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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Icy Threat

Late in 1862, a garrison of soldiers was sent to protect the village of Bayfield on Lake Superior. Ojibwe Indians had attacked settlements in Minnesota, and with many lcoal men away fighting in the Civil War, Bayfield's residents requested military support as a precaution.

As the winter wore on, the women of Bayfield decided to sew a silk flag for the soldiers as a gesture of thanks. To fund the project they took up a collection which was almost universally supported. But one man, Joel Smith, refused to contribute. "I haven't any use for the flag," he said, "and I haven't any time to waste on begging women."

March 1, 1863, was the date set for raising the flag. A pole was erected on the ice in front of the soldiers' barracks and the townspeople assembled. But before the ceremony began, the captain of the garrison sent a squad to fetch Joel Smith. When Smith was brought before all his neighbors, the captain presented him with a choice.

"Smith, do you see that flag up there?" he asked. "And do you see that hole yonder?", indicating the flagpole and a hole beyond it where ice had been harvested. Smith replied that he did see them. "Well sir," the captain warned, "you kneel down and salute that flag to the best of your ability, or we will duck you in that hole."

Joel Smith promptly delivered a patriotic salute and speech, repeated three times, and the flag was raised.

Source: Milwaukee Sentinel, April 22, 1917

View images of historic Bayfield
:: Posted in Curiosities on March 24, 2011

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