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SEARCH FOR YOUR ANCESTORS IN THESE MICHIGAN GENEALOGICAL DATABASES:
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Gogebic County History and Information
County History | Court Records | Vital Records | CENSUS Records | TAX Records | Military Records |
Maps & Atlases | Genealogy Addresses | Church & Cemeteries | Genealogy Related Sites |
Gogebic County Facts

Gogebic County was created on 7 Feb 1881 and was formed from Ontonagon County. The County was named for Chippewa "bic" which most references interpret as "rock.". The County Seat is Bessemer . See also County History for more historical details.

Counties adjacent to Gogebic County are Ontonagon County (north), Iron County (east), Vilas County, Wisconsin (south), Iron County, Wisconsin (southwest). Townships found in Gogebic County include Bessemer, Erwin, Ironwood, Marenisco, Wakefield, Watersmeet Townships. Cities, Towns and Communities include Bessemer, Ironwood, Marenisco, Ramsay, Wakefield, Watersmeet

  • The Gogebic County Official Government Website
  • Gogebic County, Michigan History Books at Amazon.com
  • Family History Library - The largest collection of free family history, family tree and genealogy records in the world.

 

There are free downloadable and printable forms to help with your research. These include U.S. Census Extraction Forms, U.K. Census Extraction Forms, Research Calendar, Ancestral Chart, Research Extract, Correspondence Record , Family Group Sheet , Source Summary Form.

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Records at the Gogebic County Courthouse
PLEASE READ!! Please call the clerk's department to confirm hours, mailing address, fees and other specifics before visiting or requesting information because of sometimes changing contact information.

All departments below at located at the Gogebic County Courthouse, ? , unless a different address is listed below. NOTE: The date listed for each category of record is the earliest record known to exist in that county. It does not indicate that there are numerous records for that year and certainly does not indicate that all such events that year were actually registered.

   Gogebic County Clerk has the following Records for: Births & Deaths: 1887 to present (Information available for all deaths from 1887. However, actual death certificates for photocopying purposes are only available from 1934), Marriages & Divorces: 1887 to present (Marriage records are cross-indexed in alphabetical order by last name), Veterans Discharges (DD-214): Approximately 1917 to present; Circuit Court Files: 1887 to present; Criminal and Civil records available to public. The Office is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: 906-663-4518 .
   The County Clerk is responsible for keeping records of births, deaths, assumed names, co-partnerships, issuing and filing marriage licenses, gun permits, notary bonds and processing passports.

   Gogebic County Register of Deeds has Land Records from 1887 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (906)667-0381 .
   The Register is the County's official recording officer for all legal documents pertaining to the transfers and encumbrances of all real estate property within the County. The Register also provides permanent storage for approved original subdivision plats, condominiums, land surveys and section corners.

   Gogebic County Clerk of the Probate Court has Probate Records from 1887 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (906)667-0421 .
   The Court Adjudicates and disposes of cases involving property of persons who have died or become incompetent, interprets wills and trusts, commits the mentally ill when necessary and appoints guardians and conservators for minors, incapacitated individuals and individuals with developmental disability.

   Gogebic County Clerk of the Circuit Court has Court Records from 1887 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (906)663-4211 .
   The Clerk provides a variety of functions for the court such as, but not limited to: filing and maintaing the official record for all cases that come before the court; providing staff to assist in the operation of the court; working with the Jury Commission and notifying all potential jurors to appear for jury duty; and, processing felony criminal cases bound over from the District Court. 

Search Online Click Here to Search Michigan Court, Land, Wills & Financial Records! - Researchers often overlook the importance of court records, probate records, and land records as a source of family history information.

Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Court Records. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Court Records by clicking the link below:

  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Michigan Land Records: Michigan Pre-1908 Homestead & Cash Entry Patent and Cadastral Survey Plat Index.
  • Michigan Eastern District Naturalizations: Index to Naturalization papers of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit, 1837-1903 and U.S. Circuit Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit, 1837-1903
  • Gogebic County, Michigan Court Books at Amazon.com
  • Michigan Immigration & Emigration Records - Immigration records help the family historian to understand the movements of their ancestry as they relocated to different parts of the world.

