The North Shore Visitor

 

Lunch in Grand Marais

On a foggy August day between the Fisherman's Picnic fishburger lunch and the Grand Portage Rendezvous and Powwow Mooseburger with fry bread lunch, we drove to Grand Marais looking for something different to eat. We might have enjoyed the lunch special with two slices of pizza and salad at Sven & Ole's ($4.79) or the DQBurger special meal deal at the Dairy Queen, but the Gun Flint Tavern on the Lake beckoned us with offers of a soup and sandwich special for $6.95.

The soup of the day was Spicy New Delhi vegan soup which turned out to be a delicious warming vegetarian Indian Curry including carrots, onions, beans, with a hint of mustard seeds. With a side dish of rice this might have been a whole meal for a vegetarian but instead of rice, the soup came with a half Tomato Pennani sandwich with marinated basil leaves on millet bread accompanied by blue corn chips. For a drink, we could choose from one of twelve micro-brewed beers on tap such as Guinness, Lake Superior, James Page, and Summit.

Other sandwiches we have sampled for $6.95 include the Gyro Pita with lamb/beef strips, gourmet lettuce, and special sauce; and the Smoked Lake Trout Wrap in a garlic and herb tortilla. For dessert we could not resist the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake especially created by Misha ($4.25). The raspberries are pureed into the cheesecake giving it a nice purple color and the white chocolate is shaved on top.

The restaurant decor features simple bare beam ceilings, four tables with wild flowers in antique bottles and a black board on the wall listing the offerings of the day. The Gun Flint Tavern, open since May 1998, gets its name from the Gunflint Trail and is located on main street in the old Grand Marais State Bank Building now called the Fireweed Common Building across from the harbor and next to the Johnson Heritage Post, site of the old trading post that supplied trappers and explorers heading north to the Gunflint.

If you stop by the Gun Flint Tavern in the evening you can enjoy items from the dinner menu ($13.95 to $16.95) while listening to live musicians playing. Some of the selections are Wild Mushroom Stuffed Pasta with Tarragon cream sauce, Duck Sausage and Choron sauce over Red Chili Pepper Pasta, Fresh Ocean Mussels with Marinara on Red Chili Pepper Pasta or Chicken Mole with tortillas.

For after dinner or anytime of the day, the Cuppa Diem (formerly the BrewHaHa), across the hall from the Gun Flint Tavern, does a brisk business serving all your caffeine needs. The small mocha latte ($2.55) was tiny but refreshing. Tea drinkers can find a selection of fine teas. If you are still hungry, you can try muffins or cookies with your drinks. Frequent customers can ask for a card that will get them a free cup with eight purchases.

Grand Marais Harbor

Henry Mayhew, explorer, prospector, entrepreneur and county commissioner, was credited with developing Gunflint Trail and Grand Marais. Capitalizing on the North Shore's well-established commercial fishing and tourism industries he constructed the lighthouse, warehouses, docks and a hotel in this harbor in the late 1800s.

Without roads, Grand Marais, like other North Shore communities, depended upon the Booth Packing Company's steamships for provisions. These vessels, including the Argo, Bon Ami, and later the Dixon and America, sailed between Duluth and Port Arthur collecting fish for market, making mail deliveries and transporting passengers. While awaiting the ship's arrival in Grand Marais, people etched their names into nearby rocks. Almost 100 names remain visible.

The harbor teemed with activity when the ships anchored at Mayhew's dock. As passengers disembarked, men unloaded livestock and lugged hay bales and lumber to the warehouses. Barrels packed with fish were hauled aboard, and horse or oxen-driven wagons piled high with supplies rushed back and forth.

When the Dixon's route was changed in 1902, the steamship America became a familiar site in Grand Marais harbor. She served North Shore communities for over a quarter of a century, until Lake Superior's treacherous waters claimed her in 1928.
(The preceding paragraphs are quoted from a sign erected near the harbor)

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Logging on the Northshore


Logging had been so extensive in Michigan by 1890 that most of the big white pines had been cut and lumbermen were looking for new sites such as those on the shore of Lake Superior North of Duluth. One of the big names in North Shore logging was John Schroeder.

After immigrating to America from Hanover, Germany in 1837, John Schroeder became involved in the lumber business in Milwaukee, WI. The John Schroeder Lumber Company was incorporated in 1881 and became one of the biggest in the Midwest. In order to have trees to cut, Schroeder purchased an entire township in northeastern Minnesota along the Cross River drainage area.

