The port city of my birth, Superior, Wisconsin was founded on November 6, 1854 and incorporated March 25 1889. The city’s slogan soon became, “Where Sail Meets Rail,” because it was port connection between the shipping industry and the railroad. Much of Superior’s history parallels its sister city of Duluth’s, but Superior has been around longer than Duluth, which is also known as the Zenith City. Of course, the area had people there before that…there were Ojibwe Indians, and French traders that are known to be in the area in the early 1600s.
After the Ojibwe settled in the area and set up an encampment on present-day Madeline Island, the French started arriving. In 1618 voyageur Etienne Brulé paddled along Lake Superior’s south shore where he encountered the Ojibwe tribe, but he also found copper specimens. Brulé went back to Quebec with the copper samples, and a glowing report of the region. French traders and missionaries began settling the area a short time later, and a Lake Superior tributary was named for Brulé. Father Claude Jean Allouez, was one of those missionaries. His is often credited with the development of an early map of the region. Superior’s Allouez neighborhood takes its name from the Catholic missionary. The area was developed quickly after that, and by 1700 the area was crawling with French traders. The French traders developed a good working relationship with the Ojibwe people.
The Ojibwe continued to get along well with the French, but not so much the British, who ruled the area after the French, but that ended with the America Revolution and the Treaty of Peace in 1783. The British weren’t as good to the Ojibwe as the French had been. Treaties with the Ojibwe would give more territory to settlers of European descent, and by 1847 the United States had taken control of all lands along Lake Superior’s south shore.
In 1854 the first copper claims were staked at the mouth of the Nemadji River…some say it was actually 1853. The Village of Superior became the county seat of the newly formed Douglas County that same year. The village grew quickly and within two years, about 2,500 people called Superior home. Unfortunately, with the financial panic of 1857, the town’s population stagnated through the end of the Civil War. The building of the Duluth Ship Canal in 1871, which was followed by the Panic of 1873. pretty much crushed Superior’s economic future. Things began to look up when in 1885, Robert Belknap and General John Henry Hammond’s Land and River Improvement Company established West Superior. Immediately they began building elevators, docks, and industrial railroads. In 1890, Superior City and West Superior merged, The city’s population fluctuated, as a boom town will, between 1887 and 1893, and then another financial panic halted progress. Over the years since then, Superior’s population has had it’s ups and down, as has it’s sister city, Duluth, but it has remained about one fourth the size of its twin across the bay.
My great grandparents, Carl and Albertine Schumacher lived in the Goodhue, Minnesota area, when my grandmother Anna was born, but my grandparents Allen and Anna Spencer lived in Superior. That is where my dad, Allen Spencer was born, as were my sister, Cheryl and I. We didn’t live in Superior for all of our lives, just 3 and 5 years, but the area remains in our blood, and in our hearts. It could be partly because of all the trips our family made back to Superior, but I don’t think that’s totally it, because there is just something about knowing that you came from a place, that will always make it special. Superior, Wisconsin is a very special place, that will always be a part of me and my sister, Cheryl too.
When we think of how the 50 states of the United States were formed, we somehow think of an orderly process that followed a specific protocol, but in many ways, that was not the case. There are actually a number of states that were planned, or even in place for a time, but failed to continue to be or failed to form into states that exist today. These states were often formed out of conflict, when people didn’t like what they saw around them, and they decided to take matters into their own hand. Had they continued to exist, it would have felt normal, but in light of today’s United States, they would have been really strange. Even the names of these proposed states were rather strange.
Things like Westsylvania, Transylvania, Muskogee, and Deseret; make me wonder how they came up with this stuff. Of course many of us have heard of Transylvania, but it had nothing to do wit Dracula or any other vampire. Sorry if that disappoints some people. Transylvania’s name, meaning “across the woods” in Latin, stems from the university’s founding in the heavily forested region of western Virginia known as the Transylvania Colony, which became most of Kentucky in 1792. The state was founded in 1775, and statehood removed in 1776, when Virginia when the Virginia General Assembly invalidated the Transylvania Purchase.
