Historically speaking

Frank Matthews was one-man chamber of commerce for city of Negaunee

Frank Matthews, left, is seen with Gov. G. Mennen Williams, center and state Rep. Dominic Jacobetti, D-Negaunee. The photo was taken in 1957. (Photo courtesy of the Negaunee Historical Society)

NEGAUNEE — Frank Matthews was well known as Negaunee’s historian having a small museum of mining artifacts in his yard on U.S. 41 in Negaunee Township.

In all of his presentations, Frank wanted people to know that Negaunee was the home of the discovery of iron ore. He marched in many parades with a mule, a lunch box and a mining helmet with a candle.

The mule was the beast of burden significant with early mining in the Jackson Mine. In the 1957 photo, Frank is conversing with Michigan’s Gov. Milliken and state Rep.Dominc Jacobetti. I can only imagine that he is bargaining with the governor to put the Negaunee on the map, so it isn’t surprising that Frank made the trip to the Mackinac Bridge on opening day.

From the Iron Herald in November 1957: Among the most active representatives of Upper Peninsula communities represented at the Mackinac Straits Bridge opening was Negaunee’s one man chamber of commerce, Frank Matthews.

Accompanied by his wife, Frank left Negaunee on Thursday afternoon (bridge opening on Friday) in order to reach St. Ignace in ample time for the festivities. The trip was made in his station wagon which was appropriately brandes for the occasion.

Letters were cut from masking tape and attached to the vehicle to inform straits bridge visitors that Negaunee was the site of the original discovery of iron ore and other pertinent facts about Negaunee.

On the front bumper were mounted miners helmets and picks. Frank took with him samples of iron ore which came from the Jackson Pit, the scene of the first mining operations.

He had 150 copies of the brochure designed for tourists, which was sponsored jointly by several business concerns, the city of Negaunee and the Business and Professional Association.

There were numerous requests for the iron ore samples which of course were only for exhibition purposes as he wouldn’t part with them.

“As far as the brochures were concerned, we couldn’t have had anything better to inform people about Negaunee. The only trouble was the the supply ran out too quickly, I could have distributed at least 2,000 of the,” replied Frank. In line early at the barricade, Frank and his wife were the first car in the caravan behind the state dignitaries on the southbound crossing to the Mackinac side.

“Actually, we would have been the first private citizens to pay the toll charge, except they didn’t collect this fee until on the way back, and by that time with all of the ceremonies in connection with the governor paying his toll, the crowds were already moving across the bridge from St. Ignace,” Frank said.

Mr. Matthews and his wife are making plans to be on hand for the bridge dedication ceremonies in St. Ignace in June.(1958) “We have a lot of time to think up some good ideas, but would appreciate any suggestions on how Negaunee can be publicized on this occasion. We’ll come up with something good, but I believe the city should be represented by cars, both official and unofficial when the dedication observance is held,” he said.

Also representing Negaunee among the state officials was Jacobetti.

Also attending the ceremonies were Negaunee residents,were Mr. and Mrs. Carl Danielson and Mr. and Mrs. Albert Hendrickson.

Frank Matthews would be happy to know that many Negaunee vehicles have crossed that bridge, bearing the name Negaunee Miners.


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