A Short History
What is now Bayfield has been a central location for much of this region's rich history — a history that was rich even before the European explorers appeared in the early 1600's. Native Americans thrived in the forests and sloughs on the shores of Lake Superior, which teemed with nature's bounty. This spot was one of the gateways to the yearly gatherings that took place on the sacred island across the water, known to the Ojibwe as the island of the yellow-breasted woodpecker.
In the late 1600s the French began trading European wares in exchange for the lush furs that natives trapped in the region. Missionaries, the English and eventually Americans came to the area, along with a steady stream of immigrants. Fur-bearing animals became scarce and the fur trade ended. In succeeding years loggers, quarrymen, fishermen and farmers sought fortunes here. At first water was the highway for entry and trade, then the railroad, then paved roads. And Bayfield has always been a center of the activity.
Maurice "Morty" Baldwin
In 1935 when Ed Baldwin, owner of the Bucket of Blood on Front Street and Washington Avenue, opened a second pub on Rittenhouse Avenue, fishing and farming were the mainstays of the economy. Tourists who had come at the end of the 19th century to escape hay-fever symptoms now came for the fishing. Workers, residents and visitors dropped in for a drink. Ed's son Morty gained early fame as the first resident to swim across the bay to Madeline Island. Around 1940 after his father passed away, Morty took over the pub. A gregarious man, Morty ran a popular establishment. Weekly poker games were held at Morty's, and it's said that ownership of Morty's could change hands several times during a game... Baseball was the rage, and Morty's sponsored a team. In 1942 the Great Bayfield Flood gathered in tributaries up in the hills, and came rushing down the large ravine between Second and Third streets and into Rittenhouse Avenue, destroying many of the buildings. Morty's survived, though Morty had to dig a lot of sand out of the basement.
The fishing industry waned, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was created, and sailing and water sports became popular. Artists and active retirees settled in the area, and tourism took hold as a major economic force. Pub ownership passed to subsequent owners including Greg Kinney, and later, one of the daughters of Mary Rice, the "Queen of Bayfield". As tourism became a mainstay of the economy, and most tourists and retired residents left for warmer places during winter, it became a practice to close Morty's during the off-season.
Stories and photos compliments of the Bayfield Heritage Association, 30 N. Broad Street, Bayfield WI.
Lake Superior and its surrounding forests continue to attract visitors and settlers. The Ice Caves of 2014 captured the world's attention, bringing more winter visitors. Orchards, farms and new businesses prosper. Retirees and young people alike find homes here, joining descendants of natives and immigrants to live, work and play amidst nature at its most glorious!
In 2015 Rick and Amy Sherrard settled in Bayfield as the proud new owners of Morty's, with plans to enliven this historic local pub.
Morty's — where locals and visitors alike enjoy good food, good drink and fun on the shores of Lake Superior — is now open year round!
The Ghost of Morty's Pub
Bayfield is a very haunted town — there are numerous stories about ghosts who haunt Bayfield's homes and businesses. It seems that former residents and business owners have loved this town so much that they just don’t want to leave!
The ghost of Morty's Pub is thought to be Morty himself. He was so very proud of his pub! The story is that a subsequent owner would close up the pub for the night and go downstairs to the office to complete his paperwork. After working for a while, he would distinctly hear someone overhead entering the pub and walking around. The owner had carefully locked up for the night — so how could someone have gotten in? He would go upstairs to see who it was. The upstairs would be dark, the outside door would be locked, and no one would be there. This happened time after time. Occasionally, he would hear the “ghost” go into the men’s room and use the urinal...
Story compliments of Virginia Hirsch, Bayfield Heritage Tours