Ontonagon County Mines

Ontonagon County Michigan


There are five copper mines in Ontonagon county, three good producers and three in the stages of development or uncertainty. The Michigan Mass and Victoria mines are the active producers and are considered among the best copper properties in the Upper Peninsula. The Michigan Copper Mining Company was organized January 5, 1899 with a capital of $2,500,000. Its location comprises 6,686 acres and includes 4,870 acres of mineral territory 1,466 of timber and miscellaneous lands and a 150 acre mill site. The main tract is three miles east and west by four and a half north and south active operations being conducted at Rockland northeast of the center of the county. Included in the Michigan location are these three old mines the Minnesota Rockland and Superior. It was in the Minnesota tract that the prehistoric pits were discovered noted in the general chapter on copper mining and which led to the opening of the modern mine in 1847. In one of the pits was a 6 ton mass of copper raised on skids on top of which grew a hemlock tree having nearly 400 rings of annual growth. Immense masses of virgin copper were taken from the Minnesota the largest found in 1856 measuring 12 feet 6 inches by 18 feet 6 inches by 46 inches weighing 527 short tons and requiring the work of 20 men for 15 months in cutting it into pieces small enough for hoisting. See Copper Manitou From 1847 to its closing in 1870 the Minnesota produced 34.704 668 pounds of fine copper and paid $1,820,000 dividends. The Rockland lying east of Minnesota was operated in 1853 70 with an output of 6,210,309 pounds and the Superior about a mile east of the present workings made 567,331 pounds during the periods of its activity 1856 69 and 1876 9

The present Michigan mine is a combination of two new mines and a reopened old location its shafts being sunk on a bed which outcrops a few feet north of the North Minnesota fissure A few miles to the northeast are the Mass and Adventure mines. The Michigan mine has ten miles of underground workings employs about 450 men is opened by three shafts and produces from 1,900,000 to 2,900,000 pounds of copper annually. Its new stamp mill is about a mile north of the Mass plant at Keweenaw Bay water being secured through a 1,200 foot tunnel A distinctive feature of the copper which is produced by the Michigan mine is its high electrical conductivity in which quality it surpasses all other Lake Superior varieties.

The mining town of Rockland has a population of about 1,500 is a station on the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul road twelve miles southeast of Ontonagon has an opera house weekly newspaper Reporter and a bank three churches Catholic Methodist and Episcopalian and is quite a place It was first settled in 1859. is quite a place It was first settled in 1859 Mass Consolidated Mining Company was also organized in 1899 and capitalized at $2,500,000. Its location of 2,400 acres embraces the old Ridge Mass and Ogima mines and the old prospects known as the Merrimac and Hazard the joint production of which under previous managements was 11,131,023 pounds of fine copper. The Ridge mine operated from 1850-74 made 5,134 449 pounds of copper and paid $100,000 in dividends the Mass mine opened in 1856 and worked intermittently until 1886 had a total output of 5,014, 266 pounds and the Ogima from 1860 to 1868 produced 982,308 pounds. The Mass has openings on all of its copper bearing beds As a whole it is rich in mass copper and carries considerable silver. In addition to the usual mine buildings there are about sixty good dwellings on the location also a town site Mass City which is the terminus of the Mineral Range Railroad and a station on the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul line. It has a bank shipping facilities and several churches The Mass stamp mill is at Keweenaw Bay on the west shore of that body of water in Baraga county at the junction of the Mineral Range and Duluth South Shore & Atlantic railways thirty four miles northeast of the mine, Here are also wharves a warehouse shops and quite a collection of dwellings. In 1909 the Mass mine produced 1,723,436 pounds of refined copper.

The Victoria Copper Mining Company was organized in 1899 with a capital of $2,500,000 and its location of 2,395 acres is just west of the Ontonagon river four miles from Rockland which is its banking and shipping point and sixteen miles south of the county seat. Its tract is nearly three miles in length north and south and two miles at its widest part The first attempt at Lake Superior copper mining in historic times was made on what is now Victoria property in the winter of 1770-71 see general history of copper mining. In 1849 the property was opened under the name of Cushin on a line of prehistoric pits containing masses of native copper one weighing upwards of a ton. In the following year the name was changed to Forest and reorganized in 1858 as Victoria Mining Company Under these names the mine produced about 1,279 pounds of fine copper at a loss of $180,000. The first stamp mill was burned by a forest fire and the second was swept away by a flood. In 1849 55 the property was operated on a small scale and thereafter spasmodically. The mine was unwatered in 1881 but remained idle until work was begun by the present company March 1, 1899. The present productive openings are on what is known as the Forest lode. Besides small shops a boarding house general store school house and about sixty dwellings the company owns a sawmill and a $200,000 water power developed from Glenn falls on the west branch of the Ontonagon river about a mile from the mine. This has been pronounced the best natural water power of the copper region the stream dropping one hundred fifty feet over a series of small falls within one and a half miles. Power is developed by means of a dam which is 320 feet between abutments a canal nearly 6,000 feet long and three vertical inlet shafts through which the air supply of the mine in the shape of air bubbles is forced into it by the pressure of the falling water from above. At the bottom of the shafts is a long tunnel through which the air bubbles are drawn into the air compressor. The hydraulic pneumatic power plant was completed in May 1906 and is said to be the most powerful single unit air compressor in existence. The mine and stamp mill the latter near the hydraulic works are connected by a tramway of 4,800 feet and although the buildings are not of the largest they are modernly equipped. Its great advantage over many large mines is its cheap power. The mine's product of refined copper in 1909 was 1,062,218 pounds product

The Adventure mine location is at Greenland in the township by that name and comprises nearly 1,700 acres including the old Adventure and Hilton tracts in one body to the eastward and the Knowlton tract one mile southwest The Adventure mine was first opened in 1850 along a line of ancient pits its largest annual production in 1857 being 1,941 pounds. In 1863 the Hilton or Ohio mine was opened but never actively worked. The Knowlton commenced operations in 1853. Altogether the three old mines produced only 1,173 pounds of refined copper previous to their merging as the Adventure Consolidated November 1, 1898. The property is served by a spur of the Copper Range Railroad the stamp mill at Edgemere. Lake Superior went into commission September 22, 1902. As a whole the operations of the Adventure have been disappointing and its future is uncertain Prospects for the Lake mine at Belt are quite encouraging. The 720 acres of land owned by the Lake Copper Company which was organized in 1905 are located in direct line of the principal copper bearing lodes of the Ontonagon district and its bed is thought to be a continuation of the great Baltic lodes twenty miles to the northeast. This property includes a part of the old Belt mine opened in 1848 which was taken over in 1882 by the Belt Mines Company limited which sunk much money to little purpose. The first work by the present company was done on the Knowlton and Butler beds but developments were not encouraging until late in 1906 when the new bed was opened which is hoped to be a continuance of the rich Baltic lode with all that name implies.

Developmental work is also progressing on the location of the North Lake mine at Greenland. The company which runs a 1,120 acre tract at this point was organized in 1908 and its property is traversed by both the Mineral Range and Copper Range railways and is crossed by the Fire Steel river.

Altogether the mines of Ontonagon county employ between eight and nine hundred men

A history of the northern peninsula of Michigan and its people: its mining ... by Alvah Littlefield Sawyer 1911