Archival Speaker Series: U.P. Architect D. Frederick Charlton

Steven Brisson, Chief Curator for Mackinac State Historic Parks, gave a public talk on Wednesday, April 14, 2010, as part of the Archival Speakers Series sponsored by the Michigan Tech Archives. His topic was D. Frederick Charlton, the first professional architect to reside permanently in the Upper Peninsula.
Steve Brisson speaks on the life and architectural work of Frederick Charlton.
Steve Brisson speaks on the life and architectural work of Frederick Charlton.
Over four-hundred buildings are credited to Charlton, including important public and private commissions and the buildings for four state institutions.  His office designed structures in a variety of popular styles of the last phase of Victorian architecture.  These included Romanesque, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Classical Revival.  Three of Charlton’s most important works are the Marquette County Court House, the John M. Longyear House in Marquette (moved and rebuilt in Brookline, Massachusetts), and the Upper Peninsula State Hospital for the Insane at Newberry. Brisson’s research at the Michigan Tech Archives focused in particular on material from the Herman Gundlach Collection.

This research was supported by a Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant, funded by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library. Since 1998, this program has helped scholars advance their research by supporting travel to the manuscript collections at the Archives. The program is intended to encourage research using the Archives’ lesser known collections or promote new methodological approaches to well-known collections. From a competitive field of applicants, the grant committee selected four scholars this year whose research typifies the spirit of the grant program. They join the ranks of twenty-two past recipients in this most recent round of awards.

The grant supports travel to the Archives with stipends of up to $750. Once a research proposal has been selected, the amount awarded is determined according to an applicant’s distance from Houghton, Michigan, and the degree of financial need. A full-time graduate student working to complete her or his dissertation is an example of the kind of applicant considered to have a high level of financial need. Although the majority of award recipients are associated with academic institutions either as students or facility, applicants need not come from an academic environment. The program recently supported a strong research program in ethnology by funding two genealogy practitioners exploring Calumet’s 19th and 20th century Polish community.

In addition to the research topic, the award committee considers a person’s track record for completing projects in a timely manner. A strong applicant will demonstrate an ability to publish their research, create a public web page, or otherwise make available the results of their work at the Michigan Tech Archives. The Archives houses a rich collection of historic resources  that we want people to know about. And we don’t want the distance someone might have to travel to the Upper Peninsula to discourage them from coming here. The travel grant helps us achieve both of those goals.

Four researchers were selected to receive a Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant for the current year. This year’s recipients will investigate a diverse array of topics in the Archives’ manuscript collections. Research subjects include the practice of 19th and 20th century medicine in a remote industrial community; the relationship between representations of three-dimensional data and the flow of information within an organization; the regional work of Michigan architect D. Fred Charlton; and the politics and economics of community development during an era industrial decline.

For information about Brisson’s research, architect D. Frederick Charlton, or the Michigan Tech Archives and its collections, email us at, call us at 906-487-2505, or visit us on the web at

U.P. Architect D. Charleton
Announcement used for Brisson’s talk.

Collections Highlight: Store Ledgers

Henry Opal Store, Hubbell (MTU Neg 03596)
Henry Opal Store, Hubbell (MTU Neg 03596)

We’ve been working with a graduate student researcher seeking references to the Bammert Farm which was active 1880s-1920 between Phoenix and Gratiot Lake in Keweenaw County.  She is thinking that store records may indicate the Bammerts as customers — or maybe even selling farm products for sale through local stores.

We compiled the following list of some obvious collections which include records relating to stores. In some cases, these records are called “blotters” or “merchandise ledgers,” but researchers should to be careful because mining companies may also use these phrases to mean other things. Not all of these relate to opeations in Keweenaw County – many are for stores in Houghton, Ontonagon and Baraga counties as well.