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Gogebic County Vital Records
Search Online Click Here to Search Michigan Birth, Marriage & Death Records! - Birth, marriage, and death records are connected with central life events. They are prime sources for genealogical information. Look also for baptism, christening, and burial records in this collection.

The State of Michigan Vital Records Office is located at 201 Townsend Street, Capitol View Bldg, 3rd Floor, Lansing MI 48913 (across the street from the state capitol - south side). The office hours are 8:00 am - 5:00 pm Mon-Fri, except for State holidays. They are open thru the lunch hour. If applying in person, you must submit your request by 3:00 pm in order to obtain same-day service. It can take up to 1-3 months to get a vital record from Michigan.
Some documents are just too important to wait 1-3 months for, With VitalChek Express Certificate Service you won’t have to. Birth, Marriage, Divorce & Death Certificates Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Often in as few as three business days!

  • Birth Certificates: The Vital Records Office maintains birth records that occur in Michigan since 1867 to the present. Birth records are restricted in Michigan and only a person or parent named on the record or a legal guardian of the person named on the record may request a copy. A legal representative is eligible to request a copy if he/she represents the person named on the record. Photo identification is required to request a Michigan birth record (unless the birth record is at least 100 years old).
    • Cost: Initial search (fee includes a 3-year search, Each additional year is $12.00 per year) and one certified copy or certification of the record or No Record Statement is $26.00 and $12.00 for each additional copy. Make your check or money order payable to "STATE OF MICHIGAN". Enclose a business-size self-addressed envelope. If no record is found or no copy is made, state law requires that we keep check amount for a searching fee. Please do not send cash in the mail. Mail to: Vital Records Requests, PO Box 30721, Lansing MI 48909
    • Processing Time: If the birth year is 1906 to the present, your request will be processed within 4 weeks. If the birth year is prior to 1906, the processing time will be 1-3 months. when ordered by MAIL or 2-5 Days when you order ELECTRONICALLY
  • Death Certificates: The Vital Records Office maintains death records that occur in Michigan since 1867 to the present. Click Here to Search the Social Security Death Index for FREE
    • Cost: Initial search (fee includes a 3-year search, Each additional year is $12.00 per year) and one certified copy or certification of the record or No Record Statement is $26.00 and $12.00 for each additional copy. Make your check or money order payable to "STATE OF MICHIGAN". Enclose a business-size self-addressed envelope. If no record is found or no copy is made, state law requires that we keep check amount for a searching fee. Please do not send cash in the mail. Mail to: Vital Records Requests, PO Box 30721, Lansing MI 48909
    • Processing Time: If the death year is 1916 to the present, your request will be processed within 4 weeks of receipt in the vital records office. If the death year is prior to 1916, the processing time will be 1-3 months when ordered by MAIL or 2-5 Days when you order ELECTRONICALLY
  • Marriage Certificates: The Vital Records Office maintains marriage records that occur in Michigan since 1867 to the present.
    • Cost: Initial search (fee includes a 3-year search, Each additional year is $12.00 per year) and one certified copy or certification of the record or No Record Statement is $26.00 and $12.00 for each additional copy. Make your check or money order payable to "STATE OF MICHIGAN". Enclose a business-size self-addressed envelope. If no record is found or no copy is made, state law requires that we keep check amount for a searching fee. Please do not send cash in the mail. Mail to: Vital Records Requests, PO Box 30721, Lansing MI 48909
    • Processing Time: If the marriage year is 1926 to the present, your request will
      be processed within 4 weeks of receipt in the vital records office. If the marriage year is
      prior to 1926, the processing time will be 1-3 months when ordered by MAIL or 2-5 Days when you order ELECTRONICALLY
  • Divorce Certificates: The Vital Records Office maintains divorce records that occur in Michigan since 1867 to the present.
    • Cost: Initial search (fee includes a 3-year search, Each additional year is $12.00 per year) and one certified copy or certification of the record or No Record Statement is $26.00 and $12.00 for each additional copy. Make your check or money order payable to "STATE OF MICHIGAN". Enclose a business-size self-addressed envelope. If no record is found or no copy is made, state law requires that we keep check amount for a searching fee. Please do not send cash in the mail. Mail to: Vital Records Requests, PO Box 30721, Lansing MI 48909
    • Processing Time: If the divorce year is 1925 to the present, your request will be
      processed within 4 weeks of receipt in the vital records office. If the divorce year is prior
      to 1925, the processing time will be 1-3 months when ordered by MAIL or 2-5 Days when you order ELECTRONICALLY

