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 in the year of 1897, when I had charge of Mr. Richards Southgate Residence and Mr. Marvin Hughitte as Now Vice President of the Chicago North Western Railroad, I stayed at Little Trout Lake for a period of time of two solid months all alone and never saw a man or living soul or talked to anyone. I had a dog with me that belonged to Mr. Hughitte, his name was McKinley and I did play the violin by ear. When I did want some music I would play a tune or two and when I would start playing, the dog would stick his head high up in the air and begin to howl. When he would do this it made me think that I was a good violinist and I would play all the harder.
I ought to say to the dog sing McKinly and he knew what I meant and then he would begin howling again. Mr. Southgate and Mr. Hughitte at this time tried to get someone to deliver a telegram to me but they failed to find anyone that knew where little trout lake was. The whole country was heavy-timbered and there was no roads only portage trails. And talk about fish there was lots of them in every lake. Back in the woods and big high bluffs all around them you would wonder how they got in there. I’ll tell you some country of course, where ever you went, you had to pack a birch bark canoe, your bed, and something to eat.
A deer hunt one time I took my rifle and went out on a new snow to kill a deer. I went North East from Alder Lake. Well I had gone for some distance I ran across a nice track and he was winding around through all the thickets but did not stop. This was about 10 o’clock. Now this you don’t often see at this time of day but it was in the fall and he was looking for a doe. So I kept close watch ahead and in both sides and went slow and circled him when I could and kept downwind so that he could not smell me in case that he was inside of my circle. Well I kept walking and circling and always come up to the track on the downwind side. But it seemed that I could not get him inside of the circle. I always came up to his track where he had gone on but not running nor jumping, always walking.
Finally, after I had followed him about two miles he began to stop some and stand around more. So I began to get this idea. So he turned a square corner and started North East for a poplar thicket about 3/4 of a mile away. This 3/4 mile there was about a 1/2 mile of it that I could see for some distance but I could not see him in sight anywhere. So I hit up a good pace across this opening and when I had gone about 80 rods in this poplar thicket, there was a little marsh on my left and I figured that he would be on the other side probably standing and at this time I was not on the track. It was to my left and I happened to turn my head to my right and I see him hiking along and I jerked my rifle to my shoulder quick and fired. Down he went and I went up to him and I see he was hit on the top of the shoulders and was trying to get away his tongue was hanging out and he had a very large set of horns and I was standing now and was looking at him. I did not want to shoot him in the head on account of him having a nice head and I did not want to shoot him in the chest as it would spoil some meat. So as he was headed away from me I stepped up and poked him with the gun barrel. Well, you ought to see how quick he made for me and snorted at the same time. Well, I almost could feel the wind of him behind me. I jumped behind a tree and he started off and I shot him.
One time in the winter of the year of 1910, just about Thanksgiving when I lived on Alder Lake, at times in the winter I would go over to Little Trout and see if things was all right around the place but I lived on Alder Lake. Now I had one horse and a sleigh so I would drive over to Trout Lake when I went at times. On one morning I hooked up the horse and started. The ice was about 8 inches thick on the lake and there was about 4 inches of snow on it. Now as I drove across the lake I see something lying on the ice about 1/2 mile West of me and about 1/4 mile from the shore and when I saw it I thought that the Indians had gone across and had lost their horse blanket. It seemed to be strewed out over the ice so I drove over toward it and when I got closer, I began to think that it was not a horse blanket. I thought it was some hay as I saw black pieces scattered around in different places. So the nearer I drove I began to think that it was not hay.
So when I got up pretty close, I saw that it was a deer and I could see timber wolf tracts all around. I thought that there were 3 or 4 of them but I discovered later on that there was only one timber wolf. Now I went up to the deer and I saw that he was a yearling and the wolf had killed him on this spot. I could see that he had eaten all of one quarter and all the ribs on the same side what he had eaten the forward from and he had eaten all the inwards. That morning it was about 20 below zero and his legs were frozen. But he was still warm otherwise and when he had his fill out of the deer then you could see where he had tried to drag him about 15 or 20 feet. But he was too heavy for him and he gave it up and the wolf went for the woods.
