Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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Memoirs:
Written and contributed by: Mike
 

 
  Antigo, Wis.---Replying to a letter from Earle B. Holman, secretary of the Langlade Co. Historical Society, Mrs. Florence A. Buckman related some interesting legends of the Peshtigo river country. This letter follows:  

"Pardon delay. Yours received some days ago inquiring about one Bill Johnson, for whom Johnson Falls on the Peshtigo river is said to have been named. I have had some other inquiries in recent years in regard to him. Whatever may have been known of him has been lost with the passing of his contemporaries, or those immediately following.


Please click on the image for full size view

Winfield Hale trading post,
Waubee Lake,
in the 1880's

Photo contributed by Mike
However, so far as the Chippewa chief, White Eagle, who used to visit Thunder Lake (Dutch) Frank. I was intimately acquainted with him and his tribe. His Indian name was Waba-skip-a-ness, and I may add that Waba lake was named for him, although at present it is spelled Waubee, a corruption of the original (Waubee Lake in Oconto County, WI). I lived for several years within calling distance of the tribe on the lake and l acquired a smattering of their language. I frequently employed one of the women to assist in heavy work. The children of the tribe became very friendly and brought me odd formations of plants, stone specimens, and other curios.
 
I recall that in the early history relative to Peshtigo river and vicinity that a man (name and date unknown) became lost in the country north of the river and wandered many days without food or shelter. In his wanderings he approached the river near Cauldron Falls and hearing the roar of the water made his way to the stream and followed its course until he reached civilization. It may or may not have been Johnson. He brought with him a sample of silver ore very rich in the precious metal. His ambition was to return with others and locate the place where he found it. However exposure had done its work and he died leaving only a meagre description of the location.
 
In the early '80s a Mr. McCaslin and son Henry of Oconto prospected until they located what they believed to be the silver mine and began operations. Before they got any tangible results, however, the son was shot accidentally while handling a shot gun and the father returned to Oconto. I have never heard that anyone ever made another attempt to mine in that locality. The place is now known as McCaslin mountain and brook.
 
I shall be glad to give you any information I can about the early days of my pioneering in that vicinity, or of the few inhabitants."
 
Mrs. Florence A. Buckman.
 

Sometime in the 1960s, Florence's daughter, Lenore (Buckman) (Nickel) Beck, wrote about her mother's life in the following story titled:
 
"My Pioneer Mother."
 
"My mother was a woman of fiercely decided traits, and when she thought she was right, she had the courage to stand by her convictions. For instance, she hated liquor, and if my father happened to be talking to someone in front of a saloon, as she passed by she refused to even nod at him. Eyes front! In later years she was convinced she had heart trouble, although several doctors assured her that the contrary was true. She felt they didn't want to alarm her by telling her the truth, so she insisted on an impaired heart until she died of a stroke at the age of 81.
 
Born Florence Ada Hubbard June 22, 1858, she was raised at Brier Hill, New York, on the St. Lawrence River. She married quite young to William Waite, who was much older than she. Shortly after they were married, he had a tailor cut out a pair of trousers, took them to Mother and said, "sew these up for me." She hadn't the slightest idea what to do, but being spunky, she ripped up an old pair, jotted down step by step how they went together, and made the trousers.
 
When her daughter was four years old they went South, hoping to find help for her husband's failing health. As he did not improve, they decided to go West to the mountains, and set out for Helena, Montana. By this time Mother was an accomplished seamstress, even doing tailoring, and was supporting the family.
 
At that time the railroad only ran as far as Omaha, Nebraska, and the rest of the way was by stagecoach. When they reached Omaha, Mother said, "We are so tired, let's not take the stage out today, let's get a nights rest at a hotel, and go out tomorrow." So they did that, and later they heard that the first stage had been held up and robbed by road agents.
 
On the second day out, the driver stopped his horses, got down, opened the stage door, and whispered, "Has anyone got a gun?"  Everyone thought, "road agents," and the men got out with guns ready. The driver pointed up the hill where a mountain lion lay asleep with his head on his paws. Several men fired, but the lion never moved a muscle. Then the driver laughed. The lion was a very life-like combination of logs and rock.
 
The coaches were built to hold nine people, but the passenger list numbered fourteen. Mother became so tired that her head dropped onto the shoulder of the man next to her, and she slept. Her husband tried to rouse her, but the gentleman said, "Just let her sleep, she is all tired out."
 
As a dressmaker, Mother easily got work, but her husband's health continued to fail. She had relatives living near Abrams, so they decided to come to Wisconsin. By then the railroad had pushed on to Helena, and the return trip was made in comfort.
 
