ghost towns of the keweenaw pennsulaGhost Towns of the

Keweenaw Peninsula

Visit the Upper Peninsula of
Michigan's world famous
"Copper Country"

 

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.

ghost mining towns

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.


CENTRAL MINE
At one time Central Mine, opened in 1854, was a top copper producer. It was located in an ancient mining pit along an outcrop below a Greenstone Bluff.

The remains of this town are located on the west side of highway 41 just 4 miles north of Phoenix. Cornish miners and their families flocked from Britain and with their extensive mining knowledge they helped make this a successful venture. There are several buildings still standing, most of them occupied by summer residents. You can still see some of the old mine buildings and rock piles as you drive through the village. The old Methodist Episcopal Church, erected in 1868, has been recently restored. There is a reunion held the last Sunday in July with two services at 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. Many descendants of the original miners form the majority of the congregation on Reunion Sunday but visitors are always welcome.


CLIFF
A lively village grew up around the fabulous Cliff Mine, established in 1844 by John Hayes, a pharmacist from Pittsburgh, PA. It was the first profitable mine in the Keweenaw. At its peak, 840 men were employed. Great copper masses were found regularly at the Cliff Mine. Many were so immense (50-100 tons) they required days of cutting before they could be divided into sections small enough to transport to the dock at Eagle River. The Cliff produced over 40 million pounds of copper. The village was clustered around the mine at the base of the cliff where a cemetery still exists across the west branch of the Eagle River. Later the village moved across the road where the Keweenaw Central Railroad established a station. Beyond the tracks is the old German Cemetery. The Cliff Mine closed in 1873. Unfortunately, little remains except some old foundations and rock piles. The Cliff is located just left of highway 41 north of Mohawk.

DELAWARE
Only a few foundations remain of the historic town of Delaware, located on the east side of Highway 41, 12 miles south of Copper Harbor. Some of the old houses seen in this picture have recently fallen down or have been torn down, but you can see the old foundations. The Delaware Mine (1874) is located on the west side of the highway.

GAY
Just a few miles east of Kersearge on the east shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula in the village of Gay. The Mohawk Mining Company built its stamp mill here in 1898. Gay is located at the water's edge because water was needed for the flotation method of separating copper from ore and the large lake offered ideal dumping ground for the tons of residual stamp sand. By 1932 the stamp sand went out a mile past the original shore. Gay was named for Joseph E. Gay, one of the founders of the Mohawk and Wolverine Mining Companies. The 265' Gay smokestack still stands and serves as a landmark for boaters.

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.

MANDAN
If you are interested in seeing a realistic ghost town, your trip is not complete without a drive through Mandan. About four miles north of Delaware on highway 41, is a post on the right that reads Mandan. Turn east and follow the little dirt road for a few feet and you will see the old buildings left from a once thriving mining town.

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.

PHOENIX
Phoenix is located on highway 41 at the junction of M-26 to Eagle River. Once (about 1872) a thriving mining town of around 500 to 1000 people, but today there are only a few old buildings and the Phoenix Church remaining at the site of the old mine. St. Mary's Church was built in 1858 to serve the Catholic residents of the mining community of Cliff, the scene of the area's first major copper discovery in 1844. In 1899 the church was dismantled and reassembled in Phoenix, where it was renamed the Church of the Assumption. The Keweenaw County Historical Society has purchased and restored the property so the Phoenix Church appears much as it did over 100 years ago. (
map)


QUINCY MINE SMELTER

The remains of the Quincy Smelter sit on the shores of Portage Lake in Hancock. Copper ore from the Quincy Mine was turned into ignots and shipped to factories.

Built in 1898, this is the only copper smelter site remaining in the Lake Superior Region.

Hopefully this historic site will be restored.


OLD VICTORIA
One of the first sites ever mined for copper in the new world is a very picturesque ghost town. This is where the famous "Ontonagon Boulder" was discovered in the Ontonagon river. The Boulder is now resting in the National Museum of Natural Science at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

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?

Brief History of Copper Mining in the Keweenaw Peninsula

E-Mail for General Information

Maps Showing the Location of the Keweenaw Peninsula

Map of the Ghost Towns

A Ghostly Road Tour of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.True Stories of Ghostly Hauntings in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" by Jan Langley. Tour these interesting haunted places in the comfort of your chair or visit them when you are in the Upper Peninsula.
 
Startled from their Graves: Ghosts of Michigan.  Enjoy this exciting new collection of ghost stories from the thumb of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. Take a journey to mysterious places where unusual happenings have occurred and spirits have been Startled from their Graves.
 
The Captain and Harry, A Children’s Book about the Seul Choix Pointe Lighthouse.  Captain Joseph Townshend, lighthouse keeper from 1901-1910, joins Harry, a very fat field mouse, for mysterious adventures

 

Adventures in the Upper Peninsula
Recreation & Attractions in the Upper Peninsula
Exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula
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