Apply In Person: If you wish to apply in person to order a Michigan vital record, you may do so at the office located at 201 Townsend St, Capitol View Building, 3rd Floor, Lansing MI 48913 (across from the State Capitol). Lobby hours are 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. Directions are available by logging onto our website at: www.michigan.gov/mdch or by calling 517-335-8666.
A check or money order is preferred, and orders in our lobby must be placed by 3:00 pm in order to request same-day service. An additional fee of $10.00 is required for same-day service orders.
Please allow a 2-3 hour waiting period for same-day service.

Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Vital Records. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Vital Records by clicking the link below:

  • Search the Social Security Death Index for FREE
  • Michigan Marriages to 1850: This database of Michigan marriages to 1850 contains 13,000 names.
  • Michigan Marriages, 1851-75: This database contains records of marriages within the state for the years 1851 through 1875.
  • Michigan Deaths, 1971-1996: With over 2.75 million records, the Michigan Death Index covers the years from 1971 to 1996, making this database of particular interest to those with relatives from Michigan.
  • Gogebic County, Michigan Birth, Marriage & Death Books at Amazon.com

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Gogebic County Census Records
Search Online Click Here to Search Michigan Voter Lists & Census Records! - Few, if any, records reveal as many details about individuals and families as do government census records. Substitute records can be used when the official census is unavailable.

  Countywide Records: Federal Population Schedules that exist for Gogebic County, Michigan are 1890 (fragment, see below), 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. Other Federal Schedules to look at when researching your Family Tree in Gogebic County, Michigan are Industry and Agriculture Schedules availible for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. The Mortality Schedules for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880.There are free downloadable and printable Census forms to help with your research. These include U.S. Census Extraction Forms and U.K. Census Extraction Forms.

  See Also Statewide Records that exist for Michigan

Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Census Records. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Census Records by clicking the link below:

  • Michigan Census, 1827-70: This collection contains the following indexes: 1827 Territorial Census Index; 1837 Kalamazoo County Index; 1840 Federal Census Index; 1840 Pensioners List; 1845 State Census Index; 1850 Federal Census Index; 1860 Federal Census Index; 1870 Federal Census Index; Early Census Index.
  • Michigan State Census, 1894: This database contains information from the 1894 Michigan State Census for the counties of Barry, Bay, Benzie, Dickinson, Emmet, Gratiot, Iosco, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Keweenaw, Lapeer, Menominee, Montcalm, and Washtenaw.
  • Gogebic County, Michigan Census Books at Amazon.com

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Gogebic County Maps & Atlases

   Genealogy Atlas has images of old American atlases during the years 1795, 1814, 1822, 1823, 1836, 1838, 1845, 1856, 1866, 1879 and 1897 for Ohio and other states.

