was another excitement during the summer; William Gordon had come
to Odanah, not as a great Indian chief, but as Chief of the Indian
Police and interpreter at the Indian Agency. During his first year
as chief, he had the unpleasant duty of arresting his own uncle.
Joseph Blackburn and his brother, John, had come from Cincinnati,
Ohio, to Stillwater, Minnesota, in 1847. They went into business
together and traded all over Minnesota and into Wisconsin. Later
they split up. John went to work for the Shell Lake Lumber Company
and Joe opened a trading post about 10 miles southeast of Gordon
in 1860. He married Mary Dingley, sister of Sarah, Philip's grandmother.
Joe was accused of trespass in his transactions for timber rights
when he allegedly hauled off lumber from government lands. A warrant
was given to Bill Gordon, which he served on his uncle. He took
Joe to Madison and testified against him in Federal Court. Blackburn
was fined $10,000. He wrote a check for that amount on the First
National Bank of Stillwater. The court, being skeptical, wired the
bank. The answer came back, "Blackburn's check up to $50,000 will
Blackburn came to a tragic end, no doubt due to his wealth. One
October 1, 1897, he returned from the Eau Claire Lakes with a wagonload
of cranberries. He had unhitched his horses from the wagon but had
not yet removed the harnesses, when he was apparently attacked by
an unknown assailant. Evidence showed indications of a fight and
Blackburn was killed by a blow on the head with a blunt instrument.
His axe, which had been fastened to his wagon with a leather thong,
was found near his body and was either the murder weapon or he had
used it defending himself. The crime has never been solved.
The story was revived in 1932 when the Superior Evening Telegram
published and article, "Pioneer Sheds Light on 'Buried Gold' Narrative."
The paper had received a letter from Frank Berquist, pioneer Gordon
resident and old friend of Blackburn.
The letter stated, "A man who gave his name as Akerly and his residence
as Minnesota, recently told District Attorney Claude Copper that
he had been told by 'spirits' that there was gold in an Indian squaw's
grave at Gordon, Wisconsin.
story was connected with Blackburn's death by courthouse employees,
for although Blackburn was reputed to be a wealthy man, after his
death none of his wealth was ever found
From time to time
since Blackburn's death, stories have been circulated as to the
whereabouts of the money Blackburn was supposed to have and now
sow some persons believe the money is in the wife's coffin."
Father Gordon, who was at Centuria, Wisconsin at the time the above
item was published, wrote, "Joe Blackburn was quite a figure in
his time. When his wife Mary died, seven years before his death
occurred, Blackburn erected a chapel in which eight or ten people
could pass with seats arranged so that visitors could sit while
viewing the closed coffin. Her grave was never filled up and I often
wondered how evidence of corruption did not make it impossible to
enter the chapel."
It was an old Indian custom to build a little wooden house about
five feet long and two or three feet high over a grave with a place
for a food offering. Some of these may still be seen in northern
Wisconsin and Minnesota. Blackburn's was much larger than that.
After reading the newspaper article, Father Gordon wrote, "My father
often related incidents pertaining to Blackburn's wealth. On one
occasion, after a winter's logging, Blackburn came home to Gordon
bearing a small oaken chest under his arm. My father saw therein
hundreds of bills, greenbacks of various denominations, and estimated
there was easily several thousand dollars in the box.
is my father's opinion that the money of Joe Blackburn, who lived
almost a miser's existence, dressing poorly, traveling very little
and never know to have any immediate relatives other than a brother,
is somewhere on the premises formerly occupied by Blackburn. The
idea that Black burn hid the treasure, if he had any, in the coffin
of his deceased wife sounds improbably put would not have been impossible."
Mr. Berquist, in is letter, added, "Blackburn was one of the most
picturesque and best liked of the early settlers in the vicinity
did not live in a shack, but a large hewed timber building, which
had accommodations for forty men or more and his building still
stands (1932). Lumberjacks going to and from the camps, used to
stop at the Blackburn place and there were several other good sized
buildings on the land, one being used as a trading post
burn was a man who did not have much to say but always helped anyone