The proposed state of Westsylvania was located in what is now West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania, and small parts of Kentucky, Maryland, and Virginia. Westsylvania was proposed early in the American Revolution It would have been the fourteenth state in the newly formed United States, had it been recognized. In the final years of the Revolutionary War…in 1782, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, a Pittsburgh lawyer and strong supporter of the national government, convinced the Pennsylvania Assembly to declare that agitation for a separate state was treason, rendering the promotion of Westsylvania subject to the death penalty. Pennsylvania also sent secret agents, such as the Reverend James Finley, to work against the Westsylvania movement. According to historian Jack Sosin, “Finely’s efforts, the threat that the settlers’ land might be sold, and the cool reaction to the proposed new state by Congress finally quieted the Westerners.”
In all, there were about 12 proposed states that if ratified, would have changed the United States as we know it. I can’t imagine having 62 states, or living in a state called Absaroka, Delmarva, Scott, Nickajack, or Sequoyah. And while I was born in Superior, Wisconsin, I can’t imagine living in the state of Superior. And of course, Transylvania, Westsylvania, Lincoln, Muskogee, Deseret, or Franklin would be equally odd. While these “states” did exist for a time, I rather like our country just the way it is. Fifty states is a nice round number.
My dad…when I think of him, I always feel such a sense of pride in who he was. He had lived so great a life, seen so many things, gone places, and while many people might not think his life was so grand, I did. My dad, Allen Spencer, was born on April 27, 1924 in Superior, Wisconsin, to Allen and Anna (Schumacher) Spencer. He was the third of their four children, and one of two rather mischievous boys. The family owned a farm, and the children helped with the chores there. His dad worked for the Great Northern Railroad as a carpenter, building and repairing the seats on the train, and any other carpentry work needed. That fact gave the children Laura, William (Bill), Allen (my dad), and Ruth, the unique privilege of having a pass to ride the train for free, as a dependent of their dad, making their trips to school easier, though not without adventure. As I said, the boys were mischievous, and boarding the train in the normal, everyday way was just too boring. They boys hopped on the moving train, every chance they got, always hoping not to be caught and scolded. They were told repeatedly not to hop on the train, because it was unsafe, but they were boys, and they liked the danger.
Growing up, the train adventures weren’t the only ones the boys had, and probably not the most dangerous either. When dad was about 15 and his brother, Uncle Bill about 17, the boys decided to take the summer and go look for work. They didn’t make reservations at hotels, or have previously lined up jobs, but rather hit the road and did odd jobs in the towns they came across. One time there was no room in the local hotel, so the local sheriff allowed them to sleep in the jail…the first and last time either of them was in jail, as far as I know. If I know my dad and my uncle, they thought it was a great adventure…even though their mother would have been appalled. Or maybe she would have been grateful to the sheriff for keeping her boys off the street.
When Dad was 17, he left home to go work at Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California, building airplanes. I often wonder if it was his work there that made him a prime candidate for the position he held in World War II, as a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 based at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. I don’t know his thoughts on being in one of the countries where his ancestors had hailed from, but to my genealogist’s eyes, it would have been the best gift ever given…had it not been for the war, of course. To find himself in the “old stomping grounds” of many of his ancestors…well, it would have been beyond awesome. Dad, decided that he didn’t need much, and so he sent most of his pay home to be put in saving, telling his mom, that if she needed it, she was to use it, because he could always get a job when he got home. In war, times are tough, and Dad wanted to make sure that his family, back home in Superior was well and had enough money to get by. During his R and R time, Dad spent time in Miami, Florida and Galveston, Texas, and of course his training for service had taken place on several air bases across the United States. Dad had always loved to travel, so I’m sure his wanderer’s heart took great pleasure in the many locations he found himself in.
