All posts by Lindsay Hiltunen

Welcome to Summer Intern Steve Moray

Steve Moray assesses a map of Isle Royale in the archives stacks.
Our new summer archives intern, Steve Moray, assesses a map of Isle Royale in the archives stacks.

On behalf of the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, in partnership with the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library, we hope you will help us welcome our new archives intern for summer 2017. Steve Moray was selected as the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library Archives Intern after a competitive national call for applicants. While in Houghton, Steve will be assisting with research support services and behind-the-scenes tours in the Michigan Tech Archives, particularly during the busy summer season. He will also be responsible for arrangement and description of several small manuscript collections and assist with developing new processing workflows for our ArchivesSpace implementation. We are very excited to have him on board! Below, please take a moment to get to know Steve as he introduces himself in his own words.

Hello everyone! My name is Steve Moray and I am a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s coordinated MA History/MLIS degree program, concentrating in Archives. I graduated from Michigan Technological University in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in Archaeology and History. I am thrilled and honored to return to my Alma Mater for this incredible internship opportunity at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. As an alumnus, I am already familiar with the archives and have used the collections in multiple classes during my time at Michigan Tech, including for a research paper on amusement parks in the Keweenaw Peninsula and for my undergraduate thesis on the history, archaeology, and GIS mapping of a historic copper mine on Isle Royale (Island Mine). In addition, my archaeology field school at Cliff Mine and History of the Copper Country classes both contributed to my in depth historical knowledge of the local area.

In 2013 I moved to Milwaukee and got a job as a field archaeologist working all over Wisconsin at a small archaeology firm. The nature of the job kept me away from home during the work week for nine months of the year. After three years, and much soul-searching, I came to the realization that my chosen profession was not fulfilling my passion. I wanted to find a way to incorporate my long time hobby, genealogy, and my love of historical research into a new, stable career that would allow me to come home every night, while also igniting that missing passion in me. I was lucky that Milwaukee had one of the best MLIS programs in the nation, and after some research, I applied for, and was accepted into, the Coordinated MA History/MLIS program.

My professional interests include collections digitization, MPLP (More Product, Less Processing), and history and genealogy reference. The final paper for my Introduction to Modern Archives Administration class at Milwaukee discussed the use of MPLP in digitization projects to balance issues of backlog, access, preservation, authenticity, and constraints of time and funding. This is a subject I am eager to explore further as I continue to develop as a professional. In my History program at UWM I have also taken Research Methods in Local History, which entailed conducting an in depth research project specifically focused on utilizing the March on Milwaukee digital collection and various physical collections of the UW-Milwaukee archives. After graduating from my master’s program I would like to pursue a career as an archivist at a local or state history archival institution, or as an archivist for the National Park Service at a National Historical Park.

I am also a seasoned genealogist with 20 years of research practice and am experienced in a wide variety of records located in both physical and digital repositories. I am currently working on becoming a Certified Genealogist and I would like to use my extensive knowledge and experience not just personally, but in a professional capacity as well.

When I’m not at school or work my hobbies include photography, doing genealogy for myself and friends, exploring the outdoors (especially the waterfalls of the Keweenaw), and reading authors such as Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson, among many others.

I will be here until the beginning of the Fall semester, so stop in and say hi, and let me help you with your historical or genealogical research!

For more information on the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library Internship Program or to set up a time to say hello to our new intern, please call Lindsay Hiltunen at (906) 487-2505 or e-mail us at The Michigan Tech Archives can also be found on Twitter: @mtuarchives.

“Go across the ocean with me”: Student Essays on Family History from 1917

Douglass Houghton School, which sat to the west of the intersection of Douglass and 6th streets in Houghton, as it looked in 1906.
Douglass Houghton School, which sat to the west of the intersection of Douglass and 6th streets in Houghton, as it looked in 1906.

At the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, summer means genealogy! Taking advantage of our warmer weather and the local attractions open for the season, visitors arrive from all around the country–and even the globe–to research their family history. In turn, our staff members learn more about the people who called this place home years ago and their family connections.

The love of genealogy that these visitors display is part of a long tradition in the United States. From America’s earliest days, tracing family ties or handing down family stories has been a hobby for some and a calling for others–and Houghton County was no exception. In 1917, students from Houghton High School and the upper grades of nearby primary schools were asked to write short essays about their families, with an emphasis on ancestors, their origins, and any particularly intriguing anecdotes. What the students produced ranged from terse, straightforward accounts to colorful stories apparently penned by budding novelists. Compiled by the Keweenaw Historical Society and presently part of that organization’s collection (MS-043), the essays recount ancestors with origins in places as diverse as Germany, Finland, Ukraine, and Syria.

