Keweenaw Peninsula and Copper Island

September 14, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

After our visit to Stonington Peninsula on Lake Michigan, we headed into upper Michigan and the Keweenaw Peninsula, landing on Copper Island at Hancock.  We found the ghost towns we were looking for in this area, and lots of great mining history!  Here are just some of the photo's we took during our exploration. Hover over each for more information, or click a photo to go to gallery, which includes many more not in this photo blog.  We will also be adding more photos of this area soon into the Keweenaw Peninsula Photo Gallery.  

Kearsarge, MI - Rock Boat Veteran MemorialKearsarge, MI - Rock Boat Veteran MemorialKearsarge was established as a copper mining town in 1867, and actively mined copper through 1925. Named after the 1861 war ship USS Kearsarge, the WPA built this rock memorial during the Great Depression. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Kearsarge, MI - Northland PastiesKearsarge, MI - Northland PastiesWe saw a lot of signs for 'Pasties' on our journey through this area of Michigan. Originating in England, Pasties are made by placing uncooked filling typically of meat and vegetables, on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular taste of goodness. Wives of miners would make these to send with their husbands for lunch, wrapped in Newspaper. They were still warm at lunch break. Apparently they are still popular in this region, though we doubt they are making them here at this abandoned store in Kearsarge anymore.


Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Copper City, MI - Closed Meat MarketCopper City, MI - Closed Meat MarketEstablished in 1907, Copper City continues to be home to around 200 residents, though it has seen it's better days. One of the earlier buildings, this old Meat Market, still stands testament to the lumber and railroad town's early years. (The original tracks have since been removed).

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Ahmeek, MI - Business DistrictAhmeek, MI - Business DistrictFounded in 1904, the town of Ahmeek grew around the Ahmeek Mining Company established the year before. Today it has less than 200 residents and it's main draw for tourism is nearby Sand Hills Lighthouse on Lake Superior.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Copper Island, MI - Sand Hills LighthouseCopper Island, MI - Sand Hills LighthouseSands Hills Lighthouse is the largest and last manned lighthouse built on the Great Lakes. Constructed in 1917, it was active until 1939. After it was automated, the grounds were used by the Coast Guard as a World War II training site for about 200 men. The property then sat vacant until a Government Auction in 1959. Today you can stay a night at this Bed and Breakfast or take a guided tour. The lighthouse is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Photo by Dave Alexander.

Phoenix, MI - Bammert Blacksmith ShopPhoenix, MI - Bammert Blacksmith ShopOriginally built in the 1880's at the Cliff Mine nearby, this Blacksmith Shop once owned by Amos Bammert was moved to Phoenix around 1906. Amos operated the shop until his death in 1940. It was later donated to the Keweenaw County Historical Society and today serves as a road side museum.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Eagle River, MI - FallsEagle River, MI - FallsJust down the road from Phoenix we came into Eagle River and made a stop at Eagle River Falls. With the backdrop of Lake Superior on the opposite side, this picturesque water fall dumps into a bowl of volcanic basalt before hitting the lake. During the Spring this water fall covers the most of the riverbed. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Eagle River, MI - Falls - 3Eagle River, MI - Falls - 3The community of Eagle River was a copper mining boom town dating back to the 1840's. Copper was discovered in the cliffs nearby in 1845 (known as the "Cliff Load"), although the mines were on the decline by the 1870's.

This photo of Eagle River Falls was taken from the Michigan State Historic Eagle River Bridge, which carried traffic over Eagle River into the community from 1915 until 1990. Photo by Dave Alexander.

Central Mine, MI - Powder HouseCentral Mine, MI - Powder HouseOne of the best stops for mining history in Keweenaw County is Central Mine, also known simply as Central. Once home to over 1,200 residents, it is the site of one of the counties most successful mines. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Central Mine, MI - Ruins2Central Mine, MI - Ruins2The Central Mine fissure was discovered in 1854 in an ancient Indian mining pit. A shaft was sunk along the side of the pit and over 40 tons of pure mass copper was removed in the first forty feet. The mine produced over 83 thousand pounds of copper that year and was the only mine in the history of the Michigan Copper Country to show a profit in the first year of operation.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Central Mine, MI - Shaft#2Central Mine, MI - Shaft#2Tragedy would strike Central Mine in April of 1872 when a cable broke while 13 men were riding a skip car down the number 2 shaft. Ten of them were killed, a devastating event for the small community.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
Central Mine, MI - Ruins and TailingsCentral Mine, MI - Ruins and TailingsCentral Mine was the most productive of all the fissure deposit mines, producing nearly 52 million pounds of copper before playing out. After 44 years of operation, the mining operation closed on July 29, 1898, and the town of Central became a ghost town. Today there are 13 houses and a church still standing, with visitors welcome to tour the town, which is complete with a visitors information center with audio displays and maps.

