Aug 24-03

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2003: August: Aug 24-03
Coal docks on the Hancock side    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo from R.C. Wetton

Charlie at Pasty Central on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 10:47 am:

Sometimes we forget what an industrial corridor the Portage Canal used to be. Where we now have an attractive new Ramada Inn and a clean and pleasant marina, there used to be a dirty, noisy coal operation and a bustling copper port, where now stands a quiet residential neighborhood.

The point of reference which helped me gain my bearings in this photo is the faint sillouette of Quincy Mine up on the hill. Years later the Lift Bridge was built just this side of the old swing bridge on the right of the photo. Our thanks once again to time-travelling R.C. Wetton for another fascinating shoebox memory.

By Brian Thomas,troll :- on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 11:01 am:

I love these old pics of the area up north. I love the history of the Copper Country...always have. I guess it is a lot prettier there today but I must say when I was a kid I was always so intrigued by all the copper activity going on still. It was a little boys most interesting entertainment! Keep up the great work of posting these old photos.

By Dam Guy, Parasite Creek on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 11:25 am:

Some people don't realize that the UP of today is far more scenic than it was 100 years ago. Logging and mining had left much of the land covered with nothing but stumps and tailing piles, and Torch Lake and the Portage were used as a dumping ground for heavy metals and chemicals from mining processes... the natural and man-assisted recovery of the Copper Country is truly remarkable. An interesting look at turn-of-the-century Keweenaw is B.E. Tyler's "Copper Country in Early Photos" (1903). I believe there was a reprint in 1977.

Nice work on the B&W photo album, Donn. Some interesting shots there.

By Dave, Dearborn,MI. on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 11:30 am:

Would the location of the bridge cam be visible in this photo?

By Mary Lou on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 11:59 am:

Do we know the date of this picture? There was a bridge that pre-dated the swing bridge (was hit by a ship)....very interesting picture!

By bobbrown, alabama on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 12:52 pm:

This picture would have been before 1930. The steps up the hill with the little benchs are not there, that was WPA (30's) stuff. The unloader and the coal storage bins are in the picture. These were gone by 1940 when I remember the self unloading boats would stack the coal in very large piles directly on the ground. Also the Synagogue doesn't seem to be there either. I forget the date of that building, but I think it was in the 1930's.

By bobbrown, alabama on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 12:54 pm:

Whoops, on closer review the synagogue seems to be there..Still don't know the date it was built..

By jk on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 01:13 pm:

This has nothing to do with the Hancock coal docks. I'm trying to get an e-mai address for the Keweenaw Berry Farm. Any help?

By Paul in Illinois on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 01:21 pm:

Nice picture,thanks for sharing it with us.
The milling process for copper rock in the days when there were mills on Portage Lake was a mechanical process. The rock was crushed to the consistancy of sand and metalic copper was separated and removed via gravity. The native copper is pure metal, not an ore, so chemicals were not used in the early years. After the turn of the last century, flotation and ammonia leaching were introduced to the process. Fotation is also a gravity process but an oil and surfactants were added. Ammonia leaching is a chemical process where the super fine particles of metalic copper are dissolved in ammonia, the ammonia was recovered and reused. This occured at the Torch Lake mills and reclaimation plants.
Isle Royale mill and Point Mills were the only mills left on Portage Lake that used flotation. It probably contributed some oil and sufactant to the lake. The others were closed and moved in order to keep the shipway open before the flotation process was introduced.
Heavy metals were not used in the process. It is common when one hears that there was a mill at a site to assume they used mercury and cyanide processes like those in the western gold and silver fields. Actually, as far as mining, milling, and smelting processes go, the native copper industry was pretty benign. The remaining tailing piles are being reclaimed by nature as trees are now growing on them. Before that and even now, they are a source of contruction material. Despite all the political hand wringing over these "deadly" poorrock piles, the various governments don't seem to have a problem using them for roads, rip-rap, fill, or even walkways in parks.
Torch Lake does have problems. After milling and reclaimation, what copper is left in there is so fine that it can readily react with other chmicals. During and after WWII C&H did reclaim lead and zinc from various sources, that process was not so nice and contributed to the problems. Finally, the EPA reports there was deliberate dumping of chemicals by UOP at the end of operations.
The trees have been discussed before. People and mining companies used them. Unlike Buttte, or other copper regions that concentrated and smelted copper ores, the copper country smelters did not emit poisonous fumes and the trees grew back.