It was, in fact, his wanderer’s heart that brought him across the path of my Aunt Virginia and her husband at the time. She later introduced him to her sister and his future wife, my mom, Collene Byer. Mom was totally smitten by Dad, immediately thinking that he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Before long, she loved him immensely, but she was a school girl, and had to wait a while to actually marry him. As was more common in those days, my dad was twelve years older than my mom, but theirs was a love that would last until his passing in 2007. Even after his passing, Mom had no desire to see anyone else. She just couldn’t imagine it. He was the only love of her life.
Dad never lost the love of travel, though his married life settled him first for several years in Superior, Wisconsin, and the for the rest of his life in Casper, Wyoming. He wanted to show his family the places he loved, most importantly the United States. He often told us that this was a beautiful country, and not only should we try to see it, we should drive, because you could see much more from the ground than from a plane. Of course, for most of us time constraints don’t allow for cross country drives, but after the flight to get there, we try to see the area surrounding our destination. Dad, I’m certain, would have viewed that type of travel with a measure of skepticism. Still, he loved to hear about our travels. He always seemed to have a far away look on his face, because he could picture the same place in his mind…you see, he had most likely been there before, and he was so happy that we had followed in his footsteps. Today would have been my dad’s 96th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. I know you and Mom are having a wonderful time. We love and miss you very much and can’t wait to see you again.
Five years is such a long time, and yet such a short time. I simply can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven that long. The day she left us is still vivid in my memory files. It is a picture I will never get out of my head. There are a few scenes in my head that are that way. I try not to focus on them. They don’t need to be re-run to keep their memory alive. I try to focus on the happier past…the memories of the good times with my mom.
Collene Spencer was a bit of a shy girl, but she knew a good looking man when she saw one. For her, falling in love with my dad was like breathing…and she never looked back. Mom didn’t really like school, so that was not something that had any hold on her. She wanted to be married and have a family. I don’t really know if that had been her dream, before she met my dad, but it certainly was after that meeting. Their honeymoon was a move East to Superior, Wisconsin where Dad’s family was from and still lived. Mom’s family liked the idea too, because it gave them someplace to go visit. It was a beautiful place to visit too, so that was a plus. While mom eventually wanted to and did move back, her family wished she had stayed, so they could justify more visits.
After having their first two daughters, Cheryl Masterson, and me in Superior, Mom and Dad had the rest, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock here in Casper, Wyoming, where Mom’s family mostly lives. I have always thought we were very blessed to have so much family around us. That has never really been made so clear as when we became orphans. That’s when family really means a lot. My sisters, and our families first and foremost, of course, but aunts, uncles, and especially cousins have stepped in too…making us feel loved and comforted. I will always miss my parents…until the day I join them in Heaven. They taught us so many things, and it is because of their upbringing that we are the women we are today. The best we can do is make them proud of the people their children have become. I can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven for five long years now. It seems an impossible number of years. While it seems just seconds ago to those who are there, mostly because that’s how eternity works, for the rest of us, the days feel much longer. We love and miss you Mom, and we can’t wait to see you again.
Four years ago, my mom, Collene Spencer; my sister, Cheryl Masterson; and I took a trip back to Superior, Wisconsin, which is where Cheryl and I were born. While we were there, we were invited to Julie Carlson Soukup’s home for dinner. My mom knew the parents of these cousins who had welcomed us into their home. Cheryl and I did too, but it had been a number of years since we had seen them, and certainly, most of the cousins themselves were totally new to us. We watched as the Carlson kids brought their mother, Carol Carlson to the dinner. She had been dealing with Lewy Body Dementia, which is much like Alzheimer’s disease, but with the added issue of motor problems. These kids were so careful with her, and so determined that she be able to come for this visit. It brought tears to my eyes to see such love. Having been a caregiver for a long time, I knew how much work caregiving is, but they didn’t care what it took. She was their mom.