  You can view rotating animated maps for Michigan showing all the county boundaries for each census year overlayed with past and present maps so you can see the changes in county boundaries. You can view a list of maps for other states at Census Maps
   You can view rotating animated maps for Michigan showing all the county boundary changes for each year overlayed with past and present maps so you can see the changes in county boundaries. You can view a list of maps for other states at County Maps

Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Maps. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Maps by clicking the link below:

  • The USGenWeb Archives Digital Map Library
  • Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection: Michigan Maps
  • Historical Maps of Michigan - Geographical, Statistical, and Historical Map of Michigan Territory
  • American Memory Map Collection: 1500-2004 - extensive selection from the Library of Congress Map Collections, focusing on Americana and cartographic treasures.
  • Gogebic County, Michigan Map Books at Amazon.com

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Gogebic County Military Records
Search Online Click Here to Search Michigan Military Records! - Military and civil service records provide unique facts and insights into the lives of men and women who have served their country at home and abroad.

   The uses and value of military records in genealogical research for ancestors who were veterans are obvious, but military records can also be important to re-searchers whose direct ancestors were not soldiers in any war. The fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and other close relatives of an ancestor may have served in a war, and their service or pension records could contain information that will assist in further identifying the family of primary interest. Due to the amount of genealogical information contained in some military pension files, they should never be overlooked during the research process. Those records not containing specific genealogical information are of historic value and should be included in any overall research design.

Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Military Records. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Military Records by clicking the link below:

  • Michigan Society of Daughters of the American Revolution
  • National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution,
  • Michigan Society of Sons of the American Revolution,
  • National Society of Sons of the American Revolution, 1000 South Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40203; (502) 589-1776
  • Southern Claims Commission (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Documents In the 1870s, southerners claimed compensation from the U.S. government for items used by the Union Army, ranging from corn and horses, to trees and church buildings.
  • Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900 from the State of Michigan (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Pension applications for service in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1917, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served.
  • Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Documents in NARA publication M246 include muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and supply records of American Army units, 1775-83.
  • Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Documents in NARA publication M246 include muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and supply records of American Army units, 1775-83.
  • Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, from NARA publication M804.
  • Civil War Principals and Substitutes Index
  • Civil War Soldier Images Database
  • Guest Register of World War I Michigan Clubroom (located in New York City)
  • World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing: State of Michigan
  • 1835 Michigan Territorial Pensioners
  • 1840 Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services State of Michigan
  • Michigan in the Civil War: This database contains a report compiled from reports of the Adjutant General and reports held by the War Department in Washington, of the services of Michigan regiments, batteries, and companies in the Civil War.
  • Michigan Military Records, 1775-1836: This database, originally compiled in 1920, is a collection of burial and pension records for residents of the state prior to 1836.
  • Gogebic County, Michigan Military Books at Amazon.com

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Gogebic County Tax Records

   Property tax records at the county level usually date back to the first land records. Either the county treasurer or the register of deeds will be the custodian of these records.

Numerous early tax assessment and general tax rolls are available at the State Archives of Michigan. Organized by county, the records include the name of the owner or occupant of the property, legal description and number of acres, value of land and personal estate, and amount of tax levied. There are tax rolls for some counties for the late 1830s, but most are for the last half of the nineteenth century.
National Archives/Great Lakes Region in Chicago holds numerous federal personal property and corporate tax assessment lists for the state of Michigan

Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Tax Records. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Tax Records by clicking the link below:

  • Gogebic County, Michigan Tax Books at Amazon.com

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Gogebic County Genealogical Addresses

   The Repositories in this section are Archives, Libraries, Museums, Genealogical and Historical Societies. Many County Historical and Genealogical Societies publish magazines and/or news letters on a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual basis. Contacting the local societies should not be over looked. State Archives and Societies are usually much larger and better organized with much larger archived materials than their smaller county cousins but they can be more generalized and over look the smaller details that local societies tend to have. Libraries can also be a good place to look for local information. Some libraries have a genealogy section and may have some resources that are not located at archives or societies. Also, take a special look at any museums in the area. They sometimes have photos and items from years gone by as well as information of a genealogical interest. All these places are vitally important to the family genealogist and must not be passed over.

Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Genealogical Addresses. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Genealogical Addresses by clicking the link below:

  • Gogebic Range Genealogical Society
  • Wakefield Historical Society/Gogebic County
  • Local Michigan Researchers, Find a local researcher or become a local researcher.
  • National Archives - Great Lakes Region (Chicago), 7358 South Pulaski Road, Chicago, Illinois 60629-5898; 773-948-9001; E-mail: (Maintains retired records from Federal agencies and courts in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.)
    General Information Leaflet
  • State Archives of Michigan, 702 W Kalamazoo Str, P.O. Box 30738, Lansing, MI 48909-8238; (517) 373-1408
    Original material generated by government offices at the state and/or local level, including census records, tax assessment rolls, military records and photographs are among the extensive holdings. They also have some naturalization files, correctional facility records, school records, and depression era agency files. The archives distribute information circulars on many topics. The circulars act as finding aids to their extensive collection.
  • The Historical Society of Michigan, 1305 Abbott Rd., East Lansing, MI 48823; (517) 324-1828,
    Fax: (517) 324-4370, e-mail:
  • Library of Michigan, : 702 W. Kalamazoo St, Lansing, MI 48909
    Holdings here include an extensive genealogical and historical collection including books, microforms, manuscripts, newspapers, surname index, Centennial and Sesquicentennial Certificate applications, and diaries. Records are housed in a new building with card catalog. See: http://michigan.gov/hal/libraryofmichigan for more information/services. Limited reference service to mail request. They also offer online reference services at:
  • Michigan Newspapers & Periodicals Records - Newspapers and periodicals are the diaries of local communities. They are excellent sources of family history details - often recorded nowhere else. Look for obituaries, marriages, legal notices, and more found in our Historical Newspaper Archives.
  • Michigan Genealogical Society Books at Amazon.com

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Gogebic County Church & Cemeteries
Search Online Click Here to Search Michigan Obituary Records! - This database is a compilation of obituaries published in U.S. newspapers, collected from various online sources. Obituaries can vary in the amount of information they contain, but many of them are genealogical goldmines, including information such as names, dates, places of birth and death, marriage information, and family relationships.

   There are many churches and cemeteries in Gogebic County. Some transcriptions are online. A great site is the Gogebic County Tombstone Transcription Project.

The earliest religious denomination in Michigan was the Roman Catholic church, established through a mission in 1668 at Sault Ste. Marie. Ste. Anne's, in Detroit, has parish records beginning in 1703.

Michigan Historical Collections in Ann Arbor holds large collections from the Presbyterian Church and the Protestant Episcopal Church, in addition to other denominations. Dutch Reformed church records are at Calvin College and Seminary Library in Grand Rapids; Finnish church records are deposited at the Finnish-American Historical Archives at Suomi College in Hancock. The Upjohn Library at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo has a large collection of Baptist archive material. Many early Detroit churches have their records deposited at the Burton Historical Collection-Detroit Public Library. The Michigan Historical Records Survey, WPA, completed an Inventory of the Church Archives of Michigan, and many of the church records from this inventory were published from 1936 through 1942.

The Library of Michigan in Lansing and the Burton Historical Collection have over 1,000 books of transcribed or published tombstone readings from Michigan cemeteries. To locate a cemetery in the state, consult the Michigan Cemetery Compendium. It lists most cemeteries in Michigan.

Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Cemetery & Church Records. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Cemetery & Church Records by clicking the link below:

  • Revolutionary Soldiers Buried in Michigan
  • Gogebic County, Michigan Cemetery Books at Amazon.com
  • Gogebic County, Michigan Church Books at Amazon.com

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Family Trees & Genealogy Tidbits

Search Online Click Here to Search Michigan Family Tree Records! - The use of published genealogies, electronic files containing genealogical lineage, and other compiled sources can be of tremendous value to a researcher.

