Sep 09-07

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2007: September: Sep 09-07
Painesdale crew 1936    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo from Mark Suokas
Kevin Musser 1960-2007    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo from

By Charlie H., Eagle River, MI on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 06:06 am:

As you may have heard, our friend and colleague Kevin Musser passed away this week. Kevin was webmaster of, and a frequent contributor to our weekly Shoebox Memory feature. He had a way of engaging web viewers in each picture, transporting us to the past. Following is a reprint of comments on the first picture above "Painesdale Crew", which appeared on a Sunday four years ago this month...

By Charlie H., Eagle River, MI on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 08:06 am:

Among these rugged men of the mines, Mark Suokas has three relatives: Uncle Rudolph Suokas, second from the left, Grandpa Peter Suokas on the far right, and Great-grandfather Richard Kauppi next to Peter.'s webmaster Kevin Musser dates this Shoebox Memory around 1936. Painesdale Mine and Shaft was featured this month on PBS, in the weekly Michigan Magazine.

It is staggering to think how much the world has changed since these miners were in their prime. Last night my wife and I drove up to Great Sand Bay, and sitting at the roadside turnout, we logged on to Pasty.NET's wireless broadband signal and surfed the web. In 1936 the idea of computers, the web, wireless, logging-on, etc. were as inconceivable as ice boxes and coal furnaces are today. Wonder what life will be like in the next 67 years?
By BC Bill, Mi. on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 08:33 am:

Do you suppose the gentlemen on far left and right are eating pastys?
By Lisa, Lake Orion, MI on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 09:36 am:

It is staggering to me how much of their lives was spent underground.
By Joe Finn, Rhinelander, Wi on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 11:45 am:

My Father and both Grandfathers worked at the Sunday Lake Mine in Wakefield. It was tough work, under terrible conditions. People today would not belive what a Miner went through to raise a family.
By DJB-MI. on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 11:59 am:

By Catherine--Holland, MI on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 12:26 pm:

I just read a great book--_The Journal of Otto Peltonen_ by Wm Durbin. It is a kids' book (4th-6th grade maybe?) about an immigrant boy in Hibbing at the turn of the century and how the mines controlled their lives. The accidents he describes are terrible. Even the families above ground in the location houses were at risk for death and dismemberment. Very compelling and makes me thankful for my cushy life today!
By Uncle John on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 12:28 pm:

These are some of the people that built America. A tip of the hat to them for all they have given us. I have no miners in my family's past, but both my great-great and great-grandfathers were teamsters in the lumbers camps down on the AuSable. Every time I drive past the miner's statue in Houghton, I think about those hard working men and silently say thanks to them for making my life easier through their labor. If you're from a mining family, be very proud.
By Debbie - Painesdale Mine & Shaft on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 12:50 pm:

Thanks Kevin for another great photo memory. Thanks also for all the hard work you do in helping Painesdale Mine & Shaft in their efforts to save a piece of history. The thought behind this effort is to save this monumental building to honor all those who worked in the mines to provide a living for their families. To those who gave the supreme sacrifice, their lives, we plan to place a plaque in the shafthouse as tribute. The conditions they worked under would probably be considered grossly inhumane by today's work conditions. Every time I enter Champion #4 as a tour guide, I am in awe of those men.
By troll with connections, Mi on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 12:50 pm:

Hi All,
Does anyone know if there are employment records available for the Painsdale Mine? I believe my Dad and possibly a Grandfather worked there.
By j, mi on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 01:44 pm:

I too think of how much time the miners spent underground. They probably went to work in the darkness of the a.m. and came up late in the day as it was getting dark again. Not the summer months but fall and winter. There must have been a lot of depression. Also, I have heard horses were brought underground to the mines to work and were left down there so they never ever got to see light again. Is this true?
By Joe Finn, Rhinelander, Wi on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 02:48 pm:

My Grandfather told me that when he was 14 years old he worked in a mine as "mule starter". He said the mules came underground young and were brought back to surface only when they were dead.
The mule starter's job was to hook them up to ore cars. He said the best way to do this was to put a lighted candle under their belly. It is his story and swears it is true.
By Judy Brown-Kurnik Chesaning MI on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 07:07 pm:

My grandfather and father worked the coal mines in Southern Illinois. Grandpa spent many years as a ferrier, shoeing the mules that worked down in the mines. The mules lived underground for their entire life. It is hard to understand what the miners went through then and even now in some areas of America. Coal or was a horrible life.
By Paul in Illinois on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 08:45 pm:

Thanks Kevin, for sharing today's picture.
Those guys and those before and after them were a tough lot. My Great-grandfather was born up on the Cliff where his father worked. They moved to Calumet when the Cliff was done and my Great-grandfather, Anton Haun, started working underground when he was about 16. He recieved a Silver Medal for 30-40 years service at the C&H Semi-centenial in 1916. He continued working underground with C&H until 1920 when he moved the family down to Kenosha, WI. There he worked for the Frost Company for another 27 years. In all he worked over 60 of his 85 years.
We find this inconcievable now - especially nearly 40 years in a mine. But that is what was done then if fate happened to land you in a mining district. My paternal Grandfather immigrated from Germany in the 1890's and worked in the anthracite mines at Scranton, PA. He earned enough to bring my Grandmother and 9 kids over after a few years. Again, that's what was done if you wanted a life here.
As to it being a horrible life - by today's standards, yes it was. But my Great-grandfather and my Grand parents always considered the Copper Country as "up home" and always felt it was a good life up there. Granted, they were there from the very beginning and Anton had worked his way up so thier perspective was different from the newly arrived trammer. When they left, they drove thier own car down and bought a house. Not bad for back then and Anton's work in the mines set the stage for his decendants to keep building a better life.
As noted above, we owe alot to men like those pictured today.
As to mules underground, it depended on the mining company, some stayed down all the time if the company was a hard line one, other more enlightened companies brought them to the surface for excercise. The treatment of the animals depended on who was handling them. Some guys were naturals at handling animals and others didn't have a clue or didn't care.
By Judy Leppanen on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 09:11 pm:

Does anybody know where I can find more pictures of the Painesdale mine workers circa 1928 - 1932? My Grandfather Matti Leppanen was killed in a mining accident in 1934 in Painesdale and I have very few pictures of him or of his life in the mine. What a rough way to make a living. I sure respect the miners who spent all those years underground to support their families.
By Joe Dase Mining Student MTU on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 09:47 pm:

My first question is which shaft is in the picture?

As for the work at the mines, a mining Job was a very good job back in the day, the pay was great, and the working conditions weren?t totally horrible. By today?s standards many wouldn?t work in those same conditions but thinking of the time period, the mine offered a temperate place to work with a guaranteed pay check that was for a considerable amount more than other laborers were getting. My great grandfather worked in the coal mines of Penn. And I have never heard of him regretting it even as he was dying from black lung.

I am also amazed by the amount of work accomplished by these men. The last few weeks I have been working at the Champion Mine, number 1 shaft, and the first time I climbed down the ladder going down the shaft it was amazing to think about how they sunk that shaft using such primitive techniques (compared to today).

troll with connections- Check the MTU archives they have allot of Copper Range Co. paperwork on file.
By John-Canton Mi on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 09:54 pm:

Wonderful fond memories of Painesdale.Spent a few summers there with the Stienen grandparents.Dad
and his father worked the mine until,like many
others they came down below for better pay and
working conditions in the car factories. The big
three loved the Uppers for thier work ethic and
dedication.Of course, as soon as they could, they
"retired" at 55 and happily moved back home where
they belonged. Thanks for the memories.
By Debbie -Painesdale Mine & Shaft on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 08:56 am:

Troll with connections;
Painesdale Mine & Shaft was lucky enough to be given quite a few of the payroll records from COpper Range. Contact me by email and I can see if we can find them.
By Ms. Katie, Il. on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 01:10 pm:

Isn't it amazing what life was like back then! Myself, I can hardly stand to be in a room with no windows for a few miniutes! My grandpa "Red" Slattery was recognized for working over 50 years in the C&H mill in Hubbell. Heard the story about one worker who fell to his death into a hopper of hot slag! There was danger everywhere in those days.
By Jiggs in California on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 09:28 pm:

My grandfather, Christopher Rowe, was a miner in several mines in Amasa from 1900 to 1915. (Cornishman who came to Norway in Dickinson County as a child of 6 with his parents). Then he became an accountant and worked above ground for the mines. My grandmother (Ida Maude Simons)grew up in Calumet (Osceola Township). I don't know if any of her relatives were copper miners or not. It certainly does look like a tough life.
By Marc, Painesdale on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 10:41 pm:

Pretty neat stuff! I just moved only a stone's throw from the mine, in Painesdale, last week:)
By Debbie -Painesdale Mine & Shaft on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 08:36 am:

marc - painesdale,
Great, how would you like to join Painesdale Mine & Shaft in saving this piece of history?? We need some more interested people to join us in this effort.

