Happy New Year, Copper Country! We hope that you had a fun and relaxing holiday. For many of you, the first work week of the new year isn’t until next Monday and for the rest of you, well, you’re skating into the weekend already! So despite the recent melting and rain, there’s still plenty of fun to be had outdoors with your free time, which is why for this week’s Flashback Friday we are focusing on outdoor fun with an ice skating photo collage! Enjoy!
Happy Flashback Friday, Copper Country! Can you believe we’re heading into the fall break and sliding into December? Okay, maybe “sliding” is a bad term after during this awkward transition from fall to true Yooper winter. There’s certainly been a lot of feelings shared around town about the rain, sleet, and snow; not to forget the slush and ice impacting our daily routines.
With that in mind we’re keeping things simple and optimistic this Flashback Friday with a lovely historic view of a freshly snow-covered Mont Ripley from 1956 and a wonderful little poem about winter and the promise of spring. Just remember, there’s always beauty, not just cold, to be found in those wintry months ahead.
Brusso, Clifton. Tales from the U.P.’s Copper Country. Laurium, MI: Iroquois Press, 1992.
We listen not to the quiet sound,
as crystal leaves drift slowly down,
and softly caress the cold, bright ground.
Life asleep in their far flung home,
others seeking as they roam,
for food and shelter, the woods they comb.
Carried aloft on air currents they fly,
spotting for prey they spy,
ever alert with a sharpened eye.
From the North comes a frigid blast,
freezing and biting are the winds that last,
caring not who…through this scheme they’ve past.
Rays of light seldom are seen,
shadowy trees interspaced with green,
silver creeks with their icy screen.
Months later, bright warmth melting the snow,
rains lashing out helping it go,
golden skies seen through a rainbow.
Children playing in muddy fields,
to Spring winds, Winter, grudgingly yields,
and new life upward slowly steals.
Happy Flashback Friday! We hope that you all had a howling good time at the Haunted Mine tour put on by students at Michigan Tech and hosted by the Quincy Mine Hoist Association! Undoubtedly, the deep, dark recesses of a mine like Quincy is the perfect backdrop for a fright fest and a great opportunity to get a sense of what life in the mines was like. Can you imagine what it was like to be a miner? What sights or sounds do you think you’d see an hear?
Anyone who has taken the tour up at Quincy has heard of Michigan Tech’s longstanding relationship with the mine, which once served as a learning facility for mining engineers, giving students hands on experience in what it was like to work underground. However, what you might not have heard is the true story about how some ambitious Tech students got a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually work like miners and resurrect a piece of Copper Country history in the process. Take a drive up the Keweenaw with us this Flashback Friday and learn more about how a bunch of Tech students raised a historic hoist from the depths of the Copper Falls Mine in 1954!
The Copper Falls Mine was established near Owls Creek in Keweenaw County in the 1840s at the site of a prehistoric mining pit. The mine operated for over 40 years and produced, according to a Daily Mining Gazette article from 1956, “12,843 tons of ingot copper,” and employed “mostly Cornish, Finnish, and Irish” workers until its closure in 1901. The old hoist at the Copper Falls Mine was located by Michigan Tech geology student Robert “Speed” Burns in the early 1950s and eventually he and Dr. Joseph P. Dobell, geology professor at Michigan Tech, proposed a project to remove the 11-ton steam hoist. The Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, which then owned the property on which the hoist resided, agreed to the project following a safety inspection. The company also supported the project through the donation of safety equipment such as hard hats and headlamps.
Over the course of 8 months from October 1954 to spring 1955, students from the Sigma Rho Fraternity lived the life of miners working to remove the 19th century hoist from its placement eight and a half levels (nearly 900 feet) below the surface. According to a DMG article about the project, access was made through an “air ventilation adit that intersected the main Owls Creek shaft at the second level.” However, the students faced two big problems: no skip, and the need to lay 600 feet of track. Ingenious Tech students that they were, the Sigma Rho students constructed a skip with wheels out of scraps found at the site and laid the 600 feet of track themselves after backbreaking work that involved filling in washouts, erecting trestles, and replacing rotten ties.
Despite battling the mile and a half trudge from the highway through snow to reach the work site and eventually combating rising waters in the subterranean levels of the mine during the spring melt, the students had risen the ancient hoist above ground in its near entirety by spring. Miraculously, not a single person was injured throughout the project and only a few pieces of equipment were lost or damaged. What the students were left with, beyond the prize of the hoist itself, was an invaluable hands on experience of “mining out” the old hoist from the depths of a historic mine.
So what become of the hoist itself? The Daily Mining Gazette article from 1956 merely states that at that time the Sigma Rho Fraternity was waiting for an offer from the “college or any group interested in having it for display purposes.” Do you know what became of the hoist? Share your story here!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or to call us at (906) 487-2505.
The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections is pleased to announce that its staff will be initiating an oral history project this winter. This project, funded in part by the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission, aims to collect first hand accounts from Copper Country mine workers and their families in an effort to preserve local mining heritage.
Why are we doing this?
The Michigan Tech Archives has hundreds of cubic feet of mining company records within its collections but does not have nearly the same bulk of primary source materials characterizing mine workers and their families on a personal level. By reaching out to individuals who have stories to tell about the mines, the archives will give people agency over their own local history and will capture memories that would otherwise be forgotten.
Personal accounts of working for the local mines and of living in the local mining community will add so much to our historical narrative
Do you have a story to tell?
If you have worked for a Copper Country mine, or were close with a family member who worked for a mine, we would love to schedule an interview with you. We will be interviewing 15 people between January and May 2016.
Interviews will be scheduled for 45 minute blocks in the Michigan Tech Archives. The interviews will follow a predetermined set of questions, but will allow for freeform discussion as well. If you are interested in participating, but are not able to travel to the Michigan Tech Archives, please let us know. We may be able to set up another centralized location for interviews within our community.
If you would like to learn more about this project or would like to schedule an interview, please email the archives at email@example.com or call us at (906)-487-2505.
Here are just a few photographs to get you ready for whatever your Halloween festivities might be this weekend! These images have all been scanned from the Michigan Technological University Lode Photograph Collection.
Have a happy Halloween!
These jack-o’-lanterns were carved by Michigan Tech students in 1989 and photographed by Michigan Tech Lode staff. A couple of them look more traditional, but others use creepy and creative add-ons.
Current students, why not glean some “hallowed” inspiration from Tech generations gone by? Consider using a sliver of orange pumpkin rind for a devilish tongue, rubber gloves made to look like eerie pumpkin feet, or give your hollow headed friend some head gear, like a mop wig or a felt hood.
The Digital Archives got its start as a grant project funded by the Michigan Humanities Council in 2004-2005. The project was geared at providing online access to a database of key-word-searchable digitized historic images from the archives’ collections, while allowing users to add comments to the images online.
The Digital Archives also facilitates an interface for duplication service requests, and provides secure, off-site storage for digital surrogate files.
Today, it acts as a portal to the Copper Country’s visual past that is visited by thousands worldwide every month.
This milestone has been met thanks to hard work by many different members of Archives staff over the past decade.
To visit the Keweenaw Digital Archives and search for historic Copper Country images, click the following link: http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/.
If you have any questions about the Keweenaw Digital Archives, please call us at (906) 487-2505 or
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Swapping winter wools for light spring cloths, tasty ham, rabbits and candy are just a few of our favorite Easter traditions. Scroll through some 20th century print advertisements our staff has found in a couple of our local historic newspapers.
These newspapers, along with roughly 70 other local historic newspapers are available for viewing on microfilm at the Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. Feel free to call us at (906) 487-2505 or email us at email@example.com to learn more.
“No, Kitty! Not Today!”
THAT HORRENDOUS DAY, Friday the 13th is here again. It is the time to avoid breaking mirrors, walking under ladders and –. But here is Smokey, the cat, ignoring the good advice of Elinor Matteson. Of course Smoky has nine lives and he is not a bit superstitious.