Welcome to Discovering the Northwoods from the Manitowish Waters Historical Society. We will take you on a journey through our local history with the help of primary source documentation. To learn more about this rich history or about the historical society – check out our website at mwhistory.org for blog posts, show notes, our YouTube Channel, and a full transcription of this episode!
As with many historical works from this era, there are phrases, terms, and descriptions that are inappropriate to our modern sensibilities. The Manitowish Waters Historical Society in no way condones these offensive remarks or passages.
We would like to introduce the amazing journal, transcribed exactly from the written work of Robert Loveless, who resided on Alder Lake and was one of the founding pioneers of the Manitowish Waters community.
Robert Loveless has a comprehensive journal of his hunting, trapping, guiding, and caretaking from the earliest days of Manitowish Waters. His colorful stories, rich details, and geographic references allow this journal to come to life, providing important context to life at the turn of the 20th century in Manitowish Waters. The following journal is read by me, Brenna Reilley.
My father died when I was going on 12 years of age and we was a poor family and my father was a great hunter with a muzzle-loading gun and was a good trapper. After his death, my mother told me that if I could make a living hunting and trapping and fishing I could go try. So I started to a lake four miles from the place where we lived a little town called Turtle Lake Barron County. I fished through the ice for some time and good luck and done very well trapping for small fur animals but did not get much for their pelts but as I grew older and came more and more familiar with the business it was easy for me to get any kind of fur animal. Beaver, otter, mink, rats, martin fisher, foxes, timber wolves, or any kind of hunting. This became easy.
Finally in my travels, I came to Vilas County where it was wilder in the year of 1891 and at this time this country was very wild and here I fished for the market and sold them to the logging camps for provisions and also kept trapping and hunting and I also took up guiding as this job was easy for me as I understood the business and made a good guide and when I once went with a man I always got him again as I worked and tried to get all the big fish on his hook that I could, whether he got them in the boat or not I wanted him to feel them on the line or see them. Finally I was hired by the year by the President of the Congress Hotel Company of Chicago by the name of Richard Southgate and also a man by the name of Mr. Marvin Hughitt which is now the vice president of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad. This man I was with for many years, especially Mr. Southgate, I was in his employment for 30 years until they all died but I still kept hunting and trapping.
In the year of 1891 when I first arrived in Vilas County I came with a young fellow by the name of Alick McGerogery. He took a great liking to me and wanted to go with me and hunt, trap, and fish. And of course I never had much money nor he didn’t either, but he had more than I did as he was a brakeman on the railroad and was more sure of his money than I was at trapping. When pay day came for him he got what he had coming and when an otter or a wild cat or a beaver got in my trap I was not sure of him until I came and shot him as they often get out of the trap or gnawed off their foot. Or when I got a fish on my line I was not sure of him until I got him safe in the boat or birch bark canoe. The same with a deer I might wound him and he would give me a hard chase and then get away from me.
Well I and this fellow Alick McGregery, we left Chippewa County in the night on a freight train for Rhinelander in the year of 1891 late in the fall and he had in money, eighty dollars and I did not have any money. All I had was a tent, size 7 by 9 wedge tent, at that and some traps and tin dishes. When we got to a town by the name of Prentis Junction, he began to drink as I knew that he was a drinker and would spend all that he had when he got started. So I said Alick lend me 5 dollars and he said alright and gave it to me and I kept this up at times until I had more money than he had. I knew that we were going in a strange country and we had to have some money to start. When we got to Rhinelander we went to a hotel and got a bed and he had to have a bottle to take up to bed with him and I asked him what do you want that for at night. He said I might want a drink in the night. Well the next morning he said he’d me give me enough money to pay for my nights logging I said alright as for myself I did never practice getting drunk as I was drunk twice and I was very sick after it and I did not forget this.
Well the next morning at Rhinelander we took the Northwestern morning train going north to a town called Woodruff, a distance of 25 miles. This town at that time had about five houses including a store, saloon, hotel, and a little depot. This was the size of it and from here I and Alick walked over an old toat Road, 12 miles to a lake called Big Trout Lake and the whole country was solid pine forest, lots of places the sun never got to the ground. The timber was so thick well when we got to Big Trout there was a fellow by the name of John Man had a summer resort there and on a island there a man lived by the name of Jack Blaisdell and on another island a man by the name of Pat Brussell, he had a saloon and sold liquor to the Indians and Lumber Jacks for his living and on another island there was a fellow that lived by the name of Billie McArthur and he lived with a squaw and is today one of the oldest men in this country and as I find he is a good fellow. He follows guiding this was all the residence that there was on Big Trout Lake at this time.
