Category Archives: About the Archives

This category is used for posts that talk more about the people, services, and operation of the archives as a department.

Flashback Friday: MLK Week Tradition Lives On

An MTU Lode article about Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations in 2003.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2019 will be observed on Monday, January 21. This year, Michigan Tech is celebrating 30 years of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Banquet and MLK Week under the theme of “Living Fearlessly.” Today’s Flashback Friday honors Michigan Tech’s tradition of celebrating MLK in creative and inclusive ways. 

The tradition of formally recognizing Dr. King was started by campus leaders in the late 1980s and has taken many forms over the years. The banquet and reading of speeches have been important components since the early years of the celebration, but there have also been art installations, discussion groups, campus and community marches, and other enriching outreach and service activities throughout the history of Tech’s MLK celebrations. 

MLK Day vigil, 2009.

Staring on Sunday, January 20, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, along with campus and community partners, will kick-off an entire week of activities planned to honor King’s legacy and remember his activism and leadership. Programming begins with a community-wide gathering and panel discussion at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church called “Let’s Talk About Race.” On Monday, during the official observance of MLK Day, Michigan Tech students will visit local elementary schools to read from selected works highlighting the life, leadership, and lessons of the civil rights leader. The annual banquet will be held Monday night.

In an effort to join the celebrations, the Van Pelt and Opie Library will be hosting a small display of books and images related to Civil Rights and Black History on the first floor of the library. In addition, the Michigan Tech Archives will post a call for participants for phase two of the Black Voices in the Copper Country – My Michigan Tech Experience Oral History Project. The oral history project is part of an ongoing effort to support diversity in the department’s collection development strategy. 

A full schedule of events is included below:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

“Let’s Talk About Race,” in the Copper Country– A Community-Wide Gathering and Panel Discussion
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 4:00 pm
1100 College Avenue, Houghton, MI

Monday, January 21, 2019

MLK Reading Day
Houghton, Hancock, and Dollar Bay Elementary Schools, 9am-3pm

30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Banquet
Memorial Union Building (MUB) Ballroom, 5:30pm
Keynote Speaker- Donzell Dixson, Michigan Tech ALumni

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Fearlessly Facing Fear Panel Discussion
Memorial Union Building (MUB) Alumni Lounge, 6-8pm
Presented by Speak It Tour featuring: Donzell Dixson, Elijah Kondeh, and Donte Curtis

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

NSBE Host’s “What Do You Know about Dr. King?” discussion
Fisher 138 @ 6 pm

For more information about MLK Week celebrations at Michigan Tech, please contact the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at (906) 487-2920. For more information about the Black Voices project or the Archives, please call (906) 487-2505 or e-mail copper@mtu.edu.

Banner image for the 30th annual MLK Day Banquet, courtesy of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. For more information about the event, visit the Michigan Tech Events Calendar. Tickets are free for the Monday night banquet but registration is required.

Flashback Friday: Snow Removal in the Copper Country

Snow removal, Houghton, January 1958.

It’s been a wild and wacky snow season so far in the Copper Country. We’re beginning to think that Heikki Lunta can’t seem to make up his mind this year. We’ve seen plenty of rain, snow, and wintry mixes out there, which is why we’re taking a moment during our Flashback Friday this week to give a little shout out to all of those who keep the roads and sidewalks clear and safe each winter.

