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.
One time I went to a lake called Rock Lake. Some years ago I was alone and out of meat and I attempted to try and kill a deer on this lake at night about the hour of sundown and at this year deer are very scarce and I had to pack a birch bark canoe to this lake some distance. Anyhow I looked all around the lake and watched close for some deer to come in the lake. But failed to see any. But the thing was I did not have anything to eat only a small salt and tea pail. So I knew that there were lots of fish in the lake and it being evening they ought to bite good. But I did not have any line and hook to catch them with. So I got to thinking.
So I took my powderhorn string off which was about 2 feet long and I caught a small frog and I tied the string around his belly and got by an old tree top and let it down by the side of the birch bark canoe and I could see the fish looking at it. But they did not like to come up to it as it seemed to me that I did not have enough line out. But I thought if you want it you will have to come and get it as I cannot put anymore line out. After a while they began swimming around a little closer until one grabbed it and before he knew what it was about I had him in the canoe and I got 2 of them this way. They were Big Mouth green bass. I had to salt and then I roasted them on a forked stick over the fire but I want to say that there was lots of fish around this old top where I caught these two bass.
One time in about this same country, I discovered a very large buck deer with very nice horns lying dead in the woods which the timber wolves had killed and the wolves had eaten all of one side out of him and had not turned him over yet and a few feet from the carcass there was the beds of three wolves in the snow I put some traps there to catch the wolves when they came back for another meal. But it seems that they did not come back in these beds. After awhile the traps were taken up as I wanted to set them some other place for an otter and at odd times I would go and see this deer and one time I discovered that it was all tracked up around there by a fisher and a fox as near as I could figure was a fisher came there and had been eating on the deer and got filled up. Then was lying down on top of a big log by the dead deer and while he was there a fox came to eat the deer and the fisher jumped on him and all around there was black hair and red hair.
They seemed to have a fight for over an acre of ground and I was trying for some time to track them but could not get head nor tail of their tracks. So in order to find out I made a big circle around all the logs and brush. I found where the fisher had went in the circle and I also found the tracks of the fisher coming out of the circle and he was dragging something in the snow so I followed his track and some distance away. I found where the fisher had buried something at the roots of a big hemlock tree and I dig it up and it was the hind parts of the fox. The tail was on and was still a good size fisher is about five feet long from the tip to tip and run in color black brown and pale. Some people thinks that they catch fish but run high. Their fur is very fine and expensive.
One time in the winter of 1897, I had a line of traps out from Little Trout Lake to Big Papoose Lake and there hid away in the woods I had a trappers shack where I stayed overnight and the next morning when I arose I took another route from there going North to Birch Lake. From the far end of Birch lake, I went across to another lake and stayed all night. The next morning back to Little Trout Lake all these trips had to be made on snowshoes as the years the snow seemed to be much deeper and much colder weather. We had made this trip to my traps once a week and I trapped for mink, martin fisher, and beaver, otter, timber wolves, foxes, muskrats. There was no money in trapping them only use their carcass to bait the traps with.
One time I did not go to my traps for two weeks and when I did go and was coming up to my little cabin after a new fallen snow I discovered all kinds of fisher tracks on the roof and around the camp. The camp was very small, say in size 6 by 9 feet, poles on top and some tar paper over them. Now it seemed to me that there was a porcupine that dug under the shack and living in there. There was no floor and this fisher came along and killed him in there and eat him up and up on the reach pole in the roof when I went away the last time I hung five rat carcass in there with a string. This fisher could see them there in order to get them he went on the roof and tore a hole in the tar paper and knocked off the string then went down inside and eat them and when I arrived he had just gone and I threw down my pack and took after him. But it was quite late to follow him but I kept up the chase and got in a big swamp and turned back and I came to the shack. When the time come, I spread out my blankets and jumped in and I jumped out again. A porcupine quill jabbed me in the back.
One time years ago when I was guiding Mr. Hughitt of the Northwestern Railroad there was another guide by the name of Ernest Frayback. Well we talked the party up to go to Little Bear Lake for one night. Now there was only two men in the party, Dock Hammond of Chicago and Mr. Hughit of the Northwestern Railroad and two guides. So Frayback got them talked up to go to Little Bear Lake and I never been to this before and never went since. I don’t think that Frayback had ever been there as he got lost and I followed him and was lost with him. Well Ernest had a birch bark canoe, some smaller than mine as I had a bark canoe to my canoe was four-foot beam. Well we started from Big Lake and went up to Little Round Lake to the Inlet and went up the creek about a mile and 1/2 and a trail started out from here right in a big tamarack swamp. So we pulled our canoes up out of the creek here and Dock Hammond and Mr. Hughitt took the trail and started and all they had to carry with them was a gun a piece and we intended to camp all night on that lake.
They left all the baggage for I and Ernest to get over the trail and there was about one hundred pounds of it and the trail was one and 3/4 miles long and was bushey. Well I and Ernest divided the hundred pounds and he took his 50 pounds and I took my 50 pounds and he was a big man to the size of me and I had the biggest birch bark canoe. It was 18 feet long and a 4-foot beam and Ernest’s was 14 feet. Well I said what are you going to do. Are you going to double the trail or take your 50 pounds with your canoe. I thought that if I was going to be a guide I had to dig in and do my share no matter how big the other fellow was. Well he said I am going to take my 50 pounds right with my canoe. Well I said alright and I knew that this was going to be a hard one on me with this 50 pounds packed in each end of my 18-foot birch bark canoe and I did not want him over on the lake fishing with his man and me still on the trail doubling the trail and my man standing on the bank of the lake and fighting mosquitos.
