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Apostle Islands Historic Preservation Conservancy

Established in 2006, the AIHPC is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the many historic properties and cultural landscapes in the Apostle Islands region on northern Wisconsin.  Beginning with a core group of families who hold longstanding property interests in historically-significant buildings on Sand and Rocky Islands, in some cases dating from the late 1800′s, the Conservancy represents a wide range of interests throughout the Chequamegon Peninsula.

 

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Today in Chequamegon history: The College Boys and the Bear: A U.P. Saga

(Long, but worth the read, I promise.)

Bayfield County Press, September 25, 1908: "Students lost in Michigan Forest-- Two Princeton men have terrible experience in dense swamps"

"Marquette, Michigan -- Half insane, blood smeared, eyes staring, with their clothes in rags, their faces mutilated beyond recognition, and on the point of complete exhaustion, Carel Pepia and Albert Nyquist, Princeton University students, were brought to this place the other day after having passed four days and three nights at the mercy of the primeval swamps of the Swanzy District.

"Neither their appearance nor mad utterings were human. Nyquist's father, who was a member of the searching party, did not recognize the physical wreck into which his son had fallen in the starving, cold, durance in a gloomy, oozy wilderness.

"A prey for wild animals by day and night, traveling in a circle in their fearful, wearisome tramp to reach civilization, the men excited the pity of the entire city when the slowly moving caravan of returning searchers brought them back to their families.

"Both are Princeton men. They left recently for a tramp in the woods and, not expecting to remain away from their homes for more than a day or two, failed to provide themselves with supplies for a lengthy trip.

"On the first day out they were lost. A poor compass directed them from their courses and, before they were aware of the danger to which they had fallen, they were miles from a settlement and in the depth of the forest. The ground in the Swanzy District is swampy and covered with the rotting vegetable growth of thousands of years. Decaying trunks of trees heaped in grotesque array makes progress slow and dense growths of vines and underbrush renders the district a veritable inferno in the summer. Without matches to make fires or combat the swarms of stinging insects, Nyquist and Pepia were pitifully blistered and bitten by mosquitoes and small flies.

"Foodless, they wandered for the entire period except very few dead fish which they devoured as they found them.

"The most horrifying of their experiences came on the third day out, when ready to fall from exhaustion and be prey for the wolves, a huge black bear crashed through the underbrush directly in front of the men, and advanced on his hind feet.

"Hopeless as the men thought themselves, the spark of life was yet strong. With their little remaining strength they fought. The sharp claws of the bear laid open a gash on Pepia's thigh. Another blow from the steel-like claws tore the skin from Nyquist's face.

"The men sought refuge in a tree. With almost superhuman effort they reached the first branches of a poplar only to find that the bear climbing directly under them. Then with sharp sticks they began a fight for life. Prodding, striking and smashing, the men fought with the last remaining vitality in their bodies.

"Unable to hold the tree longer the bear slid to the ground. Singularly enough the men, too, were so weary they could no longer cling to the tree and they descended. The bear made a renewed attack.

"With the final spurt of life and hope the men grasped the beast. Then they both lost consciousness.

"As the searchers came to the dense undergrowth they came upon two semblances of humanity. The tendons of their arms were tense and their jaws set. Their hands clutched in a death grip the throat of a black bear."

Well, if this really happened, it was probably no fun for the young men involved. However, we can be certain the reporter had a good time writing all up.

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Collected and edited by Bob Mackreth for the Apostle Islands Historic Preservation Conservancy, a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the historic heritage of the Apostle Islands region of northern Wisconsin.

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