Back in early January 1958 the Daily Mining Gazette ran an article praising the area’s snow removal practices, citing the excellent cleanup effort completed following a “heavy storm that reached blizzard proportions” the first week of the new year. The Gazette noted that the city of Houghton (pictured here) might seem “phenomenal to an outsider” because the streets were cleared almost entirely to the sidewalks, which had also been exceptionally cleared.
It’s true that the Copper Country annually sees upwards of 150 to 200 inches of snow and sometimes much more, like the 1978-1979 year where record-high seasonal totals reached 355.90 inches. Big snow means that the Copper Country is also home to some of the most efficient snow removal practices out there. As noted in the Gazette piece, it also means that snow researchers from around the country and the world come to the area to “study local methods and equipment” for snow removal — just think about that during our next big snowfall.
Interested in seeing what our latest snowfall totals are for this year? Check out the Keweenaw Research Center’s snow measurements page at http://mtukrc.org/met/weather_snow_data.htm.
You can also find more amazing snow and snow removal photographs held at the Michigan Tech Archives by visiting our Copper Country Historical Images database at www.cchi.mtu.edu or by visiting the archives during our regular research hours, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thank you to all of those who keep our roads clear and accessible each winter and all year round!

Flashback Friday: Bishop Baraga, the Snowshoe Priest

A village and a county bear his name. One massive statue of him perches on a rocky cliff overlooking Keweenaw Bay near L’Anse; another, more modest in size, lifts a hand in benediction before the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Grand Rapids, near one of his early missions in the state. Both metaphorically and literally, Bishop Frederic Baraga looms large in Michigan, and nowhere is his influence more apparent than in the Upper Peninsula.

Painting of BaragaIrenaeus Frederic Baraga was born to a family of means in northwestern Slovenia in 1797. As a boy, he quickly mastered languages; as a young man, he flourished in his law studies at the University of Vienna. Yet a career as a lawyer did not satisfy Baraga, who felt called instead to enter the seminary and prepare for service as a priest. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1823 at the age of twenty-six. Initially in service to what is now the Archdiocese of Ljubljana, Baraga later elected to pursue missionary work abroad and departed for North America. His arrival on December 31, 1830 was the beginning of nearly four decades of dedication to the peoples of the Great Lakes region, both indigenous and transplanted.

Baraga’s talent for linguistics served him well in his new role. In addition to learning to communicate with the Ottawa nation for his earliest North American missions, he studied the Ojibwa language intensely and acquired a mastery of it, as exhibited in his later publication of a grammar and a dictionary. Missionary labors required not only mental acuity but physical fortitude: Baraga traveled frequently over long distances and in challenging weather, taking lengthy journeys by canoe and punishing voyages on snowshoes to reach remote villages–hence his “Snowshoe Priest” moniker. The development of the copper mining industry in the Keweenaw Peninsula meant that Baraga was called upon to serve an increasingly diverse community of Catholics, including not only the native peoples dear to his heart but Irish, German, and other immigrants who relied on his sacramental service.

It would be challenging in this space to do any justice to the years that Baraga devoted to providing pastoral care across the Upper Great Lakes, let alone his efforts to recruit priests from abroad to share in his labors. His work certainly did not go unnoticed in his time, however. In June 1852, Baraga received word that he was to be considered for elevation to bishop responsible for the Upper Peninsula. It seems, from transcriptions of his diary, that Baraga dreaded the possibility and found the long wait to hear whether he would be confirmed agonizing. In June 1853, he wrote, “Today it is already a year since I have heard it for the first time: but I am not further ahead than I was then. Stop!” When Baraga finally was told unequivocally that he would be appointed bishop in October 1853, he noted in his diary, “Alas, it has proven to be certain.” A heavy burden lay on Baraga’s shoulders from then on. Any notes that he made in his diary on the anniversary of his consecration as bishop betrayed his melancholy: “Today is the 3rd anniversary of my consecration,” he wrote in 1856. “A very sad day. I could almost say, ‘May gloom and deep shadow claim it for their own, clouds hang over it, eclipse swoop down on it.’” In 1858, Baraga observed “the fifth anniversary of my consecration. Sad… The past saddens me; the present torments me; the future frightens me.”

In spite of the grief that Baraga endured in his role as bishop, he resolved to serve as he had always served: devotedly and devoutly. During his time as the Catholic shepherd of the Upper Peninsula, the diocese established a number of parishes and built churches to serve the burgeoning Catholic population. In the Copper Country, these churches included the first St. Ignatius Loyola Church, dedicated by Baraga in 1859, and the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, built on land that Baraga had purchased in 1853 and 1854. Holy Redeemer remains in service to the Catholics of Keweenaw County on a seasonal basis to this day.

