Category: Collections

This category will include posts about the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives: manuscript materials, photographs, maps, books, and other physical items held by the department.

It’s Homecoming Weekend at Michigan Tech!

Homecoming parade, 1948.
Homecoming parade, 1948.

Happy Homecoming, Huskies! We’re honoring homecoming weekend with a flashback to 1948.

According to coverage of the event in the Michigan Tech Lode, the 1948 homecoming was the “most successful Homecoming weekend ever held at Tech.” Festivities included a parade and football rally Friday night. Attendees were told to meet at the Clubhouse at 8 p.m. for the torchlight parade to Engineer’s Field with a toasty bonfire and speeches by Dr. Stipe, Coach Al Bovard, and “members of the undefeated Huskies.”

Front page, Michigan Tech Lode,  October 22, 1948.
Front page, Michigan Tech Lode, October 22, 1948.

Revelers then made their way to Dee Stadium for cider, doughnuts, and a square dance. Another parade was held Saturday and included floats from most of the fraternities and professional organizations with Sigma Rho winning top honors. According to the paper, Tech “humiliated” Northern Michigan University, remaining undefeated in their fifth win of the season.

Homecoming Complete Success, Michigan Tech Lode, 1948.
Homecoming Complete Success, Michigan Tech Lode, 1948.

Coach Bovard was awarded the Tech-Northern trophy, the Paul Bunyan axe, from Northern head cheerleader, Joe Erickson. Football fans familiar with the big Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry and their Paul Bunyan axe will surely be scratching their heads at that, but it seems Tech and Northern had a similar tradition.

We hope that you enjoyed this flashback to 1948. Enjoy Homecoming, Huskies! We’d love to hear your favorite your favorite Homecoming memory!

Homecoming float, 1948.
Homecoming float, 1948.

Flashback Friday: When Storms and Miners Strike

National Guardsmen standing in the snow

National Guardsmen assigned to strike duty in Calumet found themselves in the midst of a freak snowstorm.

We’re no stranger to snow here in the Copper Country, but getting a taste of winter in September is unusual even for us. The bizarre weather and the tumult of the Western Federation of Miners copper strike combined to make September 1913 noteworthy for Houghton County.

On September 19, what the Calumet News described as “a freakish barometric disturbance” formed over Winnipeg and began to drift eastward. As it reached the Midwest on September 20, the storm apparently stalled, pummeling the Keweenaw Peninsula for nearly forty-eight hours. The weather bureau recorded winds of almost forty miles per hour, a number more typical of November weather than balmy September. Rain and sleet fell in sheets. The precipitation and high winds downed telephone lines and cut off service to some 600 phones, mostly in Calumet and Laurium.

Most notably, however, the storm blanketed the Copper Country with nearly three inches of snow. National Guardsmen called to Calumet to enforce order during the strike peeked out from their tents to find their neighbors’ shelters collapsed and coated in ice. A photographer captured five images of the storm’s aftermath in the camp on September 21, showing men with hands shoved into military-issued coat pockets, surveying the damage, squinting against the howling wind, and perhaps questioning their decision to join the National Guard. The images have since become part of the Brockway Photograph Collection (MS-019) at the Michigan Tech Archives.

Collapsed tents in the snow

Tents in the National Guard encampment fared poorly in the wintry gale.

It was a scene that could only have happened in 1913. At no other time in the Copper Country history could the weather and the course of labor relations have conspired to put these men and their camp in the midst of a September snowstorm.

Luckily, the forecast for Houghton County doesn’t include any snow for the foreseeable future. We will simply have to wait and watch to find out when those first flakes may fall. Anyone care to take a guess?


Flashback Friday: The Game of Guts

The Library Bar Guts Frisbee team, 1979.
The Library Guts Frisbee team, 1974 (previously thought to be 1979).

Flashback Friday pays tribute to Guts Frisbee, which had its first invitational tournament in Eagle Harbor, Michigan in 1958. Our image takes us back to this day in 1974, when the Library Bar Frisbee Team had a grand year in Guts Frisbee. The team took home the world championship as well as all major tournament wins. The team can be shown showing off all their hardware in this triumphant photograph. Standing from left, are Bill Dwyer, Jon Davis (team sponsor), and Bill Hodges; in front, from left, are Bob Hansen, John Hodges, Joe Wickstrom (captain), and Bob Reade.

While this photo is from 1974, the game of Guts Frisbee has an origin story that dates back to the 1950s. In 1958, brothers Boots and John Healy discovered a “Pluto Platter” in a shop in Minneapolis. The disc was passed around the family until Tim and Mary Healy, along with some friends, began tossing the frisbee around on July 4, 1958. By the end of the day, the game of Guts Frisbee was invented. The first tournament was held later that year at a family picnic in Eagle Harbor and the rest is history. For a full rundown of the history and modern day status of Guts, be sure to check out their website!


Flashback Friday: Ahmeek Mining Company

The shared shaft house for Ahmeek No. 3 and No. 4 is shown in this photograph, taken on this day in 1963. The image is courtesy of the Calumet and Hecla Photograph Collection.
The shared shaft house for Ahmeek No. 3 and No. 4 is shown in this photograph, taken on this day in 1963. The image is courtesy of the Calumet and Hecla Photograph Collection.

There is one more long weekend ahead of us before classes resume on Tuesday, September 4. A splendid opportunity to hit the road and explore the Copper Country! One way or another, all roads lead to copper and the rich history of the region.

