Tag Archives: Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Bishop Baraga, the Snowshoe Priest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flashback Friday: Closing the Books

Student studying with a slide rule, undated.

It’s hard to believe, but the 2018 fall semester is coming to a close. That said, we’re using this week’s Flashback Friday to wish all of our current Huskies the best as they head into finals week and to send out a hearty Michigan Tech Archives congratulations to those graduating this weekend.

People studying in the J. R. Van Pelt Library, circa 1960s.

We know it’s time to hit the books, hand in those last couple of projects, and complete those dreaded final exams before you can head home for the winter break and some much-needed rest. The end is in sight though, Huskies! One more week to go and then you can close the books on the fall semester. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.

To all the Huskies taking part in the midyear commencement tomorrow, congrats and best wishes in the next chapter of your lives. Time to show off how crazy smart you are!

Commencement, 1958.

Flashback Friday: War and Peace

Group at work on clearing land

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

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

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

Students and administrative staff in conversation

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

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

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

Priest in front of large boat

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

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


Flashback Friday – Diverse Dialogues Series

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flashback Friday: Timber Riches in Bergland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flashback Friday: A Change of Seasons

We’re using our Flashback Friday this week to honor the changing seasons. No, we don’t mean saying goodbye to fall, but farewell to road construction season!
This week back in 1958 saw the end of a big highway paving job between Quincy and Calumet, which the Michigan State Highway Department christened with the addition of yellow and white lines, pictured here. The Daily Mining Gazette reported that “sunshine, an infrequent visitor in the area in recent days, made the painting project by…motor propelled machinery impossible” following paving two weeks prior. No doubt, many motorists in the Copper Country were happy to have the work, completed by the Thornton Construction Co., come to an end and to have the roads reopened for fall color tours up the peninsula  .
We know the end of road construction means the beginning of our winter months and its own set of driving frustrations, but imagine all that glorious snow that’s on its way to the Copper Country! Enjoy the lingering fall colors, motorists!

An All-Star Flashback Friday: John Scott at Michigan Tech

Two hockey players on the ice

John Scott (Huskies #20) in action on the ice, 2004

At 7:37 tonight, the puck will drop in the opening game of the 2018-2019 season for the Michigan Tech Hockey Huskies. A team of veterans–fresh off the second consecutive WCHA Men’s championship–and eager freshmen will take the ice in brilliant Tech black, gold, and white, hoping to defend their title for yet another year.

Many famous figures in the world of hockey have worn the Michigan Tech jersey over the years. Tony Esposito, now part of the Hockey Hall of Fame, played goalie at Tech and helped to propel the team to an NCAA Championship in 1965. Mel Person, one-time Huskies head coach and now leader of the University of Michigan men’s hockey program, suited up as a forward between 1977 and 1981. Randy McKay, an alumnus later who later served as an assistant coach at Tech, put his name on the Stanley Cup twice as a part of the New Jersey Devils.

Lately, however, conversation about well-known Hockey Huskies has centered around a name that has surprised many outside Michigan Tech circles. John Scott, who started at Tech in 2002 and received his mechanical engineering degree in 2010, rose to a new degree of national prominence in January 2016 through the most remarkable NHL All-Star Game in recent memory. As a professional hockey player, Scott had gained a reputation as an enforcer, a player who was unafraid to deliver hits, start fights to motivate his team, physically punish opponents who endangered a victory, or protect star players from enforcers on the other team. Forwards participating in the All-Star exhibition match were expected to be drawn from the NHL’s most remarkable players in terms of goal scoring and playmaking–traits for which Scott, with five NHL goals to his name, was not known. Taking advantage of the rule that allowed fans to vote for All-Star team members, viewers colluded to prank the NHL by casting votes en masse for Scott. Scott was initially reticent to the fan campaign but ultimately decided to take the place awarded him following a sudden trade, assignment to a minor league affiliate, and unwelcome remarks from an NHL official concerning the effects of playing in the game on Scott’s children. Over the weekend of competition, Scott scored two goals and was honored as the event’s Most Valuable Player.

Anyone who followed the NHL in 2015-2016 had to have heard the John Scott All-Star story, but few have taken a walk back through the Michigan Tech Archives to discover the John Scott Husky story. Scott’s first year on the hockey team went without much reporting by either campus or community newspapers, thanks in part to a shoulder injury that sidelined him for several games. As the rookie became a veteran, however, his dedication to his teammates, his physical talent on the ice, and his cheeky quips off it garnered him press attention. Journalists took one awed look at the 6-foot-7 Canadian then playing defense and chose a slew of colorful adjectives to describe him. “Hulking” turned out to be their favorite.