“The Roy Drier Collection” (MS-020) includes two store ledgers from Keweenaw County:
Item 4065: Day book of the Foley and Smith store, Eagle, Harbor, 1886
Item 4066: Foley and Smith store ledger, Eagle Harbor, 1884-1890

The “Keweenaw Historical Society Collection” (MS-043) includes several good leads, too:
Box 32, Item 481: Houghton Ledger
Box 32, Item 482: Blotter of C. Kibbee
Oversize Box 45, Item 483: Caren and Shelden Day Book
Oversize Box 45, Item 484: Day Book  
Oversize Box 45, Item 485: Order Book 1873
Oversize Box 45, Item 486: Minnesota Mine Store Blotter
Oversize Box 45, Item 487: Merchandise Ledger
Oversize Box 46, Item 488: Day Book 1873
Oversize Box 46, Item 489: Blotter 1856
Oversize Box 46, Item 490: Blotter S. D. North 1861         

Seth North (“S.D. North”) also operated a well-known store on Quincy Hill.
Some relevant records in “The Quincy Mining Company Collection” (MS-001) include:
Item 434- Quincy Store — Merchandise Ledger, May 1865 – Apr 1866
Item 435 – Quincy Store — Merchandise Ledger, May 1866 – Aug 1866
Item 436 – S. B. Harris account book with S. D. North and Son, Jul 1898 – Jan 1899
Item 437 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Nov 1864 – May 1865
Item 885- Quincy Store — Day Book, Aug 1864 – Feb 1865
Item 438 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Feb 1865 – May 1865
Item 439 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1865 – Aug 1865
Item 440 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Sep 1865 and Christmas 1866 & 1867
Item 441 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1866 – Aug 1866
Item 442 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1866 – Aug 1866

“The Daniel Brockway Family Collection” (Collection MS – 016) includes records from several stores operated by the Brockway family. Upon his return to the Lake Superior district in 1872, Daniel Brockway entered a mercantile business with his son, Albert.  The partnership lasted for twenty-five years, with formal dissolution and division of assets occurring on December 24, 1896 when Daniel retired to Lake Linden.  It appears that the store moved locations with some regularity; the records indicate operations at Cliff Mine (Mar.-Jul. 1872), Eagle River (Feb. 1875), Phoenix (1877-1883), and again at Clifton (1883-1895).  Entries for the year 1896 are made for Lake Linden.  The collection includes half a dozen boxes of store records:
Box 13: Records of Brockway & Perry Store, 1865-1866
Boxes 7-9, 12, 13: Records of D.D. Brockway & Son Store, 1872-1901

Entry from November 1873 detailing sales from Brockway Store to the Cliff Mine.
Entry from November 1873 detailing beef sales from Brockway store to the Cliff Mine. (The Daniel Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 1)

The “Perkins Burnham Collection” (Collection 01-103A) includes store information from Eagle Harbor.

A collection titled “General Store Daybooks” (Collection 236) includes photocopies of two store daybooks with various types of entries.  Donor file says one appears to be from L’Anse area, and the other is unidentified.

The Archives also holds small collections entitled “Personal Store Account Books (Collection 01-015A and Collection 98-137A) which record the purchases and monthly settlements that individual customers had stores including the Harris Seeber store in Ripley, Graham Pope’s store in Houghton, and Hendrickson & Mantta Company in Hancock.  Several others stores are included in these smaller collections.

This is not intended to be a comprehesive listing of all store records at the Michigan Tech Archives, but does provide some starting points for such research. Please contact the Archives for additional assistance.

Oh, and although this isn’t a great photo, we did find reference to Jonas Bammert (spelled Bommert in this document) buying a plow from the Brockway store on June 20, 1881. He paid $20.00 cash for a #20 Dodge Plow Complete, with extra “points, wings, and bolts.”

The Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 9.
June 20, 1881, entry for Bammert's purchase of a plow from the Brockway store. (The Daniel Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 4)

Archival Instruction:The Working Man

Today I led an archival instruction session for Michigan Tech Instructor and doctoral student Gary Kaunonen’s Revisions class. Kaunonen encourages his students to incorporate primary sources into their research, and we’ve introduced several of his classes in the past to working with archival material. This semester the class research project emphasizes “the working man.”

When we conduct instruction sessions for undergraduates, along with the ins and outs of what to do when you come to the Archives, we select samples of archival material that demonstrate the inter-relatedness of different records. Being able to touch and read actual historical material often sparks interest in students that weren’t particularly interested in history before (hard to believe, I know!). It also gives us a chance to talk about inherent bias of manuscript records and critical evaluation of sources.