Today’s Flashback Friday looks down the road to points north of campus, offering a glimpse of Ahmeek, Michigan. The village of Ahmeek, a small community in Keweenaw County, derives it name from the Ojibwe amik, which means beaver. The village grew up around the Ahmeek Mining Company, which opened for business in 1903. The founding of the village is credited to Joseph Bosch, of Bosch Brewing Company fame. The Ahmeek No. 3 and No. 4 site is featured in this photograph from August 31, 1963.

Although the Ahmeek Mining Company began operations as an individual enterprise in the early 1900s, the company was initially organized in 1880 as a subsidiary exploration wing of the Seneca Mining Company. Initial extraction took place through two shallow shafts, but the lode proved to be unreliable and production was irregular at best. In 1903, with the discovery of the Kearsarge Amygdaloid lode, the Ahmeek Mining Company became a separate operation. The operation consisted of four shafts that reached a depth of approximately 3,000 feet.

The uniqueness of shafts No. 3 and No. 4 is highlighted in the photograph, demonstrating that both shafts were serviced from a common shaft house. There is certainly more than meets the eye when you compare the surface to the underground architecture at this site!

In 1923 the Ahmeek Mining Company was absorbed by Calumet & Hecla. Operations eventually suspended in 1931. After the Great Depression ended, the mine reopened in 1936 and continued until the mid 1960s, with most accounts indicating that the mine officially closed permanently in 1966.

Wherever your Labor Day weekend adventures may bring you, we hope our Huskies all make it back to campus safely with plenty of good stories from the summer! Please note, the Van Pelt and Opie Library will be closed on Monday, September 3 in observance of Labor Day. The library, including our department, will reopen with regular hours on Tuesday, September 4.


Collection Spotlight: Central Mine School Records

Photograph of shuttered Central Mine School

The second school built at Central Mine. Photograph taken by J.T. Reeder in July 1921, after the school building had ceased to serve students.

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Central Mine, the kind of soft spot that leads a person to wander the ghost town’s hillside on weekends and affix an “I <3 Central” decal to a car. It was that affection and the ongoing pursuit of my family history that led me to investigate a thin folder at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections: MS-787, Central School Records.

The title of the collection is, perhaps, slightly misleading. This worn, weathered volume does not contain attendance statistics, names of teachers, or exam grades. Rather, it consists wholly of annual censuses taken, presumably, by the township school board of school-age children in the Central Mine settlement between 1877 and 1890. By this first year, students had already been attending classes in Central for two decades. What, one might wonder, was the sudden urgency in enumerating all of the children in the village? The timing suggests a certain conclusion. Simply put, Central Mine was successful–too successful. The population of the town soared in response, and the small schoolhouse on the edge of the settlement had been overwhelmed. By 1877, both it and the overflow classrooms in the Central Mine Methodist Episcopal Church were strained to their limits. The townspeople realized their obvious need for a new school, and knowing how many students it must serve was a critical part of construction. The expanded building, shown at the head of this blog post, opened for classes in 1878.

How can a survey conducted to gauge the student population at Central assist you in your research? Genealogists may consider it especially valuable. Consider that, while many mining families put down deep roots, others migrated from place to place within the Copper Country, following the fortunes of the mines from Clifton to Central to Calumet. You may find that your relatives drifted to Central for a year or two before moving on to a different location, where they were recorded in federal censuses. The school census particularly proves its worth in those years between 1880 and 1890. As any genealogist quickly learns, the 1890 federal census is essentially lost, forcing researchers to compensate with other records. Along with Michigan state census forms for Keweenaw County completed in 1884 and 1894, this Central Mine collection can help to bridge the gap.

In my case, I’ll always be grateful to this collection for giving me a few insights into my family tree that I never anticipated. I had two ancestors–a mother and a daughter–whom I believed to have arrived from England in about 1887, since the mother was married that year to a man with deep roots at Central Mine. I expected to find the daughter residing with her mother and new stepfamily in the 1887 school census, but she wasn’t included in their household listing. Had she stayed in England while her mother went on ahead? That would change my research in some interesting ways. I browsed through the other pages and finally found her with a family whose name I didn’t recognize. Further investigation showed that the mother of the family was the last elusive sibling in the mother’s extended clan, a woman who had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. It turned out that she had merely moved to the ends of it instead, settling in Central with her husband and children. This was the one and only year that my ancestor lived with this long-lost aunt, who soon left Michigan, and I never would have made the connection between the two of them without the school census. This is just one of several instances where the Central Mine school census made the critical difference in my genealogical research, and it may do the same for you.

Want to check out MS-787: Central School Records for yourself and see what insights it can offer? We at the Michigan Tech Archives would be happy to help you. Please feel free to stop by during our open hours (Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm), to e-mail us at copper@mtu.edu, or to call us at (906) 487-2505.


Rooting Around for Your Roots: A Little Genealogy Advice

Five middle-aged relatives on a sofa

Genealogy brings the family together.

The arrival of summer in the Copper Country brings with it many travelers who come to the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections in search of their ancestors. Although we serve all kinds of patrons year-round, our staff affectionately dub the summer “genealogy season” in light of how many family historians arrive between Memorial Day and Labor Day. With that in mind, it seems that the summer is an ideal time for our blog to highlight some of the genealogy resources that the Michigan Tech Archives can offer and recommend a few online tools that have proven particularly useful to our staff.

Picture me, resident genealogist, rubbing my hands together in delighted anticipation.

With that, let’s begin our exploration.