So I started to take the whole 50 pounds as he did well we got packed and ready to put the canoes on our heads he went ahead and I behind. I had not gone but a short way in this swamp and I got stuck between two tamarack trees I had too much beam. My canoe was too wide so I had to turn the canoe up edge was on my neck and you must know what this means with a birch bark 18 feet long with 50 pounds of luggage in it. Well I get through. Of course Ernest was hiking along fighting mosquitoes and carrying his canoe and his 50 pounds in it. I could see him at times through the brush and heavy timber ahead. Well in my days and for my size as I weighed about 135 Pounds I must say I was a quite a pack mule. I could carry all that I could get. A heft of it. But this canoe and this 50 pounds was more than I ought to. It took heft of as it was a heavy load and I am rating the trip as I never forgot it I earned my $250 that day and more to guiding in these early days was no easy job as most people traveled with canoe and they liked to go to the lakes that had never been fished and I liked to take them their because they felt like that they were in the wilderness and they always caught lots of fish. Well after a while I have seen Ernest ahead resting with his canoe stuck high up in the crotch of a hemlock tree.
So I came up to him we had got about 1/4 mile. Well when I caught up to him he gets under his canoe and starts off again. Well I had to stop. My shoulders began to ache and my knees were getting wobbly. So I rested and went on and after while I got glimpse of Ernest again. He was still going and after while I see him resting again and this time he did not wait till I came up to him. He just went again. Well I came to the spot where he rested and I took a rest and went on so we keep this way going over the hole one and 3/4 miles which we wade the distance more than 1 and 3/4 miles. Now Doc Hammond and Marvin Hughitt kept the right trail through the woods and I followed Ernest and he got off the right trail and took an old deer trail. This deer trail brought us out nearly to the head of Little Bear Lake. But he saw the water down there through the trees. Then he made for the water. Well by going so far off the way, this made the distance about two and 1/4 miles.
So I kept up to him as good as I could and finally I came to him and he was in trouble when he went to leave this old deer trail and got down through the woods and thick brush to the lake. He had his man Dock Hammond’s rod and reel laying on his cross bars in his canoe and somehow or another the hook on the line dropped down and he was tearing down through the brush and of course the hook in something and then it on reeled all of Dock’s line and you maybe know what this means to have 150 feet of fish line strung out through the brush over logs and among the trees. Now I must say Ernest could swear and when I come up to him he was certainly making the woods ring. He was wet with sweat and fighting misquotes. I saw his trouble and I said but little as I knew that he was saying enough for me and him. And I knew that was his business and I knew that I had to paddle my own canoe. Well this mishap with Ernest let me get ahead and I felt somewhat better.
So while he was getting fishing line out of the brush, I put my canoe in the lake and Ernest came down to the lake and said I have to build a fire and pitch up my canoe. Well it seemed as if he always had to do this every time that he made a portage. You see when he had the canoe on his head he would not be careful enough and swing the front end in time when there was a tree ahead of him. He would ram the front end of the canoe right into the tree and then knock off the pitch then before he could put it in the water he had to pitch it up again well I paddled on down the lake and I see the two men, Doc and Marvin standing out on a log that ran out in the lake. And as I came near to them I heard Marvin, my man, say here comes Bob. And when I got up to them, as Ernest was not in sight, “where is Ernest?” I said he is away up around that point pitching up his canoe.
Marvin said to me, “Bob how is it that you can get ahead of that big twitch man?” Well, I said “I did, you see what we out of done was to take our canoes over the trail” and when went back and got our 50 pounds a piece. It looks to me as if he was trying me and do me up. He had me going that time. But our party did not know anything about this bucking business. Well we went fishing and this was certainly a beautiful lake and the water was clear as a crystal. And the trees all around the lake hung over the water the lake was not more than 3/4 of a mile long and about 1/4 of a mile wide.
And when we left our camp at Big Lake we did not take anything much to eat. The party needed to catch fish and shoot something to live on. But we all went hungry on this trip all we caught in this lake was three or four small bass about one pound pike and four of us to eat them. I and Mr. Hughitt tried at night to get a deer. But we failed. Mr. Hughitt had a muskellunge on his hook that would weigh I think about ten pounds but he got away. We stayed all night and the first thing in the morning. We packed up and got back to Wolf Lake Creek just as soon as we had what little to eat. Then Doc and Marvin took their guns and started back over the trail. Ernest and I divided the luggage and he soon hit the trail too and I still was trying to get the pail and frying pan and some tin cups fixed on the cross bars of my canoe.
I dreaded the trip back but I knew that I had to get back. We could not stay there but I hurried and finally got started and I went on for some distance but did not see anything of Ernest at all and I had to take a rest. But I did not have the luggage fixed in my canoe as I did when I went over it. I had pans and kettles tied on the cross bars of the canoe and they were swinging in my face and bothered me. So I made up my mind that I would take all the baggage off of the canoe and carry away down the trail and then come back and get the canoe. Now this I’ve done and I went far enough with it that I saw Ernest taking a rest.
I knew that he would take long rests and when I saw him I put down my baggage and ran back and got my canoe and brought it up to my baggage then I hooked the canoe up in a crotch of a tree. I grabbed up my stuff again and took it down the trail again until I saw Ernest again resting. You see when he was resting a long time I was going and had a chance in packing. So I keep doing this way until I come to his last rest then I took all of my stuff right along with the canoe. When I come to the creek he had just put his canoe down and was stretching when I came up but none of them ever knew how I got over the trail coming back and I never told them to think that I could pack as much as the next man even if I was small as far as tough I was tough enough so we all loaded up the canoes and went back to Big Lake and never went over there again.