In 1924, Ephraim crowned Anton Amundson “The Champion Fisherman.” Amundson, his friends observed, had become captivated over the years with the “finned tribe … If he ever opens his mouth, it is to emit a low and sage remark on the state of the fishing weather.” Amundson’s pals continued, “He has committed assault and battery on more trout, herring, and whitefish than could be loaded into the biggest car ferry on Lake Michigan. He can smell a fish a mile away and when she’s there he spits on his hook and wiggles his line. Fish gather willy-nilly from far and near to be caught.”
Anton Amundson was born in 1855, shortly after his parents arrived in Ephraim with other Moravians. His angling skills and maritime survival stories were legendary. Door County historian Hjalmar Holand immortalized Amundson and fishing partner Anton Olson in Old Peninsula Days. Holand described one adventure that began at Chambers Island. The men were pulling lake trout in the winter of 1890. Suddenly, the ice broke up and a large floe carried them northward all through the dark, cold night.
They reached Whaleback Shoal, a long jumble of gravel and angled ice slabs southwest of Washington Island. The dolostone reef stretched across part of Green Bay, like a shattered rib. The true story of how the men survived by wit and brawn was so remarkable that Holand didn’t even have to add his characteristic hyperbole. To discover Amundson’s survival story, dust off your copy of Old Peninsula Days or go to http://pubinfo.co.door.wi.us:8080/jsp/RcWebImageViewer.jsp?doc_id=1e8fc801-90a4-4104-8e86-19a1ea0947dc/wsbd0000/20130111/00001474. (March 28, 1924). The Champion Fisherman. Door County Advocate, page 16.
Photo information: Summer resident Frances E. Moss painted the Amundson Fish House around 1900. It stood along Ephraim’s northeast shore. Look for details like a drying rack for nets, ladders, and the green boat right of the house. Can you see how few trees there are on the opposite shore? Moss created the image shortly after Wisconsin’s “Cutover Logging” period. The pastel painting is in the permanent collection of the Ephraim Historical Foundation and appears in Picturing the Past: The Ephraim Historical Foundation’s Art Collection
-Guest blogger Kathleen Harris