. The trees would only encroach back in. All around her were towering pines, oaks, and maples. So many trees–a giant unexplored forest all around, full of mystery, perhaps horror.

            “Clara!”

            She turned to see Gerald walking toward her with Mr. Harlow. He was beaming.

            “I’ve found the perfect place for our house. A few of the other men have agreed to help build it, and when they heard I had a wife, they said we could raise our roof first, and then I can help them later. We should have our own shelter within the week.”

            “That’s good,” Clara smiled. “Then I’ll have a place to put my china.”

            “More than that,” said Gerald, “we’ll have a home, and I’ll fill it with homemade furniture. Isn’t it exciting, Clara? It’s a whole new world for us.”

            She hesitated to reply, but Gerald’s enthusiasm won her over; he was so free from self-doubt, so charismatically able to make others believe in him; she believed in him. His confidence was what made him most attractive to her. If they did not survive here, it would not be through the fault of this brave man she loved.

            Clara took his hand.

            “It’s a fine land, Gerald. I’m sure we’ll be happy here.”

            Mr. Harlow smiled in recognition of the same courage his own wife possessed. Maple leaves rustled in the breeze, as if confirming Clara’s words. Gerald once more felt he had made the right choice in his bride, in this brave, beautiful young woman.

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Marquette’s First Christmas

December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to Everyone!

Today’s blog is a passage from my novel Iron Pioneers about Marquette’s first Christmas in 1849. That December, the expected supply ship had not survived and the settlers to the new village that was still called by its original name, Worcester, feared they would starve to death. The group of German immigrants decided they would walk to Milwaukee so the remaining settlers would have enough provisions to make it through the winter. At this point in the novel, Molly, an Irish woman, and Fritz Bergmann, her German husband, are among those immigrants who have begun the trek to Milwaukee when this scene begins:

Iron Pioneers - Marquette's First Christmas and more history in fiction

            The German immigrants left the next morning, taking the Indian trail east then south on their three hundred mile trek to Milwaukee. By the second day, Molly’s legs ached from walking through heavy snow, and sleeping in the cold night air. Still, she did her best not to complain, knowing everyone suffered from the same difficulties; nor did she want to worry about Fritz worrying about her; she already had enough to worry about with his poor health. She loved Fritz dearly, perhaps all the more because he had been so sick; he was all she had in the world now. She would not go back to Boston, though her parents and brother were there–she had come here for a better life than she had known in Boston or in Ireland, yet it did not seem to matter where she went, she always ended up poor and desperate. Before coming here, she had asked everyone she met what they knew of Upper Michigan. She had heard tales of harsh winters, a climate like a tundra, a land of glaciers, an impenetrable wilderness, completely uninhabitable. But she had also heard the land was rich with iron and copper and that the plentiful forests could be logged to make a thousand men rich. Perhaps here, she had thought, she could escape the constant fear of hunger and want she had known since her childhood during the great potato famine, and she could overcome the prejudice she had known against the Irish in Boston.

            In Europe, both she and Fritz had been told any dream could come true in America, but after Boston and now Worcester, Molly was beginning to lose faith in this new world. Each dream she had tried to follow only seemed to lead her down a worse path, until now she was trudging through three hundred miles of snow; her heart became as bitter as the cold winds biting her cheeks. She felt guilty for lying to Clara; she knew they would never return to the settlement, and she was sorry to lose the only female friend she had found since her arrival in America. But it could not be helped. Fritz could never make this trip back, if he even made it to Milwaukee; and what would they do when they reached Milwaukee, except starve in its streets? She would not go to his cousin again for charity–the cousin had made it clear they were not wanted. Fritz would probably die before he got there, and then she would be alone. She tried not to think what would become of her then.

            They seemed to be walking forever. They had to travel east until they reached some place called Au Train, and then they would turn south. They had walked all of yesterday, and now today, and yet they were still following along the shore of Lake Superior. A piercing wind blew off the lake, while beneath her clothes, Molly sweated from the strenuous walking. Then the sweat froze until she had ice against her skin. If she were alone, she wondered whether she would have had the courage to walk into the lake and be done with it all. That sudden cold shock of an ending would be better than this prolonged bitter cold. Such an act would be a sin, but could even God blame her when she was so terribly cold? Still, she kept putting one foot before the other, while watching that her husband did not collapse in front of her from exhaustion.