White church building in field
Holy Redeemer parish in Eagle Harbor, as captured in August 1916 by photographer J.T. Reeder.

With his new responsibilities also came the opportunity to create greater good for the causes about which Bishop Baraga was most passionate. In 1843, newly arrived in the Lake Superior region, he had established a mission on the west side of Keweenaw Bay. Baraga named the settlement Assinins in honor of the first Ojibwa man he baptized there, and here he wrote his seminal dictionary and grammar of the local language. As bishop, Assinins was plainly never far from Baraga’s mind. In 1860, he directed the construction of an orphanage and school there; the building underwent an expansion in 1866. Around this time, to ensure that the native peoples retained their ancestral property, Bishop Baraga deeded the land to Chief Assinins and the other Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa.

As long as his health permitted, the bishop also kept up the punishing pace of travel that had characterized his early missionary years. In 1860 alone, he journeyed from Sault Ste. Marie to the Copper Country, out to La Pointe and Superior, Wisconsin, back through Ontonagon, east to the Straits of Mackinac, and down to the area of Traverse City. From there, he made another loop, traveling back to Wisconsin and then taking an extended sojourn through towns like Houghton, Hancock, and Eagle River. He finally passed through Negaunee and Marquette before settling down for four months at Sault Ste. Marie. The next year, he began again. By this time, Baraga was already sixty-three years old.

Sadly, these days of wandering in service of the Catholic Church and her people came to a sudden halt in 1866. After making another punishing trip to Baltimore for a council meeting in October, Baraga suffered at least one stroke and a debilitating fall. For a time, it seemed that the bishop’s fate was to die far from his diocese; he did not seem strong enough for the return voyage. But anyone who knew Frederic Baraga knew that he was a man of determination: when he set his mind on a goal, he could not be swayed. In his infirmity, that aim became a return to the Upper Peninsula, to fulfill in whatever way he might his pastoral responsibilities, and to be near to the native peoples who had been dear to him for so long. Finally, a priest who had traveled with Baraga acquiesced, and with great difficulty the bishop made his final journey to Marquette. On January 19, 1868, he died in his home. In his last days, Baraga had given all the money he had to an Ojibwa Catholic school.

Man standing on giant snowshoe
One of the massive snowshoes for the Baraga statue in the sculptor’s workshop, 1971.

The Snowshoe Priest never knew Houghton as the site of a mining school or a prominent technological university; he did not know that one day he would be the subject of intense interest throughout the Upper Peninsula and, indeed, the world. Yet Michigan Tech gets to share in Baraga’s legacy. Among collections documenting various tributes to him in the local area–including newspaper articles on the installation of his statue at the foot of Keweenaw Bay in 1972–the Michigan Tech Archives also holds an 1853 letter written to Peter (Pierre) Crebassa, a resident of the L’Anse area, in Bishop Baraga’s own hand. Penned a matter of days before he received word of his confirmation as bishop, the letter is a relic of Baraga’s life and one of the oldest archival items held at the university. In the archives, as in life, Baraga is exemplary.

More information about the Peter Crebassa Collection (MS-034), of which the Baraga letter is a part, may be found in the collection finding aid (PDF)

The best collection of materials pertaining to the life of Frederic Baraga is held by the Baraga Educational Center, a museum and outreach point of the Bishop Baraga Association in Marquette.


Flashback Friday: Bosch Beer

Showing off the 100,000th keg of Bosch beer, December 1955.