Michigan Tech Archives

We’re fortunate at the Michigan Tech Archives to have a substantial number of collections of use to genealogists. In addition to a few resources that address the history of a particular family–such as MS-916: Baril Family Genealogy or MS-506: Bartle Family Genealogy Research–the holdings include several key collections with broad appeal.

If your ancestor(s) worked for Calumet & Hecla (C&H) or Quincy mining companies, you will find the information available in those companies’ employment records immensely valuable. Although the collections do not include every worker, their coverage is remarkable: in the case of C&H, employment cards number well over 50,000. Injury reports and employment cards from Quincy total some 20,000 records. The cards are full of gems, and researchers will find them immensely valuable to “mine” for such details as places of birth, physical descriptions, addresses, occupations, and names of family members. While some inaccuracies can appear in such records, they are often a tremendous starting point for further research and a wonderful snapshot of an individual’s working life. For more information about how to interpret a Calumet & Hecla employment card once you’ve found one, you may wish to read part 1 and part 2 of our posts on that topic from last year.

Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card.

Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card for a Slovenian miner, Peter Gasperic.

Should you be searching for an ancestor who didn’t work in the mines, or if you want to go beyond what the employment card offers, you’ll find numerous opportunities to do so at the Michigan Tech Archives. City directories published by the R.L. Polk Company–colloquially called “Polks” by our staff–offer information about individuals’ residences and occupations, mining and otherwise. The collection of Polks at Michigan Tech begins in 1895 and is generally complete through 1917. From there, the materials skip thirteen years to 1930 and then another nine years to 1939 before making one final leap to the 1970s. Each major town in the Copper Country (including Calumet, Houghton, Hancock, and Laurium) is included in the Polks; coverage of other areas, such as Lake Linden, Chassell, or South Range, can be more sporadic. Nevertheless, the Polks are a wonderful way to follow a family between census years, especially given the tragic loss of the 1890 federal census.

Once you’ve sketched in the basic outline of your family, you may wish to add some color and humanity to it. Perhaps you want to know a little more about your great-grandparents’ wedding, or you suspect that a great-uncle may have had an encounter with the law. For the former question, consider perusing our extensive collection of newspapers on microfilm. Michigan Tech holds titles from virtually every county in the Upper Peninsula, with a special focus on newspapers published in the Copper Country. This includes the Daily Mining Gazette and its predecessors, back to 1862, as well as several major titles that have since gone out of business: the Calumet News, the Copper Country Evening News, and the Evening Copper Journal, to name a few. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers from the Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society, staff at the Michigan Tech Archives can search for names in indices of several area newspapers through 1914 and provide the exact date and page on which an article about each person was published.

While most articles that appeared about individuals, aside from those especially prominent in the community, focused on major life events like marriage or death, at times your exploration of the newspapers may lead you to something more scandalous. For the details of criminal conduct or the dirty laundry surrounding a messy divorce, turn to the files of the Houghton County Circuit Court. A prior piece on this blog sheds greater light on that collection.

Online Sources

What if you’re not able to come to visit us here at Michigan Tech? You still have plenty of options for conducting your genealogical research! Our staff are always happy to assist with remote reference requests, such as copying obituaries, employment cards, or pages from Polks. Please feel free to contact us at copper@mtu.edu or (906) 487-2505 if you would like to put in a remote request.

Other resources can also help you to go further in your research. As a genealogist with deep roots in the Copper Country, I’ve found that several key websites have been crucial in helping me to dig into my family background, both here and abroad. All of these sites are free for basic use, though registration for no cost may be required to view some materials.

FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org/search): FamilySearch is a product of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a group known for dedication to genealogy. Along with innumerable other collections, it includes an index of Michigan deaths from 1867 to 1897, marriage records to 1925, and birth records to 1902. FamilySearch does require users to sign up for a free account before they can view search results in detail.

For British research, Cornwall OPC Database (www.cornwall-opc-database.org): Cornwall Online Parish Clerks (OPC) Database transcribes parish records of key events–like baptisms, marriages, and burials–from the various Church of England parishes and non-conformist groups in Cornwall. The collections are extensive, continually growing, and all available for free access. In addition to these vital records, Cornwall OPC Database includes some bonus materials, such as select lists of institution inmates and prisoners. Now I know that one of my ancestors, sentenced in 1822 for having two children out of wedlock, was a little over five feet tall with “grey eyes, full face, pale [complexion], [and] dark hair.” She behaved “very well.”

Table showing Cornwall OPC Database baptism record

Sample baptism record from Chacewater parish on Cornwall OPC Database.

For Finnish research, HisKi (hiski.genealogia.fi/hiski): HisKi is something like the Finnish version of Cornwall OPC Database. Almost all historic Finnish parishes are represented, to some degree or another, in various types of events: christenings, marriages, burials, and migrations. Some parishes on HisKi include records as recent as the early 1900s, while others begin as early as 1700 and continue through 1850. The search is extremely flexible, checking for variations on names (remember that Finland recorded all such records in Swedish through the late 1800s) and allowing for wide ranges of years to be perused. HisKi was the difference between my knowing virtually nothing about my Finnish ancestors and being able to add hundreds to my tree.

Table showing HisKi marriage record

Sample HisKi marriage record for Herman Salonen and Lisa Haapala.