Well I and Alick started to hike back the 12 miles to town of Woodruff and when we got there the town being so small and could not get the stuff that we wanted. We were told that there was another little town a little bigger about two miles west by the name of Minocqua so we hiked over to this town. So this looked so much better. So I remember I’ve done all the buying for the outfit and spent Alick’s money. But he was around but said not much of anything he knew that I ought to know what we ought to have. So I remember that I got 16 dollars worth of grub and I got an old cook stove that I gave 5 dollars for and I got about 4 lengths of stove pipe and an elbow and I hired a man with a pair of light bob sleighs to haul the outfit out to Big Trout Lake. I gave him 3 dollars for the trip. Well we got there and the teamster said where do you want me to leave your outfit and I said drive along and I will see. I did not know where to hang up but at this time he was driving along the side of Big Trout Lake in the thick woods and I saw a kind of deep hole down in the thick tall pines so I said can you drive down in towards that hole cluster and he said this is pretty hard to get in there. Well I said this is alright we will throw her off right here and will carry her down. So back he went as much as to say them crazy fellows soon will get frozen out in that hole and of course that night had to be a cold one I guess somewhat 10 or 15 below. I know this little tent that we had Size 7 by 9 wedge no walls was small for the cook stove and our bed we threw all the snow away and pitched the tent and threw snow up on the sides of the tent to bank it and keep the heat in.
So having the stove in there it melted the snow on the sides of the tent and was wet so when we went to bed with our clothes on. My hair was somewhat pretty long and I covered up my head and I had a coat or something else for a pillow and my hair got down between the tent and this pillow and in the morning I found that my hair was frozen fast to the tent. You see the fire went out and the tent was wet when I turned in bed and when I was trying to get my hair loose I could hear it breaking off and feel some of it pulling out. Well I said to Alick this is too cold in this tent and we have no room we had better look around today and see maybe we can find some a log shack to get in. So after we had some salt pork fried and coffee.
We started up along the Lake Shore toward John Man’s summer resort and I spied a little shack in a bay of the lake and we went up and looked it over and it looked pretty good, only the boards that it was made out of was split poles and there were cracks everywhere and the floor was poles. So I went up to John Man and ask him if we could move in the shack and he said that he did not own it, but it belonged to a guide by the name of Old Pawl and he said I guess it is alright go in there he won’t use it this winter. So we moved in the shack and the shack was small in size about 8 by 9 and when we had a fire going it was pretty good but when the fire went down, the heat went out through the cracks and when you were inside and it was dark outside you could not see the cracks and when you were outside and looked at the walls it was nothing but cracks and at times you could see the moon shining through.
Well this was too much for us so we had to plan on something else. So I had a talk with John Man and it seems that he wanted us around there for neighbors as he had no one. So he said why don’t you go in that tamarack swamp over there and cut some logs and I will let you have my team and haul them out and roll them up and make a new shack. The team will cost nothing and it is a good thing that it didn’t cost me anything for when I went from the tent to the first shack one night Alick was laying on the bunk and he said well I wonder how much money we have. So he dug in his pockets and I dug in mine and what he had and what I had was 36 Cents. Now this wouldn’t pay for harnessing the horses well we cut the logs and rolled them up in a log cabin and we had nothing for a roof so we put poles over the top. Down the lake about 1/2 mile, the Indians had been camping and had a wigwam and there they had hid in the woods some materials which they make out of the bushes that grow along the lake shore so we got that and spread it over the poles and threw a lot of dirt on top of it. The dirt was piled high in the middle and I got some muck out of the swamp and plastered up the cracks. Now this shack was alright there was no window, one light in the door.