Mr. Wait passed away in 1882, and mother later married  Winfield Hale. Mr. Hale was a Civil War veteran and loved the woods. Starting atrading post for the Indians, they moved into a log cabin on Waubee Lake in Oconto County. They bought venison hides, berries, and other things from the Indians, and sold them cloth, flour, guns and staple goods. They also ran a hunting camp for hunters from the cities.
 
One wealthy man from Chicago decided to rough it and camp by himself. It didn't turn out so well and he sent a member of his party to my mother and asked if he could borrow her cook stove, as his chef did not know how to cook over an open fire.
 
A band of Chippewa Indians lived across the lake. The chief's name was Waubeskibinas, hence the name  Waubee Lake. his son was Modoc and his daughter was Kenewaubeque, which means morning flower or morning glory.
 
One morning Mother was washing clothes outdoors when the Indian women across the lake started to wave their arms and cry, "Shkode, shkode!" A couple of them came running around the lake. They dashed up to Mother's cabin. Each grabbed a couple of pails and raced to the lake, filled the pails with water and ran back to the house. Mother was dumbfounded, she couldn't figure what it was all about. But the roof of the cabin was on fire and the Indians had seen it. The "shkode" meant fire.
 
One day one of the Indian guides was in the woods and stepped over a log, right into a nest of bear cubs. Of course they squealed and the mother came running. She took a swipe at the man's head with her paw, pulling his scalp down over his face. He tried to lie perfectly still, but the blood began to smart and pain his eyes unbearably. He tried, very carefully and slowly, to move a hand up over his eyes. The mother bear saw it, grabbed his wrist and chewed it through and through. The guide managed to endure the pain and lie quietly until the bear had coaxed her cubs out of hearing. When he decided it was safe to move, he crawled out on his hand and knees, back to camp. Luckily, he recovered.
 
The trading post hauled their supplies by horse and wagon from Crivitz, about fifty miles away. The nearest neighbor was five miles away, and once Mother rode there on horseback to get a "setting" of eggs, a dozen or so, as she had a hen who wanted to "set." That is, the hen wouldn't get off her nest, but wanted eggs put under her. She would set on these for three weeks, only coming off once a day to eat. At the end of the three weeks, the eggs had fluffy little chickens inside of them who broke the shells with their bills, and came out into the world.
 
The Indians loved pictures, and as Mother papered her walls with newspapers, more for cleanliness than beauty, the Indian women would come in and study the illustrations. Sometimes they would become so absorbed and quiet that Mother would forget they were there. One day, however, they cried out angrily, shaking their fists at a picture of Indians, "Eyah, Eyah, Winnebagos!  Winnegagos!" It seems there was enmity between the tribes, and by their moccasins, they had recognized the Winnebago people.
 
Mother handled her own birch bark canoe, paddling all over the lake, trapping, skinning her game, and curing the hides herself. I really think she enjoyed this period of her life to the very fullest. She surely could adjust herself to any mode of life.
 
I don't know how long they lived at Waubee Lake, but they did make quite a lot of money, and they decided to go to Alaska. If it had gone through, probably mother would have hunted Polar Bears, and learned the Eskimo language, as she had the  Chippewa.
 
They started down the Mississippi River by boat, but at New Orleans, Mr. Hale became ill with some fever, and they returned to Wisconsin, where he passed away within a short time.
 

Please click on the image for full size view

Warren L. Buckman,
upper right,
in the 1870's

Photo contributed by Mike Churchill


Levi Fredrick Hale,
son of Leonard and grandson of Jinks Hale,
 born Thresa, Jeffereson County, New York, April 19 1853, died Crivitz, Wisconsin, November 7, 1938
In 1888, she married my father, Warren L. Buckman. When I was five years old, my brother Albert, or "Buckie" as he was known all his life,was born. The house we lived in then was also an Indian Trading Post. This one, built by my father around 1883, was the first building constructed on the site that would later become the village of Pike, later re-named Amberg. Father was raised in Brown County, but came north as a young man. Loading his wagons with goods, he traveled up the old Pine River Road until reaching the rapids below "Dow Dam" on the Pike River, where he pitched his tents and sold his wares to the loggers at the nearby camp. The following year he built a permanent structure, our house, and began a business trading with the Indians at White Rapids on the Menominee River and with the loggers at the various camps.
 
When I was 10 years old, we moved onto a piece of wild land west of Amberg. My father being a carpenter, hastily threw up the shell of a house. The windows, all chewed by porcupines, came from an abandoned lumber camp. The doors were strips of carpet, nailed at the top. When it rained, we would anchor them at the bottom too and hope for the best. But bit by bit, it became a full fledged house.
 
