Local historian Brian Finstad, a native of Gordon, Wis., was recently a guest on a podcast from the Superior Telegram talking about the history of the important trail connecting the St. Croix River and Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior.
This month’s episode of Archive Dive focuses on the Grand Foot Path, a trail that traverses from St. Croix Falls to Madeline Island. Known by many names over the years, it was used for travel by foot, horseback and via stagecoach as the area developed. Echos of the foot path remain as various trails in Douglas County.
Telegram reporter Maria Lockwood is joined by Brian Finstad, historian with the Gordon-Wascott Historical Society, as they discuss the trail’s Native American origins, and how it grew to become an important travel circuit. Finstad, a native of Gordon, grew up with the foot path “in his backyard” as segments went right through property his family owned.
“It is always interesting to me that there were communities that were very historically connected together because of how people traveled that today, we don’t think of as very connected,” said Finstad. “The Grand Foot Path (St. Croix Trail, Bayfield Trail, Stagecoach Line) fell out of use when the railroads came to the area. As soon as the railroads came in, it very quickly disappeared. Even in the 1880s, you’ll find that they were already writing about it as it was something from long ago history.”
Anne Reich says
What a fascinating perspective on the historical transportation routes/connections between St. Paul/Stillwater and Bayfield, and points (on an angle)! Thanks for the link, Greg.
Mark Hove says
Yeah, neat, thank you
Bill Malinoski says
Informative,avid hiker of Historic Bayfield Road Trail and North Country Trails
Brian Finstad says
The Bayfield Road hiking trail you mention is part of the 1870 Bayfield Road between Duperior & Bayfield. One thing that’s difficult in speaking about this route is that there were multiple travel ways that went by the names of Bayfield Trail or Road & St. Croix Trail or Road. That is a great trail to hike though!
Jason Holmes says
Brian, I’m a forester with Bayfield County, and I recently heard your interview on the Superior Telegram podcast. Not long ago I received a copy of the J Wm. Trygg’s 1966 map based on the original plats and field notes. The Bayfield/St. Croix trail is on that map. In a GIS program, I georeferenced the map so it could be laid across a map showing the current landscape (roads, terrain, etc.). If that capability would ever be helpful to you, feel free to look me up and reach out. – Jason Holmes
Russell Hanson says
Brian has visited the south end of the trail and had a table at Wolf Creek at the River Road Ramble a couple of years ago. The St Croix River Road north of St Croix Falls and through Wolf Creek is part of the old trail system. When you drive up the River Road, you are driving on old Indian trails, that later became the main road to the “Pineries.” Across the River in MN from Wolf Creek was the 1837 Joseph Renshaw Brown Indian trading post. By the 1840s Wolf Creek was a stopping place on the road as it was about 8 miles north of St Croix Falls, the distance oxen could travel in a day with a load of supplies for the logging camps. Susan Segelstrom of Grantsburg, WI has written a book on the stopping places along the trail Lumberjacks and Stopping Places in Northwestern Wisconsin. It is available from her and maybe the Grantsburg Historical Society.