For Michigan research, Seeking Michigan (www.seekingmichigan.org): We have the fine folks at the Archives of Michigan to thank for Seeking Michigan. While it features a wide range of materials related to Michigan’s history, genealogists will probably find its collections of death certificates and state censuses to be most useful. Images of the certificates are available from 1897 (the year that Michigan implemented these documents) through the early 1940s, and more join the site as certificates enter the public record under state law. Additionally, Michigan conducted state censuses in the 19th century, generally in years ending in 4. Sadly, for reasons about which archivists can only speculate, most state census records have since been destroyed. Records from Houghton County in 1864 and 1874 and Keweenaw County in 1884 and 1894 survive and can be searched on Seeking Michigan.

And there you have it–a little advice for genealogy season, courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives. Hopefully, these resources and tips will be useful to you in moving your research forward. If there is ever any way in which our staff may be of assistance, or if you have further questions about family history research, please do not hesitate to contact us. Once again, our e-mail address is copper@mtu.edu, and our phone number is (906) 487-2505.

Happy sleuthing!


New Donation – White Pine Mine Slides

Roger Hewlett delivers the White Pine Copper Company slide collection to university archivist, Lindsay Hiltunen in May 2018.
Roger Hewlett delivers the White Pine Copper Company slide collection to university archivist, Lindsay Hiltunen in May 2018.

We are happy to announce a recent donation to the Michigan Tech Archives! The new acquisition consists of slides related to the history of the White Pine Copper Company. The materials were delivered to the archives by Roger Hewlett on behalf of George Haynes. The slides originally belonged to the late J. Roland Ackroyd, a former Secretary and Director of the Copper Range Consolidated, the Copper Range Railroad, and the White Pine Copper Company. The slides will be inventoried this summer and available for researchers this fall. Subjects represented include above and below ground images of industrial activities at White Pine. The slides are believed to be Copper Range’s official corporate collection of photos on the building of the White Pine Mine and surrounding area.

Roland Ackroyd (1912-1979) was born in Needham, Massachusetts and was the son of James A. (1872-1957) and Emily P. Ackroyd. He was educated in Needham schools and went on to graduate with an accounting degree from Northeastern University and Bentley University School in 1936. His professional career began at the Copper Range Company in 1933 on a temporary basis as a bookkeeper. During this first appointment his father was the secretary of the company. Over the years, Ackroyd would go on to hold many prominent positions in several firms with business related to White Pine, including the Copper Range Consolidated, the subsidiary railroad, and the White Pine Copper Company.

Positions held included:

Copper Range Consolidated 

J. Roland Ackroyd's official Copper Range Consolidated photograph.
J. Roland Ackroyd’s official Copper Range Consolidated photograph.

1944-46        Asst. Secretary

1947-62        Secretary

1962-70        Secretary/Treasurer

1968-70        Director

Copper Range Railroad

1954-62        Secretary

1962-71        Secretary/Treasurer

White Pine Copper Co.

1950-51        Director

1950-62        Secretary

1962-70        Secretary/Treasurer

Ackroyd lived in Needham and Stamford, Connecticut throughout his career and summered at Ocean Point, Maine. He retired in 1970. After retirement, he and his wife Natalie moved permanently to Ocean Point. Ackroyd was a key adviser in the development of the White Pine Mine and the local community. He was known to visit the area regularly throughout his career. Beyond his professional commitments, Ackroyd was also very active in his community. He was very dedicated to community service, serving with the Needham Board of Selectmen, Masons, Boy Scouts, Lions Club, Power Squadrons, the Boothbay Conservation Commission and various regional clubs in Maine.

The Michigan Tech Archives is very pleased to receive this important donation. We look forward to sharing the history of White Pine for generations to come! For more information about this collection, please contact university archivist, Lindsay Hiltunen, at (906) 487-2505 or e-mail copper@mtu.edu.  


The Remarkable Brockway Women

View of Copper Harbor from Brockway Mountain

View of Copper Harbor from Brockway Mountain, May 2015. Photograph by the author.

Almost everyone who has visited the Keweenaw Peninsula has heard the name Brockway. Brockway Mountain, just west of Copper Harbor, offers a stunning panorama of Lake Superior, a smattering of nearby lakes, and the thickly-forested rolling hills among which Michigan’s northernmost town is nestled. In addition to its scenic roadway–a project that put local men to work during the Great Depression–the mountain enjoys another notable tie to history, having been named after early settler Daniel Brockway. After a sojourn in L’Anse as a government-employed blacksmith and mechanic, Brockway had come to the Copper Harbor area in the mid-1840s. There, and in later years at the Cliff Mine, Brockway was a prominent merchant, hotelier, and mine agent.

Yet Daniel Brockway’s laudable success in the Copper Country is only one part of the story. From the Brockway family tree sprouted a number of remarkable people, both in terms of careers and of character. Although Women’s History Month is just behind us, it is well worth keeping our eyes on women’s history; let us take a moment to “remember the ladies,” as Abigail Adams once said. While a single blog post could never do justice to their stories, we are privileged to be able to share a glimpse of what we see of the Brockway women through our collections at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.

Lucena Harris Brockway, the matriarch, left the greatest archival trail. Diaries she kept meticulously for some thirty years now reside in the Michigan Tech Archives, recording her life in her own words and shedding light on the interesting experiences of others in her family. What we see from Lucena’s writing are women who confronted the challenges of ordinary days, the heartbreaking difficulty of tragedies, and the world at large with courage, humor, strength, and flair. We’ll start with Lucena herself, then look down her familial line to see her spirit carried on.

Young Lucena ms 12 b1f2

Lucena Harris Brockway in middle age. From MS-019: Brockway Photograph Collection.