I approached this particular session with an eye toward revealing the lives of ordinary people, and I thought I’d share some of the resources I presented to Kaunonen’s Revisions class. I focused on four broad themes: Worker Housing, Copper Miners, Communities, and Non-mining Activity. What follows is a very cursory overview of material selected.

Copper Range Companies Collection

CR 212, 10-9

Record of House Repairs, Painesdale

c. 1943-1950

This document includes photos and blueprints of company housing in Painesdale, Michigan. It shows the range and variety of housing provided by Copper Range to its workers, from a simple 4-room dwelling to the more well-appointed physician’s residence.

Browne, Mary Jo Rowell. A Comparative Study between Miner’s Homes in Cornwall, England and the Miner’s Homes of the Cornish in Michigan. University of Minnesota, unpublished thesis, 1986.

Mine Worker Housing in Calumet, Michigan: 1864-1950; Historic and Architectural Survey. Keweenaw National Historic Park, Calumet, Michigan. 2000.

From the Copper Country Vertical Files:

Agriculture – Losses and Troubles: (Although the topic is a serious one, I had to smile at the grim-sounding subject heading for this file.)  In it are such things as a newspaper article entitled “Grasshoppers gobbling up U.P. crops,” and coverage of unusual periods of drought in the Keweenaw. A photocopy of the table of contents for the March/April 1984 issue of Michigan History magazine indicates that it was devoted to Michigan farming, including the Upper Peninsula.

Cities & Towns – Company Towns

Copper Miners – Accidents


From the Copper County Photo Files:


Building – Houses – Exterior

Cities & Towns – Calumet

Copper Mines & Mining – Underground Scenes

Lumbering – Camps Scenes

Social Life & Customs

Social Life & Customs – Celebrations

Social Life & Customs – Picnics

Mining Company Employment Cards

Houghton County Mine Inspector Reports

I selected a few representative samples of employment cards from both the Quincy Mining Company and the Calumet & Hecla Minnig Company. In particular, I used the C&H employment card of John Lakner, who was unfortunately killed on the job, because the Mine Inspector’s Report for Houghton County includes the incident in which Lakner met his demise on November 13, 1905. I wanted to illustrate to the students that with some sleuthing, a researcher can sometimes find documentation of an event or person in more than a single source. It is often the piecing together of different primary accounts that creates a more complete picture of a person, place, or event from the past.

Quincy Mining Company, Spy Reports

Box 341

There is a set of correspondence in the Quincy Collection that reveals how the mining company planted company spies among their workers in order to find out about any seditious activity brewing. Spies were obtained through several detective agencies, among them the famed Pinkerton Agency. Such men worked as miners and laborers, living like the men they observed. They reported back to the agency, who sent anonymous reports to the mining companies. They reports provide a glimpse into the daily activity of the working man, on and off-duty. Quincy wasn’t alone in this practice; C&H also employed company spies.

Houghton County Jail Records

Circuit Court Chancery Journals

These two volumes journal all matters that came before a judge of the court for a particular period of time, and document jail activity. It is possible to see evidence of labor unrest during periods of mass arrests for disorderly conduct, or to find out what kinds of behavior were considered socially disruptive. Some things don’t change much; assault and battery are still a crime. “Insanity” and “bastardy,” however, are dealt with in entirely different ways today than spending a night in the slammer. Some things change for the better.

A series of reports on Congressional Hearings on Conditions in the Copper Mines of Michigan were convened in response to the 1913 copper miners’ strike. These reports contain eyewitness testimony of life in and out of the Keweenaw copper mines, and are a real treasure trove of information about the lives of mine workers and their families almost 100 years ago.

These are just some of the sources found in the Archives that yield information about “The Working Man.” If you’d like to find out more, our reading room is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or feel free to drop us a line at

Archives Sponsors District History Day Competition

img_10355History came alive for more than 80 students in grades 4 through 12 as they participated in the District 1 regional competition for National History Day, held Saturday, March 20, 2010 at the Memorial Union Building on the Michigan Tech campus.  The competition is sponsored by the Michigan Tech Archives with financial support from the Michigan Tech Social Sciences Department.

Judges for the event were drawn from students, faculty, and staff in several campus departments, as well as representatives from museum and heritage organizations across the Copper Country. The event included a public showcase, with more than 300 parents, families, and members of the general public given a chance to learn from these young historians’ work.