High school student Marguerite Morrow set the stage for telling her family history by inviting the reader to travel back in time.
High school student Marguerite Morrow set the stage for telling her family history by inviting the reader to travel back in time.


Despite differences in origin, the stories demonstrate many common themes. Students boasted, wherever possible, of illustrious ancestors and connections to fame.   Strobel claimed that one of her relatives had traveled to America with his close friend, a brother of Charles Dickens. Claribel Wright took pride in her “pure English stock”; she asserted that she was descended from a Mayflower passenger and had cousins in famous businesswoman Hetty Green and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony. Ruth Standish MacDonald did Claribel’s Mayflower ancestor one better: her middle name came from Miles Standish, one of the most famous of these Pilgrims and Ruth’s earliest known family member. Other pupils described forefathers who had made good in their home countries: Joseph Strobel bragged of one who had received “the Sword of Honor” from a German emperor, for example, while Mary Piipponen had no small admiration for her grandfather, who had personally petitioned the Tsar of Russia to restore the Finnish constitution.

But even more typical to the students’ essays were stories of challenges and tragedies, ones that prompted emigration to the United States or that continued to stalk families after their arrival. Fred Caspary’s family, after immigrating from Germany, took a homestead near Puget Sound. “Then,” he said, “the railroad came… and my parents had to sell after living on it 9 years 9 months.”  Embarrassed, Harold Gross admitted that his father’s family had neglected to snuff out all the candles after a night of partying and caused a fire that killed eleven people. James Finley recalled that his twenty-year-old grandfather left Ireland after his mother starved to death during the Irish Potato Famine; he traveled only with a younger brother, just twelve years of age. Myrtle Brassaw, writing of her mother’s journey from England to America in the 1860s, described “a terrible disease”–cholera–that “arose among the people, taking the lives of two hundred ten.” Another Myrtle, Myrtle Warrington, had lost a grandfather to the Osceola Mine fire of 1895.

In hindsight, perhaps the most distressing paper was that written by high school student Sadie Kremen, documenting the lives of the Kremen and Futran families. These ancestors came from the Odessa region of Ukraine, wrote Sadie, who noted proudly that all of her mother’s male relatives “were learned men or teachers.” Her uncles, as young men, were so dedicated to learning that they “wanted to have a more modern education but the government would not allow them to attend any of the universities within the country.” The Futran family, like the Kremen family, were Jewish, and the Russian Empire, which ruled Ukraine, had closed many doors to Jews. Sadie’s uncle found opportunity in Vienna and Berlin; he trained as a physician in both cities before returning home and offering his services to Russia during World War I. “Although the government through its admirable educational system,” Sadie said incisively, ”had not permitted him to study within the country, they were very glad to have the services of a trained doctor.” Sadie’s paternal aunts and uncles had encountered similar prejudice from the government in the later years of the 19th century. “Finding the persecution and tyranny of the government unbearable,” they decamped to America, and her parents soon followed. A little over twenty years after Sadie wrote her essay, Ukraine would be caught up in the Holocaust; over 800,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed, a number that undoubtedly included members of Sadie’s extended family.

Snippet from Sadie Kremen’s essay discussing the oppression her family faced under the Russian Empire.
Snippet from Sadie Kremen’s essay discussing the oppression her family faced under the Russian Empire.

I cannot let this blog post go by without mentioning a personal discovery in the collection: an essay penned by Ethel Moyle, my great-grandmother. She wrote this piece in eighth grade, the last year of school she attended. I never had the chance to know Ethel, but her paper tells me that she might have been an imaginative young lady–or raised by parents determined to pull the wool over her eyes. “My father’s father was a sailor in a boat for a good many years,” she said. “One day they had a wreck and he was drowned.” In reality, her paternal grandfather had suffered a fatal injury while working as a miner. On the other hand, Ethel explained that her maternal grandfather “died a long time ago, when my mother was a baby. After, my grandmother and mother decided to come to America.” Ethel’s mother had more motivation to misremember her family history: she had been illegitimate, possibly the result of an assault on her mother. Then, as now, it seems that descendants were motivated to remember their predecessors in the best–and most interesting–light.

Perhaps, as I did, you will discover an ancestor’s essay tucked away in the Keweenaw Historical Society Collection. Maybe you will discover a compelling or tragic story that needs to be shared; you might enjoy a memory passed down through the generations. If nothing else, the prose of these young student-authors stands firm on its own merits, more than a century after it was put to paper.

