As part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, we’re going on a virtual tour with Neil Howk, a man who has spent decades exploring the islands and teaching people about what makes them special. He knows the islands like the back of his hand.
At the fourteenth stop on our digital tour, Neil is on Hermit Island, thought to be named for William Wilson, an employee of the American Fur Company who built a cabin on the island and led a solitary life there in the 1850s. Hermit Island is at 46.8862° N, 90.6880° W. It’s about 2 miles north of Madeline Island.
Hermit Island has gone by other names in its history, including “Ashuwaguindag Miniss” (Ojibwe for “The Further Island”), Illinois Island, Austrian Island, Wilson’s Island and Askew Island. We now call this Hermit Island, named for Mr. Wilson, an employee of the American Fur Company who built a cabin on the island and led a solitary life there in the 1850s. You can read stories about the hermit on the National Park Service website.
In the 1890s, Frederick Prentice opened the Excelsior quarry on Hermit Island and built himself a beautiful three-story house called the Cedar Bark Cottage.
The cottage no longer exists, but several blocks of stone cut from the quarry still sit on the shore waiting for a ship that will never come.
Hermit Island’s impressive sandstone bedrock forms striking cliffs along its northeast side, including a stack at the tip of the island that is a popular roost for gulls and cormorants.
The island’s proximity to the mainland makes it a popular rest stop for sea kayakers, and a short swim for bears visiting from the mainland. There are no campsites on Hermit Island.
Look for another digital adventure next week. To play along, simply like the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Facebook page and check back next Wednesday for the clue to next week’s location. Make a guess in the comments and we’ll post the answer on Thursday. Click here to view the entire series.