Category: Manuscript Collections

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

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.

Exhibit Highlights Calumet Photographer J.W. Nara

The Michigan Tech Archives premiered a new traveling exhibit about the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara at a special opening event on Wednesday, December 16, on the first floor of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library at Michigan Technological University.  The exhibit will remain on display at the library through February 7, 2010.

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 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. The exhibit is designed as a touring exhibit and will travel to libraries, museums, and schools following its initial installation in Houghton. A small exhibit catalog is available at no charge and includes three Nara photograph postcards from the collection.

The exhibit text was written by Michigan Tech archivists Erik Nordberg and Julia Blair, while the graphic layout design was completed by Mike Stockwell at Cranking Graphics.

The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display at the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library through February 7, 2010.






 The exhibit consists of 10 vinyl ‘banner up’ panels. Here is the introductory panel, which discusses J.W. Nara’s life and photography business. J.W. did a lot of studio work, some if it fanciful like the onset pic of the bartender training the dog. nara-jrvp-2



 Four panels explore themes of recreation, rural life, urban life, and family life captured through Nara’s lens. Each panel enlarges a detail photograph of individuals to life size from an inset image.


 The remaining five panels explore themes concerning the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike, which Nara experienced – and photographed – first hand. One of our ulterior motives with this exhibit was to position ourselves a bit for planning for strike centennial commerorative activities in 2013.


















There is also a collapsible literature rack which holds free giveaway copies of an eight-page exhibit catalog. The catalog includes most of the text from the exhibit, as well as three cut-out Nara photo postcards.

Here are a few photographs from the exhibit opening event: picture-028

Members of the Nara family recognize ancestors in the exhibit.


Bill and Eloise Haller of Houghton.



With Tech VP Dan Greenlee with University Archivist Erik Nordberg at the opening. Dan grew up in Calumet and had nice things to say about the exhibit, too.

The event was covered by local television and newspaper media.

Here is a link to the newspaper article which appeared in the December 17, 2009, issue of The Daily Mining Gazette:







The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display near the Research Help Desk on the first floor of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library through February 7, 2010.

Scott Turner’s Doctoral Hood

It’s been a busy fall semester for the Archives. Nine individual classes have incorporated archival sources into their coursework this semester, which means at least 200 students were regulars in the reading room over the past 15 weeks, studying different aspects of the University’s history, such as broomball, the Pep Band, and the Ford Forestry Center, as well as poring through civic and mining company records in search of documentation on the Quincy Smelter, the lives of copper miners, the history of the St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal Company.

Although the semester is winding down, we’re still seeing last minute student researchers making a final effort to uncover more content or verify source citation information. (Find help citing archival sources at our web pages

In addition to the normal bustle of our well-used reading room, the Archives recently played host to a photo shoot.

UMC photographer works to capture just the right image of recent graduate Dr. Cameron Hartnell.
UMC photographer works to capture just the right image of recent graduate Dr. Cameron Hartnell.

Photographer Calvin Goh (UMC) used the Archives Reading Room as a fitting backdrop for his images of recent graduate, Cameron Hartnell, PhD, Industrial Archaeology. Here, the photographer is captured at his craft:

Cameron’s doctoral research focused on the archaeological remains of the Arctic Coal Company on the island of Spitsbergen, or Svalbard. An earlier Tech grad, Scott Turner, spent six years in the early 20th century working for the ACC at Spitsbergen.

Through his doctoral research, Hartnell became quite familiar with the Scott Turner Collection, housed here at the Michigan Tech Archives. To honor the man whose papers were invaluable to his own research, Hartnell approached the Archives with a unique request: to wear Turner’s doctoral hood in the University’s midwinter commencement ceremonies.

Turner wore this hood when he received an honorary PhD from Michigan Tech in 1932 and it was donated to the Michigan Tech Archives along with corporate records, personal correspondence and other artifacts by Turner’s family following his death. According to Hartnell, the intricate folds and pockets of the graduation hood served a very practical purpose in the past. Students at one time kept a bit of bread or fruit in the pouches so they could continue their studies while they ate.

Doctoral hoods are part of a long academic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.
Doctoral hoods are part of an academic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.


The following overview on Turner’s life and accomplishments is excerpted from an article by Erik Nordberg, first published in the Michigan Tech Alumnus, 2002.

Scott Turner began his mining career in a somewhat ordinary manner, completing his BS and Engineer of Mines degrees at the Michigan College of Mines in 1904 at the age of 24.  A native of Lansing, he had completed an associate’s degree at Ann Arbor before taking up the mining trade as his life’s passion.  Yet from these humble Michigan roots, numerous mining jobs and work as an assistant editor for the Mining & Scientific Press took him to the four corners of the globe within the first few years of his career.

In 1926, he received a call from the United States government requesting his service as Director of the Bureau of Mines.  Although an important federal appointment, many noted its added significance under then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, one of the nation’s most prominent mining engineers.  Turner spent eight years at the helm of the BOM, overseeing difficult changes associated with the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing onset of the Great Depression.  During this period, Turner returned to Houghton to receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1932.  He received similar honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, Colorado School of Mines, and Kenyon College.

