Keweenaw County MI

The Phoenix Copper Mine

The Phoenix Mine in the background (1930s) - Contributed by Paul Petosky

The Phoenix Copper Company is the outgrowth of the old Lake Superior Copper Company, one of the pioneer enterprises of the copper region, the originators of which were among the first to take out permits from the War Department, after the extinguishment of the Indian title, in 1843. The Trustees of this organization, which so early secured leases of seven three-mile square locations in Keweenaw Comity, were David Henshaw and Samuel Williams, of Boston; D. O. Jones, of Detroit; and Col. Charles H. Gratiot, who had recently been engaged in the lead mines of Missouri.

Dr. C. T. Jackson was employed to examine this location, and reported several veins on the property, and, on his recommendation, work was commenced in the east bank of Eagle River, near the center of the line between Sections 11 and 30, Township 58 north, Range 31 west, at first under his direction, afterward under the direction of Col. Gratiot, who was working fifteen men. In August, 1845, a stamp-mill, which had been purchased at Detroit, was put into operation. This was the first stamp-mill on Lake Superior, and, as is usual in first attempts, before the real necessities in the case are understood, it proved unsuccessful. This proved a serious drawback to the operations, although work was prosecuted with vigor, and, in 1845 an estimated product of 550 tons of mineral was taken out. The main shaft had been sunk on a pocket of copper and silver, which was soon exhausted, and, in an effort to recover the vein, a tunnel was rim under the river, at a depth of ninety feet from the top of the shaft, in which a crevice, tilled with gravel and accumulations that showed the evident action of water, and. in a deeper hole, made by the current of this old stream, mingled with other deposits, were found about eighteen thousand pounds of copper, and an amount of silver - how much of the latter was never known, as it was largely appropriated by the miners: one piece, however, weighing eight and two-thirds pounds—one of the largest ever discovered in the copper region—came into the possession of the company, and is now in possession of the Philadelphia mint.

During the year 1846, a shaft was sunk about ninety feet in the vein found in this ancient stream-bed, which completed the work at this point. Mr. C. C. Douglas, the agent, and the men who were suspected of appropriating the silver, were discharged, and a Mr. Coryell appointed as agent, who, after the failure of a Mr. Taylor, of Detroit, to erect a stamp-mill that would do the work required, being the second attempt in that direction already made, changed his base to the south of the greenstone, stimulated thereto by the great success of the Cliff.

The original estate comprised about forty thousand acres. This was reduced by the sale of 5,500 acres, on which they realized $33,000, renewing tho lease on the balance for three years, not having tho funds to purchase it at the $2.50 per acre as by a late law of Congress, they were permitted to do.

The Phoenix Mine (1940s) - Contributed by Paul Petosky

After expending $100,833.40, they resolved to sell out to a new organization, and the entire assets of the Lake Superior Copper Company were turned over to the Phoenix Copper Company, which had been organized for that purpose under a special charter, March 16, 1849, with a capital stock of $300,000. The shares were placed at $100 each, but in 1851 the charter wan amended, making the shares $30 each. The incorporators were Joseph W. Ward, Richard Pitts and Benjamin Graves. The Board of Directors were A. W. Spencer. J. W. Ward, Mark Healy, B. W. Balch, all of Boston; Simon Mandlebanm, of Eagle River; A, W. Spencer, President; Horatio Bigelow, Secretary and Treasurer.

No less than live distinct veins were known to exist on the property, but of their practical value, or what other veins might exist, but little was known. The five veins were called, respectively, Phoenix, East Phoenix, Armstrong and Ward, in Section 10; and the Bobbins Vein, south of the greenstone.

From 1850 to 1853, the work was in charge of Simon Maudlebaum as agent. In work done in some ancient pits in the New Phoenix, at a depth of ten feet, 1,200 pounds of copper were taken out, and, in driving a 000-foot adit on the vein, a mass of copper weighing 2,300 pounds was obtained. In 1851, thirteen tons of 60 per cent copper were shipped.

During these years, no persistent work was done in any one locality; shafts were sunk to a depth of forty, fifty or seventy-five feet, a little drifting done, and then abandoned. Adits were carried indiscriminately from 150 to 000 feet in places, and then abandoned.

In June, 1853, the work was placed in charge of Mr. S. W. Hill, who was instructed to examine the property, which then consisted of 1,703 acres, geologically, and to determine the most favorable points for operations.

In 1855, work was commenced on the ash bed, and the product, for three years, was raised from 10,847 pounds to 65,000 pounds. As there was not sufficient water at that point in Eagle River to run the necessary number of stamps to make the work profitable, a steam engine—the heaviest then on the lake—was put in, and a new stamp-mill, with forty-eight heads of Wagner's stamps, was erected, and twenty-five to thirty tons of refined copper was yearly produced.

In 1868, work was commenced on the Phoenix and Hobbins Vein, south of the greenstone. In 1865, the capital stock had been exhausted by assessments, and it became necessary to re-organize, in order to make more demands for funds to prosecute the work. That year, 241,158 pounds of ingot copper were produced, which sold at an average of 29 1/2 cents per pound. In 1866-67, the vein pinched in, and the product only reached 130 tons ingot. In 1869, it again widened, and yielded 4-00 tons, increasing, in 1870, to 500 tons ingot, and, in 1871, 1,310,350 refined copper.

In 1872, Frank G. White was appointed agent. The product that year was 728,350 pounds refined copper, which sold at 34.71 cents per pound. Tho total assessments up to this time had been $817,500.

In 1873, a large amount of sinking and drifting was done, but the product only reached 521,081 pounds of refined copper. An explosion of dualine killed Capt. John Hoatson and five men, Capt. Ed Parnell succeeded as Mining Captain.

In 1874, a surplus of $25,000 above the working expenses was earned. An inclined shaft was sunk on the Bobbins Vein, 3,300 feet on the incline; a new engine, hoisting machinery and shaft house added; 1,398,440 pounds of refined copper were produced.

In 1875, besides the 900 tons of copper, there was also obtained 4,732 ounces of silver. A profit of $75,000 was made that year; and the year following, more ground was opened, and a surplus of $107,180 was earned, from which a dividend of $1 per share was paid—its first and only dividend.

The company now owns 2,477 acres, and are arranging to work on the ash bed, where an adit ninety feet above the lake is being sunk 2,300 feet to intersect an old shaft at the second level, 150 feet below the surface. A stamp-mill will be built on the north for the use of this mine.

In 1882. they added to the old mining plant a Norwalk compressor and five Rand drills. The vein has improved in character, and the production of copper is increasing. In order to get out the masses and stamp rock, they are. however, obliged to raise about four pounds of rock to get one pound for the stamp-mill. They are stamping about one thousand tons a month, and raising daily from 150 to 175 tons of rock. The production is mostly mass copper. The production for 1882 will approximate 500 tons. One mass of some 22,000 to 23,000 pounds was cut up and shipped at Eagle River the last of July.

They are now working at a depth of 1,200 feet; the longest level is 1,400 feet; the bottom level is 500 feet, and still extending in both directions.

The product for 1880 was 290 tons ingot; for 1881, 303^ tons; and for six months in 1882, was 105 tons 185 pounds, with a fair prospect of reaching to 450 or 500 tons this year.

Mr. M. A. Delano, who so ably succeeded Mr. White some eight years since, is local agent. William H. Hunt, President; William C. Coffin. Secretary—office. No. 8 Olive street, Boston; and Richard Bawden, Mining Captain. The capital is divided into 40,000 shares of $25 each.

History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - Iron and Copper Mines 1883