I didn’t know Carol well, but over the years, I watched as the Carlson family centered life around her. They took her so many places, and everywhere they went was an event, documented with lots of pictures. They were, of course, building their memories, knowing that the future was uncertain. They didn’t want to think about the day when Carol would no longer be with them. Right before we came for that visit, they had just had to move Carol into an nursing home, because she could no longer live on her own. Once again they showed her the greatest love they could have for her. They told her about her life, the life that had begun to slip away from her memory files. They needed to preserve it for her somehow.
When Carol passed away, on August 2nd, 2018, I began to recall the many beautiful things the Carlson family had done for her, but I realized that I didn’t really know much about her life. I wanted her children to share some of their favorite memories with me, because I knew that I wanted to write a tribute to their beautiful mother. They decided that they would send me a copy of the letter written by her oldest daughter, Laurie Carlson Stepp at the time they moved Carol into the nursing home. The children put together a scrap book filled with letters from her children and grandchildren, poems she had written, stories about her, such as her sayings…things they had heard her say all their lives, and pictures for her to see. It was their gift to their mother…her memories. They were giving them back to her.
I could never begin to write her memories with the beauty that her children and grandchildren did. Their memories of her were their gift of love to her, and that is beyond special. Nevertheless, I want to try to highlight some of the wonderful things Carol Schumacher Carlson did in her lifetime. The reality is that Carol almost didn’t exist. Laurie tells that story in her letter to her mom, “Your parents, Fred and Anna Schumacher already had one lovely daughter, Beatrice. When she was born, there were serious difficulties and the doctor told Fred that he would have to choose between his wife and the baby. He chose his wife……she chose the baby! They were both saved, but the doctor cautioned against having any more children. So that is why you Carol were a miracle baby.” The faith of her parents brought about Carol’s life, as well as nine siblings after her. The letter told of the help Carol gave her mom with her younger siblings, Leslie, Carl, Margaret, Gilbert, Delwin, Noreen, Bernice, Bob, and Dale.
Carol was a hard worker all her life. She worked at Hills Brothers Dairy, then for a lawyer in Billings Park babysitting their children, as a waitress at the Princess Sweet Shop, at Phoenix Hosiery, at Twin Ports Dairy…where she did office work, and at Kempenski Glass Company. All these were jobs, but her real life’s work was to be the mother of her children. Carol married Donald John Carlson on August 21, 1954, and they would be blessed with Donny, Laurie, Steve, Dave, Jim and twins – Julie and Jeanne. Carol also had bonus children, Bonnie and Randy, from Don’s first marriage. Carol was a housewife, and very good at her job. They grew a big garden, canned and froze enough food to keep the family in vegetables most of the year. Their dad would come home and there was always a flurry of activity and fun. Carol cooked, cleaned, sewed, and took care of her family, and still had time to help out others too. The children always came home from school to some kind of homemade snack, but more importantly…they came home to their mom, Carol, who welcomed them with open arms. Carol baked 5 loaves of bread every day and packed countless lunches. She sewed clothes for her family and often surprised them with something new that they needed after staying up all night working with her sewing machine until it was finished. She made clothes, quilts, tents, and just about anything that could be made with cloth for her family and for her grandchildren too. She made Indian costumes with real tepees, which have been used by most of her grandsons. She made a pair of sandals for Jon and Josh when they were starting to walk, Prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, suits, pants, skirts, shirts, blouses…the family was always wearing something Carol had made. They have always felt so blessed to have Carol in their lives.
When I set out to write this tribute to Carol Schumacher Carlson, I wanted it to be about the amazing things she did for those she loved. Little did I know that it would be about the amazing children she raised, but in reality, it had to be about her amazing children, because that was what Carol was all about. Her whole life was spent giving of herself to those she loved and cared about. It was Carol, who along with her husband, Don raised these kids to be the loving, responsible adults that they have become. That, in itself, is a tribute to Carol. Her hard work for her family, was her gift to them, and they were her reward…her legacy.