Photo by Dave Alexander.

Fort Wilkins, MIFort Wilkins, MIEstablished to protect the regions Copper Boom, Fort Wilkins was built in 1844 at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Its location allowed the garrison to oversee the copper shipping route and police area Native Americans.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
Fort Wilkins, MI - Parade GroundsFort Wilkins, MI - Parade GroundsFort Wilkins was a typical stockaded frontier fort with a central parade ground surrounded by barracks, officers quarters and a hospital. The stockade enclosed all the buildings on two sides with Lake Fannie Hooe and a creek forming the other two. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Fort Wilkins, MI - Lake Fanny HooeFort Wilkins, MI - Lake Fanny HooeAfter being established on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula in 1844, Fort Wilkins was almost completely abandoned during war with Mexico in 1846, but re-occupied by the US Army in 1867 before becoming permanently abandoned in 1870. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Fort Wilkins, MI - Barracks Squad RoomFort Wilkins, MI - Barracks Squad RoomThe abandoned Fort Wilkins and adjacent lighthouse became a Michigan State Park in 1923. Park personnel stabilized the few remaining buildings and oversaw the reconstruction of the fort by the Work Projects Administration (WPA).

Visitors today enjoy a good example of mid 1800's army life on the northern frontier through exhibits, audiovisual programs and more.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Copper Harbor, MI - Lake SuperiorCopper Harbor, MI - Lake SuperiorCopper Harbor's early days were in the mining industry. As a port of shipping copper mined from local deposits during the mid 1800's, the area was settled sometime around 1844 (about the same time as adjacent Fort Wilkins).

Photo by Dave Alexander.

Copper Harbor, MI - ShipCopper Harbor, MI - ShipWith copper mining playing out in the region by the 1870's, Copper Harbor today is a tourist destination on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and includes a ferry that connects Isle Royale National Park to Northern Michigan.

Photo by Dave Alexander.

Copper Harbor, MI - Lake Superior & Lake Fanny HooeCopper Harbor, MI - Lake Superior & Lake Fanny HooeA nearby road provides picturesque views of Copper Harbor on Lake Superior (left), and of Lake Fanny Hooe (right).

Photo by Dave Alexander.

Copper Island, MI - Lake Superior Rocky BeachCopper Island, MI - Lake Superior Rocky BeachCopper Island is the northern section of Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan. It hasn't always been an "island", but dredging in 1859, and the construction of the Keweenaw Waterway Canal in 1860 made it so. The highway along the northern edge coming from the tip of the peninsula provides some great views of Lake Superior and the rocky shoreline.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
Copper Island, MI - Great Sand BayCopper Island, MI - Great Sand BayIt's not all rocky here at Copper Island, as we ran into the Great Sand Bay along our journey. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Copper Island, MI - Great Sand Bay-3Copper Island, MI - Great Sand Bay-3Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Eagle Harbor, MI - LighthouseEagle Harbor, MI - LighthouseThe Eagle Harbor lighthouse was built in 1871. The light is still operated by the Coast Guard to this day. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Eagle Harbor, MI - Anchor & BuoyEagle Harbor, MI - Anchor & BuoyAn old Buoy and Anchor outside the maritime museum and lighthouse in Eagle Harbor. Photo by Dave Alexander.

Saving our two favorites for last we found a lot of great picture opportunities and history in Calumet and, in Hancock, the Quincy Mine.  