The event operates similarly to other K12 competitions with some students qualifying to move on to the state and national levels of competition. Students participated in five categories (exhibit, website, documentary, performance and research paper)  focusing on this year’s theme of “Innovation in History: Impact and Change.” 

An article by Kurt Hauglie of The Daily Mining Gazette is online here.

Of the 42 competing entries, 27 were selected to progress to the state finals, to be held April 24 at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, and could continue to the National History Day competition June 13-17 at the University of Maryland. 

Here are the student projects which qualified to proceed to the state competition (with a few images to illustrate the breadth and quality of the students’ work): 

§ Megan Wells, “Walt Disney, the Innovator of Theme Parks” (Father Marquette Elementary, Marquette – Youth Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Rachel Wells, “Kemmons Wilson: The Holiday Inn Story” (Father Marquette Middle School, Marquette – Junior Division/Website)

§ Katie Hiltunen, Alysha Narhi, Shirley Krogel, “Pasties: The Perfect Miner Food” (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Website)

§ Elisha Houle, “The Cotton Gin: Expanding Cotton Production” (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Jessica Marcotte, “Portage Lake Lift Bridge” (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Individual Exhibit)

img_1041§ Ricky Greub, “American Automobiles: Past and Present (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Ciarra Shelp, Carli Daavettila, “Basketball: From YMCA to Worldwide” (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Group Exhibit)

§ Cecilia Burton, Mandy Maatta, “The Beatles” (Jeffers High School, Painesdale – Junior Division/Group Exhibit)

§ Mikayla Kyllonen, Kenny Maki, “Laser Surgery” (Jeffers High School, Painesdale – Junior Division/Group Exhibit)

§ Joshua Hendrickson, “The Refrigerator – “The Cool Way to Cool our Food” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Research Paper)

§ Jodi Michael, “Barcodes: Scanning History” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/ Research Paper)

§ Lori Petrelius, “The Wonder Drug: The Downfall and Revival of Thalidomide” (Jeffers High School – Senior Division/Research Paper)

§ Jake Stratton, “Gyroscope: Changed History” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Individual Performance)

img_1051§ Shelby Hill, Jessica Smith, Katrina Mills, Thea Balicki, “Fire Throughout History: Sparking Changes” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Performance)

§ Dinah Bekkala, “Elias Howe and the Sewing Machine” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Individual Documentary)

§ Jamie Dompier, Kaitlyn Hietala, “The Mackinac Bridge: Transporting Ideas, Culture and the People of Michigan,” (Chassell High School – Senior Division/Group Documentary)

§ Brett Hauswirth, Devin Kero, Zach Hill, “The World of Fast Food” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Documentary)

§ Alissa Berg, Erin Raasakka, “Photographs: Snapping Through History” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Documentary)

§ Ashley Laux, “Pony Express – Relay Across the West” (Chassell High School – Senior Division/Website)

§ Brianna Korpela, “United States Railroads: Reliance on the Rails” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Website)

§ Ross Michaels, Daryl Usitalo, “BC Tools: Work Smarter, Not Harder” (Chassell High School – Senior Division/Website)

§ Erica LeClaire “A Woman’s Decision: The Innovation of Choice” (Dollar Bay High School – Senior Division/Individual Exhibit)

img_1059§ Kayla Marie Nuttall, “The Traffic Light: Making the Roads Safer” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Kalle Markkanen, “The One-Man Drill: Rocking the History of Mining” (Houghton High School – Senior Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Stephanie Dunstan, Angela Stites, “Penicillin: The Gateway Drug” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Exhibit)

§ Kyle Kearly, Jordan Bierman, Dylan Meyer, “The Gatling Gun” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Exhibit)

img_1062§ Brittany Puska, Hannah Rundman, “Fred Dakota: Gambling His Way Through History” (Jeffers High School – Senior Division/Group Exhibit)

District 1 is comprised of 12 counties in the Central and Western Upper Peninsula. The district competition is sponsored annually by the the Michigan Tech Social Sciences Department, the Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, the Quincy Mine Hoist Association and the Historical Society of Michigan.

For more information on National History Day, email District 1 coordinator Jane Nordberg at or contact the Michigan Tech Archives at








Archives Exhibit Travels to Calumet

nara-42-142People, Place and Time: Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara, a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, is currently hosted at the Calumet Public School Library, located within Calumet High School. The exhibit explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and is open to the public through March 22, 2010 during the library’s regular hours.  

