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Local archives gain valuable items

April 3, 2011
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - A plethora of historical documents recently found a new home in Marquette.

The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives at Northern Michigan University obtained official papers from former state Rep. Mike Prusi and former U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak. Stupak's contribution marks the first time the archives have received congressional papers.

Russell Magnaghi - NMU professor and interim department head of history, economics, philosophy, political science and public administration - said he urged Stupak to think about giving his papers to NMU.

He was also the driving force behind another recent addition to the archives: records from the Bay de Noquet Lumber Company and Oconto Lumber Company.

Magnaghi had been told about the collection in the past, but said he finally saw it for himself last year on a trip to Nahma, a small town on the Garden Peninsula.

Magnaghi said the records, which were later collected from the Nahma Historical Society and transferred to Marquette by NMU archivist Marcus Robyns, should offer a wonderful look into the region's history.

According to an NMU press release, the records show that the Bay de Noquet Lumber Company was established in 1881 and did business in Alger, Delta and Schoolcraft counties. The Oconto Lumber Company operated in northern Wisconsin. Both ceased operations in the 1950s.

A handful of regional lumber companies that existed in the period from the late 1800s into the mid 1900s did a great deal to shape the societies that now inhabit the Upper Peninsula. But when many of those companies closed their doors, the records were destroyed and lost forever.

"These companies had a huge impact on the development of the Upper Peninsula and the region," Magnaghi said.

"By making these records available, they are, first of all, preserved. They are also available to researchers and the public and we'll be able to maintain that story."

Magnaghi said local collectors and historical societies are often quite territorial about their collections, and he was pleasantly surprised when the society in Nahma offered its records.

"When I was there, there were all these piled boxes and papers around the edge of the museum, just sitting there," he said. "And the woman said, 'There are even more records in the back, but I'm not going to take you back there.' There were mice and, I think, bats.

"They had something very valuable there and keeping them in a wooden building in Nahma obviously wasn't the best idea."

The addition to NMU's collection will help the university and community, Magnaghi said.

"When you really start building a collection, people hear about you. They are used and footnoted and the whole area is seen as preserving its history," he said. "That benefits the university and the town and the whole area."

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is



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