Cross River was one of only two in Northern Minnesota suitable for transporting logs. The other was the Pigeon River where the High Falls made it necessary to employ a log chute. Waterfalls and cascades in the other rivers meant that timber could not easily be driven down stream. Where river transportation was not viable, it was necessary to build rail lines to transport the logs to the sawmills in the Duluth area or to the shore where they could be taken across the lake to Ashland.

The name Cross River is reported to have come from Father Baraga, a missionary, who landed at the mouth of the river. In 1846 after a hazardous crossing of Lake Superior by boat from LaPointe, WI, he planted a cross on shore to commemorate his miraculous salvation. Later the village, established in 1886, was call Redmyer after the Norwegian immigrant Henry Redmyer who operated a small fishing business and was granted a license to operate the post office there. Redmyer became famous for the part he later played in the U.S. government Alaskan Reindeer Project but eventually moved out west although some say it was his son and not he who went to Alaska. With the advent of the Schroeder Company, and the closing of the post office, the town came to be called Schroeder.

Schroeder's company used the "river-drive method" of transporting logs from the forest to the shore. Logs were cut during the winter and stacked by the water until the ice melted. Seven dams had to be built so as to control the flow of the water. As the gates of each dam were released, water drove the logs down stream. At the mouth of Cross River, massive log booms were built into rafts and towed to the sawmill in Ashland, WI. The rafting crew usually pitched their tents at Tofte in a cleared area where the Bluefin Bay Resort is now located, according to one source.

Lumber camps were established and men were hired on a short term basis until the timber was all cut. Sources report that the men earned about $30 per month plus room and board. They slept in double decker metal beds two or three to a bed, washed clothes in an iron washtub, bathed in icy water, but were fed rather well. Some of the camps of 175 to 200 men served lots of beef or pork with plenty of dessert. When they went to town, perhaps every three months, they are reported to have lived it up.

Harrison writes: "The day's work started about 4:30 each morning when they were called by the Bull Cook to a huge breakfast . . . It was demanding work and required skill and balance. . . They had had a sandwich for lunch at noon and were ready for a mighty meal after all that activity in the fresh air. As can be imagined, the cook and his crew were very important to the well being and morale of the camps. Many of the camps raised pigs in the summer and thus had an ever ready supply of fresh meat on hand.."

The Cross River operation closed in 1905 when the Schroeder company moved on to other timber areas. John Schroeder died in 1908 leaving the company to his sons.

But other companies operated on the North Shore taking timber as long as it lasted using the railroads to transport their logs. The Duluth & Northern Minnesota Railroad was built to handle this kind of traffic from the Northwoods to the sawmills in Cloquet. Plans called for a connection between the D &N M and Fort William across the Canadian border but these were not realized. By 1916, the big logging operations in Cook County were located near Cascade and two years later, the railroad moved 434,340 tons of freight and carried 14,863 passenger reaching 99 miles north from Duluth.

One danger of log transportation is that a heavily loaded log train might become a runaway train if the brakes fail. Another danger is the log jams which occurred in rivers and lakes. Probably the worst hazard was the great fire such as the one in Hinckley in December 1894 which devastated much of the pine forest in central Minnesota around Hinckley or the Cloquet fire in 1918.

By 1923, the Duluth & Northern Minnesota had sold its northern portion of the track to the General Logging Company of Cloquet (which was part of the Weyerhauser empire) and the track north of mile post 69.5 was dismantled. They used the track to extend into the last remaining big timber forest on the North Shore. Most of the marketable timber for General Logging Company was cut by 1938 and more lines were taken up. Harrison, the author of Cinder and Timbers, maintains that as late as 1967, he was able to find abandoned rails and spikes in an old railroad bed between Grand Marais and Devil Track Lake. At the time his book was published, the D& N M was still making two daily trips from Cloquet to Saganaw, MN.

Sources for this article:

Frederick G. Harrison (1967). Cinders and Timber. Cloquet, MN: The Quarter Century Club. Frank A. King (1981). Minnesota Logging Railroads. San Marino, CA: Golden West Books. Angus L. White (1990). A History of John Schroeder and the John Schroeder Lumber Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lanesboro, MN: Forest Resource Center.