   When view family trees online or not, be sure to only take the info at face value and always follow up with your own sources or verify the ones they provide. Below is a list of online resources for Gogebic County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information. Email us with websites containing Gogebic County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information by clicking the link below:

  • Search 60 Years Of Everton Data: For the first time ever you can get access to more than 150,000 pedigree files and family group sheets from Evertons. Learn More
  • Sites on USGenweb: [ Gogebic County ] [ Michigan ] [ Main Page ]
  • Search the Family Tree DNA Project- Use DNA testing to break through your genealogical barriers!
  • The Michigan Family Group Sheet Project
  • Gogebic County MIGenWeb Archives
  • [GenForum Message Boards] [Rootsweb Message Boards]
  • Genealogy Encyclopedia: General Abbreviations, Early Illnesses, Nickname Meanings, Worldwide Epidemics, Early Occupations, Common Terms, Censuses Explained, Free Genealogical Forms
  • Nichols and Related Families of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virgina.
  • Meet your ancestors. Learn their stories. Start your FREE family tree.
  • Michigan Family & Local History Records - The Family & Local Histories Collection lets you read journals, memoirs, and other first-hand historical narratives right on your computer. Gathered from some of the world's finest libraries, these materials may provide hard-to-find town, county, and state information; tax records and wills; military, church, and court records; as well as photographs, stories, and maps.
  • Genealogical Document Search and Retrieval Service
  • Gogebic County, Michigan Family Books at Amazon.com

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County History

Mountains, volcanos, glaciers and the erosion of time and weather have left their imprint on Gogebic County. The hills, in the western part of the county, are but stubs and roots of a mountain chain that millions of years ago was higher than the rocky mountains of today. Eruptions poured out molten lava and fluid rock oozed up through crevices to spread over the country, forming the world’s oldest rock – Laurentian granite and Keewatin greenstone.

Fifteen thousand years ago, north and east of Lake Gogebic, the retreating fourth and last of the glaciers, which pushed over Michigan during a period of a million years, formed glacial Lake Ontonagon. Its outlet was through present Lake Gogebic and westward, where Bingham Creek now enters the lake, past the range cities of Wakefield, Bessemer, Ironwood, and Hurley, Emptying into glacial Lake Ashland in the northwestern part of Iron County, Wisconsin.

The first of the glaciers, started moving out of the Hudson Bay region about a million years ago and the last one melted away some 15,000 or 20,000 years ago. The western half of the Upper Peninsula and the adjacent Wisconsin territory were in process of formation during a period of two billion years.

Eventually peace came to this region and it remained in serene solitude and isolation until the coming of the white man and the discovery of iron ore.

Flags of three nations have flown over this region we now call the Gogebic Range. The first Europeans to discover the Great Lakes were the French who held the country bordering upon these inland seas until 1763. England took possession following the Seven Years War and held sway for twenty years until title passed to the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

Fur, especially that of the beaver, was the magnet that drew the first white men to the Lake Superior wilderness while precious metals were the lure for exploration of other areas of the American continent.

When the French in the early 1600’s established a system of fur fairs at Montreal, men brought the product of their trap lines for sale or barter. Samuel de Champlain, founder and governor of New France, originated the idea of sending young Frenchmen home with the people to study their language, customs and the geography of the region. Thus it was that Etienne Brule, in 1618, became the first white man to see the greatest of fresh water lakes and paddle a bark canoe along the shores of Lake Superior.

Hardy Pioneers Develop Fur Trading

Development of the fur trade bought two new classes of men into being . . . Coureurs des bois, or rangers of the woods, and Voyageurs, or canoemen. These hardy pioneers, inured to hardship, were a strong and sturdy set, tireless and fearless, resourceful in emergencies. With muscles of steel they guided their frail canoes through the waves of the big lake when in storm and ran the perilous rapids of fast moving streams. They roamed the trackless wilderness in search of furs, helped the missionary on his way and for 200 years were lords of the vast northwest wilderness.

With a decrease in the supply and demand for furs, this race of agile, reckless daredevils disappeared from lake and stream as quickly as the spindrift raised by their speeding canoe. Their well- beaten portage trails have been for the most part covered by encroaching forests. Their names are not recorded in history, but they are the heroes who blazed the trails for the development of the great northwest.