Lucena, born in New York in 1816, moved to southwest Michigan in her youth and there married Daniel Brockway in 1836. She became the mother of four daughters and two sons, one of whom died in infancy and whose birthday was remembered with mournful devotion in her diaries. With her husband, Lucena made the aforementioned transition to the various locales of the Upper Peninsula and there dedicated herself to carving out a new life from the rugged locale. Though her husband’s growing financial assets meant that Lucena was insulated from some of life’s difficulties, living in a frontier community nevertheless required her to confront thorny dilemmas with tenacious resolution. At times, those problems bordered on the absurd. In August 1880, for example, Lucena awoke to an empty house and headed to her kitchen in hopes of having “a quiet day, the first in a long time.” When she glanced out the window, however, she found that her dreams of relaxation had quite literally gone up in smoke. The wooden fence near the Brockway home had spontaneously combusted and was now engulfed in flames. “So I fought fire for sometime [sic],” Lucena wrote, recalling the event later in the day, “then ate my breakfast and the fire had broken out again.” Eventually, her persistence in firefighting paid off, and the blaze came under control. Little time remained for resting by this point, however. There were chickens to be fed and beans to be picked for dinner. Life went on.

Life also had its lighthearted moments for Lucena. Removed as we are from the past, and accustomed to seeing the staid faces that early photography–with the long exposure times required to capture an image–produced, it is only too tempting to think of the 1800s as a stuffy, humorless age. Lucena Brockway was quite the opposite. In the cash account pages of her 1880 diary, she jotted a few puns that must have especially tickled her funny bone. “Why are hot rolls like caterpillars?” one read. “Because they make the butter fly.” Other jokes poked fun in a way that seems very modern. “Why is a lawyer like a restless sleeper?” Lucena asked. “He lies first on one side and then on the other.” There’s a certain humor not only in the joke but in realizing that attorneys have been the subject of light-hearted derision for centuries.  

Charlotte Brockway, Lucena’s oldest daughter, left fewer clues to her life, but what can be pieced together from the archival record indicates that she was a woman fashioned in her mother’s mold. By the time she was five, she had moved with her parents from New York to the western Lower Peninsula, north to L’Anse, and from L’Anse to Copper Harbor. The realization that the last relocation included Charlotte’s two younger sisters–a toddler and an infant–speaks once again to her mother’s fortitude. At the tender age of fifteen, according to one source, Charlotte was bright and mature enough to teach the Copper Harbor school. In October 1863, the twenty-two-year-old married Oliver Atkins Farwell, the superintendent of the Phoenix Mine. Mr. Farwell, as Lucena always called him in her diaries, was in his early fifties. Despite the considerable difference in their ages, the marriage seems to have been affectionate, if not passionate: eleven children were born to Charlotte and her husband, including a set of twins.

Portrait of an older Charlotte Brockway

Charlotte Brockway Farwell in her later years. From MS-019: Brockway Photograph Collection.

June 1881, as revealed in Lucena’s diaries, demonstrated the determination of the Brockway women to carry on in the face of great tragedy, and Charlotte was at the very heart of it. First, Sarah (“Sallie” or “Sally”) Brockway Scott lost her husband to illness; he was only 43. “Poor Scott breathed his last a quarter to three o’clock this morning,” wrote Lucena sadly on June 7. “…He knew he was going and bade us all good by [sic]. It was hard to see him go[;] he wanted to live longer if it had been so he could.” Sallie, who had already seen a daughter die in infancy, was now the widowed mother of a young son. Yet Charlotte would face an even more turbulent month. On June 18, Lucena noted that Oliver Farwell, who had begun feeling ill around the same time as Sally’s husband, was not improving. Three days later, the same note: “Mr. Farwell was worse and probably dying.” On June 22, Lucena said, “I stayed all day at Mr. Farwell’s with Charlotte. Mr. Oliver A. Farwell died 20 minutes past 3 o’clock P.M.” And, on June 25: “In the afternoon…Charlotte Farwell had a daughter born the day after her husband was buried.”

Portrait of Olive Farwell in middle age

A photograph of Olive Farwell published in the Daily Mining Gazette in January 1997. From the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections Farwell biographical file.

This daughter, named Olive Lucena in honor of her father and grandmother, would experience a life of great length and variety, testifying to the fortitude and courage of the Brockway women. She might not have achieved the fame of her brother, a notable librarian and botanist, but Olive carved her own niche. Her mother moved the family many times in Olive’s childhood, attempting to give her children the best life possible. From Keweenaw County, they headed south to Ypsilanti for educational reasons, then west to New Mexico in pursuit of a healthful climate. After a brief return to Lake Linden with her mother to spend time with Lucena and Daniel in their last days, Olive departed for Chicago to study interior design. Unsurprisingly, she made a success of it and established a studio in Spokane with another artist. Later, her obituary recalled, she returned to Chicago, first to work for a chain of department stores and then to establish her own prosperous candy kitchen. When World War II broke out, Olive again left Lake Linden–where she had moved in 1935–to become a Rosie the Riveter on a Lockheed production line in Burbank.

Lucena and Charlotte each lived to be 82. Olive surpassed them both, suffering a fatal stroke in the Brockway house in Lake Linden at the age of 98. Though these Brockway lives can hardly be compressed with any justice into an essay of such brevity, Lucena’s wide range of diaries–together with two other Brockway collections and articles clipped from the Daily Mining Gazette on Olive’s long life–show their shared character, spunk, and persistence. If you’d like to investigate the Brockway women further, or if you’re interested in discovering some remarkable women from your own family tree, please do not hesitate to contact the Michigan Tech Archives at copper@mtu.edu or (906) 487-2505.