Joseph Bosch, founder of the Bosch Brewing Company, had always yearned to enter the brewing industry. He had learned much from his father, a brewer in his native country of Germany, who had brought the family to Lake Linden, Michigan in 1867. A desire for more knowledge and experience led the young Bosch to Cleveland, Fort Wayne and finally Milwaukee, where he worked for the Schlitz brewery. He returned to Lake Linden in 1874, erected a small wooden building and began brewing operations as the Torch Lake Brewery, Joseph Bosch & Company. Bosch operated the brewery on his own for the first two years, but in 1876 admitted several men on a partnership basis. The company continued as a partnership until around 1894, when the reorganized firm issued stock under its new name, the Bosch Brewing Company. The company continued in operation for nearly a century, closing the last of its facilities in 1973.

In the early years of brewing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, little if any beer was sold in bottles. Bosch saw the potential of this packaging, however, and the company began bottling on a small scale before 1880. By 1883, the original wooden building in Lake Linden had been enlarged and the company was producing 4,000 barrels of beer annually, one quarter of which was bottled. The brewery was completely destroyed in a great fire that swept through Lake Linden in 1887, but the demand for its product fired quick construction of new facilities. By the turn of the century the Bosch Brewing Company had brewing facilities in Lake Linden and Houghton, as well as branches and storehouses in Calumet/Laurium, Hancock, Eagle Harbor and Ishpeming. Having survived the difficult years of prohibition, the company finally closed the Lake Linden facility in favor of the better-situated facilities in Houghton.

Stressing the relationship of its product and the community, the Bosch Brewing Company featured many local themes in its advertising. Promotional phrases such as the “Refreshing as the Sportman’s Paradise” kept the small brewery close to the hearts of Copper Country natives and visitors from farther afield. The company found itself increasingly unable to compete locally with the larger breweries of Milwaukee and St. Louis, however, and the last keg of beer was ceremoniously loaded onto a wagon for delivery to a local tavern on Friday, September 28, 1973.


Flashback Friday: War and Peace

Group at work on clearing land

Creating People’s Park in May 1970. St. Albert the Great University Parish is visible in the background.

Saying that life as a young adult in the 1960s and 1970s was challenging would be putting it mildly. While growing into adulthood has always had its difficulties, these decades saw more than their share: political unrest, assassinations, and the death and destruction of the Vietnam War, to name a few. Student activism–protests, sit-ins, strikes–marked college campuses, most notably at places like the University of California, Berkeley, and Kent State University. Michigan Tech’s name would rarely, if ever, come up in a conversation about famously political colleges, but students here were still engaged, involved, and prepared to speak up for their convictions. Frustration about the loss of life in Vietnam and in student protests on other campuses boiled over at Michigan Tech in the spring of 1970, leading to uncommon days in Houghton.

On the evening of May 6, the Michigan Technological University student council convened to discuss and adopt a special resolution. With the deaths and injuries of thirteen protesters at Kent State University two days earlier, as well as President Richard Nixon’s announcement that the Vietnam War would expand to Cambodia, fresh on their minds, the council members voted 10-6 in favor of a four-day strike from classes. A Daily Mining Gazette article published the next morning quoted the resolution as born of “grief and sympathy for the tragic slayings at Kent State University” and setting “May 7, 8, 11, and 12 as a campus-wide boycott of classes in order to protest the National Guard action at that and other universities and the escalation of the war in Southeast Asia without Congressional consent.” About 500 students in support of the resolution gathered at a rally the next morning, many bearing black mourning armbands and asking for campus flags to be set to half-staff for the duration of the boycott. Michigan Tech administrators agreed to lower the flags in tribute to the four killed at Kent State but felt that classes should be held as usual. Professors, while encouraging their pupils to come to class, nevertheless applauded their commitment to democratic, peaceful principles of protest and encouraged the students to write to their senators. Father William McGee, pastor of St. Albert the Great near campus, took it one step further by warning his young congregation to think carefully about whether to offer their scientific and engineering talents in support of a military-industrial complex.

Students and administrative staff in conversation

Students take a break from working on People’s Park to meet with President Ray Smith, left, and Vice President Ed Koepel in 1970.