On Tuesday, March 9, the Friends of the Calumet Public School Library hosted a special event in conjunction with the exhibit installation. Erik Nordberg, University Archivist at Michigan Technological University, gave an illustrated presentation, “Michigan¹s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara” featuring dozens of historical photographs of the Keweenaw.

John William Nara was born in Finland in 1874. He later immigrated to the United States and established a photographic studio in Calumet, Michigan, in the heart of America’s most productive copper mining region. In addition to posed studio portraits, J. W. Nara’s lens also captured the people, place, and time he experienced in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Copper mining and industry are an important part of the story, but Nara also captured the Keweenaw’s rural landscape, including local farms, shorelines, lighthouses, and pastoral back roads.

The travelling exhibit, funded in part by descendants Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack Michigan, works from historical photographs held at the Michigan Tech Archives. Interpretive panels highlight the people, places, and times that J.W. Nara experienced during his lifetime and include material on urban life, farming, and the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike. A small exhibit catalog is available at no charge and includes three Nara photograph postcards from the collection.

The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display at the Calumet Public School Library March 19, 2010.  Future stops for the exhibit include the Beaumier Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University, the Houghton County Historical Society in Lake Linden, and the Keweenaw County Historical Society in Eagle Harbor.  More informaton about the exhibit is available here, including details on hosting the exhibit at your location.

Read about the Calumet installation on The Daily Mining Gazette website
Visit a web version of the J.W. Nara exhibit on the Michigan Tech Archives web page.
Here are some photographs from the exhibit installation in Calumet:














More than 75 people attended the public reception held Tuesday, March 9, 2010, which was sponsored by the Friends of the CLK Library. 


Archives Premieres New Exhibit: “A Sense of Place”

The Michigan Tech Archives announces the opening of a new exhibit highlighting images from archival collections. “A Sense of Place,” is a photographic essay of the Michigan Tech campus, community life, and of the Copper Country. Historic images selected from the Archives’ collections create a story of the Keweenaw and its people from the earliest days of European settlement to the present. The photos are grouped into four themes: early life on the Keweenaw Peninsula; copper miners and the mines in which they labored; the changing face of the Michigan Tech campus; and the communities that are home to long-time residents and thousands of students through the years. The story told is one that gives the viewer a sense of the special character of the Copper Country, a place that so many people are proud to claim a connection to, no matter where they may live.

Funded in part by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library, the new exhibit was conceived as a tribute to Jonathon DeCleene, a student assistant in the Archives for many years. Although Jonathan’s life ended at a young age, it was his zest for life and adopted love of the Copper Country which shaped the themes of this exhibit. Additional financial support for the exhibit came from Jonathan’s family, Gloria Kennedy and Valerie DeCleene, and members of the Archives staff.

The exhibit is a permanent installation in the halls of the Library’s Garden Level, outside the Michigan Tech Archives’ reading room and can be viewed at any time during the Library’s open hours. Images were selected by the staff of the Michigan Tech Archives, caption text was written by Julia Blair, and graphic design for the exhibit was completed by Mike Stockwell of Cranking Graphics.

The content of this photograph exhibit is also available as the “Sense of Place” web exhibit on the archives’ website.

Update: Here are some photographs from the exhibit opening event on Thursday, February 4, 2010:


 Members of the public view the exhibited photographs near the entrance to the Michigan Tech Archives on the ground floor of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library. 


From left to right: Mike Stockwell, exhibit graphic designer with Cranking Graphics, Ellen Seidel, interim library director, Julia Blair, assistant archivist and exhibit writer, Terry Reynolds and Dana Richter, Friends of the Van Pelt Library.


Erik Nordberg, university archivist, shares appreciation to the family of Jonathan DeCleene, members of the archives’ staff, and the Friends of the Van Pelt Library for their financial support of the exhibit.



Winter Carnival Underground


Ever wonder what is going on in the mines during the winter months?  My curiosity was answered when I ran across photos of some beautiful ice sculptures only Mother Nature could make.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Take a look and see if you agree.


