Gordon, through his work as policeman, was thoroughly familiar with
every spot on the reservation. Consequently, when the time came
for Philip to receive his allotment, his father selected the most
beautiful timbered stand of pine that remained. Many other Indians
were not so fortunate, and Philip later helped in the fight to reclaim
some of their losses.
Legally, the income from the timber cut on the land was his, but
he was not allowed to spend it without the consent of government
agent on the reservation.
There was much confusion in regard to allotments and the use of
the money. Contracts between the lumber companies and the Indian
agencies were supposedly to insure that the funds derived from the
sale of timber would come into the hands of the official representative
of the government rather than into the possession of the chiefs
who might be neglectful as to the distribution of the money among
the members of the tribe or fail to use it for the benefit of the
Terms of the contracts were so loose and indefinites as to the amount
of timber sold that it was impossible to protect the interest of
the Indians adequately.
The treaty of 1854 had provided for the establishment of a residence
upon the land of each person to who an assignment was given in the
hope that they would become self-supporting. But many problems and
disputes arose, especially with the realization of the value of
the pine timber on Indian reservations.
After inquires from the Mississippi River Logging Company and Angus
Cameron, an attorney at La Crosse, Wisconsin, Secretary Henry M.
Teller, on September 20, 1882, wired Cameron as follows: "If the
Indians have patents they may sell the timber, subject to the approval
of the Department, and the Department will approve contracts honorably
and justly made."
On September 25, 1882, Mr. Cameron wrote: "The Indians are suspicious,
and it is believed that few of them will sell or sign any contract
of sale unless they are paid the whole consideration at the time
of the signing the contract."
Charges and investigations continued for years. On April 16, 1886,
Special Agent H. Heth submitted a voluminous report, stating among
other things. "
These Indians are well-clad and some of them
have purchased good teams and have small farms
The cash balances
paid the Indians individually by the contractor, have been used,
in some instances greatly to their benefit, but in many instances,
as you would find among whites, has been squandered in the most
useless geegaws, worthless trinkets, whiskey, and gambling with
cards, which appears to be a favorite pastime with lazy and worthless
It was not difficult for unscrupulous loggers to make arrangements
with some of these Indians for the sale of timber without government
supervision, as they felt it was their right to dispose of the timber
on the reservation lands for their own benefit and may rebelled
at the claims of the government to supervise all sales.
On July 1, 1898, Samuel W. Campbell, a veteran of the Civil War,
became Indian agent at Ashland in charge of the La Pointe Agency.
Two months lather he wrote the Indian Office in Washington suggesting
changes in payment of allotments, giving cash payments of $10.00
to $15.00 per month instead of $25.00 and $30.00 they had been paying.
Campbell wrote: "
I find many able-bodied Indians idle; neither
working in the mills nor improving their allotments; but sitting
idly down, folding their hands, eating and drinking up their allotments;
and when it is all gone they will be much worse off than if they
never had an allotment. "
of them have already spent every cent of their allotments and scores
of others have their money almost gone, and in most of the cases
they have nothing to show for their money. Thousands of dollars
worth of orders have been issued against allotments not yet out,
for teams and many other useless things which they did not need,
and many of the teams have been starved, many disposed of for whatever
they could get for them after the novelty had worn off
view of the above facts, and to better enable me to aid in saving
the remnants of different allotments of the three reservations,
I would recommend that you instruct me to no pay out any money on
allotments to any able-bodied Indian who is able to work and earn
his living, except for permanent improvements on their allotments;
and to encourage them to improve their allotments, I would advise
that for every acre they improve and clean up and cultivate, we
pay them $10.00 or $15.00 of their money, and if they wish to make
any other improvements, such as buildings, etc., to have it done
through the Farmer and have him make estimates, thoroughly familiarize
himself with each application so he can give full information in
detail, and see that everything goes for what the application calls
Campbell went on in length, making allowances for the aged, widows,
and minors, but cutting off indiscriminate payments to those able
After five months deliberation, during which time Campbell had again
written urging approval of his plan, the Indian Office notified
him the plan would be given a trial, but was noncommittal and placed
upon the agent most of the responsibility.
Agent Campbell became confused by later contradictory statements
and inconsistencies in instructions, which continued for years.
As usual, investigations and controversies followed: finally, supervision
of cutting was placed under the Bureau of Forestry. Later, criticism
of this bureau by Assistant Government Farmer Norbert Sero in 1908
claimed that "representatives of the Bureau of Forestry, who marked
trees, selected the very largest and choicest white pine, contrary
to the rules and regulations."
As Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Major Campbell became embroiled
in almost continuous controversy and was accused of being obsessed
with the idea that the Indians would almost invariably spend unwisely
every dollar that came into their possession. Eventually, in 1912,
he was dismissed when his administration was bitterly attacked by
certain Indians through a Washington attorney. Many felt that great
injustice was done him.
In view of all this contention, it is no wonder Philip Gordon felt
a sense of futility when he approached Major Campbell. He realized
Campbell, white and non-Catholic, undoubtedly would not grant his
request to use the money he received for sale of timber to continue
his studies for the priesthood.
In spite of accusations against him, Campbell's concern was the
welfare of the Indians. Philip need not have worried for the agent
readily gave his consent. He well knew the great need among the
Indians for moral and spiritual help from someone who knew them.
Campbell was even helpful in cutting and marketing the timber on
Philip's land and obtained $10,000 for the timber. The two became
friends and later, when Major Campbell retired to his home at Hudson,
Wisconsin, Gordon frequently visited him.
Philip was at St. Paul Seminary in September 1908, when forest fires
burned over large areas on the Bad River Reservation. The fires
temporarily showed by rains but with drought conditions and accompanying
high winds in the middle of October, the fires burned out of control
The amount of timber within the reservation injured by fire was
estimated at from 50,000,000 to 100,000,000 board feet. More than
15,000,000 of this was on unallotted lands where no contract existed
and the timber could be cut only under authority of the government.
This was another subject of controversy for which Father Gordon
later fought vigorously.