To some students, the boycott and lowering of flags did not seem to be enough in the face of so much turmoil in the world. Those gestures, while poignant, would pass, and life would go back to what it was. Instead, they sought to cultivate a lasting good and to express their grief in a constructive fashion. Some traveled to Lansing to meet with Governor William G. Milliken and lobby him for change. Closer to home, part of this expression came in the form of People’s Park, a concept previously proposed and promoted by Fr. McGee. Knowing the desires of students for a meaningful outlet and their concerns for the environment, the priest helped to organize an outdoor work bee on May 9 to clear a parcel of land near his parish in honor of the Kent State dead. By one estimate, over a thousand students participated that Saturday. A group of 300 ROTC cadets, Tech president Ray Smith, and other administrators joined them the following Tuesday. Their dedicated efforts even attracted the attention of Russell Hellman, the state representative for the 110th Michigan district, who read an article about the park’s construction into the record of the State House of Representatives.

Although it had already been inaugurated by a candlelight procession and burning of protest memorabilia in the spring, on October 15, 1970, People’s Park received an official dedication. A Daily Mining Gazette article at the time described the 1.3-acre park as featuring “a creek with bridge and reflecting pond, picnic tables, a stone walking path, large firepit, and plenty of free parking.” Writing for the Michigan Tech Lode, one Husky said that “it is hoped that all those hundreds who labored to create the Park last spring as well as any Freshmen who share the outrage and anguish over what has and continues to happen in the South East Asian War will attend.” Guests who gathered at People’s Park that evening witnessed the unveiling of a permanent commemorative plaque by Fr. McGee and “folk style entertainments” at a “free outdoor coffee house.”

Priest in front of large boat

Fr. William McGee, a staunch advocate of People’s Park, in front of the Ranger III. Photograph courtesy of St. Albert the Great University Parish and Fr. Ben Hasse.

These days, People’s Park is no longer a gathering place for Tech students or the local community. By 1982, campus alternative paper The Student Ego noted that the park had fallen into noticeable disrepair. Industrial equipment hauled from a local copper mine as decoration had begun to decay. Fr. McGee, the champion of People’s Park, had left Houghton years before and focused his attention elsewhere. In his absence and with little support from the student body–which drew the vocal ire of a 1970 boycott participant in the aforementioned Ego article–the protest memorial faded away, reclaimed by the elements. Later, to paraphase Joni Mitchell, they paved People’s Park and put up a parking lot, which now serves students during the week and St. Albert the Great parishioners on weekends.


Flashback Friday – Diverse Dialogues Series

Image of the Michigan Tech Afro-American Society, 1973.

Today’s Flashback Friday takes us back to the 1973 yearbook and the Afro-American Society. The society’s major purpose was to uplift black students, promote learning, and engage in building better relationships with diverse students across campus. The group was active in many beneficial on and off campus projects. Students shown in the photo- Row One: Seth Boone, Billy Walker, Jerry Muff, Renald Paul; Row Two:Cynthia Edmonds, Jack Fray, Brenda Jones; Row Three: James Parker, Willie Edmonds, Errol Baker, W. Larry Scott. We are sharing this photo not only to remember this particular student organization, but also to promote the Michigan Tech Archives participation in the Diverse Dialogues Series, which is sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI.)

“Black Voices in the Copper Country: Exploring Community and Michigan Tech Campus Life, 1850-1990,” our award-winning exhibit, oral history, and conversation circle project, examines the African-American experience in the Keweenaw, particularly on the Michigan Tech campus. The online exhibit was intended to highlight materials that explore the stories of underrepresented individuals and narratives in Michigan history and serves to encourage researchers to consider more inclusivity when telling regional and state history. The ongoing oral history project and the accompanying discussion groups seek to build awareness about the need for diverse stories in our historical record. The Black Voices project is a multifaceted research initiative that has included substantial archival research, public programming and exhibits. 

