Daniel H. Ball owned Vielmetti-Peters
By ADAM BERGER
Special to the Journal
MARQUETTE — In 2015, Kathy Peters donated 123 acres at the end of Brickyard Road in Negaunee Township to the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy (UPLC). The Vielmetti-Peters Conservation Reserve has become a favorite destination for outdoor recreation and education, a publicly accessible green space right next to Lowe’s and Meijer.
The Vielmetti-Peters Nature Reserve will soon be the cornerstone of the Dead River Community Forest. UPLC is currently raising money to purchase two more properties, adding 186 acres of public access, including extensive frontage along the Dead River, to form a 309-acre community forest.
The Dead River Community Forest will be an invaluable educational resource for Marquette County citizens. Learners of all ages will use this land to grow their knowledge of Upper Peninsula ecology.
This land also holds interesting lessons about Marquette County history. Consider the case of Daniel H. Ball, who owned the land in 1916. He lived at 411 E. Ridge St. in Marquette and apparently owned the land as a railroad investment.
Daniel Harvey Ball (1836-1918) was born in Sempronius, New York. When he was 1 year old, his family moved to Washtenaw County, Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan in 1860 where he studied law and soon joined the Michigan bar.
In 1861, Dan H. Ball moved to Marquette where he established a law practice. Early in his time in the Upper Peninsula, he was involved with the local publishing industry, working with the Lake Superior Journal, which later became The Mining Journal.
He then became the local registrar of the United States Land Office, serving in the position from 1862 to 1865. Respected in this role, he was reappointed by President Abraham Lincoln.
Ball moved to Houghton in 1866, ready to take advantage of the copper boom. He worked with some of the largest companies on the Copper Range, including Calumet-Hecla.
Returning to Marquette in 1870, Ball maintained practices in both cities for a time, but eventually came to focus on Marquette County. He worked cases concerning land and mineral rights for local investors including John Munro Longyear.
Ball also worked as attorney or director for railroad companies including the Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie & Mackinac, the Detroit, Mackinaw & Marquette, the Marquette & Western, and the Dead River Railroad Company. Ball’s ownership of Vielmetti-Peters seems to have been an investment in the latter company.
An eloquent trial lawyer, Ball became active in Upper Peninsula politics. When he returned to Marquette from Houghton, he served on the City Council. In 1872, Ball made the motion to establish a public library, and was one of the five original trustees of the beloved institution now known as the Peter White Public Library.
Not all of Ball’s political ambitions met with success. He ran for State Senator in 1896 but was defeated by Peter White.
From 1905 to 1914, Ball sat on the local board of education. His wife, Emma Everett Ball (1836-1922) was a teacher. She was the daughter of Philo Everett, the man often credited with opening the Marquette Iron Range after his party was shown iron deposits at Teal Lake by Ojibwe leader Mah-je-ge-zhik.
Dan H. Ball was president of the Marquette Bar Association for the final 15 years of his life. After his death while visiting Houghton in 1918, peers around Michigan recognized Ball for his fascinating, challenging career in land and mineral rights law.
Please stay informed about the Dead River Community Forest. There’s so much to learn from the land. Having publicly accessible forest reserve will help conserve knowledge of local ecology and history for future generations. The Dead River was called both Jiibay-Manidoo-Ziibi, meaning the river of spirits or the river of ghosts, and Noquemanon-Ziibi, river of the berry patch of the Noquet people. This land holds many important Native American stories, yet to be fully explored.
Readers interested in railroad history, please note that MRHC will hold a special exhibit on the topic in 2022. Stay tuned for more details.