 

Sled Dogs used since Early Days

The popularity of sled dog sport in our area, notices of teams in Danbury and Osceola, races on the North Shore and at Hinkley and news that a North Branch man placed in the world famous Iditarod race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, reminds us that sled dogs were commonly used by the Dakota and Ojibwe Indians and by new comers from the earliest days of settlement in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Here below are historical notes about sled dogs taken from a forthcoming book by Tim White.
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In the month of February, 1825, at Fort Anthony (later Fort Snelling) Col. Josiah Snelling sent a party of men to Rum River "to procure pine logs; their provisions & baggage were transported on dog trains and the cod lines were purchased to secure the loading." (Snelling to General Thomas S. Jesup, April 1, 1825, Forth Snelling Papers, Minnesota Historical Society)
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February 1838, After Ojibwe Indians had signed a treaty at Fort Snelling but before the U. S. Senate had ratified it,William Boyce and some other lumberman, not waiting for the ratification, made claims near the Snake River and began to cut pine trees. Ojibwe Chief Peshick or Buffalo, refused to let them take the logs saying that the government had not yet paid for the land. Franklin Steele, one of the original proprietors of St. Croix Falls, took a dog team from Fort Snelling to Boyce's Camp to try to make peace between Boyce and the Indians. (Folsom, Fifty Years in the Northwest, 1888, p.83)
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During the next winter, 1838-1839, when workmen were building the first mill of the site of St. Croix Falls, Levi Stratton remembered: "our blacksmith burnt a pit of coal, make of soft maple, just below the Dalles, on the eastern bank of the river a few rods from it, and Tom Glassy proved himself a good mechanic by making a frame sled and rack, to which he attached a large dog, and in gunny sacks removed the coal over the ice to the shop, some five hundred bushels, fifteen bushels to the load." (Taylors Falls Reporter, March 10, 1871)
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Joseph R. Brown traveled by dog train from his home on Grey Cloud Island to Prairie du Chien on the ice on his way to attend the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature. "A Dog train was a slender vehicle made of two runners about 1 foot in height, as long as desired, about 3 ft. in width they run easy, were light to handle over rough ice & portages." (WHC Folsom Interview with Brown in the Folsom Papers, Minnesota Historical Society).
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1850's, Ely Tuttle carried the mail from St. Croix Falls to Superior on a sled drawn by a team of six dogs (St. Croix Big Booster Edition). Mr. Oakes, a "half-breed", arrived in St. Paul from Lake Superior "being 50 miles each day, with a sledge and train of three dogs. The dog's ration or each day is one fish, eaten at night." (Minnesota Pioneer, March 3, 1850)
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"We saw a dog sled for the first time last week. One of the emigrants to Frazer River (gold fields) had become discouraged and turned back when near the Mountains, traveling home on a dog sled. It is oak board, about seven feet long and twenty inches broad, apparently split from the log, dressed smoothly and turned upward at the front end. Three dogs, two wolf and one black dog were hitched to this, tandem with thongs and harness of buffalo hide. Two buffalo robes, a blanket, shot gun and 75 lbs. Of pemican were the return outfit of the traveler, who was alone in fine health." (Stillwater Messenger December 28, 1858, from the St. Cloud Democrat)
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Mabell Grimes Hill, a St. Paul school teacher who came to live near Stacy in the 1960's should be credited for her outstanding role in promoting sled dog racing in Minnesota and as a founding member of the North Star Sled Dog Club. Hill, a home economics teacher at Cleveland Junior High School in St. Paul, became interested in huskies on a trip to Alaska in the 1950's. In 1954-1955 she obtained three Alaskans and was given a Siberian Husky female. Later she purchased her first Siberian male, George's Yukon King, who later became a show dog champion. From a friend in Wisconsin, she got another Siberian, Czar of the Northland. These were among the dogs in her first kennel. As she acquired more dogs they outgrew their space in St Paul and on six acres in Blaine. Finally she found a new home at Husky Acres, north and east of Stacy (now the home of the Eugene Lees) where she lived until her death in November, 1971.
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Arleigh Jorgenson, now a dog musher at Grand Marais, met Mabell Hill through his former wife, Sarah Kinney, who also taught school in St. Paul. Jorgenson, then a student at Luther Seminary, became interested in Mabell Hill's huskies and came out to Stacy to help her train them. Jorgenson ran one of her teams in a race in the 1971 St. Paul Winter Carnival. After Hill died, her mother let him choose some of her dogs for his own. They were the beginning of his kennel that now numbers more than 140 dogs. Among them are descendants of Mabell Hill's Czar of the North.
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In 1971, Tim White, a Yale University graduate in engineering, who had been teaching at the Putney School in Vermont, came back to Minnesota to Amador Township in Chisago County with four young sled dogs. In the next two years, he added other dogs to his team and in 1974, he was the first non-Alaskan to race (and place) in the Iditarod. Between times, he and his brother, Bruce, operated a bookstore in the Schottmuller Building in Taylors Falls; he edited and published a new edition of Dog Transportation, the U.S. Army sled dog manual, and he designed and manufactured a new kind of dog sled, now generically known as the "timwhite sled." Today he lives near Grand Marais and races dogs in Canada, South America, and Europe and produces his patented Quick Change Runners, used throughout the dog sled world.
 
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