When I was a little girl, my family lived in Superior, Wisconsin. Those were wonderful years, but in more recent years we had not been back to Superior for a number of years. When my mom, Collene Spencer wanted to go back to Superior, my sister, Cheryl Masterson and I took her, since our dad had passed away by then. That, Ancestry, and Facebook opened up a whole new world for Cheryl and me. We got to know our cousins, and the list of cousins we know grows every day…or at least every year. This year, with the Schumacher Family Reunion, we knew we had to go, even though it would be without Mom this time. This trip was bittersweet, because of course, Mom was missing.
Nevertheless, we have had a wonderful time. When we were here the last time, our first cousins once removed, Les and Bev Schumacher had wanted us to come to their house, but our time was do limited, that we didn’t have time to. This time, their daughter, Cathy La Porte graciously invited us for dinner this evening. We got to meet her husband, Gary, as well as to see her brother, Brian Schumacher and his wife, Lisa again. It was simply a wonderful evening. Cathy is an excellent cook and we were treated to Walleye Pike and Northern Pike that Cathy’s husband, Gary caught in North Dakota with his brother this past week. Wow!!! Was it good. Dessert was a Cherry Crumble that Lisa’s friend had given her, and everyone loved it.
The evening was very enjoyable and will always be a sweet memory from our trip. The trip has gone by so fast, and what we thought was enough time, really wasn’t…it never is, is it? Nevertheless, the friendships (cousinships) formed will last for the rest of our lives, and while our parents weren’t there this time, we know they would be smiling…happy to see their daughters and granddaughter continue to reach out to the family as if they were with us. I guess we are carrying on the connections, and that would make them happy, and it makes me happy.
When a lake, or group of lakes, are almost the size of a small sea, with all the storm possibilities that go with a body of water the size of the sea, shipwrecks and other disasters on the water are bound to occur. There is a stretch of land along the Michigan coast, known to many as the Shipwreck Coast or the Graveyard of the Great Lakes. It is an 80 mile stretch between Grand Island and Whitefish Point, and the vicious waters have sunk hundreds of ships. Edmund Fitzgerald, Cyprus, and Vienna are just a few of the vessels lost beneath the waves, where they took their crew to a watery grave…their names forever etched in maritime lore. Their wreckages lie in varying depths of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes.
My husband, Bob and I came up for a visit in 1975, and my Uncle Bill Spencer, the original family historian, told us about the shipwrecks of Lake Superior, and how there were many that could be seen pretty clearly when flying over the lake. I wished we could have taken such a flight, and seen those ships for myself. My thoughts drifted to the time of the wrecks, and how the accident happened and about the people who lost their lives there.
Lake Superior was known for its big storms, and when the November gales came it was treacherous, especially along the Shipwreck Coast. “This part of Lake Superior is particularly treacherous thanks to a unique combination of geography and storm patterns,” Bruce Lynn, executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, Michigan says. “Storms build up over Canada and the Great Plains. Their strong winds blow uninterrupted over 200 miles of open waters, building up enormous waves that drive ships into the coast or break them in half.” Fog, snow squalls, smoke from forest fires, traffic jams on the busy waters and human error add to sailing hazards.
One massive ore carrier, the Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest to sail Lake Superior, nevertheless, it was a gale or a rogue wave that caused its sinking, but what it was is debated to this day. Gordon Lightfoot immortalized the tragedy in his song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The Fitzgerald’s 200 pound bronze bell was salvaged from the bottom of the lake later on, and and restored. The men were never recovered, because as most people know, Lake Superior never gives up her dead. The ship darted out on November 7, 1975, hoping to make Whitefish Point, but that was not to be. I think that just the questions behind the shipwrecks on Lake Superior makes the thousands of shipwrecks a huge mystery.