Radisson-Groseilliers Explore Lake Superior

The first white men to leave us an account of their explorations were Pierre-Esprit Raddisson and Medard Chouart des Goseillers who made the first of four trips to Lake Superior in 1654. These men explored the south shore of Lake Superior and much of what are now Northern Michigan, Northwestern Wisconsin and Northeastern Minnesota.

These travelers probably camped over-night at the mouth of the Presque Isle or Montreal rivers since these were the historic over-night camping grounds. Men followed the same routes and used the same campgrounds.

Upon the return to Montreal of Radisson and Groseilliers on the 19th of August, 1660, accompanied by an Ottawa flotilla of sixty canoes, it was decided that a missionary should return with them to their homeland. This decision was momentous for what was to become Gogebic County some 225 years later, as it brought to this area the earliest recorded instance of white men traversing the county and camping within its boundaries.

This missionary volunteer was Pere Rene Menard, a learned and cultured member of the Society of Jesus. Menard was then fifty-five years of age. Though aged prematurely, he possessed a lofty soul and a stout heart.

The route followed by the French from Montreal to Lake Superior was for 200 years, one of the great trade routes of the American continent. Nearly 700 miles in length, up the Ottawa River to its source, via the Mattawan River and Lake Nipissing, then descending the French River to Georgian Bay in Lake Huron. Thence, the course lay west, passing Sault Ste. Marie and coasting the southern shore of Lake Superior.

First Map of Lake Superior in 1669

The most important artery for transportation of goods through Gogebic County in the days of the fur trade was the Montreal River portage extending from Lake Superior to Lac du Flambeau. The name of this river appears on the oldest map ever made of Lake Superior. Fathers Claude Allouez and James Marquette, missionaries who followed in the footsteps of Pere Rene Menard, made a map of the Lake Superior region in 1669; a map so accurate that it was used for navigation purposes until well into the 18th century. These famous missionaries mapped the entire 1600 miles of Superior’s shore line and though not required by their assignment, noted geographical features including islands which they explored. Foster and Whitney note that "even Caribou, a low island in the midst of the lake and not visible except within a few leagues, did not escape their observation." The name Montreal probably was given the river because the bluffs at its mouth reminded the mapmakers of the mountain at Montreal.

The Montreal River portage trail commenced on Lake Superior east of the mouth. (It is outlined on the county recreational map published a few years ago by the Gogebic County Board of Supervisors.) It touched the stream about six or seven miles from the lake at a point above the falls; here crossing the river the path continued up the left bank, at some distance back from the stream. It ended at what was in those days called Portge Lake, but now known as Long Lake. From this lake it was a two days journey by canoe through a network of streams and lakes to Lac du Flambeau. The portage part of the trail was figured at 120 pauses of about forty-five miles. Distances were measured in the number of pauses or the time’s voyageurs had to rest. The load of each voyageur was two packs; each weighing eighty to ninety pounds.

Lac du Flambeau Trading Post Established

On July 9, 1804, the North West Fur Company dispatched one of its men, Francois Victor Malhoit, from Fort William to Lac du Flambeau to establish a trading post. Delayed by rough seas and stop-overs at Lapointe and the bad River, it was July 25 when the party arrived at the portage of the Montreal River. At LaPoint the men had been given time to make themselves shoes for crossing the Portage. At the Bad River were found great flocks of passenger pigeons and 24 were killed for food. Malhoit, with seven of his men, arrived at Lac du Flambeau August 2, 1804. Buildings were erected, a fort constructed and preparations made to spend the winter in pursuit of their business.

Many tons of supplies had to be transported in canoes nearly a thousand miles from Montreal by the Ottawa River route. The goods had to be packed on the backs of men over difficult portages. Merchandise for trading purposes included such items as rum, tobacco, blankets, powder, bullets, axes, knives, beads, ear rings, etc. Staple food supplies were also transported from Montreal. In our time it is almost impossible to conceive of men following an occupation involving so much physical effort. Surely, these voyageurs were a tough and hardy lot.