Calumet, MI - ChurchesCalumet, MI - ChurchesWith copper mines booming in the region, the town of Red Jacket (now known as Calumet) was settled in 1864 and incorporated in 1867. Named for Native American Seneca tribe Chief Red Jacket, the town wouldn't officially change its name to Calumet until 1929. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Calumet, MI - 1903 St. Joseph ChurchCalumet, MI - 1903 St. Joseph ChurchSt. Paul the Apostle Church, formerly St. Joseph's Catholic Church, was formed in 1889 by Slovenian immigrants. They built this church in 1908 at a cost of $100,000. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Calumet, MI - Old DepotCalumet, MI - Old DepotThe copper mines operated by Boston based Calumet and Helca Mining Company were rich, with the company producing more than half the country's copper from 1871 through 1880. In addition, the area supported dairy and farming operations. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Calumet, MI - Copper County Firefighters MuseumCalumet, MI - Copper County Firefighters MuseumOn the National Register of Historic Places, this 1898 Fire Hall in Calumet now houses the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum. Built during the height of copper mining riches, it is constructed of Jacobsville sandstone quarried from the shore of Lake Superior 25 miles away. Firefighters used horses to pull the fire wagons into the 1930's, although a mechanized fire truck was available in the village in 1919.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
Calumet, MI - Mining BuildingCalumet, MI - Mining BuildingDuring its peak, the Calumet township, which included the two villages of Calumet (one also originally known as Red Jacket) and Laurium had a combined population of almost 33,000 in 1910. Almost 5,000 of those residents lived in Calumet (Red Jacket) where today the population is less than 800.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
Calumet, MI - BuildingsCalumet, MI - BuildingsBy 1900, Calumet (then named Red Jacket) had just under 5,000 residents, but in 1913 and 1914, the population began to leave due to a major strike by mining workers. The loss of copper demand after World War I, along with the Great Depression, further lead to the towns decline. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Calumet, MI - DoorCalumet, MI - DoorDuring the Copper Country Strike of 1913-1914, families gathered for a Christmas Eve party in an Italian Hall. Someone ran into the hall and yelled "fire", which led to a stampede down a stairwell to some closed doors, resulting in 74 deaths, mostly children. While it will likely never be known for sure, some say it was an act by local copper bosses, while others say it was a tragic accident. Today it is known as both, the Italian Hall Disaster, and the Christmas Eve 1913 Massacre.

Photo of another building, not the Italian Hall, by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Meanwhile, just outside of Hancock is the historic Quincy Mine Shaft No. 2 (We still have lots of pictures to add, but here's a taste and some history behind this one of kind operation). 

Hancock, MI - Quincy Mine #2 Hoist HouseHancock, MI - Quincy Mine #2 Hoist HouseThe Quincy Mining Company, one of the commercially successful mines in the region, housed the worlds largest steam hoist at the No. 2 Mine shaft. The contraption in this photo was the only communication used to the other building where the mine cars were pulled up. An operator, usually someone trained in a generational capacity (Father, Son, etc), would use a series of dials and lights to know when to stop the hoist and when to start it. This operator was one of only a few positions that only worked eight hours a day, with the rest of the miners working twelve hour shifts.

Photo by Dave Alexander.
Hancock, MI - Quincy Mine Model-Backside Looking NorthwestHancock, MI - Quincy Mine Model-Backside Looking NorthwestAn extensive set of copper mines just outside of Hancock, the Quincy Mining Company began operation in 1846, with some activity lasting until the 1970's, though most of the operation stopped around 1945. At first it was actually two companies who, due to bad communications in government offices, had purchased the same tracts of land during the mining rush of the 1840's. The directors of Northwest Mining Company and Portage Mining Company met and decided to merge as a result.

This model shows the extensive buildings, some of which still stand, at Mine Shaft No. 2, which is open for tours.

Photo by Dave Alexander.
Hancock, MI - Quincy Mine TrainHancock, MI - Quincy Mine TrainAt the Quincy Mine Shaft No. 2, the worlds deepest shaft when operations ceased in 1945 at over 9,200 feet, ore was raised using the world's largest steam-driven mine hoist, built in 1918. The Hoist would pull the 10 ton cars, each with 10 ton of ore up the shaft and then dump them into rail cars to be taken to a nearby smelter. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Hancock, MI - Quincy Mine Shaft Rock House-2Hancock, MI - Quincy Mine Shaft Rock House-2At the Quincy Mine Shaft No. 2, the Rock House is where the cars of ore, and miners, were pulled up from the depths of the worlds deepest shaft with a series of pullies connected to the hoist, which is housed in a separate building. The building that houses the largest steam-driven hoist in the world (not shown here) was spared no expense, and sat on the largest concrete slab ever poured at the time, containing 3200 cubic yards of cement and over 8 tons of reinforcement. The Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Hancock, MI - Quincy Mine Shaft Rock HouseHancock, MI - Quincy Mine Shaft Rock HouseIn the Quincy Mine Shaft No. 2 Rock House, we find an Ore Car (left) next to a miners car (right) sitting on the two separate tracks used at the operation. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Hancock, MI - Quincy Mine Shaft Rock House InteriorHancock, MI - Quincy Mine Shaft Rock House InteriorPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. Ripley, MI - Quincy Smelter From Houghton-3Ripley, MI - Quincy Smelter From Houghton-3The best photo's of the historic Quincy Mining Company Smelter seem to be across the river from Hancock in Houghton. As of this writing, the historic buildings are in the midst of controversy, with the EPA and National Park Service wanting to turn the site into a historic self-tour area, and others wanting to create shops or condo's on the site. The land is currently owned by the Franklin Township. Photo by Dave Alexander.

We have a lot to write about, and many more photos to add, so be sure to check back for more soon via the Keweenaw Peninsula Photo Gallery and of course our stories on Legends Of America


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