So I took the deer carcass and threw it on my sled and went for the place where I had to go up the lake. When I started for home then when I got to the place where I was to leave the lake I threw the deer carcass off by an old snag that stuck up through the ice and here is where I discovered the deer tracks where he was walking on the ice along the shore. I could see where the deer had been standing by this snag and from there he started to run and jump. So I followed the deer tracks back a distance to see how far that the wolf was behind him where he started to run and the wolf was about 8 or 10 rods behind him. Now you see this deer was standing by this snag and he happened to turn his head and saw the timber wolf behind him.
So he started right out in the lake and the deer turned a square corner and the wolf cut across to catch him. This wolf followed and when the deer stopped the wolf would stop but the wolf trying to get as close behind the deer as he could and no telling how far he had followed this deer as I did not follow the track back to see. Now when the wolf cut across the square corner to catch the deer, the deer would slip on the ice as there was only 4 inches of snow and the ice was glare under the snow. Now when the wolf came to the deer’s track across the square corner the first thing he grabbed him, but did not get him down. But on the ice I could see a big bunch of hair that he had jerked out of him. So the deer struck out down the lake out quite away from the shore and I followed them and I could see them way ahead of me. I followed them until the second place where he threw him and there was a lot of hair and some blood.
So I went on to the third place and here I could see where the wolf had been kicked away and out from where the deer had been thrown down at least 16 feet that deer had kicked him. You could see that when the deer was down flat on the ice. The wolf’s tracks was next to his back you see, the deer had long hind legs. And the deer’s hind legs came up and just sent him 16 feet in the snow. I could see where he came running back but no tracks to show that he went out there. Well this third place where he had him down there was somewhat more hair and more blood.
I went to the fourth place and here was much more hair and more blood and I went to the fifth place and here was a lot of blood and lots of hair. I started for the sixth place and I could see that the deer was bleeding all along just as if he had been shot. I picked up the seventh place and here was where I picked up the deer hair all around and I noticed on the deer that the wolf had kept grabbing him in one hind all the time and had tore all of the heavy meat out of that ham. But along where he had thrown the deer he did not leave any of the meat. He must of ate it for I did not see any of it. All I saw was hair and blood.
Now I went back to the sled and as I said I threw the deer off at this snag I drove on over to Little Trout Lake and done my business and came back as I entered to go home and get two or three big double spring traps and my rifle and leave my horse there and come back. I knocked the snow away by the snag and set one of the traps and put it on the ice then I took the ax and chopped all around the track in the ice that is marked around to get the shape of it then I took the trap away and chopped out in the ice. Just a little bigger than the trap was that is a hole in the ice then I took and pulled out a lot of hair and made a bed out of it in the hole. Then I put my trap down in this hole on the deer hair then I took another lot of deer hair and covered up the trap. Then I spread snow over the deer hair just even like the snow was all over the lake. No high pile on the trap. I put the hair under and over the trap so it could not freeze the jaws down.
Now I took a big chunk of this deer meat and fastened it to this old snag then I went up in the woods and put out another chunk of the deer meat and fastened it to a tree and put two traps there. Then I took my rifle and fixed myself on a high point kindly out of the way and I figured that the wind was just right and there was a light breeze from the North West. But was very sharp as the temperature was about 15 below zero. Now I was quite sure that the wolf would be back as I knew that he had tried to drag the deer to the shore. Well I was not watching no longer than 30 or 40 minutes, the sun had gone down and I always was watching. North of me up where he had killed the deer and left him on the lake and all to a sudden I happened to turn my head and here he was South of me about two hundred yards. Right south of me and right downwind this was bad he would walk a little way out on the lake then he would keep sticking his nose up in the air all different directions. This I did not like and he was not out on the lake far enough. So he kept coming slowly and sept stopping and smelling.
I had my gun cocked and ready but stood very still and he kept looking on the lake where he had left the Deer and all at once he turned quick like a flash and made lively jumps for the green timber well. I fired and I saw the bullet strike the snow closest to him only right under him and down he went. But I knew that I did not hit him because he slipped. So I threw another shell in and fired again. This ball went right over him but right in line and in the woods he went. Well I got a fine look at him and got 2 shots at a distance of two hundred yards. He smelled me because the wind was wrong and I did not figure that he would come on the downwind side.