Times were pretty rugged, and Mother could economize as no other person I ever knew. She would make out a grocery list, then go through it and cross out everything we could get along without until the next trip to town. Spices being cheaper than vanilla, we had spice cakes for several years. When we moved, my brother and I located and ate what shredded coconut Mother had on hand, and it was a long , long time before we had any more.
 
Of course, we had cows, "Baby," "Cherry," "Fawn," and Mother would skim the cream off the milk and make butter. Then she soured the skim milk and made cottage cheese. Then she took the whey from that and made whey buns. If she had been asked, I'm sure she could have found a way to utilize the squeal from the hogs at the packing houses.
 
She usually worked at several jobs at once. For instance, we always had griddle cakes for breakfast, and between turnovers, she would dash into her bedroom, and by the time the cakes were all fried, her bed would be made too. But I must confess we often ate burned griddle cakes.
 
She didn't feel as though there was anything in the house for company unless she had white cookies, dark cookies, and doughnuts, often frying a big batch of doughnuts before breakfast.
 
She made all our clothes, and knit our long black stockings. When she was small, and walked along the road to play with her cousin, she always carried her knitting bag on her arm, and knit as she walked, so she just could not remember when she learned to knit. She didn't make our shoes, but she did make buckskin moccasins the way she learned from the Indians.
 
She always had fancy work ready to grab up at every spare moment. It was a matter of pride that every pillow slip she owned, made of flour sacks, of course, either had lace or embroidery on it. One year she kept track of the garments she made, and it averaged  one a week.
 
Whatever she did, she threw herself into it wholeheartedly and was so interested in everything at hand. I think Mother must have lived by two mottoes:
 
1. "Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."
2. "Never buy anything you can make yourself."
 
She had supreme contempt for anyone who bought canned goods from a store. We had a lady hotel keeper and Mother used to say of her, unflatteringly, "She dashes to the grocery at eleven in the morning, and again at four, and comes home with her arms full of tin cans and paper bags."
 
We never had fresh fruit or cookies from the store. Two things I remember. When I had mumps, along with my girl chum, her mother bought bananas for her, and I didn't have any. Then our neighbor, a foreign lady, died, and the family invited us for lunch after the funeral, as was their custom. And they served frosted store cookies and LUMP sugar-- a red letter day for me. I don't suppose I had ever seen lump sugar before.
 
After my father's death, Mother applied for an army pension, Mr. Hale being a veteran. And of all the papers she had to produce! Her birth certificate, all three of her marriage certificates, all three death certificates, Mr. Hale's discharge papers, and other military information. How she ever managed to hang onto them, I'll never know. Of course, it took a long time and a lot of searching through trunks and boxes in attics and basements. Finally she had everything except Mr. Hales death certificate. Repeated trips to the hospital where he died, in Marinette, and searches through newspapers of that date, failed to turn up the information. At last the office girl at the old M&M hospital in Marinette had an idea. She said, "We have one more chance. I believe we have some old records stored in the attic." And there she found Mr. Hale's bedside chart which was acceptable, and Mother finally received a pension of forty dollars a month.
 
For the first time in her life she felt security, and she surely enjoyed it. She invested in a permanent wave--I think her first one was twelve dollars, dresses by a dressmaker and so on. It must have been a wonderful experience, after having denied herself so much all her life.
 
Although Mother had great tenacity and stuck to a project, there were two things that had her stumped. She could never learn to make tatted lace, nor to ride a bicycle, and she surely tried.
 
One lifetime project also failed. Willie Dickenson, eight years old, disappeared on his way home from school, in a Michigan town, where his father was superintendent of a mine. Willie was in sight of someone all the way home except for a short strip of timber. Workman on the road saw him enter this, but no one saw him come out into the open. Some thought a disgruntled miner might have abducted him, and others laid it to the Indians. All her life my mother hunted Willie Dickenson. She wrote hundreds of letters, and called numerous Indians to our home for interviews. Several times she thought she had located him, and she did restore a couple of boys to their parents, but she never found the boy she was looking for. His disappearance is still a mystery.
 
The summer she was seventy-five years old she developed uremic poisoning which clouded her brain, and her mind was gone all summer. She didn't recognize us, and called me Sarah, the cousin with whom she had played as a child. She recovered in late fall, but it seemed as though part of her had died. She was quite different from then on.
 
When she was eighty-one years old she had a stroke. At first she could speak and kept asking what day of the month it was. She lived two weeks, and as she grew weaker and unable to talk, she would point to the calendar. We couldn't imagine why, but on November first, her pension check came. She made us understand she wanted to sign it, so we helped her, and that evening she passed away. Her indomitable will didn't fail her, but kept her going until the very last--that of a very remarkable woman."



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