An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
May 17, 2003 - Issue 87
Wisconsin Point War Nears End
by By Harry R. Zander of the Journal Staff - From The Milwaukee Journal - December 14, 1924
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)
Battle of Three Generations for the Last of the Chippewa Domains Picturesque
- The most desolate and at the same time the most expensive unimproved
land in Wisconsin lies here, off the Superior Harbor, a throwback to the
primitive days of the United States' conquest of the Indian lands, a bone
of contention over which nearly $1,000,000 has been spent already, the
center piece of an industrial project involving the future expenditure
of between $15,000,000 and $20,000,000.
generations have been born, loved, fought, reared families and completed
the human span in death since the conflict over Wisconsin Point had its
inception. A third generation is springing up, grounded as firmly in the
principles of aboriginal ownership of the Point as were those old Chippewas
under Chief Osagie, who opposed the dickerings with the white man back
There remains only four of the descendants of old Chief Osagie and his counselors who have been adamant against the blandishments and lures of the white invasion. Yet this quartet of swarthy half-breeds, turning up their noses at the loosened purse strings of America's wealthiest corporation, sneering at the oily tongued promises of lives of ease and wealth, ignoring the crushing advance of modern industry upon the wilderness, which has been their fathers' and their fathers' father' as far back as human memory goes, wage with the white men's own weapons their battle for their heritage.
Defy Steel Company
is a wasteland, indeed, yet the unsentimental winds which drive the great
$2,000,000,000 United States Steel Corporation, America's biggest combine,
envision upon these desolate shores and wretched acres enormous docks
to handle its iron and steel shipments.
For more than a third of a century now sentiment prevailed over business and the untutored savages' offspring have withstood the encroachment of the corporation. Recent developments, however seem to indicate that the conflict is almost at an end.
Started in 1840
of settling all differences over the land, however, the treaty merely
marked the beginning of a prolonged era of litigation, armed warfare and
general trouble. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on the
land to make it ready for the big industrial project, working staring
and in some case approaching completion in lulls of the conflict during
which the Indians' claims were believed to have been finally settled.
Five years after the treaty with Chief Osagie was signed, sealed and delivered, Frank Lemieux or La Swiss as he was sometimes called came down from Madeline Island and married a daughter of Chief Osagie taking up his residence on the point and gradually assuming leadership of the Chippewas. Lemieux was a half Indian and half French, having migrated from the La Pointe settlement on Madeline Island to marry Osagie's daughter.
Settler Enters Claim
Bullen sold the Point to the Agate Land Company, a subsidiary of the United
Steel Corporation. But Frank Lemieux and Chief Osage's daughter did not
relish the idea of heir domain being converted into a forest of machinery
and devices, which they did not understand. The others of the already
dwindling Fond du Lac Band supported them in their protest.
Land With Guns
old warrior was getting on in years; however, and in 1902 he died, leaving
a tangled web of legal red tape to be unraveled by his widow and five
children. The widow survived him by only five years, when she too passed
away, leaving the children and their descendants to carry on the battle.
of the heirs of Lemieux moved to the City of Superior so that their children
might have access to the schools but they always maintained some member
of the family on Wisconsin Point to protect their title to the land through
The year after the death of Lemieux's widow the steel company's officials and the officials of the interested subsidiaries believed their title clear and all difficulties cleared away. The erection of a connecting rail line from the Minnesota Steel Co.'s plant west of the St. Louis River in Minnesota was constructed, skirting the city of Superior, and the erection of the long bridge from the mainland across a wide marshy stretch to the point was completed. The opportunity to build the largest ore loading docks on any of the Great Lakes appeared to be at hand at last.
land company, having already spent $300,000 for its title and fully as
much more on improvements, demurred and the course was taken to court.
After hanging fire for years a financial settlement was made with all
the descendants of the original settlers except three children and a grandson
of Lemieux, the latter's son Frank Jr., having died leaving a son, Phillip.
A daughter of the original Lemieux, Mrs. Mary La Vierge making a settlement
over the land concerned. The three other children contesting the case
were Peter and John Lemieux and Mrs. Martineau.
in the settlement the steel concern made with the Indians was an agreement
that the land company would remove the Indian dead from a cemetery, which
stood in the way of its proposed docks, to the Nemadji River Cemetery
in Superior's East End. This was done in 1918 and further plans for improvements
started by the Steel Corporation's subsidiary.
For of the Lemieux descendants namely the two sons, Peter and John, the daughter, Maggie Martineau, and the nephew, Phillip Lemieux, however, still claim title to the land and in 1920 the brought suit against the Agate Land Company.
attorneys handling the case believe that after the struggle of half a
century, the Lemieux descendants will come to an agreement with the steel
concern whereby the final bit of Indians land will pass into the hands
of the white men, making possible the completion of their plans for extensive
There still is a possibility however, that the Indians will refuse to accept the decision of Judge Foley and will appeal the case to a higher court. In that event, the battle of he ages will be renewed once more while the steel company's bridge and the network of its proposed docks rot away.
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