The CDI and the Archives would like to invite you to be part of a critical campus discussion at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27 in the University Archives on the garden level of the library. Learn about the project that can serve as a stepping stone to further research and encourage critical investigation to uncover stories and individuals not widely known, but deeply important to the rich heritage of the Copper Country and its unique history. The exhibit will be presented by University Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen and hosted by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

The Diverse Dialogues series provides opportunities for students, faculty and staff to have conversations about relevant issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, social justice and much more. The conversations are designed to be an informal, yet guided gathering to allow participants to educate and learn from one another. While each dialogue in the series has a centralized theme, we want to encourage participants to determine where the conversations go. This series is meant to start the discussion on difficult topics, elevate the diversity and inclusion efforts and work being done by faculty/staff on campus, and implore individuals to push their awareness, knowledge and action related to themes of diversity and inclusion.

For more information about the Diverse Dialogues series or the Michigan Tech Archives, please call (906) 487-2505 or e-mail copper@mtu.edu.


Flashback Friday: Honoring Armistice Day in the Copper Country

Our Flashback Friday this week commemorates Armistice Day in the Copper Country.

It’s likely that many of the local buildings looked a lot like the Houghton National Bank pictured here. (Photograph by J. T. Reeder, undated. Image No. MS042-063-999-Z617)

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, peace finally came to the Western Front, ending four long years of warfare and bloodshed.

Italian American family in front of their house in Baltic on Armistice Day, 1918.

While the guns fell silent across Europe, in every corner of the United States the sounds of cheers, bells, and whistles replaced the angry sounds of war. The news of the signing of the armistice was met with a similar reaction in the Copper Country. The Calumet News held the distinction of being the first publication in the region to break the news with a special edition “issued at the very moment firing ceased.” The news of the armistice arrived via a telephone wire from Chicago at 2:00 a.m. and The Calumet News had an early extra “on the streets in Calumet, Portage Lake, Torch Lake and other towns at 7 o’clock.”

The Calumet News, front page of the extra edition following news of the armistice agreement, November 11, 1918.
According the Daily Mining Gazette, “citizens appeared on the streets…parades were formed, flags appeared from every housetop and the business sections were soon ablaze with the national colors.” By that afternoon, “citizens of nearby towns came to the city and joined in a general demonstration” with “a big military and civic procession at the armory.”
Interested in learning more about the soldier experience in the trenches during World War I? Be sure to check out the outdoor exhibit, “Dug In: Experiential WWI Trench” located on the Michigan Tech campus at the corner of US-41 and MacInnes Drive, while you can! The exhibit showcases an actual trench dug into the ground, which spans several yards along campus. Christopher Plummer and Sound Design students created the audio component to the exhibit, which incorporates recordings of “memorial poetry and selections from soldier memoirs” with simulated battle sounds. The exhibit will cap this Sunday, November 11 with a commemorative ceremony featuring the local VFW and American Legion groups, ROTC, and JROTC as they fill in the trench. You can more information about the event on Tech Today.

Flashback Friday: “…When the waves turn the minutes to hours…”

Thanks to singer Gordon Lightfoot and his smash hit single “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” it’s a rare Michigander indeed who doesn’t know that Lake Superior “never gives up her dead when the gales of November come early.” The Fitz is the most recent lost freighter and undoubtedly the most famous, but it is far from the only large ship to be wrecked on the vast, powerful lake. As the Copper Country braces for the arrival of this year’s gales of November, let us take a look back at just a few of the other vessels that Superior has claimed.

