Keweenaw County Michigan

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Source: History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: containing a full account of its early settlement, its growth, development, and resources, an extended description of its iron and copper mines : also, accurate sketches of its counties, cities, towns, and villages ... biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers. Publication Info: Chicago : Western Historical Co., 1883.

Statistical | Mines & Miners
Copper Harbor | Eagle Harbor  | Eagle River | Delaware | Copper Falls | Central | Phoenix | Allouez | Ahmeek (Ahmuk)

KEWEENAW County is situated at the extreme northeasterly end of the Keweenaw Cape, being the most northerly land in what is known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, except the islands belonging to Lake Superior.

It was set off from Houghton County by an act of the Legislature, approved March 11, 1861, and was described as follows: "All that portion of Houghton County lying north of Township 55 north, of Range 31 west, and north of Township 56, in Ranges 32 and 33 west, including Manitou Islands of Lake Superior, and Isle Royale," were declared "organized into a new county, to be called Keweenaw County," and an election for electing county officers was directed to be held on the first Monday in April following. The official notice of the passage of the act, and the order for holding the election, did not, however, reach the Supervisors of the townships thus set off into the new county organization until the time appointed for holding the election had passed. They, however, held a meeting April 18, 1861, and appointed the 18th of May following as a day for holding a special election to complete the working organization of the county. After mature consideration, finding it would not comply with the act, the motion was rescinded at a meeting held April 30, in order to enable them to consult the State authorities, and the election passed over until the next general election in the fall following.

The county seat was established at Eagle River, where a convenient court house was erected, but no jail has yet been built; a building has been rented and fitted up for that purpose.

The officers of the county are: William P. Raley, Judge of Probate; William B. Wright, Sheriff; John Twohy, County Clerk and Register of Deeds; Albert A. Brockway, Treasurer; T. L. Chadbourne, of Houghton, Prosecuting Attorney; William Tresise, Coroner.

It is divided into seven townships, viz., Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor, Grant, Sherman, Houghton, Clifton and Allouez. Copper Harbor is located at the extreme easterly end, and Allouez and Clifton are at the western end of the county.

The county comprises the entire outer extremity of what is generally called "Keweenaw Point," embracing some of the richest portions of the copper belt and many places of historic note. The first mining ventures in the search for copper and silver were extensively made in this portion of the Upper Peninsula, in fact, the first success in copper mining in this country was achieved at the Old Cliff, then called the Pittsburgh and Boston Mine. It was there the developments of the copper region hung poised, for a time, upon the action of a single individual—Dr. Avery, of Pittsburgh. Here the first "permits" were taken out for mining properties, and here the first settle­ments in the copper region were made.


The courts are held at Eagle River the first Tuesday in February, second Tuesday in May and third Tuesday in September. It is in the same district with Houghton County, and is presided over by Hon. William D. Williams, Circuit Judge.


The first census of this county, taken for the General Government, was that of 1870. The figures are as follows: Clifton, 615; Copper Harbor, 359; Eagle Harbor, 778, including Amygdaloid Mine, 61; Copper Falls Mine, 454, and Eagle Harbor Village, 233; Grant, 152; Houghton, 1,325; Sherman, 929, and Sibley, 47.

The townships of Keweenaw County, with their population in 1880, are as follows: Allouez, 975; Clifton, 247; Copper Harbor, 141; Eagle Harbor, 527; Grant Township, 365; Houghton Township, 1,004; and Sherman Township, 1,011. The total population was 4,270, including four Indians or half-breeds.

Military Statistics. —The aggregate expenditure of Keweenaw County up to 1866 for war purposes was $1,000; the amount expended in relieving the families of soldiers, $3,620, not including private contributions.

This county produced 119 men for service with the Michigan commands in the late war, ninety-nine of whom enlisted previous to September 19, 1863, and nineteen of whom served three years. In the general history, the record of officers and men serving with the Michigan regiments is given.

At the time of the first mining operations, the harbors on the north shore of the county, being easiest reached, became the rendezvous of the miners and the depots of provisions for the various camps. The travel to and from these camps to the depot at Copper Harbor, and afterward at Eagle Harbor, was by trails through the wilderness. Dog trains formed the mode of transportation, save where the pioneer carried all his worldly effects like "John Brown's knapsack, strapped upon his back." In summer, those south of Portage Lake would travel in their canoes or dug-outs to the head of Torch Lake, and thence by the wilderness trail walk to the harbor. In winter, by the dog train and on the indispensable snow shoes over a trackless waste of snow, wending their way through that same wilderness—the trail buried from four to six feet under the deep blanket of snow-spread out everywhere over the surface during the reign of winter in this northern latitude. Those days have passed away in the brief space of thirty-six years, and splendid roads and railroads have taken the place of the old trails and dog trains, and populous and thriving mining towns take the place of the then wilderness.

The county is well supplied with water for practical mining purposes. Besides Schlatter's Lake, Lake Manganese, Lake Fanny Hooey, Mosquito Lake, Hoope's Lake, Gould's Lake, Upson Lake, Lake Bailey, Lac La Belle, Gratiot Lake and Thayer's Lake, and numerous smaller ponds, it is supplied by Hill's Creek, Gratiot River, Silver Creek and Eagle River on the north, and the Little Montreal and Tobacco Rivers on the south, and numerous smaller streams.