            Then she realized her companions had halted. She looked around to see a man running and hollering behind them; the wind howled so loud she could not understand what he shouted until he was only a few feet away.

            “Stop! Stop!”

            Molly had been near the front of the party, and by the time she and Fritz turned around and returned to where half the group had stopped, everyone was shaking hands, clasping each other around the shoulders and shouting for joy.

            “What is it? What is it?” she asked, stunned by the transformation in her formerly morose companions.

            “The supply ship is in L’Anse!” a man shouted. He had run on snowshoes from Worcester, and though he had to keep pausing to catch his breath, he quickly told the news. “An Indian came to tell us, and now a couple men have left to snowshoe back to L’Anse. The ship was forced to take shelter there, and it’s locked in by some snow and ice, but the men are determined to bring the ship back with them. There’ll be enough supplies for the entire winter, so you can all return.”

            Molly could scarcely believe it. Everyone started to talk at once.

            “Praise the Lord!”

            “But it’s eighty miles from L’Anse to Worcester.”

            “Even if they get the ship into the lake, it will never be able to sail in the winter storms.”

            “Why don’t they haul the supplies overland by sled?”

            “No, that would take days.”

            Molly doubted the news was hope enough to cling to, was reason enough to walk back to Worcester, but they were only a tenth of the way to Milwaukee. If they went back, they would have lost three or four days, but what did it matter when they had no food for their journey anyway? When her companions turned back toward Worcester, she and Fritz did the same; they could not go on to Milwaukee alone.

            As the group walked, everyone spoke excitedly in mixed German and English while clapping the messenger on the back. Fritz smiled and linked his arm in Molly’s. She saw how exhausted he looked despite his smile. For the moment, he felt invigorated, but she knew he never would have made it to Milwaukee. Better they return to starve in Worcester–at least there he could die in bed. She reconciled herself to whatever fate was before them.

*

            Molly soon learned she had no reason to dread for the immediate future. The good news was true; it seemed like a Christmas miracle to the settlement. The Swallow and its precious cargo had been prevented by a storm from reaching shelter in Worcester’s Iron Bay, so the crew had sought shelter in the L’Anse harbor. An Indian had then been sent from L’Anse to Worcester with word of the schooner’s whereabouts. When the news was heard, Captain Moody and his sailor companion, Mr. Broadbent, snowshoed their way to L’Anse, following an Indian trail along Lake Superior. After three days of long hiking over soft and consequently difficult snow, they arrived to find the Swallow trapped in the harbor’s ice. They also found another schooner, the Siscowit, the same size as the Swallow and able to sail. With determination, Captain Moody took charge, had all the Swallow’s supplies transferred to the other vessel, and pointed a shotgun on the Siscowit’s owner when he objected to the proceedings. Captain Moody, knowing the supplies meant life or death to the settlers of Worcester, refused to back down, until finally, its owner begrudgingly agreed to let the Siscowit sail to Iron Bay.

            And if any doubt remained of their friendliness, the Chippewa now received the praise of the white folks, for they took their axes and went out on the frozen lake, chopping the dangerously thin ice for three miles out on L’Anse Bay so the Siscowit could move into Lake Superior’s open water. Then, fully supplied and with her sails lifted, the Siscowit was dragged by the Chippewa out into the lake until it broke free of the ice and reached rolling waves. Yet all this human effort was no match for winter’s fury; soon after leaving L’Anse, the Siscowit sailed into a snow squall and lost sight of the shore.

