Historically speaking

The John B. Maas home in the city of Negaunee is pictured. (Photo courtesy of the Negaunee Historical Society)

NEGAUNEE — John B. Maas was born in Germany on July 6, 1826. He emigrated to the United States in 1846 and came to the Upper Peninsula in 1851.

He was a livestock raiser and a butcher in Eagle River Wisconsin. He came to Marquette in1858 and was employed by the Houghton and Ontonagon Railroad until 1864.

He moved to Negaunee in 1871. At that time, Capt. Mitchell and N. Lornsdorf leased the Saginaw Mine in Ishpeming. In 1876 the three of them with Mr. Breitung leased the Humboldt Mine.

In 1872, Maas, Lornsdorf and Mitchell started the First National Bank of Negaunee. John Maas married Angeline Scion of Germany on August 10, 1851.

They had eight sons and one daughter and lived on Cyr Street in Negaunee. The sixth son, George J. Maas, contributed much to Negaunee’s history. George Maas was born in Marquette on June 30,1861. George attended Negaunee Public School and graduated in 1878 being one of the first to graduate from Negaunee High School.

For two years after graduation, he attended the University of Michigan. He then left with his brother Dr. R.J. Maas of Houghton, for Europe where he studied at European universities. One of them being a mining college at Frieburg, Germany where he graduated with honors.

He returned to Negaunee in 1886 and began to explore the region for iron ore. Mr. Maas’s first exploratory work was near Humboldt. He soon became known as a skilled explorer and his advice and expertise was greatly valued. after working at the First national Bank for a year, he moved to the Menominee Iron Range, where he located a number of valuable tracts and invested in timber land.

He returned to Negaunee in 1897, shortly before his father’s death. George then started to give a great deal of attention to the local mining field after a thorough study of geological indications concluded that the district east and north of the city that was settled offered a promising mine field.

He began systematic diamond drilling with the result being the discovery of what is known as the Maas Mine. That mine was at the east end of Prince and Cherry Streets.

The property was later transferred to the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company in 1901. The deal netted Mr. Maas a handsome sum of money and also brought financial security to a number of Negaunee families who had used the property for farming.

Mr. Maas had a number of patents and one in particular was an instrument to determine the direction that a diamond drill bit is taking. This instrument is used all over the world. Mr. Mass’ work contributed greatly to the history of mining in this area.

George was married to Miss Rose Suess on May 14, 1901. She was the daughter of Daniel Suess,a Milwaukee pioneer and a member of the original firm of Winter and Suess who ran a meat market and grocery business in Negaunee. They had one son, William Gwinn Mather Maas. The Mather Mine was named for George’s son as was the town of Gwinn.

William Gwinn Mather Maas, along with his father, served as treasurer, president and chief executive officer of Cleveland Cliffs and its predecessor companies from 1854-1933.

George Maas had a beautiful Georgian-type home on the east end of Main Street where he and his family resided. The home was demolished in the mid 1950’s when most of the east end of town was moved due to caving grounds.

The Maas mansion was considered too big to move. Much of it was repurposed into garages. The mahogany walls were used in a den in another home on Main Street.

Mr. George Maas died at his home on Dec. 3, 1915. He is buried in the Negaunee cemetery.


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