Father Frederic Baraga, the "Apostle of the Chippewa" began a diary in the summer of 1852. At first his writings were sporadic and included little mention of Upper Michigan weather. That all changed in late 1856 when he wrote, "This has not been a diary because I did not record something every day. From Nov 1 I intend to record something everyday." That resolution led to a number of references to weather over Upper Michigan and the Lake Superior region from the 1856 until 1863. The last entry in the diary on July 16, 1863 (He supposedly kept the diary going until September 1866, but those volumes are lost) ended, appropriately, with a comment on the weather: "Very cool , yes cold. This morning I made a fire in the stove, inspite of July."
Father Baraga labored in the Lake Superior region for over three decades. During this time, Upper Michigan went from an isolated wilderness to a booming mining and lumber region, feeding raw materials to the insatiable appetites of cities and industry to the south. The end of the Pioneering Era can be arguably set at the Civil War. Baraga lamented the â??terribleâ?? war and the toll it took on this country. While he noted the hardships visited on his parishioners due to the war, he admitted: â??In this diocese, so remote, there is less to see and hear in this regard than in the southern parts of this country.â??
Baraga kept his diary while living in Sault Ste. Marie. When he was first appointed Bishop of the region in 1853, the Sault was a thriving pioneer village. After the Locks were built and opened in 1855, this all changed. Then Sault Ste. Marie was no longer a stop-over for the traveler heading from or to Lake Superior. After the opening of the Canal, boats just passed by and the Sault became a forgotten corner of Upper Michigan
Baraga became frustrated by the isolation and looked to west to cities like Marquette where communication was â??very much facilitatedâ?? by stagecoaches and railroads. â??On the other hand,â?? he lamented, â??in Sault Ste. Marie one is entirely locked in for five or six months in a prison of ice and snow.â?? This was starkly illustrated by the fact the railroad reached Escanaba from Green Bay in 1872. It took another 16 years for the railroad to reach Sault Ste. Marie!