And Anna Medora Brockway Gray, Lucena’s youngest daughter, who struck out on her own as  a physician in 1883? Well, that’s another story for another day.


Ellen Carlson: Copper Country Woman

Ellen Carlson, undated
Ellen Carlson, undated

For many women, the early 20th century ushered in a new period of possibilities for life and work outside the home and changes to the traditional roles of wife and mother. While employment opportunities were still limited to a few fields such as school teacher, secretary, and nurse, many women fought to make their lives outside domestic life rich and fulfilling. Archival collections are full of stories of such women and the Copper Country is no different. To honor the many unique and fascinating women of the Copper Country during Women’s History Month, our blog post today highlights one amazing woman from Rockland, Michigan: Ellen Carlson.

Ellen Carlson with cat, undated.
Ellen Carlson with cat, undated.

Ellen Carlson was born in Rockland, Michigan around 1901 to Swedish parents, Gustave and Anna, who immigrated to the Upper Peninsula in 1899. Her father worked for the copper mine in Rockland until his death in 1915 following a mining accident. Ellen’s mother, Anna, was left to raise her daughter and son, Hugo, by herself. She ensured that her children received a good education and the children attended school in Rockland, with Ellen graduating in 1918. However, Ellen’s early aspirations for higher learning at the Marquette Normal School were cut short due to the outbreak of the Spanish Influenza. Though she never received a formal degree, Carlson attended classes at Wayne State, University of Michigan’s Rackham School, and the Milwaukee State Teachers College and became a school teacher, initially teaching in a four-room school in Victoria. She moved back to Rockland for a period of time before moving to Marquette in 1922 to finish her teaching studies, but continued to move back and forth between the U.P. and downstate, teaching again in Rockland, Montrose, Flint, Ferndale and Taylor. In 1965, after 46 years of teaching, Carlson retired and returned to her family’s home in Rockland where she lived until her passing in 1988.

Love letters from the Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection.
Love letters from the Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection.

For many, there is a certain stereotype associated with the concept of an unmarried, rural school teacher in the early 20th century. However, a glimpse into the the personal correspondence of a woman like Ellen reveals a vibrant personal and social life, as well as a woman who was undeterred in her quest in fulfilling her lifelong aspirations. The Ellen Carlson Correspondence (MS-416) collection held at the Michigan Tech Archives is a rich resource for anyone interested in the personal lives of women in the Copper Country. The collection primarily contains correspondence Carlson kept with friends, students, and family members throughout her life and provides a unique perspective on the life of women in the Copper Country.

Some of the earliest correspondence in the collection dates from around 1918 when Ellen was just a young woman starting her teaching education. Nearly a decade worth of letters from a likely high school beau then living in Chicago shows a young woman in love, but one torn between that love and a dedication to her studies. Sadly, the romance fizzled out during May and June of 1926 based on the letters from Chicago. We can only speculate that the relationship had a deep impact on her as she never did marry.

From the correspondence you get a sense of the importance family and social ties had to Ellen. She maintained lengthy correspondence with close friends throughout her life, in some cases receiving multiple letters per week, which implies the amount of outgoing correspondence and connections she must have maintained were extensive. Though the collection only contains correspondence she received, a researcher gets an impression of the topics that were important to women during this time period, notably between women as she maintained correspondence with several other women from her Rockland community and elsewhere throughout her life. It’s also clear that Ellen maintained a strong relationship with her mother, Anna, particularly during the latter half of her mother’s life up until her unexpected death in 1954. This section of correspondence is a fascinating view of mother-daughter relationships and a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.
Ellen Carlson with friends, undated.
Ellen Carlson with friends, undated.

Ellen clearly maintained a wide social circle of friends, especially with those within the Rockland area. An article printed in the local paper sometime between 1976 and her passing in Rockland in 1988 attests to her vibrant social life and the importance that women played within the community. Noted within the article, fellow community members described her as having “a host of friends, young and old” and that she was “very sociable — has a houseful of company all summer long.” One comment from a friend regarding the amount of birthday cards she routinely received is apparent in her correspondence collection. Among the regular correspondence and photographs, Ellen maintained several scrapbooks worth of birthday and holiday cards that she received or collected overtime, presenting a very interesting and delightful resource for people interested in period greeting cards.

Sample of greeting cards from the Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection.
Sample of greeting cards from the Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection.

According to the article, Ellen was a lifelong and active member of the Methodist church and an accomplished pianist, serving as the district organist for the Order of the Eastern Star since 1920, which is evident from the correspondence and ephemera tucked into her collection.  Among her other passions was regional history. She and fellow local, Mary Jeffs Regan, co-founded the Rockland Museum and donated material to the collection over the years. Ellen, according to the article printed later in her life, was also a reader, crossword puzzle enthusiast, and enjoyed playing cards.

While the collection is primarily composed of correspondence, Ellen maintained journals, especially later in life, which can be found in the collection. Also included are scrapbooks, postcard albums, and photographs, many of them documenting the lives of her friends and family members that were dear to her.

The Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection reveals a woman many can relate to; one driven to follow their passions and affinity for one’s roots. It provides a glimpse into the impact a singular person can have within a community and a rich resource for those looking into the lives of everyday women in the Copper Country. This extensive collection is just waiting for further exploration and insight from researchers. If you are interested in viewing this collection, visit the Michigan Tech Archives! The department is open for regular research hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, no appointment necessary. You may also contact us directly at (906) 487-2505 or by email at copper@mtu.edu.