The most adventurous of Great Lakes divers will recognize the name Kamloops. The steamship, a package freighter, was bound from Hamilton, Ontario, to the Thunder Bay region in late 1927. Among the cargo was special machinery imported for a Canadian papermaking company and a substantial amount of food, including rolls of Lifesavers candies. When the Kamloops entered Lake Superior from the Soo Locks on December 3, it paused to wait out a wintry squall. Unfortunately, this wise decision to avoid one storm placed the Kamloops directly in the path of another as it neared Isle Royale three days later. It seems that the ship either capsized under the burden of waves and ice or, blinded by the falling snow, sailed unknowingly onto the reefs surrounding the island. Searchers did not locate any sign of the Kamloops nor its crew of 22 men and women until the following spring, when the bodies of nine people were discovered on the nearby shore. They had donned lifebelts and fought their way to land in a lifeboat, only to perish while waiting for rescue. Fifty years after the sinking, in the late summer of 1977, divers finally found the hull of the Kamloops itself, lying on its side in two hundred feet of water just off Isle Royale.

Map of Isle Royale shipwrecks

Map from a Daily Mining Gazette article showing the locations of notable shipwrecks near Isle Royale. The site of the Kamloops is noted in the north central part of the map.

Isle Royale was the site of another notable wreck a little over forty years before the Kamloops went down. The Algoma, launched in 1883, was a steamship operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway and described by one observer a century later as “modern and capable even by today’s standards.” The steamer had electric lights throughout, a remarkable feature in the 1880s, and its hull was equipped with watertight compartments advertised as a sure way to prevent sinking. If this sounds faintly like a certain 1912 shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean, it should. What felled the Algoma was not an iceberg, however, but a natural feature on Lake Superior. On November 5, 1885, the ship departed Owen Sound, Ontario, in Lake Huron, en route to the north shore of Superior. Driving winds and freezing rain from one of the lake’s famous storms pummeled the Algoma as it neared Isle Royale. Miscalculating his ship’s proximity to the island due to low visibility and limited navigational aids, Captain John Moore unwittingly ordered the vessel be sailed over craggy rocks that obliterated its rudder and sent it into a vicious roll, scattering lifeboats uselessly into the lake. Vicious waves continued to break off pieces of the Algoma, which remained hung up on the rocks that had doomed it, throughout the night. Eventually, the eleven survivors managed to launch the last remaining lifeboat and a number of crude rafts, which carried them to relative safety on Isle Royale’s Rock Harbor. At least thirty-seven other souls aboard the  ship were lost.

The SS Algoma was no stranger to rough seas on Lake Superior. The year before it sank, the ship was photographed arriving at its destination with a heavy coat of ice, courtesy of waves breaking over its railings.

The close of World War I brought one of the most unusual and mysterious Superior sinkings. In late 1916, the thick of the war, the French navy had ordered a large number of minesweeping vessels to clear their ports of explosives left by the Germans. The ships were to be built near Thunder Bay, Ontario, and sailed across the sea under French command after a formal commissioning. Two of these minesweepers, the Cerisoles and the Inkerman, were completed in September and October 1918, respectively. When sister ship Sevastopol was launched in late November–after the war had ended–the three began their journey toward France. The course their commanders plotted would take them past, yes, Isle Royale, around the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, down along the south shore of the lake, and finally downbound through the other lakes. Unfortunately, the weather, always capricious on Lake Superior, had soured by the time the minesweepers passed Isle Royale and headed for the Keweenaw. According to an article written by amateur historian Richard Rupley, winds reached gale force, wet snow fell in sheets, and “waves mounted into dark mountains of crushing water,” forcing all hands into a battle with the elements. No one has ever determined precisely what happened that dark November night, but when the Sevastopol drew up along the leeward side of the Keweenaw, it did so alone.

Some delay in reporting the disappearance of the Cerisoles and Inkerman undoubtedly added to the mystery, but the lack of obvious debris or victims in the water made the investigation even more challenging. Weeks of searching uncovered only a few possible pieces of flotsam and sketchy reports of potential sightings or distress calls. Even investigations several decades after the sinking, conducted with the best of modern technology, could not locate the final resting place of the minesweepers nor of the seventy-eight men on board. Just in time for the centennial of the loss, however, a team of researchers is preparing to try again. Perhaps this time will be the charm. 