The winter at Lac du Flambeau was one of trouble competition with the X Y Fur Company agents. Nevertheless, Malhoit had a successful season and obtained an abundance of furs. Of the country he relates: "That of all the spots and places I have seen in my thirteen years of travel, this is the most horrid and most sterile." And of the portage road "it is narrow, full of overturned trees, obstacles, thorns and muskegs. This vile portage is inhabited solely by owls because no other animal could find a living here, and the hoots of those solitary birds are enough to frighten an angel or intimidate a Caesar."

The coming of spring in 1805 was no doubt, most welcome. Now Malhoit and his crew could leave this isolated spot for the company’s headquarters at Fort William with its, comparatively speaking, "civilization." With fine weather and all men in good health, departure was taken at 5 p.m., May 23. On the 26th they reached Pine Lake, and Balsam River on the 29th. Lake Superior was sighted June 5 and on this day the last of the food was eaten. At noon on June 6th portage was completed. It had been an arduous journey with water sometimes up to the knees of the men, and they were continually plagued by millions of flies. Following a two-day rest they left the Montreal River and headed for the end of the lake by way of LaPoint in their fur laden canoes.

Many Controversies Over Boundary Lines

Lack of accurate maps, and insufficient first hand knowledge of the western country, embroiled Michigan in long drawn-out controversies over its southern and western boundary lines. Lake Michigan’s southern shore was much farther south than originally assumed and the Upper Peninsula was not an Island.

The question of Ohio’s northern border and the southern boundary of Michigan were contested for thirty years, ending only when a bloodless war between the states finally faded out and their names were disbanded. Ohio retained the disputed territory. Trouble over the boundary line had delayed Michigan’s admission as a state of the union. Michigan lost a strip of land from five to ten miles wide embracing some 400 square miles of territory. As compensation, the Upper Peninsula was given to the state of Michigan, When it was admitted to the Union, to the objection of many of its people who protested, "they did not want the sterile wastes of the north, a barren and valueless tract in the region of perpetual snow." Lucius Lyon, one of Michigan’s two first U. S. senators battled, almost single-handed against the prejudice of his constituents, for the Upper Peninsula.

Wisconsin became a territory about the same time Michigan became a state and it was now necessary to mark the dividing line which was described as running through the main channel of Green Bay and the Menominee River to the mouth of the Montreal River. Maps of 1838 showed the Menominee River to Green Bay as one outlet of Lac Vieux Desert and the Montreal River as also an outlet flowing into Lake Superior.

Lumbermen Invade Area

Crossing the Straits of Mackinac, from the once pine covered Lower Peninsula, and sawing their way northward through Wisconsin’s forests, lumbermen discovered a virgin forest of hemlock, pine and hardwoods in Gogebic County. Some noble specimens of this forest were saplings, growing vigorously, when the boy Columbus was playing around the docks and ships in Genoa’s harbor, and dreaming, perhaps, of a land across the sea.

Since 1880 this forest has been mostly cut over, leaving but few stands of virgins timber. The product of the harvest helped build homes for settlers throughout the middle west and went underground to make possible the mining of300,000,000 tons of iron ore.

In 1941 the Gogebic County embarked upon a county forest project to demonstrate that with selective cutting, under proper management, forests could be perpetuated, of increasing value and quality. By 1956 the project included 45,604 acres out of the total of 703,102 acres in the county.

Originally extended into Gogebic County in 1931, the Ottawa National Forest now contains 275,351 acres. Supervised by professional foresters of the United States Forest Service, the Ottawa will continue to furnish timber for the needs of the American people.

Privately owned and scientifically managed timber holdings include another large segment of Gogebic County.

Conservation of our God-given natural resources will, for all time, preserve for future generations the utilitarian value and scenic beauty of the great north woods.

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