Historically speaking: The mines of Ishpeming

From the Cleveland mine in the 1850s to the present-day Tilden mine, the Ishpeming area is littered with the ghosts of many mines. Some mines shipped tons of ore on an annual basis and others shipped nothing at all.

The New Burt mine located along CR 581 south of Ishpeming is one of the mines that never really shipped any ore. In the Lake Superior Iron Ores book from 1952, it is described as: “An old exploration before 1879; also known as Section 19 mine. It was reported by “Mines and Mineral Statistics,” Tom Hanna, 1902, as having some production but there is no record of tonnage. It is one of six mines along a line running to the southwest and is the only one that did not produce any tonnage. Little is written about this mine.

Of the six mines in that area, the best producing mine was the Saginaw. It opened in 1871 and shipped ore from 1872 to 1884 and again in 1891. It was first operated by Maas, Lonsdorf and Mitchell. They sold their lease to the Saginaw Mining Company in 1872 for a total of $300,000. That sum would equal over 6.5 million dollars today. The community of Stoneville grew up around the Saginaw mine and at its peak had 110 dwellings, several stores, and a sawmill, along with at least one church, Methodist. This church was later moved to the Salisbury location and became the Salisbury Methodist church. One of the stores was run by Charles Merryweather, who fought in the Civil War and witnessed the signing of the surrender by the Confederate forces. When the mine closed in 1884 due to the ore vein being exhausted, Stoneville became a ghost town.

Also along the line of mines was the New England mine. It was one of the early mines, with test pits sunk as early as 1864. It opened in 1868 and closed in 1873. A total of 110,506 tons was shipped. It is possible that this mine was entirely open pit, as many of the mines at that time were also open pit.

The Albion is another mine that has no official record of ore shipped, although Tom Hanna’s book lists it as producing about 4,592 tons. It was opened in 1872 by the St. Clair brothers and abandoned in 1879 after producing a small quantity of inferior ore. It was also known as the Gilmore mine.

The Goodrich mine was also operated by the St. Clair brothers, who had a bit more success with this mine. It was opened in 1873 and later operated by Capt. Goodrich of Chicago. The mine closed in 1882, but the State of Michigan Mineral Statistics report of 1885 wrote, “The Goodrich mine, which adjoins the Saginaw, is also idle, but not from the same cause. There is iron ore at the Goodrich, possibly a good deal of it. The mine was never worked in a very effective way, and never explored to much extent. It certainly appears to be a good property to explore thoroughly, and when the iron business revives sufficiently this section of country will, probably, be gone over in a way that may lead to excellent results. The aggregate production of the mine is 51,479 tons. The ore is scarcely first-class and could not be mined at a profit in the present state of the market.”

The last mine in that group, the Fitch mine, was another small mine. It opened in 1890 and only shipped for two years before closing.

There is another group of mines in the National Mine area which deserve mention. Starting with the ‘National’ mine and extending south there were a total of about 7 mines. The National mine was opened in 1878 by Capt. Sam Mitchell and A.G. Stone under a lease from the Lake Superior Mining Co. It shipped ore from 1878 to 1884 and produced a mere 150,216 tons of ore. In 1950, the North Range Mining Co. shipped about 5,000 tons from an old stockpile. The ore was reported to be a very peculiar looking ore, a hard blue hematite, of excellent quality. Unfortunately, there was not much of it and despite efforts to find more ore, the search was futile and by 1885 the machinery was taken to the newest find on the Mitchell farm, east of Negaunee.

The Lowthian mine began in 1877 but by 1878 had only shipped 9, 265 tons, as reported by the Michigan Railroads website. It was a large open pit mine. Adjoining the Lowthian was the Miller mine, another small mine. Production was reported to be 4,756 tons, but no information could be found as to when it opened and when it closed. The Howell-Hoppock mine shipped a mere 2,206 tons of ore in its two-year existence, from 1873 to 1874. Nothing much else is known about this mine.

In 1872, the Mitchell mine was opened. It was first operated as the Braastad-Mitchell by the Mitchell Mining Co. and leased from the Lake Angeline Iron Co. It was later operated as the Mitchell or Shenango mine by Shenango Iron Co. There were two separate periods of ore shipment, the first being from 1872 to 1888 of 136,736 tons and then from 1908 to 1913 with a total of 97,014 tons. In 1885, the Michigan Mineral Statistics report wrote, “The Mitchell is not a pleasant mine to go through, it is wet and nasty, the drifts are sometimes low and small, so that you must assume a stooping posture. Ends of the fallen lagging timbers frequently protrude through the roof or the sides of the drift, against which one’s head or limbs come into sudden and forcible contact, with no agreeable sensation.” Two grades of ore were shipped, a blue Mitchell and a second grade which was nearly Bessemer.

Finally, the big mine in that area was the Winthrop mine, and the National Mine area was once known as Winthrop.

The mine first opened in 1869 as the Braastad-Winthrop mine and shipped every year from 1870 to 1889, producing a total of 831,445 tons of ore.

In 1890, the mine was renamed the Mitchell Mine and operated by the Winthrop Mine Company. During the period from 1890 to the mine’s closing in 1903, an additional 1,759,115 tons were shipped for a grand total of 2,590,115 tons. Most of the ore shipped was considered first-class, high in iron and low in phosphorus.


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