A Calumet & Hecla Rosetta Stone: Reading a C&H Employment Card Part 2

The following post is part two of a two-part series, which was researched and authored by Emily Riippa, Assistant Archivist. 

Welcome to the second part of a discussion on deciphering Calumet & Hecla Mining Company (C&H) employment records held by the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. This post will concentrate on the back page of a C&H yellow employment card, which emphasized a worker’s job history and relationship to the company. If you missed the initial part of the series or would like to refresh your memory of the card’s front page–where the employee’s personal traits and family connections were in focus–you may find it valuable to reread the prior post before perusing this one.

We’ll continue our exploration of the yellow C&H employment cards, which the company used from about 1915 through at least 1957, by once again examining the sample record of Peter Gasperich, my great-great-grandfather. As a reminder, Peter was a Slovenian immigrant and resident of Osceola who worked for C&H at the time of his death. From the front page of his card, we learned that he was married and the father of seven children, that he had previously been employed by the Osceola and Champion copper companies, and that he was a literate man of modest height and solid build. On the reverse of the card, we will find the bulk of the information related to job titles, the divisions of C&H in which the employee worked, and rates of pay. Parsing this data is often the most complicated part of interpreting an employment card, both due to its density and the number of abbreviated, specialized terms used–enough, it seems, to fill a small book rather than a blog post. Still, with the space we have, let us try to unravel the mystery of the back page, piece by piece.

The back page of Peter Gasperich’s Calumet & Hecla employment card, which looks at his relationship to the company and the finer points of his job history.
The back page of Peter Gasperich’s Calumet & Hecla employment card, which looks at his relationship to the company and the finer points of his job history.

In the upper left corner of this page, C&H set aside a section that can best be described as a General Notes field. Here, the company documented matters like the date and cause of a worker’s death or information about his pension if he received one; here, too, were any explanations for why he left the company–willingly or involuntarily–including times when he and his boss had butted heads. As with the results of the worker’s physical exam on the front page, these remarks were consistently blunt, if not outright brusque: “losing time,” “lazy,” “no good,” to name a few. For Peter, the card’s most prominent note was that he had left the company’s employ permanently with his death on June 14, 1923 from bronchitis. Keep in mind that C&H did not always accurately record causes of death, either deliberately or from lack of knowledge, so it is wise to cross-reference this information with official death certificates whenever possible. In Peter’s case, the state’s explanation–stomach cancer–seems far more likely in light of clues given in other areas of his employment card.

We see those clues as we move clockwise around this part of the card to look at Peter’s financial relationship with Calumet & Hecla. Next to General Notes, the company recorded a list of dates and amounts of cash. These figures indicate money that Peter withdrew from the C&H Aid Fund, a benefit society of sorts operated by the company. A set deduction was taken from each paycheck of employees who agreed to participate, and C&H matched their contributions. Later, if, like Peter, the worker were laid low by illness or injury, he could draw on the aid fund to keep his family housed, clothed, and fed until he could be back on the job. Though generous by contemporary standards, C&H also kept a sharp eye on its aid fund and monitored the frequency and duration of use by each employee. Distrust fell on men who seemed overly dependent on charitable moneys. The company’s observation, however, and its recordkeeping can provide interesting insight to genealogists in particular. From Peter’s employee aid record, I was able to see that he had called upon the aid fund on several occasions, including one string of withdrawals that began in February 1923. It seemed likely that the fatal illness must have begun around this time, and picturing those last few months in the Gasperich house as Peter declined added a new dimension to my understanding of my ancestors.

Below the General Notes and accounts of Peter’s aid fund use came several additional fields whose meaning is more familiar to modern readers: a tally for dates that he had received workmen’s compensation funds for any injuries received on the job, a list of addresses he had occupied and changes he made to his residence, and the dates that he had been examined by a C&H physician. Individuals joining the company had to pass physicals, which were seemingly required at irregular intervals thereafter; any extraordinary results–described in General Notes–could mean the rescindment of an offer of employment, lest the worker become a threat to his colleagues or a financial drain on the company’s hospital.

The left side of the back page of Peter’s C&H employment card, concerning his death, his use of various company funds, his examination by a C&H physician, and his address history.
The left side of the back page of Peter’s C&H employment card, concerning his death, his use of various company funds, his examination by a C&H physician, and his address history.

Although interesting, these components are not the meat of the employment card’s back page. That honor belongs to the right side, where Peter’s work history was recorded in meticulous detail. This section began with Peter’s typed name and, below it, two identification numbers: an enrollment card number and a pay roll number (which also appeared on the front page). It is not uncommon for the latter of these numbers to be crossed off if the employee had passed away or replaced with digits in the form P-### if the worker had been pensioned. Further information on any such pensions were recorded, as we have already seen, in the General Notes field. Beneath these numbers came several columns designed to capture the nuances of Peter’s time at C&H. Two of them–the first and the next-to-last–simply listed the dates that Peter began his work, whether at the company or in a new position, and the dates that he ceased to hold that job.