All of these photos came from the Calumet and Hecla Photograph Collection MS003 Box 12 Negative 119-21.  Prints are available by request and the collection can be viewed here in the Archives reading room.

Meet the Staff

I recently gave an instruction session to a class of undergraduate student researchers on using archival resources in their writing assignments. As I led the class through the Archives work room, it occurred to me how much goes on behind the scenes in the Archives that most people never realize, and how vital each person is to our operation.

The Archives is committed to making historic records accessible to users. We’ve earned a reputation for bringing history to the campus and community through events and speakers whose research delves deeply into our collections. But the Archives would be a much different place without the hard work of our great staff. Over the next few months, I’d like to introduce you to the members of our staff, from energetic student workers to erudite archivists.

The Keweenaw Digital Archives is just one of the great things that make the Michigan Tech Archives special. Without the diligent and discerning work of Christine Holland, it wouldn’t be what it is today, a database of over 7000 cataloged digital images from the photographic collections at the Archives.

Christine has been on the staff of the Archives for ten years. Along with her regular job responsibilities of keeping the rest of us in check, she does a lioness’s share of digitizing and cataloging the thousands of historic photos you’ll find at the Digital Archives (

She has an eye for the unusual, and that particular talent has brought to light some of the more obscure and interesting elements of historic photographs that the casual observer might easily overlook. It’s not unusual to see her at the digital workstation zooming into a newly digitized image, working out the letters in a storefront sign or marquis in the background of a street scene from 1930s Houghton or some such. She’s managed to date images by noting small details like a movie advertised on a broadside in a shop window, or has called our attention to a careworn face and rough hands of a person whose name has been lost to posterity, imbuing unknown people from the past with dignity and authenticity.

Image #:ACC03-1990-6-28-04-01-01
Image #:ACC03-1990-6-28-04-01-01

One of the more interesting things she’s found captured in film was a man wearing a long woman’s dress sweeping a broom on the porch of a log cabin. Her pithy comments are a treat, and anyone familiar with our reading room knows that she’s never one to mince words. (Check out the cataloger’s comments for this image by clicking on the link below for the full record!)

I’ve learned a lot about the Archives’ collection from Christine, and I’ve come to value and appreciate her particular perspective on historic images.

The inscrutable Sara Lee
The inscrutable Sara Lee

Christine is also a passionate advocate for the humane treatment of animals. She didn’t want me to post a photo of her hard at work, so here’s her special friend, Sara Lee.

Records Document Groundbreaking of the Soo Locks

A collection discovered during the current NHPRC project includes records of the Sault St. Marie Canal Company, aka: The St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal Company.  Ground breaking for the canal began in June of 1853, the engineer L.L. Nichols placed in entry in the ledger reporting on initial efforts for establishing housing facilities and beginning the construction.

The following information is found in the collection titled ‘The St. Mary’s Canal and Mineral Land Company Records’ Accession #115 and is part of the larger Copper Range Mining Company Records Collection

First Report on Canal Construction
First Report on Canal Construction

Nichols reported:

“That we arrived at the Sault on Monday the 11th am.  The first object of solicitude on our arrival was to provide our laborers with comfortable quarters.  Mr. Hearvey took hold of the business of providing lumber [and] materials for building with an energy seldom equaled [and] before night we had a building enclosed 55 by 22 feet [and] part of the roof on.”

“On the 8th day of June at 11 am being 48 hours from the time of our arrive we broke ground for the canal.”

Engineers update on canal construction 9 months later
Engineers update on canal construction 9 months later

A quote from the second report indicates the expectations and challenges faced by the engineers and their progress.

“It is now nine months since operations commenced here, and it may be well to take a retrospective review as well as a prospective view of the work contracted to be completed in our year and twenty days from this time, or about 22 months from the the time of breaking ground.  There was then 230,000 yards of earth and rock-excavation to be done above and below water.  There is now less than 88,000 yards remaining.”

-Excerpt from Engineer L.L. Nichols report dated 14 March 1854

The ledger also provides interesting information on the growth and development of the Upper Peninsula, a Memorium addressed to Congress and the House of Representative in 1854 calls for the state to construct roads in the Upper Peninsula.  Issues cited for the necessity of the roads included the growing Mineral District (Copper Range) and Iron District combined with the construction of the canal increasing Lake Superior traffic.