Many people think of the Indians as, well…simply the Indians, whether we intend to or not. I suppose that if we studied the different tribes, their noticeable differences would become very apparent, but if we don’t it’s not so easy to tell them apart. One of the lesser known tribes, at least early on in American history, was the Chippewa tribe. Speculation is that they were already settled in a large village at La Pointe, Wisconsin at about the time that America was discovered. Then, in the early 17th century, they abandoned this area. Many of them returning to their homeland in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, while others settled at the west end of Lake Superior, where they were found by Father Claude Jean Allouez, a Jesuit missionary and French explorer, in 1865.
The Chippewa, also known as the Ojibway, Ojibwe, and Anishinaabe, are one of the largest and most powerful nations, having nearly 150 different bands located primarily in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and southern Canada…especially Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Ojibway means “to roast till puckered up.” It’s an odd name that referred to the puckered seam on their moccasins. Formerly, the tribe lived along both shores of Lakes Huron and Superior, extending across the Minnesota Turtle Mountains and North Dakota. They were strong in numbers and occupied an large territory, but the Chippewa were never prominent in history, mainly because of their remoteness from the frontier during the period of the colonial wars. They were part of an Algonquian group, including the Ottawa and Potawatomi, which divided when it reached Mackinaw in its westward movement.
Sault Saint Marie was their main headquarters about 1640, as mentioned by Jean Nicolet de Belleborne, a French-Canadian woodsman, who called them Baouichtigouin, meaning “people of the Sault”. In 1642, they were visited by missionaries Charles Raymbaut and Isaac Jogues, who found them at the Sault and at war with a people to the west, who were probably the Sioux. Because they kept to themselves, away from the frontier, the Chippewa took a very small part in the early colonial wars, but the southern division of the tribe was known to be of warlike disposition. Those to the north of Lake Superior were considered to be peaceful. They were termed by their southern brothers as “the rabbits.” In the north, the members of the tribe were described as the “men of the thick woods” and the “swamp people,” terms used to designate the nature of the country they lived in.
The Chippewa people living south of Lake Superior in the late 1600s were fishermen and hunters. They also grew corn and wild rice. Their possession of wild-rice fields was one of the chief causes of their wars with the Dakota, Fox, and other nations. At about this time, they came into possession of firearms, and began pushing their way westward, in a mixture at peace and war with the Sioux but in almost constant conflict with the Fox tribe. The French, in 1692, reestablished a trading post at Shaugawaumikong, now La Pointe Island, Wisconsin, which became an important Chippewa settlement. In the beginning of the 18th century the Chippewa succeeded in driving the Fox, already reduced by war with the French, from north Wisconsin, compelling them to take refuge with the Sac.
The Chippewa took part with the other tribes of the northwest in all the wars against the frontier settlements to the close of the war of 1812. Those living within the United States made a treaty with the Government in 1815, and afterwards remained peaceful, residing on reservations or allotted lands within their original territory in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. By 1900, the Chippewa were estimated to number about 30,000. Today, the collective bands of Chippewa or Ojibwe, are one of the largest groups of Native American People on the North American continent. There are communities in both Canada and the United States. In Canada, they are the second largest population among First Nations, surpassed only by the Cree. In the United States, they have the fourth largest population among Native American tribes, surpassed only by the Navajo, Cherokee and Lakota Sioux.
When my parents moved to Superior, Wisconsin, which is where my older sister, Cheryl Masterson and I were born, my mom was a young bride, who was experiencing the first days of marriage and the first time away from her family. I’m sure that was not really an easy time for her, but when she arrived in Superior, she was greeted by my dad’s family, who were the only people she knew there. If you have to move to a new city and state, it is nice to at least have someone that you know and can call family, as well as friend. My dad had a large family in the area with whom my mother became quite close, one of whom was my Aunt Doris Spencer, her sister-in-law, and my Uncle Bill’s wife. They spent a lot of time together, and really, had a number of “adventures” together.