By Emily Riippa, Assistant Archivist


Reading Room Spotlight: Portrait of an Ancestor as a Young Woman

This week’s blog post is courtesy of our Assistant Archivist Resident, Emily Riippa. It provides a thoughtful spotlight on one of our reading room art pieces.


For the past year, visitors to the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections have been captivated by the portrait of a striking young woman that graces a wall in the reading room. This painting of Christeen Shelden was donated by Therissa Jane Libby, a great-granddaughter of the subject, in 2016; a previous blog post by University Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen provides additional information about Mrs. Libby’s generous gift.

While our staff knew the provenance of the portrait, our knowledge of Christeen herself remained minimal. As we passed the painting many times in our daily work and fielded questions from patrons who had paused to admire it, the sense of mystery grew. Christeen was a scion of the respected Shelden family, yes, but what more could be said about her experiences? Did she live to a happy old age, or was her life cut tragically short? Did she pursue one of the careers available to women of her time? Did she marry and raise a family? As archivists, naturally, we turned to historical documents to answer these questions. Like researchers who come to investigate their family history here, we now are able to see this face from the past with greater clarity.

Donor Jane Libby and Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen pose with the framed portrait of Christeen M. Shelden, daughter of local historic figure Ransom B. Shelden. The painting was donated to the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections on Monday, June 20.
Therissa Jane Libby posing with the portrait of her great-grandmother, Christeen Shelden.

Christeen Shelden was born in May 1848 near the Portage Entry, where her father had recently built a store on the sandbars near Jacobsville. She was the third child and only daughter of Ransom and Therissa (Douglass) Shelden; Carlos and George were several years older, and Ransom, Jr., would join the family four years later. Hoping to further capitalize on the supply needs of the nascent copper boom, Ransom and his business partner relocated the store to Quincy Mine in the early 1850s and then to Houghton. Their operations flourished: by 1860, Ransom Shelden informed the census taker that his property was worth some $175,000.

Christeen grew up in Houghton, surrounded by her family and by the world that had sprung up around the mines: mercantiles, hotels, saloons, investors like her father, laborers who had spent everything they had to move to the Copper Country for a chance at something more than subsistence. Many of her neighbors were American-born, like her family, but just as many had come from places like Canada, England, and Germany. Undoubtedly, living in a boom town made for an interesting childhood, with the surroundings adding a real world touch to Christeen’s education. Based on the presence of a teacher named Emily Collingwood in the Shelden household in the 1860 census, it seems likely that Christeen received her formal schooling in her home. Census records also indicate that, as a young adult, Christeen probably did not elect to become a schoolteacher herself, one of the few careers available to a woman of her socioeconomic status. In 1870, her occupation was listed as “at home,” meaning that she likely filled her days by assisting her mother and their servants in household upkeep or by attending to social and charitable obligations. The style of Christeen’s clothing in the portrait suggests that it was painted at some point in the early years of this decade.

Love found Christeen in her twenties. She met a young man named Edwin Salmon Gilbert, a bookkeeper and the son of a Baptist minister. Edwin had spent his youth moving around the country, following his father between pastorates in his native New York, Illinois, and Marshall, Michigan, according to various federal censuses. From Marshall, the youthful accountant headed north and took a job with Ransom Shelden in about 1873. Christeen and Edwin fell in love and were married in Houghton on February 28, 1874. They remained close to her family: when the Michigan state census was taken later that year, the Gilberts and the Sheldens were recorded as living side by side.

Christeen and Edwin’s brief marriage was marked by moments of profound joy and sorrow. They welcomed their first child, Shelden Douglass, nine months after the wedding; a second son, Edwin Gage, followed in April 1876. Sadly, their next two children, who arrived in March 1877 and April 1878, were stillborn. Therissa I. Gilbert, named for her grandmother, was born on October 2, 1879.  Less than six months after her daughter’s birth, Christeen died; her headstone in the Shelden plot at Houghton’s Forest Hill Cemetery gives the date as March 8, 1880. She was 31 years old.

Christeen’s memorial in the Shelden family section of Houghton’s Forest Hill Cemetery as it appears today.
Christeen’s memorial in the Shelden family section of Houghton’s Forest Hill Cemetery as it appears today.