John Scott with teammates

Scott proved a valuable addition to the Huskies blue line. By his own admission in his autobiography A Guy Like Me: Fighting to Make the Cut (co-written with Brian Cazeneuve), he joined a team that was struggling to put up wins, especially in the first two years. From day one, wrote a local reporter, Scott was a “tower of strength” on the team. In his absence following that freshman-year shoulder injury, “the Husky defense looked dazed and confused.” In 2005, the Tech coach was quoted as saying that Scott was “our best penalty killer” and that his no-holds-barred playing took “a tremendous load off of the rest of the defensive core.” Although “offense [was] not a big part of his game” and defense was his primary focus, when he scored, observers noted, “it counts.” His first goal as a college player broke a tie against the talented University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Other articles over the years recorded key moments when Scott knotted up a game with a “greasy goal” against a big rival or a highlight-reel wrist shot received from a teammate’s no-look pass. As the end of his college career approached, it was clear that Scott’s presence on the ice made a world of difference for his fellow Huskies.

And, yes, there were fights. The local papers loved it when John Scott dropped the gloves: it gave them a chance to trot out even more vivid descriptions than the adjectives they used for his height. After a game versus the University of Alaska Anchorage where Scott and Seawolves forward Justin Johnson took a few good shots at each other, one reporter boasted that Scott’s “stomping” on Johnson made the UAA player realize that “he picked the wrong Husky to mess with.” In the last few minutes of a 2004 match-up, University of North Dakota’s Ryan Hale “made the mistake of challenging hulking MTU defenseman John Scott.” With tangible satisfaction, the paper wrote that Hale “came away having landing [sic] maybe one punch and his face completely mauled by Scott.” 

Appropriately enough, it was at another UND-MTU game in Scott’s senior year that a lucky reporter captured this classic quip, the one that might have best summed up his reputation: “I wish there was fighting in this league. I’d love to go out there… and pound on ‘em, but I can’t do it.”

John Scott, for your grit, your lip, and your heart, both on the ice and off–we’re proud to claim you as a part of Husky history.


Flashback Friday: American Archives Month

Former university archivist, Theresa Spence, discusses Old Reliable, with author, Larry Lankton, 1982.
Former university archivist, Theresa Spence, discusses Old Reliable, with author, Larry Lankton, 1982.

Since October is American Archives Month, our first Flashback Friday of the month pays tribute to all the archivists that have ever worked to collect, preserve, and provide access to the archival materials and special collections at Michigan Tech.

The photograph from August 1982 prominently features our first university archivist, Theresa Spence, speaking with author and professor emeritus, Larry Lankton at Author’s Day at the Quincy Mine. Larry was promoting his new book, Old Reliable, which was co-authored by Charles Hyde. From left, Larry Lankton; Theresa S. Spence; librarian Amanda Binoniemi; and archives assistant Kay Masters.

Former archivist, Beth Russell poses with the Raymond family, who donated a collection to Michigan Tech in 2014.
Former archivist, Beth Russell poses with the Raymond family, who donated a collection to Michigan Tech in 2014.

The Michigan Tech Archives has a long history that traces back to the early years of the university. The Upper Peninsula copper boom was more than forty years old when the Michigan Mining School (now Michigan Technological University) first opened its doors in the 1880s. In the early years of the school, A.E. Seaman, professor of geology and mineralogy, was given the responsibility for purchasing sets of mining, geology, and engineering journals. As time went on, more titles were sought to build the library and efforts were made during the 1930s to separate important historical titles from the general library stacks. Space limitations prohibited active solicitation of other local history collections at this time.

When the new library building was being planned, a reading room and storage area was specially designed for the historical collections. The first

The current archives reading room, in the Garden Level of the Van Pelt and Opie Library.
The current archives reading room, in the Garden Level of the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

archives reading room at Michigan Tech opened to the public in July 1966. With the new space came the first real stimulus to actively solicit local history materials. Michigan Tech signified its commitment to an active archival program in 1978 with the hiring of Theresa Spence, the first professionally trained archivist at the university. The department quickly developed the procedures and policies necessary to solicit and make available premier collections pertaining to the history of Michigan Tech and the local region. The department formally adopted its current name, the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections in 1980. The department continues to grow and has seen many wonderful professionals and support staff throughout its long history. The Michigan Tech Archives is actively growing and currently has three professional archivists, one archives assistant, and one student assistant to protect the collections and provide research support and other services.
If you have any questions about the Archives or American Archives Month, please contact the department at (906) 487-2505 or e-mail copper@mtu.edu

The current archives team poses with Blizzard T. Husky on #AskAnArchivist Day, 2018. From left, Allyse, Blizzard, Allison, Emily, and Lindsay.
The current archives team poses with Blizzard T. Husky on #AskAnArchivist Day, 2018. From left, Allyse, Blizzard, Allison, Emily, and Lindsay.

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?