The greenstone belt, which traverses almost the entire length of this county, terminating near its southern line, is a marked feature of the mineral belt extending through Keweenaw County. It is a broad belt of semi-crystalline trap, which rises, at its highest elevation, 800 feet above the lake, forming the southern escarpment or wall in this portion of the range, which begins at the extremity of Keweenaw Point, and trends westerly about twenty miles, thence takes a southwesterly course. The greenstone has a northerly and northwesterly dip, corresponding with the other belts of this portion of the range of about 24° to 30° to the horizon. From the top of the range the land slopes with a general gradual descent to the north and to the west to Lake Superior, distant in this direction from two to three miles.

On the south side, the elevation drops abruptly a distance of one or two hundred feet to a low-lying plain, which forms the valley of the Eagle River and other streams, and which reaches to the east until it meets the foot of a sec­ond range of hills having a trend generally parallel with the principal elevation, and known as the southern or Bohemian Range. This portion of the range, as far as the greenstone extends, is frequently crossed by veins having a nearly vertical dip and a lateral direction, generally at right angles to the formation and a width of from one foot to three feet, and have been found to carry copper some­times in extraordinary quantities, some of them having proved among the most remarkable deposits of copper that the world has revealed.

Both north and south of the greenstone are numerous amygdaloid beds, which are crossed by the fissure veins, and which usually carry a greater or smaller percentage of copper. There are also found in some portions immediately underlying the greenstone and farther to the south beds of conglomerate, which, in some instances, contain copper in workable quantities. But surpassing all these, except the fissure veins, the most important of the copper-bearing deposits of the district, is what is known as the ash bed, a scoriaceous amygdaloid bed lying north of the greenstone, having a varying width of from five to twenty feet, and yielding at favorable points about 1 per cent of copper.

The great copper mining belt of Keweenaw County, which has thus far been the most successfully worked, lies immediately south of the greenstone, and pitches under it.

The cupriferous deposit lying north of the greenstone known as the "ash bed"—a name given to it by Mr. S. W. Hill in his geological reports, from its being composed of scoriaceous bowlders, held together in a pasty mass resembling volcanic ashes, as near as can be described. In some places it is largely amygdaloidal in its character; in others the scoriaceous bowlders predominate, appearing as though they had been ejected from some place and dropped in their muddy bed, and the whole solidified together. This deposit extends from near Copper Harbor to the Atlantic Mine, on the south side of Portage Lake, in Houghton County, varying in width from five to thirty feet. There is no copper found in the bowlders, but it is found generally through the cementing mass-often in the form called "shotted copper." This same bed extends the en­tire length of Isle Royale with a reverse dip, and on the reverse side of the greenstone range through the island. There is a perceptible amount of oxide of iron in the ash bed, supposed to have been oxydized in reducing the copper, attributed to the rapid changes in metamorphism causing such changes of the magnetic and voltaic relations existing between the various formations as to cause the de­posit of the copper in its native state. Much of the ancient mining was done on this vein.

This ash-bed formation, to be profitably mined, requires to be worked upon an extensive scale; the immense amount of the deposit and the facility of mining it renders it almost certain of success when operations are undertaken on a magnitude with the amount of material required to make it pay.


The Catholic Churches in Keweenaw County are located at Eagle Harbor, the Cliff Mine and at Delaware.

The Church of the Holy Redeemer at Eagle Harbor was built in 1843-44 by Father Baraga, afterward Bishop Baraga. The first missionary, as the priests there were then called, was Louis Thielle.

The Church of the Assumption was built at the Cliff Mine in 1858.

The church in Delaware was built by Rev. Patrick Flanagan in 1863.

Services are held in Copper Harbor and at Eagle River in private houses, and in the schoolhouse at the Central.

The different priests who have officiated in Keweenaw County are as given in their order: Andrew Andolshek, Patrick Flannagan, John Brown, Matthias Orth, John Burns, Oliver Pelisson, Luke Mozini, Angelo Paginina and again for three years, Andrew Andolshek. There are now about one thousand five hundred Catholics in Keweenaw County, including heads of families and children.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was early represented in Keweenaw County. In 1847, the Rev. J. H. Pitezel was appointed to the Eagle River district by the general con­ference. He was located at the Cliff Mine, where a "class" had been formed the year previous.

Churches have been since erected at the Phoenix, Cen­tral, Cliff and Allouez Mines and at Eagle Harbor, and services held in several other places in the district, as at Delaware, Eagle River and at the Ashamed (Petherick) Mine, which will soon require the aid of an assistant clergyman.


The medical department of Keweenaw County consists of the physicians to the mines, who also attend to the citizens in their immediate vicinity. The miners all contribute a stipulated sum monthly from their wages, which secures them the regular attendance of the physician, when his services are needed, without further expense. These gentlemen belong to what is known as the Allopathic school. They are also the surgeons to the mines, having the general care of the miners and their families.

By this arrangement the very important necessity of having a physician at hand in cases of accident and injury is well supplied, where otherwise able physicians and surgeons would hesitate to locate.

Statistical | Mines & Miners
Copper Harbor | Eagle Harbor  | Eagle River | Delaware | Copper Falls | Central | Phoenix | Allouez | Ahmeek (Ahmuk)