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 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.