            In Worcester, the people waited, praying the ship would arrive, unaware of how the snow squall had effected the schooner’s journey. Winter on Lake Superior is always dangerous, and with ice floating on the lake, the danger of crashing into invisible ice floes was as serious as a heavy wind that could toss over a ship. The sailors aboard the Siscowit knew they might capsize, but they were determined the settlers of Worcester would not starve that winter. Through that snowstorm they sailed, the entire eighty miles, despite cold and ice, fierce winds and threatening waters. The lake’s mist froze on the sails, and the deck became a skating rink of inch thick ice. The hulls and masts were so encased with ice it was feared they would crack and break. The sailors did not know whether they were even following the south shore of Lake Superior or whether they were heading straight across the lake to Canada, but they sailed on nevertheless. Sometimes the frozen ice caused the ship to tilt sideways, nearly overturning. At any moment of the journey, all could turn futile, the brave sailors and the desperately needed supplies being claimed by Lake Superior’s frigid depths.

            Then on Christmas Day, on the distant horizon, a sail was spotted by a Worcester man. A holler went up. People gathered to look. Cheers rang out. Every man, woman and child in the village rushed to the shore, the ship clearly in view. In came the Siscowit, in it came to Iron Bay! Safe again were the courageous mariners; saved was the settlement of Worcester! The schooner docked at Ripley’s Rock, its brave men, their bodies frozen, forgot the cold as they were warmly hailed as heroes. The village burst with good will as each person helped to unload the supplies and praise the men who had saved them all. This Christmas was the finest any of them had ever known. This Christmas was the one they would remember when all others were forgotten. This moment had been the most vital in the village’s history. Not a single heart failed to give thanks that day. Worcester would survive through this winter, to face many more winters to come.

            Clara felt how splendid it all was. What an adventure it had been! And the ship arriving on Christmas day, like something straight out of a fairy tale. That night, she and Gerald invited Molly and Fritz for supper; Fritz, despite the long walk, looked like a new man, and Molly told herself he would get well now, and Clara could already imagine herself being a mother by this time next year. They all thanked God for the good fortune that had come to them, and they imagined only future happiness and prosperity in this dangerous but exciting land they now called home.

My Family’s Iron Pioneers – The Bishop, Remington, and White Families

July 20, 2010

People frequently ask me about my own family. I have several different branches of ancestors who came to Marquette. Below is a discussion of one branch, an excerpt from my upcoming book My Marquette, to be published this Christmas.  

The Remington, Bishop, and White Families

Marquette, or rather, the settlement of Worcester which would later have its name changed to Marquette, was established in 1849. The first census taken was in 1850. On that census are listed Edmond and Jemima Remington and their children, including their oldest daughter Adda, who was born in 1845. Edmond and Jemima are my great-great-great grandparents, six generations back. They came to Marquette from Vermont according to the census. Edmond was born about 1821 and Jemima about 1820. Although best guesses exist about Edmond and Jemima’s ancestors which include revolutionary war soldiers for grandfathers and Mayflower Pilgrim ancestors, we know few details about their lives before they came to Marquette. They were the first of my ancestors to arrive on Lake Superior’s shores.

My next ancestors to arrive in Marquette were my four greats-grandparents, Basil and Eliza Bishop. From one of Basil’s letters, we know he arrived on May 1, 1850. The 1850 census was taken on July 22, 1850, so Basil and Eliza should have appeared on it. Instead, the only Bishop listed has the first name of Beelzebub and he is thirty-five years old. Since no other record exists of a Beelzebub in Marquette history, it is fair to guess Basil was joking with the census taker, providing one of the Devil’s biblical names; the census taker apparently failed to get the joke. Basil also lied about his age—he would have been sixty-one at the time. However, Beelzebub is listed as a bloomer from New York, a job description and former residence that matches Basil Bishop’s true background.

Basil and Eliza Bishop - my 4-greats-grandparents

           Basil Bishop was born in Vermont in 1789. His Bishop family ancestors were Puritans who first settled in Connecticut in the seventeenth century—other branches of the family include colonial governors of Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay. Basil was the son and grandson of American Revolutionary War soldiers, and during the War of 1812, he served at the Battle of Plattsburg. In 1812, he also built a famous forge at Split Rock Falls in New York. His family prospered along with his business; his wife Elizabeth “Betsey” Brittell would bear him eighteen children. Then as the prosperous couple entered their golden years, they decided to move to the new settlement of Marquette, founded in 1849 by Amos Harlow.

