The Baileys of Drummond Island

Drummond Island was settled by Daniel Murray Seaman and family in 1853. In 1880, George Warren Bailey and family came to Drummond and soon the two families were united and became part of the history of Drummond Island.

In 1999, Jill Lowe Brumwell (a Bailey descendent) wrote a series of articles about the Bailey family of Drummond Island and these were published in a local newspaper, The Evening News. An index to the entire series of eight articles is here.

The Bailey Story: Installment Two - Sunday, September 5, 1999

Drummond wasn't always an island

By Jill Lowe Brumwell
For The Evening News

Millions and millions of years ago, salt water covered the area, teaming with billions of coral and shell-like animals. When these animals died and decomposed, they helped form the bedrock that is now part of the island, leaving a treasure as their legacy. That treasure? A particularly high grade of dolomite limestone used in the making of steel.

The salt water sea eventually dried up and the ice age came into being. Several advances and retreats of glaciers over the next million years left their mark on the land and waters of the Great Lakes region. Drummond Island probably emerged during this time, but when the last glacier receded around 11,000 years ago, it took most of the island's topsoil with it.

The island has 150miles of shoreline and over 40 inland lakes; a natural wilderness surrounded by more than 50 outlying islands. It was the site of the last British fort in the northwest which was disabled after the War of 1812, when Drummond Island became part of the United States. The first white family to settle and stay on Drummond Island was the Daniel Murray Seamans in 1853. The George Warren Bailey family arrived in 1880.

Drummond Island was not named for those early settlers but was named in honor of Sr. Gordon Drummond, a British Naval Commander who fought against the States in the War of 1812. Drummond probably never set foot on the island that bears his name.

The journey to Drummond Island from Bailey's Harbor in Wisconsin was not an easy one for the Bailey family and their six children. The family had rested for a few days in a log home provided for them by Don Seaman, the 28-year-old son of Betsy Grandy Seaman. Don was only 11 yeas old when his father, Daniel Murray Seaman, died. This dwelling was located in the settlement on Drummond Island near or where the island museum now stands.

When G. Warren and Cornelia Bailey arrived on the island, they had already brought seven children into the world: Minnie, 1870; Guy, 1872; Ben (Alton), 1873; Warren, 1875; Marshal, 1877; Jessie, 1879; and Blanche, 1880. All were born in Wisconsin.

Minnie Janet Bailey (1870-1886), the oldest of the Bailey children to arrive on Drummond Island, was 10 when she came and was destined to have a short life. Minnie, whose picture can be seen hanging on the south wall of the island museum, shows a serious young girl, with hair worn in the style of the times and a large lace collar about her slender neck. She was born in Fish Creek, Wisc. and died on Drummond Island at the age of 16 from kidney problems.

Guy Newell Bailey (1872-1875) was the second child born to Cornelia and G. Warren Bailey. Guy was born at Fish Creek, Wisc. and is buried there. He died of smallpox at the age of 3.

Alton Lee "Ben" Bailey (1873-1969) was a boy of 7 when the Baileys came to Drummond Island. He married a relative of Betsy Seaman named Eva LaDisuer, and moved to Washington state in 1903. Their children were Edna, Howard, Tim, Violet, and Glen. The second wife of Alton Lee (Ben) was Edith Lott.

Their children were Udortha and Warren. Edna married Sidney Fowler and had two children, Delores and Leona. Howard married and had no children. Tim Bailey married Elo Kenoyer and had a daughter named Donna. Violet married August Lott and had three sons, Leonard, Robert, and Edward. Udortha Bailey married Hugh Wight. Their children are Judith, Patricia, Hugh II, Penny, and Kimberly. Warren Bailey, the last child of Ben Bailey married Joyce Wang. Their children are Randy, Steve and Susan.

Alton Lee (Ben) was the third child born to George Warren and Cornelia Edgerton Bailey. He was born in 1873 and was named Alton but always went by Ben.

There were little traces of earlier sojourns on the island when the Bailey family arrived. The Native Americans had been there from time immemorable but their culture had done little to change the virgin character of the island. Their homes were primitive and Ben remembered many still living in bark houses and wigwams. They tilled a few garden spots near their dwellings. Many had a few domestic animals to which they fed the marsh hay, growing profusely on certain points of the island. They made maple sugar in the spring and fished in the teeming waters. There were few game animals. The deer, for which the island became famous for 20 years later, had not yet found a favorable habitat on the island. The lumber men, G. Warren Bailey (Ben's father) among them, would create this atmosphere.

The Bailey family lived on an island and sometimes that presented a problem, when one wanted to get from one place to another, especially if that place was off the island. When the water was navigable, one utilized whatever craft was available at that period, various ferry boats, private tugs, pleasure craft or scows. Winter brought other means of transportation and other complications.

Shank's mares, sometimes supplemented by Indian-made snowshoes, were the most common and safest means of transportation in winter. Light sleds made of cedar with broad runners to ride on top of snowdrifts carried passengers as well as other commodities. These sleds were used with dog teams. Many islanders had one or more teams of dogs. Collies, not the lassie Scotch breed, were the choice of many. Also, short-haired breeds similar to boxers and hounds were used. But the most unique team was Ben's sister, Alda Cloudman's team of Irish wolf hounds, Mutt and Jeff. They covered the distance from the Cloudman residence at the mouth of Potagannissing Bay to the village on the ice in 15 minutes. the dogs wore buckskin booties for travel on the ice and hard crust.

Horses, too were used on the icy highway. Some came to grief and many were reluctant to travel on the ice, even if it was snow covered. The course of the ancient highway varied from year to year, depending on Mother Nature. Sometimes one went straight to St. Joe's, where one crossed the steamboat channel and skirted the shoreline of DeTour.

Ben and his contemporaries were privileged to live on a virgin island to explore. However, Ben must have felt there were new trails to conquer because at the age of 30 he left to Washington state, only to return two or three times to visit. He chose to live 90 miles north of Seattle and less than 60 miles south of Vancouver in the port city of Bellingham.

When Ben moved there it was quite a lumbering center. from his logging experiences at Drummond, Ben's first job in Washington was driving a team and skidding logs to where they were loaded. In his free time, he liked to fish and hunt. Ben died at the age of 91 in the state of Washington.

(Author's note: Family history and the pictures featured in each segment were generously shared by Bernice Holmes, Maxine Bailey, Naomi Bailey, Rosalie Sasso, and Carol Yates.)