As young women, they were always weight conscious, and always on the latest diet. I’m sure that they thought it would be easier to diet with a buddy, and many of us have thought the same thing, but as we all know, dieting is never ease, and inevitably, they found themselves starving!! So, as a way of easing the cravings until they could eat something again, my Aunt Doris handed gave each of them one kernel of puffed wheat and said, “Here, this will tide us over until dinnertime!” Now, as we all know that would be like literally eating air, and it would not ease hunger pains in any way, but as every dieter knows, it was worth a try, because they didn’t want to mess up their diet.
When we moved to Wyoming when I was a little over two years old, it was hard on a lot of people, but I think it was especially hard for my mom and Aunt Doris. While their “adventures” were sometimes silly and sometimes almost crazy, they always had a great time together, and they had become almost like sisters, not sisters-in-law. Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill visited us in Wyoming and we visited them in Wisconsin, but it was never quite the same. Then a few years ago, my sister, Cheryl and I took Mom to Wisconsin for a visit. it was so amazing to see the two sisters-in-law/friends together again, and I know they felt like it was an amazing reunion too. It was the last trip my Mom would make, but my Aunt Doris is still alive and going strong. Today is Aunt Doris’ 94th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Many years ago, anyone suffering from a communicable disease in Superior, Wisconsin, who wanted to save other family members from becoming ill could be treated at the Isolation Hospital. Superior’s twenty six room Isolation Hospital was located at 2222 East 10th Street, in Superior, Wisconsin. The hospital treated such diseases as smallpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and meningitis. Each of the diseases were treated in separate wards of the building, in an effort to isolate on illness from another. The hospital was managed by Mr and Mrs Peter Roe. The hospital always had a registered nurse on duty and patients could hire a private nurse as well, if needed. Mrs Roe cooked all the meals for the patients under the direction of their attending physicians. To help the patients pass the time while they were confined, “The Evening Telegram” and Superior citizens raised money for a radio. The hospital was under the supervision of Dr George Conklin. Because it was harder to cure diseases in days gone by, people might find themselves confined for some time, even the rest of their lives.
Smallpox was probably the most widespread medical terror in our past. Smallpox outbreaks occurred in 1894 and 1872, and the state was swept by cholera in 1849. The same disease had decimated the troops at Fort Crawford in August 1833, taking down 23 soldiers and killing six. But the most notorious epidemic in our history was surely the Lake Superior smallpox outbreak of 1770, when the British deliberately introduced the disease among the Ojibwa Indians in revenge for the death of a fur trader. At least 300 people around modern Duluth-Superior were killed in this early act of bioterrorism. In August of 1895, smallpox had swept through the south side of Milwaukee where the traditions of recent Polish immigrants clashed with modern public health practices. The first patients were segregated at the Isolation Hospital outside the neighborhood, even though the residents preferred caring for their own sick in their own homes, as they had in the old country. When hospital patients began dying, the residents came to see it as a slaughterhouse where they would never send their loved ones. This only increased the spread of disease, of course, and soon thousands were affected. But when city health officials or ambulances attempted to remove patients to protect the uninfected, they were met by barricaded doors and armed uprisings.
Eventually Saint Mary’s Hospital replaced the Isolation Hospital. The new hospital was finished in 1911, but it was the smallpox outbreak of May, 1915 that really put it to the test. The outbreak in Madison filled the hospitals and even took down the staff at Saint Mary’s, including the nurses and nuns. Smallpox was a terrible disease, for which there was no immunization in early years. Now with much hard work, and scientific research, it is considered a disease of the past. It also bears mentioning, that today, every time there is an outbreak of a contagious disease, doctors, nurses, staff, as well as friends and family wear protective gowns, gloves, and masks, in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. Medicine has come a long way since the days of the 1894 Smallpox epidemics. There are many ways to help people fight and win their battle against disease.