After Christeen’s death, Edwin and the children moved south to Illinois, residing with his parents at census time and likely trying to come to terms with their loss. They eventually returned to Houghton County. In 1883, Edwin remarried in Houghton and moved with his new wife to Santa Cruz, California, where voter registers the following year recorded him as a merchant. It is unclear whether Shelden, the younger Edwin, and Therissa accompanied him immediately or whether they remained with extended family in the Midwest. What is apparent, however, is that Christeen’s brothers felt it important that they take her children under their wing. Shelden Gilbert showed an aptitude for the law, and his name appeared in the alumni directories of Northwestern University and Yale Law School. When Carlos Shelden was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1896, he chose his young nephew as his private secretary. Sadly, Shelden Gilbert’s life was even shorter than his mother’s. While visiting the Copper Country in April 1899, the 24-year-old contracted cerebrospinal meningitis and died within a day.  

An obituary of Shelden D. Gilbert in the April 24, 1899 edition of the Copper Country Evening News.
An obituary of Shelden D. Gilbert in the April 24, 1899 edition of the Copper Country Evening News.

Edwin G. Gilbert, meanwhile, studied at Northwestern University and what was then the Michigan College of Mines, developing his abilities as a civil and mining engineer. Like his father, he moved to California, residing in Plumas County and San Diego. He died there in 1943, leaving a wife and one son.

Therissa Gilbert seems to have resided in Illinois for a time before also making the migration to California, where she married pharmacist Edwin Elliott at the age of 21. Their two sons thrived as professionals: the elder, Shelden, was a professor of law at New York University and dean of the University of Southern California School of Law, while Edwin Elliott, Jr., became a teacher and attained the rank of commander in the Navy during World War II.

It was Therissa Gilbert Elliott who inherited her mother’s portrait. Thanks to her faithful care and preservation of the painting over the years–a responsibility later taken up by her granddaughter–Christeen’s confident and thoughtful countenance will continue to charm onlookers well into the future, just as it has for over a century.

Photo of the Day – May 17, 2017



From the Daily Mining Gazette in 1963: The Redridge Rhythm Ryders Band, carry on a tradition that was started 50 years ago. The young musicians have won considerable acclaim and recognition in the region, recently winning second place in a talent show at the Dee Stadium. Band Director William H. Brinkman plays the banjo.

Call for Volunteers, History Unfolded and Newspaper Project – Summer 2017

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections is currently seeking volunteers for a temporary newspaper project. The volunteer project includes participation in History Unfolded, an internationally significant research project administered by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), as well as assisting with upkeep for the Copper Country and Michigan Tech Vertical Files. The volunteer(s) selected will receive training and will gain first-hand experience in microfilm research and vertical file upkeep.

newspaper3History Unfolded, a project of the USHMM in Washington, DC, asks students, teachers, librarians, archivists and community historians throughout the United States to research what was possible for Americans to have known about the Holocaust as it was happening. Participants look in local newspapers for news and opinion pieces about 31 Holocaust-era events and submit articles they find to a national database. As of May 12, 2017, 1,561 participants from across the country have submitted over 9,900 articles from their local newspapers. However, to date only 125 of those articles come from Michigan newspapers. It is the goal of the Michigan Tech Archives volunteer project to make sure that Upper Peninsula news stories are included in the national database. In addition to microfilm research and participation in the History Unfolded project, volunteers will also be expected to assist in clipping and filing newspapers for inclusion in our local vertical file.

The following skills are required:

  • Knowledge of World War II and Holocaust history.
  • Demonstrated analytical and research skills.
  • Ability to follow instructions and work effectively in a team-based environment.
  • Ability to use basic office equipment and to learn new software.

This call is for 1-2 volunteer positions with work hours to take place Monday-Friday, between the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. An ideal volunteer would be able to commit 10-15 hours per month, although there is flexibility in setting the weekly volunteer hours.  The preferred start date is June 26, to coincide with the university’s second summer session. There will be no compensation or benefits included with this position and the successful candidate(s) will be expected to complete the appropriate volunteer forms for the university.

To learn more about us, please visit our website:

Volunteer applications are due by June 12, 2017. Applicants should send a short letter of interest to:

Lindsay Hiltunen, University Archivist
Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections
Attn: History Unfolded Volunteer Project
Van Pelt and Opie Library
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931 | (906) 487-2505

Immunization Week Prompts a Look Back

The last week of April was World Immunization Week. A campaign of the World Health Organization (WHO), this special event celebrates the development of vaccines to prevent diseases that once ravaged communities. The Copper Country was no exception to the scourge of sickness: measles, meningitis, diphtheria, and other illnesses made the rounds of mine towns, often with devastating effects.