A chance meeting with John Longyear in London in 1911 directed a major change in Turner’s career.  The Marquette, Michigan, lumber and mining man was interested in potentially profitable iron and coal deposits in Spitsbergen, an unclaimed arctic island north of Scandinavia.  Turner accepted the position of manager for Longyear’s European interests, an assignment that would keep his attention focused on Spitsbergen for nearly six years.  In addition to a “small fixed annual salary,” he received a bonus of 5% of the company’s net profits.

His work in Spitsbergen was marked by many unusual feats.  The mines proved particularly difficult to develop; only 750 miles below the North Pole, the Arctic Coal Company was the first company to successfully implement modern mining methods at so high a latitude.  In addition, the land was “terra nullius,” meaning that no single nation had ownership of the place.  Through permission of the U.S. government, Turner represented American interests in the region – perhaps the only time that a civilian engineer has been enlisted to maintain American sovereignty overseas.

It was on one of Turner’s many trips across to Spitsbergen that he became a participant in another of history’s infamous incidents.  On May 7, 1915, as it neared the coast of Ireland, a German torpedo struck Turner’s ship, the S.S. Lusitania, just a few decks below the engineer’s cabin.

The mining engineer’s work continued in earnest.  Following his discharge from the hospital, he continued his journey to Scandinavia and arranged for the sale of Longyear’s Spitsbergen properties to Norwegian interests (on his trip from England to Norway, his ship narrowly missed destruction by bombs dropped from raiding German Zeppelins).  Looking to escape the growing European turmoil, Turner headed south, pursuing work in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.  He completed a two-year stint in the Naval Reserves at the tail end of World War I and then spent the next seven years of his life as “Technical Head” for the Mining Corporation of Canada.  This work took him to various parts of that country – as well as China, Mexico, Russia and South America — on exploratory and mine development work.  He often traveled with his new wife, the former Amy Pudden, whom he had married in Lansing in 1919.

Following his departure from the Bureau, he pursued a variety of consulting work.  At one point he was an officer or director of nine mining companies.  He even returned to Spitsbergen to review the progress of mines he developed decades earlier. His life work was capped in 1957 when he received the Hoover Medal, a special honor commemorating civic and humanitarian achievements of engineers.  Recipients are selected by a special board with representatives from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME).

Scott Turner died in July 1972, just one day shy of his 92 birthday.  In his later years, when not hunting or fishing, Turner would talk regularly of his life’s adventures.  But it was his spot on the Lusitania that always singled him out for the most attention.  He responded to endless requests for interviews and completed dozens of questionnaires about the incident.  In the mid-1950s Turner donated the Boddy life belt that had saved his life to the museum at Michigan State University.  It is not clear what became of a cast iron medal he owned, minted in 1915 by the German government to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania.  The medal had been uncovered during some road construction in Washington, D.C. and had been presented to Turner as a survivor of this historic event.

Left to right, Dr. Jackie Huntoon, dean of the graduate school, Cameron Hartnell, his fiancé Dr. Elizabeth Norris, and Dr. Patrick Martin, Cameron's doctoral advisor and chair of the Social Sciences department.
Left to right, Dr. Jackie Huntoon, dean of the graduate school, Cameron Hartnell, his fiancé Dr. Elizabeth Norris, and Dr. Patrick Martin, Cameron's doctoral advisor and chair of the Social Sciences department.

The staff of the Michigan Tech Archives congratulate Cameron Hartnell on his achievement and are pleased that our collections – both paper and fabric – were such integral parts of his study and graduation.

Archives adds Nissila Livery and Greenhouse Collection


The Michigan Tech Archives has opened the Nissila Livery and Greenhouse Collection for research.  The collection, accession # 08-083A, comprises three cubic feet of documents, correspondence, and photographs. The materials were donated by Pete Nissila in 2009, following the closure of the family’s greenhouse and nursery business in Ripley, just east of Hancock.


Originally called Nissila & Makela Livery and later as the Scott Street Livery, the business began as a livery stable, providing horses and carriages to individuals, companies, and for funeral services.  It was located on Scott Street in Hancock. 


Eventually, the business evolved into a floral shop.  After returning from service in Europe during WWII, Carl Nissila took over the shop along with his wife Gertrude.  He attended Michigan State University from 1948-1950, earning a degree in horticulture.  The floral shop started in the home on Scott Street and later moved to a location on Quincy Street, where it remained until 1952, when the business moved again to Ripley.  The location in Ripley had been in place since the early part of the century, originally being home to a local competitor, Dale’s Greenhouse. 


In 1984, Carl and Gertrude retired, and Carl’s son Pete and his wife Jill took over the business.  Pete was a recipient of a master’s degree in horticulture from Oregon State University in Corvallis.  Locally, during his management of the greenhouse he hosted a weekly radio show on WZRK-FM and offered gardening classes.  The business remained active until 2008, at which time the property went up for sale. 


This collection was processed by Autumn Hall-Tun, a graduate student intern in the Archives during the summer of 2009.



Aerial view of Nissila Greenhouse and surrounding buildings east of Ripley.  The photograph is image #ACC-08-083A-Pt 2  (you can view the record by clicking this link: