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The Stories Of Cat Harbor and Butter Bay

October, 1999

Why is Cat Harbor named Cat Harbor?

The Latest Report On The Naming Of Cat Harbor From Someone Who Ought To Know.

"Since the early 1950s, Cat Harbor has been home to my family. My grandparents, Emil & Zelda Christenson, bought the north point of Cat Harbor from Mr. Clarke of Sand Bay, and were the original residents. Both of my grandparents were born and raised in the Keweenaw area. Before building their house on Cat Harbor, they spent they're summers in Central. (They leased one of the few houses that still remain standing.) From the time I was very young, my grandmother had told me the story of how Cat Harbor was named. She said that from the bluffs, near lookout tower on the cut off road, you could see that Cat Harbor is the shape of a cat's paw, hence the name, Cat Harbor. Of course, that was before the trees grew taller than the tower. My dad, Philip Christenson, had said that in the early years, there was a large population of wildcats living in the area around Cat Harbor. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Hopefully, to pass on to the next generation of Christensons who will live at Cat Harbor." (Kurt D. Christenson, 10/99)

This from Jim Boggio, certainly an impeccable source.

"My grandfather told me that when the 382 foot freighter RALPH BUDD was wrecked on the offshore reefs in a 1929 spring storm, she was loaded with flour and refrigerated foods, including butter, cream and eggs. People from all over Keweenaw rushed to the scene to salvage the cargo as it washed onto the beach. Like all such freighters, the 'crew' included lots of cats to keep the rats under control. They swam ashore and were very active in the salvage frenzy. Ever since, locals have called the harbor, Cat Harbor."

H'mm, a plausible story, even tho Bruce Olson, who lives at Cat Harbor and has several pictures of the wreck, says 'It's news to me!".

Frederick Stonehouse in his "Keweenaw Shipwrecks" confirms the basic facts but makes no mention of the cats. He does say,"It was later claimed that so much butter came ashore that the shoreline was slippery for weeks!"

How about, "Buttery Bay"?

"Cap Reid - Butter Boat Salvager" by Bob Taylor

I read with interest your version of how Cat Harbor got its name and about the wreck of the steamer Ralph Budd. The Budd was salvaged by Capt.Tom Reid who operated a Great Lakes salvage company, originally out of my home town of Port Huron (later out of Sarnia, Ontario). I met Capt.Reid on several occasions. My best friend during high school days was John Reid Sullivan, Capt.Reid's grandson. Actually we called him "Cap Reid".

John Sullivan was Cap Reid's only heir. Cap died when John was about 33 years old. John thereupon retired to Brownsville, Texas and hasn't done a lick of work since. The ship salvaging business apparently was lucrative. Cap Reid's biography is to be found in a book by Doner called "The Salvager". It has a number of stories of Cap's activities from all around the Great Lakes and several from our immediate vicinity.

I've learned that there is a "Butter Bay" near Agate Harbor, named for the same reason I suggested "Buttery Bay" for Cat Harbor. Butter apparently slides quickly and widely across cool Superior waters.
The History of Butter Bay by Bob Carlton

While doing research for a book I wrote in 1994, "History of Agate Harbor Land Pool" I came across this.

In November 1883 the propeller driven wooden ship MANISTEE sunk with all hands in a violent storm. Some of the cargo beached in a cove at Agate Harbor, five (5) tubs of butter labeled for the "Diamond Match Co. Ontonagon" included. To the lumbermen in the area the cove became known as Butter Bay.

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