The journey was arduous; the Bishops travelled through Ohio, where they contracted the ague, from which they would suffer the rest of their lives. Far from disappointed by the journey, Basil wrote to a friend of his arrival in Marquette (note, his original spelling, far from standard, has been retained):

“I heard of the iron Mountains on Lake Superior & that a Forge was going & I was wholly bent to Sea it & in April I Started & Reached hear the 1 day of May 1850 the next day I was on the Iron Mountains & Sea to Sea Millions upon Millions of the Richest ore I ever Saw piled up 200ft above the Laurel Maple timber land below it was the most delightfull Seane I ever experienced.”

Basil believed the iron ore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the finest he had ever seen in forty years of working with iron. Although his original intention was to build his own forge, he ended up instead working in the one owned by Amos Harlow, the village’s founder.

The early years of Marquette were difficult ones of near starvation in winter, and little contact with the outside world due to no railroads and the short shipping season. Nevertheless, Basil continually wrote letters to praise Marquette. He convinced four of his adult children, Delivan, Lucia, Omelia, and Rosalia and his wife’s nephew, Daniel Brittell, to move to the new settlement. He proudly watched the little village grow, and in 1852, he wrote to a friend, “it is but 2 years last july that the first blow was Struck hear & now it is quite a viledge 15 large uprite houses 95 numerous log & Small ones a forge 130 ft long a machine Shop Shingle Mill Lath Mill & grist mill all under one Roof.” Today’s Marquette residents who grumble about short growing seasons will marvel when Basil declares the area has the best growing soil ever, and that visitors to Marquette find it a “great wonder” to see Basil’s “Beets Carrots Cabbage Cucumbers onions corn pumpkin squash sugar cane 9 ft hy and beans…narrow fat peas 2 roes 6 rods long that were 9 feet hy & loaded down with pods.” His visitors “expressed much astonishment to sea such crops heare where all thought this was a frozen reagion as I once did.” The visitors indeed would have been astonished were all this true—certainly, the sugarcane was an exaggeration.

Basil wrote of how rich everyone in Marquette was growing, and he was pleased to see his children prospering beyond their dreams. Writing to his other children back East, he remarks:

“I suppose you thought I was a visionary & too much taken up with this contry but experience now shows I was right in all my prodictions as far more has come to pass than I ever named in so short a time & now there is every indication of there being double of the business done hear next season than was done hear before in one year.”

Basil foresaw a great industrial metropolis arising in Marquette, and his letters speak of early Upper Peninsula dreams of statehood. In a letter of December 1858, Basil notes, “a voat was passed in the legislature of this state last winter to let all of the Upper Peninsula for a new state & the first voat gave us a new state lacking but one & all believe we shall soon be set of & heare will be the capitol.” Perhaps Basil was too visionary in this respect, but his letters speak to the optimism and determination of Marquette’s first settlers, a spirit of survival that continues with today’s residents. When he passed away in 1865, Basil could feel proud of his contributions to the new community.

In 2001, a plaque was placed at Basil Bishop’s grave in Park Cemetery to commemorate him as a War of 1812 veteran. His letters are available at the Marquette County Historical Society. He was indeed, a great iron pioneer, perhaps not remembered in the history books, but one who intimately knew the early Marquette residents and their experiences.

While iron ore attracted the Bishops to Marquette, religious reasons inspired them once they arrived. Delivan, Basil’s son, was a founder of Marquette’s First Methodist Church and many of the family would be involved in church activities including the Methodists two primary social causes: temperance and the abolition of slavery.

