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 Ten - unknown date

Lumber brought the Baileys to Drummond Island

By Jill Lowe Brumwell
For The Evening News

Drummond Island - "Construction is being pushed , as winter is fast approaching; 14 lots facing the harbor laid out for houses to be built, perfectly uniform." If you thought this was a recent item in the Sault Evening News, you would be wrong. This item was recorded in 1815 when the British were trying frantically to get the garrison and villages housed for the winter ahead. There were no white settlers, as far as we know, to look askance or wonder what effect these Britishers were going to make on the island. Perhaps the Indians looked on in wonder at the hustle and bustle along the shore; the saws humming in the forest felling the trees; stone hammers ringing in the quarries and the night sky ablaze from the smoldering charcoal fires processing the lime into mortar, who is to say? Most of the Indians lived in villages on the north side of Potaganipy along Potagannissing Bay and the sheltering islands.

The British commander, Col. McDonall had a decision to make when his orders came to abandon Ft. Michilmackinac. He, like some of his predecessors, was looking for the ideal place to bring his company. All the surrounding islands and the mainland were considered, the fort on St. Joseph Island among them. But none of them struck the fancy nor met the requirements of McDonall. High Island, as the fur traders called it, answered his needs and there was no authority to tell him nay. So in July 1815, he arrived with a force estimated to be 350-400, excluding the Indians, who followed the food supply.

Not long after, it was decided that the island was part of the United States. After a few years of bickering and harassment, the British were forced to "fold their tents" and silently stole away on a cold day in November 1828, for their new quarters in lower Georgian Bay.

On Nov. 14, Lt. T.F. Simonton, U.S. Army from Fort Brady at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., sailed down the river. After the British flag was lowered, he turned a list of buildings, valued at 1,820 pounds, over to Lt. Carson of the 68th Regiment. For years, historians would pass Drummond Island, when going through the DeTour Passage, and describe the deserted fort as looking like a peaceful sleeping village.

Their 13 years of labor and struggle left an impact on the island. The island had an official name - no longer, as noted in the Jesuit Relations, as the western-most island of the Grand Manitoulins, as Potiganipy (its Indian name), nor the fur-trader's High Island - but Drummond Island, in honor of Sir Gordon Drummond, commander of the Lake District.

The island had an entity now and was listed in both British and American charts and history books. Still, when the British left, no one seemed to find any purpose for it, that is, until 1853, when the Seaman family came to Drummond Island.

It was lumber that brought the George Warren Baileys to Drummond Island in 1880. Bailey lumbered the area about the Potagannissing River, and leased a site from Betsy Seaman on Patagannissing Bay for a saw mill and dock. Warren and Cornelia arrived on Drummond Island in 1880 with six children. Eight children were to be born on the island.

One child, a son, 3-year-old Guy, died of smallpox before the family left their home in Wisconsin. George Warren was originally from Alexandria, N.H. and Cornelia from Connecticut.

The usual rhythm of the loggers was to cut trees in the fall and make roads to take the logs out of the woods. Logs continued to be cut in the winter, and were loaded on sleds and pulled by horses over the snowy, slick trails to the water's edge, to wait for the spring thaw, and when the ice melted, the logs were floated to a saw mill.

After the spring drive of logs in the river or lake, the men were off to see their families or spend their money on a wild spree.

Everyone wanted to work at Baileys' camp. "The grub was good," they explained, "plenty of salt port, spuds, with milk gravy, coffee and home-made bread."

Forty pies a day were turned out on the old wood stove. The pay was good, men made from $4-$8 a day, cutting wood by the cord.

First they timbered off the white pine and the Norway pine, then the cedar for railroad ties and posts, and last the poplar for pulp. Ethel Lucille, the Baileys' tenth child, was born at their "town house," located in the village east of the post office. She was born on Sept. 14, 1887. The Bailey homestead is still there looking as solid as it did over 100 years ago. There is a plaque in the yard, near the road, that identifies it to anyone who passes.

The year before Ethel was born, her sister, Minnie Janet, died at the age of 16 from kidney problems. She was Cornelia and George Warren Bailey's first-born and was born in Fish Creek, Wisc.

When Ethel was born in this house, no one knew that she would be destined to live in this home all her life and die there, on Sept. 7, 1977, one week before her 90th birthday.

Ethel and her older sister, Alda, were the outdoors type. One autumn, Ethel received $700 for the muskrats, beavers, minks and coyotes she trapped. Both were excellent shots with a deer rifle. As a teenager, Ethel worked as a cook in her fathers' lumbering camp.

Ethel married Andrew McInnes and, as couples did in those days, they lived with her parents. They had two children and both were born in the same house as their mother.

Their first child, Bernice, was born in 1904. Bernice was 6 when her sister Georgia was born and later that year her grandmother, Cornelia Edgerton Bailey, died at the age of 58. Ethel took over as female head of the household and her father, George Warren, lived another 13 years.

Being in charge of this household was a big job. Not only did she have her household but there were younger sisters and brothers, Clifford, Frank, Nina, and Nona still living at home.

There was no doctor on the island. Ethel, who had wanted to be a nurse and who seemed to possess an innate ability to minister to the ailing, tended the sick, delivered babies, and helped prepare and bury the dead.

She is credited with delivering over 100 babies on Drummond Island. Ethel was called by many the "Angel of Drummond." It is interesting to note that Ethel's daughters both became registered nurses.

Ethel and her older sister, Alda, had many accomplishments and adventures that would impress even the most adventurous soul. However, an old newspaper article reveals an adventure to end all adventures. "Three women start for Bellingham Wash. on bicycles, May 30, 1911. They are Mrs. Alda Cloudman, Mrs. Ethel McInnes, and Miss Naida Johnson."

They left for the West Coast to visit a sister, Jessie. They got as far as Minneapolis and had to return home because of illness in the family.

Ethel divorced Andrew McInnes and later married Frank Avery. They continued living in the Bailey homestead.

Ethel Lucille Bailey (1887-1977) and Andrew McInnes had two children. Bernice Joy married and divorced Howard Palmer Benson who was a teacher at the island school. They lived the first three years of their married life with her mother, Ethel, and step-father, Frank Avery, in the family home.

Her son Howard (Skip) Benson was born in the same room as his mother. Later, she married Judge Harry B. Holmes. Georgia Cornelia married Dr. Ralph E. Hall. they had no children.