I once was a tightrope walker, now when I was going on 11 years old I saw a fellow walking the tightrope high up in a town called Turtle Lake Barron County. His cousin and he did a number of tricks on the rope and I thought that I would try and learn to walk the rope. So I got hold of some rope some way or another and I got it stretched as taut as I could get it and got me a stick for balance. Then I tried to get on the rope but I must say it was at least one week before I got both feet on that rope. I would tremble and shake and I would get one foot on and when I went to take the other off of the ground my balanced leg would just crack by whipping back and forwards and I was throwing flat of the ground a good many times and got bumps and bruises a good many times. I would stand and look at the rope and did not know if I would try it again or not but I thought that fellow did it, why can’t I?
One good thing was the rope was only about two feet from the ground otherwise I would of been killed the first time that I got on the rope well I stuck to it and after a long tussle I got so that I could stand on it and have my back up against the post so that the rope was tight. Then I had a hard time to learn how to walk away from this post so I kept on trying and falling and getting on again until I got so that I could walk to the other post. I kept this up walking ahead until it seemed easy then I began to try and walk backwards this was not so hard as learning to walk ahead. You see I had learned to balance myself so I kept walking ahead and backwards until it was easy. So then I tried to sit down and would lose my balance sometimes then jump or fall off.
So I got this trick finally and then I tried to climb over the pole. This was hard but in time I got it. Then I tried to turn around on the rope, this certainly was a hard one you see when I got half way around then it was easy for me to lose my balance. I had to have one foot turned one way on the rope and one foot turned the other way and yet face straight down the rope and keep my balance pole straight across the rope as when I was walking. I could not just turn around like you do on the ground for if I did not have one foot one way and one the other and just turn away I might miss the rope or hit it only half of it on my foot and it would roll. That would certainly throw me or if I might miss the rope and fall. I’d fall 12 or 15 feet to the ground. Well I learned this trick in time then I learned to lay down. This was very hard and a lot of other tricks I learned. I got to be pretty good at the rope business.
So my father died when I was going on twelve years old and I went to one of my uncles for a while. The 4th of July was my birthday so they told me to go to a picnic ground about six miles away and have a good time. But they did not give me a cent of money. So I went and this place was about 12 Miles from Saint Croix Falls in the Country. When I got there it was right in the woods they had a lemonade stand, candies, and firecrackers. And there was a dance floor and I should judge there was about 4 or 5 hundred people around there and I tell you they did celebrate them days.
Well I had no money and I was somewhat bashful at that time but I went up to a tall fellow I suppose he was the man of the day. He seemed to have more to say around there than anyone else. So I said Mister I can walk the tight rope and he looked down at me as I was short and he said can you? They had a swing up in some trees and I said you take down that swing rope and stretch it up 10 or 15 feet high and I will show you. Well tight rope walking was this days a great thing. So they took down the swing and fastened one end high up in another tree and then brought it across through the crotch of an oak tree. Ten men pulled it tight and meanwhile I went back in the woods and got me a stick for a balance pole. I came back and the rope was ready. So a fellow gave me a boost and I climbed up and started to walk and someone hollered out “tight rope walking!”
They all quit dancing and the whole crowd I could see around me. But not under me as this head man that I told to put up the rope, he kept them back. So I went on over and came back backwards and I did all of my tricks and came to the tree where I went up. Down I came and a young fellow came running up to me and slapped me on the shoulder and said “that is good and gang good!” He grabbed my hat and away he went through the crowd and he came back and gave me the hat and it had $12.35 Cents in it
Now this was the most money that I ever had up till that time. Then I did not need any money. All the kids around me said how did you learn this? Where did you Come from? What is your name? I was a stranger to all of them. They would give me candy, firecrackers, anything that they had. Money was no object to me then. Well I went home and told them what I had done and the money that I made and I spent it all. So they got mad and gave me a scolding and I left and never saw them from that day to this.