Two members of the third generation of the Bishop family would serve in the Civil War. One of them would be Delivan and Pamelia Bishop’s son, Francis Marion Bishop. Francis was my great-great grandfather’s first cousin, and important to my family history because more than fifty of his letters he wrote home during the Civil War have survived. The letters allow the modern reader to understand what it was like to be twenty, brave, homesick, and frightened. His parents’ return letters have not survived, but his responses to them give insight into Marquette’s early years. He comments in 1863, after hearing of the burning down of the nearby village of Chocolay that he had warned people the fire would happen, and next time maybe they will be more careful. He constantly names relatives, friends, and church members, asking to be remembered to them. He asks his grandfather to write if he can, and he tells his father to thank Mr. Everett, presumably businessman Philo M. Everett, for the loan of thirty dollars.

Francis continually comments on the war, the marches, army food, and his fellow soldiers. The dramatic climax of the letters occurs when an army chaplain writes to Francis’ parents: “your son Marion still lives. He is in Washington, badly wounded, but will recover, so says his surgeon. The ball lodged in his shoulder blade has been extracted and he is doing nicely.” A few weeks later, Francis describes in near-epic prose how he fell at the Battle of Fredericksburg:

“At the time I received my wound we were advancing on the enemies works in double-quick time at charge bayonet. When within about 20 paces of our line I saw my Company were somewhat scattered by getting over a fence we had to pass and turning for a moment to my men I waved my sword over my head shouted “Come on Boys” Mind you I was not behind them but no sooner had I turned again to face the foe than I felt a stinging sensation pass through my left breast near the heart and I fell powerless to the Earth, turning as I fell striking on my back. I uttered a low groan and offered a prayer to God. [I fell] with sword unsheathed for the protection of our glorious starry Banner, whose gallent folds waved o’er my head as I fell, for you must know mine was a post of honor, as commander of the 1st Company I stood beside the good old flag of freedom [and I now have] an honorable scar and one received in the best cause for which ever man fought and died.”

Despite his wounds, Francis wanted to continue his service so he was transferred to be Adjutant at Rock Island, Illinois, a prison for Confederate soldiers in the Mississippi River. Here his duties were less rigorous, although he does mention a breakout when the prisoners dug a tunnel. Six rebels escaped and one drowned trying to get across the river, while an officer of the guard was also killed.

 When the war ended, Francis remained in Illinois to study zoology at Wesleyan University. His interest in Marquette continued, and prior to an 1866 visit he remarks, “I expect I will scarcely know Marquette when I see it. It has grown so much if I am to judge from the [Lake Superior] Journal.”

In May 1871, Francis joined Major Powell’s second expedition down the Colorado and Green Rivers and through the Grand Canyon; today, the expedition is considered the last great exploration of the American West. Powell’s first voyage had been a disaster that included shipwreck and the murder of crew members by the Shivwits Indians. Francis, known by his fellow travellers as “Cap” for achieving the rank of captain during the Civil War, was ready for adventure and fame as the expedition’s zoologist and cartographer.

The journey was the adventure of a lifetime, marked by difficult work, rough rapids, and placid moments of floating down river while Major Powell read aloud from the Bible or Tennyson’s poetry. While the first expedition had been a travel into the unknown, this journey would be more scientific, as surveys were conducted and specimens gathered. Moments of excitement included Francis being attacked by a deer he had to wrestle by grabbing its antlers. The Fourth of July was celebrated by a simple shooting off of guns. At times, the men had to carry their gear overland when the river was too wild to be navigated. Most of the travelers kept diaries, including Francis, and hundreds of photographs were taken. Francis’ maps of the river and canyons would become the first official government surveys of the area. However, in the spring of the expedition’s second year, Francis’ war wounds became too painful for him to continue the journey; reluctantly, he left the party before the final stretch through the Grand Canyon. His companions sadly parted from him, and they named Bishop Creek in the Uintas Mountains in his honor.

Francis then settled in Utah, befriending the local Mormons. He converted to the new religion and married the daughter of Orson Pratt, one of the original twelve apostles of the Mormon Church; one wonders what his staunch Methodist parents thought of his religious conversion and marriage. If only their letters to him had survived! Francis became Chair of the Natural Science Department at Deseret University, today’s University of Utah, where the originals of his letters currently reside. In later years, his companions from the expedition visited him and presented him with Major Powell’s special chair from the expedition. Francis would long remember his famous journey, and in his later years, he published an article on Major Powell’s life and his own journal from the expedition. He died in Utah in 1933, at the age of ninety.