Mining companies took a keen interest in the spread of these diseases and others in their surrounding communities, both for the benefit of the corporation and the good of the workforce. From nearly the beginning of Copper Country mining, company payrolls included doctors, a holdover from the Cornish roots of many early miners. As the region matured, several mines constructed hospitals and medication dispensaries to serve their employees. For a modest monthly contribution and additional fees for inpatient care, workers and their families were entitled to diagnostic services–both at home and at the hospital–and medication. Calumet & Hecla (C&H) offered perhaps the archetypal example of this service. The company opened its first hospital in 1871 and, by 1897, boasted an expanded, state-of-the-art facility with a substantial staff. Patients seeking treatment visited this impressive building on the east side of Calumet Avenue (US-41), just north of Church Street. C&H also operated a clinic in Lake Linden.


After 1897, those seeking treatment from C&H company physicians could visit this attractive building on today’s US-41 in Calumet. The modern facility featured cutting edge surgical and diagnostic apparatus.
After 1897, those seeking treatment from C&H company physicians could visit this attractive building on today’s US-41 in Calumet. The modern facility featured cutting edge surgical and diagnostic apparatus.


By the late 1890s, C&H hospital physicians also aligned themselves with the growing field of public health. At the end of each month, doctors sent the company’s superintendent reports about the highly communicable diseases–now often preventable with vaccines–that its staff had treated. These dispatches, which C&H titled “Sanitary Bulletins,” recorded the nature of each illness, the neighborhood in which it had occurred, and the address of the patient; in an endeavour that presaged today’s emphasis on data visualization, physicians then carefully plotted the cases on a map of the Calumet area, using colored circles corresponding to the illnesses observed. The month’s average temperature, mean barometric pressure, total precipitation, and prevailing wind direction also featured prominently in these bulletins, which have been preserved as part of MS-002: Calumet and Hecla Mining Companies Collection.

The sanitary bulletins are a fascinating snapshot of the state of public health in Calumet in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Through the meticulous note keeping of the mine physicians, modern researchers glimpse the illnesses that struck the community and the geography of epidemics, how sickness spread through a mine town. In March 1910, for example, a physician was called to Rockland Street in Calumet location–a settlement along the east side of today’s US-41–to tend to a feverish patient, probably a child, who was suffering from a cough, running nose, and watery eyes. An angry red rash had erupted across the patient’s skin. When the doctor came to the home, his diagnosis confirmed what family members had no doubt suspected: a case of the measles. This became the first blue dot–that month’s chosen color for measles–in a wave of illness, the tip of the iceberg.


“Sanitary Bulletin” prepared by Calumet & Hecla physicians in March 1910. Notice the color-coded key to the various illnesses whose occurrences doctors plotted on a map of the area.
“Sanitary Bulletin” prepared by Calumet & Hecla physicians in March 1910. Notice the color-coded key to the various illnesses whose occurrences doctors plotted on a map of the area.


Four days later, C&H physicians were called to tend to two cases of measles down the road in Hecla location; the following week, the neighborhood where the outbreak had begun saw another four patients with the same disease. Measles began to spread west along Pine Street, branching into the community of Blue Jacket even as it took further hold in Hecla and Calumet locations. In April, the simple outbreak of measles exploded into an epidemic. Pine Street had 18 measles patients, Rockland Street a total of 25. Adjacent Caledonia Street topped them all: 45 residents came down with measles that month. Imagine this happening in your neighborhood! The epidemic, which faded by June, sickened over 200 people. No longer able to squeeze all of the blue dots onto their sanitary bulletin, C&H doctors settled for drawing one dot per street and painstakingly penciling the total number of measles cases beside it.


The April 1910 edition of the bulletin showed just how busy doctors had been in attending to what they acknowledged as an epidemic of measles. Notice how the house-by-house pinpointing of cases has given way to a summary of cases by street.
The April 1910 edition of the bulletin showed just how busy doctors had been in attending to what they acknowledged as an epidemic of measles. Notice how the house-by-house pinpointing of cases has given way to a summary of cases by street.


Although none of the 1910 measles cases appears to have been fatal, the sanitary bulletins often tell of patients who were not so fortunate. Diphtheria, a capricious disease, sometimes dealt a glancing blow–or led to a date inked onto the chart with the word “died” beside it. Pertussis (whooping cough) lingered in homes; a painful annoyance to older children, it frequently led to deadly pneumonia in infants. Meningitis killed without prejudice, taking up to 80 percent of its victims in a matter of days.

Today, vaccines dramatically curtail the spread of these diseases, sparing countless individuals from miserable illnesses and their families from grief at the premature loss of loved ones. Poring over these fascinating artifacts unlocks a vivid story of life and death, a world before widespread vaccination. To discover more of the story, visit or contact the Michigan Tech Archives–our friendly staff are always ready to assist you.

A special thank you to our Assistant Archivist, Emily Riippa, for another well-researched and thoughtful post.