Coming Soon! True Tales – The Forgotten History of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

I have just finished the rough version of my new book. It is off to the publisher awaiting publication. Whew! It always feels like a long haul when you finish a book. Though I feel all of my books are worth a read, this one is special. If you are a fan of this website, then this book is for you.

In this book the romance is gone. It tries to show many of the true hardships and facets  of trying to settle a frontier that was sandwiched between three Great Lakes. There are stories from across the Peninsula from first hand accounts to revelations from the news of the time. As always there are heroes and villains. There are feats of great good and dirty deeds of the worst kind. There are adventures of the most extraordinary men as they struggle for the riches of the U.P. well before gold was discovered in California. There are accomplishments of those that braved the wrath of the Great Lakes in leaking ships and frozen waters. The intensity of storms killed thousands on land and lakes. Over 200 died in one season just between Marquette and Whitefish Point. Often the Edmund Fitzgerald is memorialized, but few remember the hundreds of wrecks before it. You will find some here.

These pages are populated by Native Americans, miners, loggers and mariners that consisted of Germans, Italians, Finns, Swedes, French and English. People came from everywhere looking for their personal promised land. Some to raise families, some to avoid the law or to start a new life. Some to get rich no matter what it took. The Upper Peninsula frontier called to all.

This book is the first installment in what will be a larger work that chronicles the rare and forgotten stories that make the history of the U.P. what it is. Through research and investigation I hope to bring back many of the tales that time and historians forgot.

The U.P. of today was created by individuals that rose up to meet challenges that broke lesser folks. Their mental and physical stamina was that of finely honed athletes accomplishing feats unheard of in the modern world. They hacked homes out of a dense wilderness and raised families with danger at every turn. Many of these feats have gone unsung throughout history and through this book many come to light.

It is my hope that the stories contained within this book not only celebrates the struggles of the individuals that first braved this formidable and raw land , but honestly portrays their efforts to overcome the incredible obstacles that stood in the way of the beloved peninsula we now know. It was once a very different place.

 

Historical Photos – Homesteads of U.P. Settlers

Pictures of homesteads past – early – mid 1800s

Historical pictures from the Mikel Classen Historical Pictures Collection

 

Early engraving of a first homestead.

Pictures of early settlers trying to tame the wild country of Upper Michigan is always interesting to me. I don’t have many of these early settler pictures but I thought I could put up a few of my favorites. Some have focus issues as with many old cameras, but they are still glimpses into that rough and rugged past.

This is an old homestead that was near Marquette.

Some of these old picture show some form of home life. We are so used to modern conveniences and technology, seeing these old pictures shows just how rough life was. It is good that the days of mud, muck, and manure are past. Some things of the modern age are not over-rated, hot water, lawn mowers, garden tillers, all products of trying to ease this harsh life.

This was located near the Sault on the Michigan side. It is the home of an Ojibwa family.

Often we over-romanticize the past, casting aside the many realities of life on a homestead. Everyday was a chore laden struggle for survival.

This picture was from an old stereoview. This was another from somewhere near Marquette.

The brutal environment, the bugs, the dampness from the marshes, the endless preparation for the next winter, all made living from day to day, an amazing feat.

This is a picture from Manistique that shows an early family. Yes, that is a child sitting among the chickens.

I hope you enjoyed these little windows of settling the U.P.

Charlotte Kawbawgam, Native American Rights Icon

Charlotte Kawbawgam with her daughter Monee (Mary) around 1860. The child would later die and she and her husband Charlie would adopt two children. Another natural child had also died earlier.

Charlotte Kawbawgam – Marquette County – Michigan

A True Tale of the U.P.

Charlotte Kawbawgam who is pictured above is a U.P. Woman in History. This Marquette area Native American changed the rights of Native Americans in a profound way and has become nearly lost in time. I expect few have heard this story. 

Marji-Gesick, a Chippewa chief, was hired in 1845 by Philo Everett to locate valuable iron ore deposits near Ishpeming, Michigan. The ore was found exposed under an uprooted tree and the Jackson Mining Company was born. He was paid with a certificate of interest entitling him to stock in the company. 

After Marji-Gesick’s death, his daughter, Charlotte Kawbawgam, who was married to Charlie Kawbawgam, the new Chippewa Chief, found the certificate. Charlie and her met in Sault Ste. Marie and were married by the Catholic church. When the Jackson Iron Company refused to recognize her ownership interest, she took the company to court.

The Michigan Supreme Court considered the company’s claim that Charlotte Kawbawgam should not be recognized as Marji-Gesick’s lawful heir because she had been born to one of the three women to whom her father had been married simultaneously. Polygamy was prohibited under Michigan law, but permitted under tribal laws and customs.

The Court decided that since the marriage was valid under Chippewa law, it must be recognized by Michigan’s courts. Charlotte Kawbawgam was declared Marji-Gesick’s lawful heir, inheriting his ownership interest in the Jackson Iron Company. This was a landmark Michigan Supreme Court decision acknowledging that tribal laws and customs govern the legal affairs of Native American families.

Charlotte, who eventually went blind, remained married to Charlie for over 50 years and they lived in a house on Presque Isle in Marquette. The pair are buried in Presque Isle Park and their gravesite is still marked there.

The story of Marji-Gesick, Charlotte Kawbawgam, and the Jackson Iron Company is immortalized in “Laughing Whitefish,” a book authored by former Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker under his pen name, Robert Traver.

To learn more about Charlie and Charlotte Kawbawgam, the recently released “Kawbawgam,” by Tyler Tichler explores their life much more in depth. It is a U.P. Notable Book.

If you would like to see more pictures from my historical photograph collection, go here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikel_classen/sets/72157630887269582/