Francis Marion Bishop is today one of Marquette’s famous, although forgotten sons, a pioneer of national importance.

Francis’ cousin, Jerome, also fought in the Civil War, but he was content later to return to Marquette to raise a family. Jerome Nehemiah White, my great-great-grandfather, came to Marquette in 1853 as a child of twelve. He was the son of Basil Bishop’s daughter, Rosalia, and her husband Cyrus Beardsley White. Jerome was one of several Marquette men to join the Michigan 27th. By the end of the war, his company had marched across the South, from Mississippi and Kentucky to Tennessee and Virginia. They fought at such significant battles as Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the Battle of the Wilderness. The strenuous marching and Southern climate caused Jerome to suffer from sunstroke. At Petersburg, he was wounded by a ball entering his left and exiting through his right side. He was sent to a hospital in Washington where he recovered, although he would suffer partial paralysis the remainder of his life. He was released from the hospital as the war was ending, and family tradition states he was in the Ford Theatre the night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, a possibility since he was in Washington D.C. at the time.

After the war, Jerome returned to Marquette and raised a family. He continued his Methodist association by serving as the Superintendent of the Chocolay branch of the Sunday School. He also farmed in Cherry Creek, where his house still stands today. In 1900, he died of wounds received from a runaway carriage accident at the Carp River Bridge.

Edmond Remington, his daughter Adda, and her husband Jerome White

Jerome’s wife was Adda, the daughter of Edmond and Jemima Remington. Jerome and Adda married in 1861, before he went away to the war. He was nineteen and a half, she a few months shy of sixteen at the time of the marriage. Adda’s mother, Jemima, had died two months before at the young age of forty. Her father, Edmond, remarried in less than four months to Hannah, an Irish immigrant. Edmond then joined the Michigan 27th with his son-in-law Jerome. Like Jerome, Edmond was wounded in battle and survived. After the war, he and his new wife and children left Marquette and moved to South Dakota. In 1882, Edmond would commit suicide by drinking strychnine, apparently because he could no longer tolerate the pain from his war wounds. His daughter, Adda, would remain in Marquette with her husband, Jerome; she would die in 1891 at the young age of forty-six. Jerome and Adda would have twelve children, the tenth of whom, Jay Earle White, would be my great-grandfather.

Readers of my novels will find that in the history of my Bishop, Remington, and White ancestors are sources for some of the characters in Iron Pioneers. The Bishop family influenced the Brookfields and the Whites influenced creation of the Whitmans. Lucius Brookfield is largely based on Basil Bishop from the information I have about Basil from his letters. Lucius’ wife, Rebecca, the staunch old Methodist, however, is completely based in my imagination. Nothing has been left to tell me anything about Elizabeth Bishop’s character other than Basil’s words of praise for her after her death. Rosalia Bishop was a source for both of Lucius’ daughters, Sophia and Cordelia. Like Cordelia, Rosalia owned a boarding house, and like Sophia, Rosalia was said not always to be a pleasant woman. She does not look terribly pleasant in the one photograph surviving of her. But that statement is based on what her grandson, Jay Earle White, told his children about her and it may or may not be true. Everything about Sophia’s social-climbing aspirations is completely my imagination. The Hennings in my novels are also completely made up. I knew so little about the Remington family that other than Edmond Remington remarrying and moving away from the area, nothing is based in fact there—the Remingtons certainly were far from being as wealthy as the Hennings. In Iron Pioneers, Gerald Henning marries Sophia after his first wife Clara dies. I have had many complaints from my readers about Clara’s early death, but please note Jemima Remington died at forty, a fairly young death as well. Jacob Whitman is loosely based on Jerome White, but I borrowed from Francis Marion Bishop’s Civil War letters to create the letters in Iron Pioneers that Jerome writes home to his family.

My Marquette - Coming Christmas 2010!