Charlie at Pasty Central (Chopper) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 06:24 am: that's our look back this week, a good example of Kevin Musser's passion for the history of the Copper Country. We will miss him. You can explore the virtual museum he left behind at

Have a good week :o)

By Alex J. Tiensivu (Ajtiensivu) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 07:34 am:

My! Kevin was so young. What did he pass away from? Bless his family.

By Katie Tormala (Yooperkate) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 09:13 am:

The Painesdale mine is one of my favorite subjects for photography! I don't know too much about it's history, but I've always been fascinated with it!

By Tom Karjala (Tom) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 09:21 am:

My father began working at the Quincy Mines at age 16. Worked the mines as a miner until age 65. He told me when I graduated from high school that if I got a job in the mines my bags would be packed and I would have to move out immediately. That same ultimatum was given if I ever came home drunk. ??

By Mike (Upboundeh) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 09:26 am:

Those old photos are nice to see. Our prayers our with Kevins family and friends.

By Grace M Wetton (Gmw) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 09:43 am:

My grandfather, John Ravasz Sr. worked in the Painesdale mines. He died in 1963, I was quite young at the time, I don't have any info to share with everyone.

By Robinohio (Robinohio) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 10:09 am:

My prayers and sympathy to Kevin's family and friends.My great grandfather worked at champion mine and lived in Painesdale and Kevin was always very helpful in answering my e mail questions I had about the mine in great detail. I learned a lot from him about what my Great Grandfathers life would have been like in the mine. The Copper Country has lost a good man and Historian.

By David Soumis (Davesou) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 11:21 am:

This comes as a great shock to me. I had never met Kevin, but through a few email conversations about his work with Copper, we shared a few things of common interest.

His work is a vital part of the history of the Copper Country. He surely will be missed. Hopefully there is someone in the wings that can pick up where he left off.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

By Ray Laakaniemi (Rlaakan) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 12:19 pm:

My dad started in the Painesdale mine at age 14 in the 1920s. He asked for work, they asked how old he was, he stood as tall as he could and said 16, and that started a 46 year career underground. He often walked home in snowstorms to the Suo district after work.

By JAD, Oscar, MI (Jandalq) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 12:35 pm:

Many mining records are in the MTU Archives. I believe you have to be there or hire a researcher to got through the materials.

By Helen (Heleninhubbel) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 12:54 pm:

I feel so sad about Kevin ..... he contributed so much and did such a great job. He will be missed much more than we tellin how much more of the U.P's history he would have prayers go to his family and extended family.....He was a good man.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 06:58 pm:

Kevin's passing will be a great loss to the ongoing understanding of history in the Copper Country. I had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin a few years ago and learned a great deal about the area and especially the Copper Range Railway. He will be sorely missed.....

By Walter P McNew (Waltermcnew) on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 07:43 pm:

great pictures sad thing about kevin though i remain walter p.

By Josh Baakko In San Diego (Jbaakko) on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 01:38 am:

Guys, this is a fitting tribute to Kevin. Charlie & I have both spoken with the family (me by way of eMail) about the future of, and I'm hoping we can keep Kevin's legacy alive.
Josh in San Diego

By kosk in Toronto (Koskintoronto) on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 06:03 pm:

I just checked out the site for the first time
yesterday. Excellent site. Kevin must have been quite the person-
-and I'm sure that's an understatement.

By Michael Poe (Mpoe) on Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 08:32 am:

I am so sad to hear of Kevin's passing. I had no idea he was ill. I never met Kevin, but found him and his website through his friend Dave Krause, a Geology teacher at HFCC. I did exchange a few emails with Kevin and was a member of his Simar Wasas Rousseau Memorial. Goodbye Ricedale "Wasas" Stonington.

Honkin "Donkin" Mandan

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