Our Mission is: "To continue the over 100-year presence of family heritage, culture and rich human tradition on Isle Royale; to assure the preservation of historic family dwellings; to enhance the experience of NPS staff and Park visitors by serving as authentic links to Isle Royale's rich human history."

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Update October 2002

Summer of  2002

Most Original Family members will agree that this was one of the nicest  summers in recent memory on  Isle Royale weather wise . Everyday seemed endlessly beautiful and, the evenings were warm and clear. To me it seemed the summer would go on and on. It was a unique summer in other ways as well. On July 27 on Merritt Island an Isle Royale Original Families Association meeting took place. It was an opportunity for our families to share memories of our history on Isle Royale. We also discussed how we can move forward to be in partnership with the National Park Service to preserve the history, culture and heritage of our families on Isle Royale and fulfill the directive of the report "Rethinking National Parks for the 21st Century" by the National Park Advisory Board (click on the link to see the full report) which says that  "The National Park Service should help conserve the irreplaceable connections that ancestral and indigenous people have with the parks.  These connections should be nurtured for future generations."

On August 12th our Superintendent Phyllis Green came to Barnum Island to visit with myself, Enar and Betty Strom, Jim and Mary Schliep and Mark Rude to discuss the future plans of NPS regarding Barnum Island. I presented to her some of the ideas of IROFA for future participation among the families with NPS and the public. Although she was non-committal regarding our plans, she sensed our love and passion for our island life  and our desire to be in partnership in preserving the history our families have maintained through 6 generations on Isle Royale. Phyllis was joined by Liz Valencia, Cultural Resource Ranger, Mott Island, and Don Stevens, NPS Historian, Omaha, NE (seen at right).

Our Next Step

IROFA stands at a cross roads today. Last winter this site became active and our group began to coalesce in discussion about our future at Isle Royale. This site has served as a way for us to communicate our ideas and coordinate our meeting this summer. Many people have asked how to participate in the future. We are now at the perfect point to get more involvement. It is critical that as many people become active in our endeavor as possible to ensure success. I am going to begin a dialog offline on to study the issues that we face and formulate a plan that will achieve our mission and assist NPS to achieve it's mission. I ask for the assistance of anyone who wishes to help shape IROFA as a viable partner with NPS. I ask that you email me expressing your desire to participate in the offline discussion that will take place over the next 2 months that will set the stage for our activities next summer and on into the future. Your participation will mean engaging in brainstorming, idea development, research and the formulation of specific actions that will demonstrate that IROFA is a viable cultural resource for NPS and the public. Finally, we are planning a winter meeting of IROFA in January in Minneapolis. Details will be upcoming, I hope we can have a great turn out. Watch our site for specific details.

David C. Barnum

Institute of  Journalism

It was a great honor that Stuart Sivertson and I were invited to participate with the IJNR at Isle Royale late in September to discuss the state of commercial fishing on Isle Royale and issues related to lease holders. IJNR is a not for profit group that awards expense-paid fellowships to journalists that concentrate on timely themes and issues that are relevant and useful in the area of environmental issues specific to different regions. This year's program focused on Lake Superior and Isle Royale. Stu was invited to make a presentation on commercial fishing to a group of about 15 journalists from all over the country at Grand Portage Lodge on September 24th. The next morning we set off with the group to the island on the Voyageur II. A panel discussion was organized at the Windigo visitor center that afternoon with two agendas. The first was about the lawsuit between the Isle Royale Boaters Association. IRBA was represented by Mark Rude, NPS by Phyllis Green, Pete Armington, Jack Olfke, and Larry Kangas. The second panel discussion related to lease holder issues. The panel for IROFA was Stuart Sivertson, Mark Rude and myself. We presented ideas that have been developed among the IROFA members over the last 6 months. A question and answer session then ensued. The entire event lasted about 4 hours.

On Friday the group came to Washington Island and were given a tour of Sivertson Fishery by Stuart Sivertson. They spent about 2 hours seeing the last operating fishery on Isle Royale. Over all this group of journalist got a wide range of views regarding most issues related to the management of Isle Royale. It is anticipated that many of these journalists will write articles about what they learned. IROFA is greatly indebted to Frank Allen and Peter Aninin for allowing us to present our views to these journalists. I hope to see you guys back at the island sometime. You will always be welcome on Barnum Island.

