Visit the Upper Peninsula of
From 1843 to the 1920's, the Upper Peninsula was the only place on earth where pure, workable native copper was found in commercial quantities.
The copper found on Lake Superior came out of the ground so free of adulterants that it could be formed into pots and pans without refining or processing.
If you are fascinated by the aura of the past, the Keweenaw Peninsula is the place for you. Wander among ruins of old mines and locations that used to be teeming with excitement. In the late 1800's and early 1900's the Keweenaw Peninsula was alive with the sounds of the copper mines. The miners' picks are quiet now, the families are gone, and all that is left is the sound of the wind rustling through the ruins of these abandoned mines and buildings. DO NOT ENTER THE BUILDINGS OR RUINS.
Many of the mining towns of the once thriving Copper Country are all but deserted. All that remains are a few old mine shafts, piles of tailings, some deserted houses over 100 years old, and broken foundations and rubble.
Villages were built at the site of the mines and were known as Locations. Sometimes, as at the Cliff Mine Location, all you will see is a grassy clearing, apple trees, and maybe an old cemetery. Some of the locations are still small towns but you can pick out the old mining buildings by their foundations and the narrow siding on the houses. Other locations have a few people living in the area. A few of the old mining houses are used by summer residents.
Recapture the aura of the mining era when copper was king by walking or driving through some of these ghost locations. Conditions in the late 1800's and early 1900's were tough and these men, women and children were strong and courageous. Winters were long and hard, supplies were brought in by boat and had to last all winter, and conveniences were few, but these people from all over the world established homes, churches, schools, and provided the country with the purest copper known throughout the world.
There are still some summer residents here and a few hardy souls who stay all winter. There are no stores or gas stations, so plan accordingly.
Your first glimpse is the old house at the top of a small hill, the remains of one of the "double"houses that were built at that time. Turn right on the dirt road and go around the foundation of what was probably the old general store on your right and you are on the Main Street of Mandan. If you keep going down Main Street and turn to the right you will be back on highway 41.
This was the site of the Mandan Mining Company (1863) and was home at one time to about 300 people. At this time, there are three or four houses left that are apparently used by summer residents, and you can see many old foundations and the remains of some unfortunate houses that have collapsed. At one time there were 10 houses in double rows on each side of Main Street.
The school, built in 1907, was on a little hill and faced the woods but all that remains is the foundation. In the early 1900's the town was at the end of the line for the railroad and had a railroad depot. Some say the town was named for a local Indian tribe that used red dye for decorations and mandan is a Welsh word for red dye, while others say it was named for "that man Dan", Daniel Spencer, a Scotish-Irish miner from Canada.
Shallow pits indicate ancient miners were here for centuries before Alexander Henry arrived in 1766. The site was not explored again until the mid 1800's. A village sprung up around the mine and restoration is presently in progress.
Several buildings have been completed and others are in the midst of reconstruction in a location formerly called Finn Town. These hand hewn log cabins, built nearly 100 years ago to serve as housing for the miners at the Victoria Copper Mine, can be viewed from the road and they are open so you can walk through the furnished rooms.
In addition to the Finns, other European immigrant miners were Croatian, Austrian, Italian, Canadian, Swedish, and Cornish.
A caretaker lives on the site and gives a tour of the location from 11:30 am-5:30 pm Memorial Day Weekend through Fall Color Season. There is an annual craft fair -a major fundraiser- on the third Sunday in August.
Old Victoria is located near Rockland, approximately 10 miles south of Ontonagon.
Copper Country Road Trips: Enjoy Keweenaw History From The Comfort Of Your Car, by Lawrence J. Molloy. Guide book for tours of mainly mining locations, sites and ruins plus other historical sites. Includes maps, pictures, historical information and precise directions. Find the hidden ghost towns. Published and printed by Great Lakes GeoScience, Hubbell, Michigan. Available at U.P. Candle Company, Gitche Gumee Landing, 202 Ontonagon Street, Ontonagon, MI 49553 or by mail order. Phone: 906-884-6618.
Are there ghosts roaming the old ruins and lighthouses in the Upper Peninsula?
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