Next was given the title of the occupation itself, often in abbreviated form. To most modern researchers, Peter’s having worked as a “tram” or a “pipe” seems nonsensical, but these terms indicate that Peter worked as a trammer–moving heavy cars of mine rock along a shaft level to be raised to the surface of the shaft–and a pipeman, someone who laid and repaired pipe for compressed air, steam, or water. Similarly, as a timberman (or “timb,” as C&H put it), Peter would have placed and maintained wooden mine structures, like ladders and hanging wall supports. Occupational shorthand abounded through the cards, but two other common terms of note were “dry” for “dry man”–often an older or partially disabled man who kept the workers’ change house clean and supplied–or “sfc,” for surface, preceding a job to distinguish employees who did the work on one side of the ground or the other. Keep in mind, as well, that sometimes words that seem straightforward today had nuances at the time the cards were created. It’s easy to think that every underground man at C&H was a miner, but the term was specific in its meaning and referred only to workers who drilled and blasted rock in search for copper.

Under the Rate column, C&H provided the wage paid for each occupation that an employee held. Notice on Peter’s card the word “cont” in several places, indicating that he was paid wages specified in a contract he had negotiated with the company. For other jobs, the amount of pay was given in numeric form: a monthly wage, generally speaking, until about 1918, when a daily rate began to be used. In the 1940s, C&H switched again, transitioning to listing pay in hourly terms. If you see an ancestor’s income listed as cents and fractional cents, that is a good indicator that this pay was hourly. If the card bears a number like $55.00, the rate was monthly.

The Company and Department (Dept) headings can also be a source of confusion. Although it is useful shorthand to think of C&H as a single entity, in many respects it was more of a corporate umbrella containing component companies, including some former competitors. A little history may help to explain this. Calumet & Hecla began life as two related organizations–the Calumet Mining Company and the Hecla Mining Company–that were combined into C&H in 1871. To ensure the company’s continued success, in the early 1900s C&H began to acquire large amounts of stock in some of its local competitors, placing them under C&H’s control. This method brought Osceola into the C&H “family” in 1909 and Tamarack in 1917. Ahmeek, Allouez, and Centennial were purchased outright in 1923, leading to the creation of the Calumet & Hecla Consolidated Copper Company. Other mines and facilities also came under the umbrella over the years, creating a C&H that employed workers in places far beyond the little village once called Red Jacket.

Given this history, the Company and Department columns seem more logical. “Company” allowed C&H’s clerks to specify which part of the organization an employee belonged to: Osceola, Kearsarge, South Hecla, C&H proper, etc. “Department” permitted greater specificity: a Hecla miner could be said to work in the #9 shaft, for example, or a C&H general laborer could be designated as a smelter employee. For companies that already had subsidiaries at the time of their incorporation into C&H–like Osceola’s operations at Kearsarge–the Department field could also be used to further distinguish among the company hierarchy. At other times, however, the two sections simply repeated each other. On Peter’s card, for example, we can see Company listed as in one place as “Osc. Cons,” referring to Osceola Consolidated Mining Company, and the Department simply listed as “Osc,” not shedding much light on his particular place within the organization. Where greater details than these were provided, these fields in conjunction with the Occupation column offer the genealogist significant insight into the nature of an ancestor’s work.

As with Occupation, abbreviations for Company and Department abound. Decoding the meaning of the more obscure shorthand is an ongoing project at the Michigan Tech Archives. A few basic words of advice are worth sharing at this point, however. Common entries in the Company column–in addition to the ones mentioned above–include LMS & R[ef] Co for Lake Milling, Smelting, and Refining Company; Tam for Tamarack, west of Calumet; I.R.C. and I. Royale for Isle Royale Copper Company, near Houghton; and a dizzying array of options for the Tamarack, Osceola, and Ahmeek mills on Torch Lake. Department abbreviations featured likewise ran the gamut. Rkhs, rchs, and r. hse indicated an employee assigned to the rock house; sm, smelt, and smelts, the smelter; mill or st. m, the stamp mill; or sfc, the surface. Where a number or single letter were given in the Department column, it referred to a particular designated mine shaft at the company in question.

The right side of the back page of Peter Gasperich’s employment card, showing the details of his positions and pay at C&H.
The right side of the back page of Peter Gasperich’s employment card, showing the details of his positions and pay at C&H.

Moving past the Date Left column that was mentioned earlier, we look at last to the Reason column, which provided a rationale for Peter’s departure from each position. Peter’s card included three of the most common explanations: Q for quit (he chose to find work elsewhere), L.O. for laid off (economic factors led C&H to cut his job), and Sett for settled up (he died, and C&H concluded its business with him). This last term also was used to address workers who resigned, possibly in lieu of termination, and sometimes men who had been drafted into the armed forces. If an employee’s reason for departure was given as “Dis.,” he certainly was dismissed or discharged–fired. “Ret” workers had simply retired. Peter’s card also used the word “Strike” in the explanation column. This does not necessarily mean that he was an active part of the 1913-1914 Western Federation of Miners (WFM) copper strike; rather, C&H used it to indicate that the mine at which he had worked shut down during that time. Occasionally, recordkeepers placed numbers in parentheses next to one of these reasons, indicating a more detailed explanation was available next to the corresponding number in the General Notes section. Look to that section, as well, to distinguish men who had joined the union from men whose note of “Strike” simply meant that they were bystanders: if the note indicates that a man burned or gave up his WFM book, he was a union member.

What more can be said about the Calumet & Hecla employment cards? Quite a lot. These documents mirror the organization that created them: they are as broad as the workforce and as deep as the company’s copper mines. The Michigan Tech Archives earnestly hopes that this overview of the C&H records has been useful, limited by necessity as it may have been. If your interest in learning more about your ancestors’ potential ties to C&H has been piqued, if you would like assistance in deciphering a record already located, or if you have any other research questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Michigan Tech Archives. We may be reached via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu or by telephone at (906) 487-2505, and, as always, we are very happy to help.