Focus on an Original Family

George G.Barnum
George G. Barnum I

George G. Barnum I first came to Isle Royale in 1895. He purchased what was then Johns Island and renamed it to Barnum Island. My great grandfather, who was born in 1843 and was a Civil War veteran. He wrote about his Civil War experience in 1932 at age 89. His parents were "very religious... and were strict abolitionists". GGB enlisted after "a bunch of us night and began talking about the war." He and 10 friends promised to enlist the next morning at the recruitment office. The next day after enlisting with the 100th New York Regiment  "I found that only one other had really enlisted". My great grandfather saw a great deal of action before completing his service under General Grant at Appomattox, VA where as a Captain in charge of supplies he was ordered to feed the surrendered rebels of the Army of Virginia under General Robert E. Lee.

In his war account he discussed his experience involved in various battles including the hard fought battles in Charleston Bay in South Carolina. One fight is of particular historical significance. He wrote "previous to the attack on Fort Wagner, there arrived from Boston...a regiment of colored troops known as the 54th Massachusetts" After an initial, but failed assault on Fort Wagner it was decided that "the honor of the [second] advance was given to the 54 Massachusetts colored regiment". He goes on to describe the result "That carnage, that carnival of death, that slaughter of loved ones, that hell of terror and fire, that thunderous roar of heavy ordnance and din of small arms mingled with one of the most appalling storms of thunder and lightening ever seen or experienced, such as only a southern sky can hold, when the faces of the soldiery, as the advanced, could only be seen by the lurid glare of heaven's lightning!. The 54 Massachusetts obtained a footing on one corner of the Fort, where Colonel Shaw was killed. No one could have acquitted themselves any better than did this regiment".

Although this was a backwater battle in the Civil War its primary significance resides in the fact that the 54 Massachusetts regiment was the first all black unit to fight in the Civil War for the Union Army. This regiment and the above battle is the subject of the movie "Glory" which was produced in 1989 and was widely hailed. What a wonderful gift that this historical event was captured by one of the Original Family members of Isle Royale.

David C. Barnum

Glory is a celebration of a little-known act of mass courage during the Civil War. Simply put, the heroes involved have been ignored by history due to racism. Those heroes were the all-black members of the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, headed by Matthew Broderick, the son of an influential abolitionist (played by an uncredited Jane Alexander). Despite the fact that the Civil War is ostensibly being fought on their behalf, the black soldiers are denied virtually every privilege and amenity that is matter of course for their white counterparts; as in armies past and future, they are given the most menial and demeaning of tasks. Still, none of the soldiers quit the regiment when given the chance. The unofficial leaders of the group are gravedigger Morgan Freeman and fugitive slave Denzel Washington, respectively representing the brains and heart of the organization. The 54th acquit themselves valiantly at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, charging a fortification manned by some 1000 Confederates. Glory was based on Lincoln Kirstein's Lay This Laurel and Peter Bruchard's One Gallant Rush; the latter book was founded on the letters of Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the real-life character played by Matthew Broderick. The film won an Oscar for co-star Denzel Washington, and additional statuettes for best cinematography (Freddie Francis) and sound recording. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide


Original Families Restore Historic Buildings

Every building that remains on the island from prior to the arrival of the National Park Service should probably be listed in the registry of historic places. To date NPS has had neither the desire or the resources to protect these sites. Fortunately the Original Families have taken it upon themselves to preserve them. One of the best examples is the work done by Enar Strom on Barnum Island and Washington Island. Click on the thumb nails below to see the before and after pictures of just two of many examples of the extraordinary work Enar has performed at no cost to the public to preserve Isle Royale's rich history.

Our Mission Statement
The purpose of Isle Royale Original Families Association (IROFA) is to continue the over 100-year presence of our families on Isle Royale; preserve our culture, heritage and traditions; and enhance the experience of both park visitors and NPS staff by serving as an authentic link to Isle Royale's rich human history.


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Last modified: June 28, 2007