The Navarin, a sister minesweeping ship to the Inkerman and Cerisoles. Both lost vessels would have been essentially identical in appearance to this one.

Will the gales of November come early this year, especially around Isle Royale? Some would say that we had our first taste in October, but the forecast for the time being seems to call for smoother sailing. Let us hope that this shipping season on the Great Lakes passes uneventfully, bringing everyone on the waters safely home.


Flashback Friday: Timber Riches in Bergland

Mr. Ludger Belanger and his horse, Prince pose at the White River Lumber Company in Bergland, Michigan, October 24, 1953. From the Daily Mining Gazette Photograph Collection.

Today’s Flashback Friday takes us to this week in 1953. A great still image of Ludger Belanger and his horse, Prince, pays tribute to the Upper Peninsula’s rich logging tradition. Both Belanger and his horse Prince worked for the White River Lumber Company of Bergland, Michigan.

Bergland, an unincorporated community in Bergland Township, Ontonagon County, has a rich timber tradition that stretches back to the communities founding at the start of the twentieth century. The first settlement documented was established in 1900 following some seasonal timber cultivation in the late 1800s north of Lake Gogebic. Gunlek A. Bergland, who had been logging

Record load of pine logs hauled to the White River mill in Bergland by Ed Brown. Date unknown.

near Sidnaw, Michigan, purchased a large tract of timber land west of Lake Gogebic in 1900 and decided to move his operations to that area. The lake was a key asset in floating logs to the sawmill. The tract was rich with hardwood, hemlock, and some stands of pine. Although the heydey of pine logging from the 1880s and 1890s was over, hardwoods were coming into more general use and lumberman were quick to turn their attention to those types of forests.

The history of the town of Bergland is the history of the logging era after 1900. After G. A. Bergland made his first timber stand purchase, the hardwood and

A copy of Bergland, by Knox Jamison available at the Michigan Tech Archives.

hemlock timbering activities just north of Lake Gogebic accelerated greatly. In 1903 he built a sawmill on Lake Gogebic, so logs no longer had to be shipped by rail to Sidnaw. After the sawmill, shingle and lathe mills were also constructed, with operations running day and night. In the early 1900s four lumber camps cropped up around the growing industry. Thanks to G. A. Bergland’s industrious nature and his views on private ownership of businesses and homes, the town of Bergland turned into a bustling community of logging operations for many decades. A brief history of the community, including reference to mineral extraction and the timber industry is available in the Michigan Tech Archives.


Archives Month Continues – Special Events

Dr. Abraham Romney (center), shows off the “pencils only” policy while visiting the archives with his HU 6070 graduate class. Doctoral students Alfred (right) and Modupe (left) look through materials while their professor has some fun with the prop pencil. (Photograph courtesy of L. Hiltunen, University Archivist and PhD Student in Dr. Romney’s class.)

The Michigan Tech Archives has been having fun all month long for American Archives Month! The next week is no exception, with three special features taking place.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 24 at 4 p.m., travel grant recipient Wesley Thompson will be giving his presentation in the East Reading Room of the Van Pelt and Opie Library. This is event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information about Thompson’s talk, please see our initial blog post about the event.

In addition, this week our University Archivist, Lindsay Hiltunen will be a guest Instagrammer for the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Instagram page. Hiltunen is an active member of SAA, belongs to the Legislator’s Research Team, a subgroup of the Issues and Advocacy section of SAA, and she recently delivered a paper at the SAA annual meeting in Washington, DC which was held August 12-18.

Lastly, next Tuesday, October 30, at 6 p.m. in the Opie Reading Room, the Michigan Tech Archives will launch a new exhibit on the history of the Copper Range Railroad. Stay tuned for a detailed blog post later this week discussing the event.

We hope you will consider joining us for one, or all, of these special events to help us celebrate American Archives Month. For more information about any of our programs or activities, please contact the archives at (906) 487-2505 or by e-mailing copper@mtu.edu.