So we finally got settled and I got to fishing. Now Alick was a bum fisherman, but a good fellow. So when we got to running around over the lake looking for some good place to catch fish at times he wanted me to go over on this island where this man Pat Brazel had the saloon. Of course he wanted a drink one day he said to me let we go over to the island and ask some of them fellows where to fish and I said we had better not go. But any how we went you see. We were strangers in that country and when we went in the saloon there was 3 guides drinking at the bar and we walked in and said hello fellows. I never was in that place before so we stood a few minutes and nobody said anything. So we went over next to the wall and sat on the floor on our hunters and the 3 guides kept on drinking and talking. So after a little while Alick spoke up and said say fellows where can we go and catch some fish and one fellow spoke up by the name of Charley Carigan and said find the place like we did. He shoed us when we came here. So this ended asking and it seemed to me that we was not wanted in that joint. So we get out and when we get outside I said to Alick I told you not to ask them where to go and fish and what I did you know was this that if the fish was in the lake I in time would know the spots.
And I must say, in time, I certainly did find their spots where they said. Well time went on and I and Alick were getting along nicely so one morning I was up and he was laying in the bunk yet and had not got up yet. So I do not just remember but I do know that we started up an argument about something or other and of course I get mad and jumped and grabbed him by the shirt collar and jerked him out of the bunk and tore all of the buttons off his shirt. Well this he could not get over but I was sorry as I ought of not done it. But he left me and before he went, he told Pat Brazell that he would give him the cook stove and one day Pat said to me, Alick give me that cook stove and I said to him quick you leave that stove alone or you will get in trouble so this was the last I ever heard about it.
So I sent to the southern part of the state and get my brother to come and stay with me. His name was Lon Loveless he was somewhat younger than I was but we got along fine and he liked the business and turned out to be a great guide and a good hunter and trapper. He had at one time all tamed one thousand dollars worth of fur. Well one winter I and him caught through the ice 8 hundred pounds of trout and sold most all of them to the logging camps. That is traded them for chuck something to eat and one morning I was up and Lon was in bed, a fellow came to the door and tapped, I opened the door and here was the fellow Charley Carigan the man that said find the fish ground like we did, who shoed us, and I said hello there as I did not know his name then he said hello. Then he began to say did you tell Pat Brazell that I told that you told him that I said and so on. I have forgotten the stuff that he managed to get out to me only he said you come over to the island and we will prove it. So on went my coat and mitts and away we went. You see he just wanted to get me over there and made up this stuff well when I got over there, there was nothing said about what I went over to prove. All the said was why don’t you and your brother come over and have a good time and play cards and drink with the rest of the guides and not stay over in that shack all alone. Why don’t you get acquainted with the other guides, if you don’t in the Spring we will all buck you. Charley said won’t we Mose, and won’t we Paul, and they said you bet of course. I said nothing. They said you won’t get a days work, we will starve you out. Charley said and the other two men said you bet then I did speak up and said you fellows can’t starve me out not as long as I have a fish pole and a gun. Boys I fished for a living before I came here and they said we will show you.
So I left them and went my way and they went theirs and I must say about a year later this man Charley Carigan came walking through from Boulder Town and the shacks were few and scattering and long ways apart. So Charley came to my cabin and he tapped and I said come in and I gave him a chair and he sat down and I knew pretty well where he came from and I knew the distance that he had walked and he had his snow shoes with him and he looked somewhat tired and I knew what he wanted was something to eat. But I would not ask him I wanted him to ask me and after while he said say Bob have you got anything to eat in the shack this is what I wanted I said quick you bet Charley I am not starved out yet and went to work and gave him the best that I had so he ate and went on. So another time a year around 2, later he came my way again and came in and I done the same way let him wait until he ask for something to eat and I said you bet Charley I ain’t starved out yet and it looks as if I ain’t going to be neither. So he did fill up and I gave him the best that I had in the shack.
So it ran along some years before he came again and finally he tapped at my shack door in the winter when I was on the bank of Little Trout Lake well I was glad to see him he was all alone and he had a pack on his back well he came in and threw down his sack. I must say his face was a sight all scratched up and all scabbed up and he was on his way to the Flambeau Lumber Company to try and get a job. Now he asked me for something to eat again and I said you bet Charley I ain’t starved out yet I have more grub now than I ever had before. Now you know he followed, drinking and playing cards and fighting which he wanted me to do and I did not listen to him. He was a good guide and all the money that he would earn in the Summer, he would drink it up in the fall and when he came this last time and wanted something to eat he just came off a drunk and had got in a fight and got skinned and scabbed up well. The poor fellow got off up in North East of Boulder Junction away back in them hills by Beaver Lake I guess and was making moonshine and finally he came up missing and no one knew where he went. Some think that he was Killed by another Moon Shiner.