Copper Country Road Trips has been updated
& filled with Photographs, Maps, and Tours of the Keweenaw
. . . Past & Present

A Guide to Michigan's Historic Keweenaw Copper District

Enjoy Keweenaw History From The Comfort Of Your Car

by Lawrence J. Molloy


Excerpts from the Houghton - Calumet Tour Loop; going east on M-26 from Hancock to the outskirts of Hubbell (Map). These excerpts are from the original book, Copper Country Road Trips. The new edition, A Guide to Michigan's Historic Keweenaw Copper District contains additional maps, photographs, and information.

guide to copper mining, upper peninsula

(From Hancock,) It may be hard to miss seeing the Quincy Smelter complex further to your east along M-26, but it is difficult to find a public spot in which to pull over and view the site. Some of the best views are obtained from the public parks on the Houghton shore. Many buildings exist at the closed, non public site. It may be tempting to explore the location but winter storms have taken their toll and it is not safe to go past the 'No Trespassing' signs and enter the area. There is an effort to try to acquire the site in order to save some of the structures and incorporate them into the Keweenaw National Historic Park.

From 1898 to 1967 the Quincy Mining Company smelter at Ripley smelt copper first from its mines and then later from its reclamation plant. The smelter complex is built on the stamp sand of the Pewabic mines' mill. The smelter continued to melt scrap copper until 1971. Among the buildings remaining on the site are the three-story blast furnace, or cupola, the 1898 furnace copper mining in the keweenaw peninsulabuilding with its 1904 addition to house additional reverberatory furnaces, and a 1910 addition to house an automatic casting machine. The sandstone faced, mineral warehouse was built in 1904. It was reached by a 460-foot trestle. The site also includes three rectangular warehouses, a concrete block briquetting plant that was built in 1906, three small warehouses, a powerhouse, a casting house, carpenter and cooper (barrel making) shop, machine shop, and laboratory.

About 3/10 of a mile from the smelter on M-26, in Ripley, you'll find the Mont Ripley Ski area, the site of the Franklin Mill and Tram Road. In the winter the parking lot is full of cars, but in the summer you have a chance to pull in and get a view of the Franklin Mining Company Mill site and tram road. The Franklin mine was just north of the Quincy. To go from their mine to their stamp mill, which was not too far from the parking lot nearer to the Portage Lake shore, the Franklin Mining Company had a gravity powered, dual car, tram railroad. Like the Quincy and Pewabic trams the loaded car going down pulled the empty car up the hill.

copper mining history, keweenaw As you leave Mason (about 4/10 of a mile) you'll see the Quincy Mill on your left across the road and the Quincy Dredge Number Two on the shore on your right. Tour busses have been known to pull over on the wide road shoulder in this area to let visitors view the dredge and mill area. The large, box like vessel beached on the shore is a mining dredge. The sand it sucked up and sent to land was dumped into the lake years earlier as a waste product of milling. The Calumet & Hecla Mining Company used this dredge (Dredge Number One) at their Lake Linden Reclamation Plant. It could process over 10,000 tons of sand per day. Built in 1913, it has a 141' suction pipe that could work 115 feet below water. In 1951 the Quincy purchased the dredge and it became known as Quincy Dredge Number Two. This proved to be excellent foresight, because Quincy Dredge Number One sank in a storm in January 1956. Quincy Dredge Number Two was used at the Mason reclamation facility until 1967.

Across the road from the dredge are the Quincy Mills. Construction began on this site in 1888 to replace the original Quincy Stamp mill on Portage Lake. The mill began with three stamps (hammer like devices used to crush rock) and two additional were added in 1892. The mill site keweenaw peninsula copper mineclosest to the dredge contained the 1890 mill. It was modified and additional buildings were added over time. The square building adjacent to it was a turbine building. As production increased, Stamp Mill Number Two, with three stamps, was built to the north of the Number 1 mill in 1900. Perhaps the best time to see the Number Two mill is in the early spring or fall when the view from the old railroad grade above the site provides an nice overview unobstructed by the summers' brush.

Approximately 6/10 of a mile from the Quincy Dredge look carefully at the waters of Torch Lake. The small object sticking out of the water is a sunken dredge. It is all that remains visible of the Quincy Dredge Number One, the original dredge purchased by the Quincy Mining Company that sank in a storm in January 1956.

After you've driven about 2 miles from the Quincy Mill you'll see the road curve and a sign near the curve says Tamarack City. Some maps refer to it as Tamarack Mills. On your right are some waste sands and on the left a solitary home in front of some cement foundations. It might not seem like it by the quiet nature of the spot, but three large, noisy, stamp mills were located within 3/10 of a mile of this sign.

Across the road about 3/10 of a mile before the sign was the Osceola Mining Company Mill. The original, wooden stamp mill was built by the Osceola Mining Company in 1886. It wascopper mining in the upper peninsula demolished in 1905. A second mill was built in 1899 and a third built in 1902. This last mill, had 4 compound steam pressure heads made by the Nordberg company, similar to the one still remaining at the Ahmeek Mill just up the road. The mill adjoins the Tamarack Mill as both companies shared management and facilities.

The white building just before the sign, across the road, behind the house, is part of the Lake Mill Number 2. The Lake Milling, Smelting, and Refining Company was long a factor in milling and smelting in the Keweenaw. They had many buildings in the area.

The large concrete foundations across the road are the remains of the Tamarack Mining Company Mill. After first leasing part of the Osceola Mill. Tamarack began building its first mill here in the summer of 1886. A second mill was added in 1896. As the Tamarack shared owners with the Osceola, the Osceola and Tamarack mills shared features such as a common pump house. A reclamation plant was also built on the site. The mills worked until 1917 when the Tamarack merged with the Calumet and Hecla. C&H eventually acquired control over most of the copper companies in the Keweenaw. C&H dismantled the mills here in 1920 to consolidate their operations.

guide book for copper mining in mi

It's easy to find the only remaining steam stamp in the Keweenaw. It's just up the road, on the right side of the road in Tamarack City. The Ahmeek Mill with its Nordberg Compound Stamp is easy to visit and photograph. The Ahmeek Mining Company had four of these steam-powered stamps installed in 1910, and four additional stamps were added in 1914. The large superstructure that covered the stamps can be seen in the accompanying photograph. A trestle, still visible between the trees across the street from the stamp, brought rock to the mill above the level of the stamp. The compound - expansion nature of the machine represented a major improvement in processing of copper ore. Approximately 104 24 inch blows could be struck by the stamp per minute. The mill could process approximately 7,000 tons of ore in a 24-hour period. This is one of the few places where a compound steam stamp may be seen in its original position. Another of the stamps from this mill did survive the scrap bin and is now on display, at ground level, in a mining museum in Colorado. While you are in Tamarack City you may notice a sign to Hungarian Falls. The upper and lower portions of this falls are about 3/4 of a mile west of town. (Follow M-26 into Hubbell).

A Guide to Michigan's Historic Copper District
(formerly Copper Country Road Trips)
Enjoy Keweenaw History From The Comfort Of Your Car

by Lawrence J. Molloy

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Ontonagon, Michigan, 49553
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Back to a description of the book A Guide to Michign's Historic Copper District
Enjoy Keweenaw History From The Comfort Of Your Car


Text and black and white pictures from "Copper Country Road Trips", reprinted with permission of Lawrence J. Molloy. Color pictures by Exploring the North, Inc.

MTU/CCHC after photos indicates that the pictures are from the Michigan Technological University Copper Country Historical Collection.

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