By Ms Katie, Il. on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 03:11 pm:

This is off subject but I was surfing some old entries from Sept.15, 2000 Some wonderful scenes from Tricia Oleksy's "Vacation Scrapbook." And in reference to one photo of "Brunette Park" a Steve Brunette talked about "our" park. Is there any chance Steve could contact me as I was told the park near Gay is named after my mother's uncle Oliver Brunette! Would love to find out more of his connection!!! Email anything that would help to: Thanks a bunch

By Daryl Laitila (Daryl) on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 07:39 pm:

No the Bridge Cam house is not visible in this location. It's just out of the picture. I took these photos today because the cruise ship Grand Mariner was docked on the Houghton side. It's nice to see the ships come in to port. They've been in 2 or 3 times this summer.

View of Hancock

The Grand Mariner

By Ned, Kingsford. on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 08:37 pm:

My wife Georgene and I and my sister Janet and her husband Gordon (Zion)just returned from a week spent at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. It is something we do each year at about this time. A great week spent relaxing in the favorite place in the world for us, Keweenaw County and northern Houghton County, the "Copper Country". On one of the days, we went to the above mentioned Brunette Park, which is between Lac LaBelle and Gay. A very unique spot with the white sand beach and the solid sand stone lake bottom. And the water was warm enough for swimming, even for a guy like me who can't handle much cold water. We spent a day with Jim Rooks, the Copper Harbor naturalist, and he took us around and about and out to High Rock Bay. The air is so refreshing out there at the tip of the peninsula. Flies were kinda bad though. We also spent a day south of the Portage, going out to Redridge and Freda to examine the steel dam and the remains of the stamp mills. My sister had never been there before. My wife and I went out past the Smith Fishery one day and spent an enjoyable afternoon on the beach searching for agates and other nice stones. Found a few agates. We also went to the top of Brockway one evening to watch the sunset, along with a lot of other people. It was beautiful. In the week's time, we were all over the Keewenaw and didn't see much wildlife other than birds. Then on the way home, just east of Mohawk a large black bear crossed in front of us, and lo and behold, between Calumet and Hancock near the airport, two wolves crossed the road in front of us. What a thrill as I have never seen wolves in the wild before.

Does anyone know what is happening at the corner of Pine Street and US41 in Calumet? It appears that the collar of one of the old C & H Amygaloid Lode shafts has been dug out. Is this a shaft capping operation or is there some other reason for this operation?

By PSmithSC on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 08:51 pm:

For a history of the Portage Lake bridges go to

By Ken from da UP on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 11:59 pm:

Is the Grande Mariner a passenger ship or a tour boat? From where? Just wondering. I like that old pic of Hancock, RCW.

By Kevin K Lodi, Ca on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 09:00 am:

Ned, Kingsford
Sounds like a great way to spend a week,Wish I could be in "Da UP" right now. Feeling kinda homesick!

By froggy on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 09:41 am:

Paul in Illinois, As always your information is very interesting and appreciated. It adds much background. Do you know the status of Torch Lake at this time? I thought it was once designated as a superfund site which does not seem to speak well of its condition. My father worked at the smelts and would never let us kids swim in the lake back in the 50's.

By Mary Lou on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 01:47 pm:

froggy...C&H dumped barrels of "stuff" into Torch Lake and Lake Linden ran their raw sewage into the lake as well so no-one wanted to swim in that lake back then. There was a problem with fish in the lake having tumors. I remember a high incidence of cancer in the area and folks were concerned about the contamination. We lived on Torch Lake on front street and had a cottage at Bootjack on Portage Lake. Both of my parents died of cancer.
Who knows what was the cause...but your dad was a smart man to keep you out of the lake. I guess the lake is now safe to swim in...but I still would not eat the fish from Torch Lake...especially bottom feeders.

By froggy on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 02:22 pm:

Mary-Lou - - pretty much the story my Dad gave us.
Remembering all this, I often wonder about all the homes and cottages along the shoreline. Thanks for the comments.

By dave, WI on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 02:23 pm:

there were fish with tumors in Portage Lake as well...and not all that long ago---60s

By rick karl, Wisconsin on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 05:15 pm:

The shaft capping is being done to replace a wood cap that had partially collapsed in Calumet. The contractor I talked to on my recent visit assures me that the NEW cement cap will last FOREVER!!!!

Hmmm....better talk to Heikki Luunta, he should!

I remember when the shaft next to the Delaware collapsed several years after a 'perpetual' solution was done.....the Copper Country does what IT wants to, and we are but visitors.....

By Paul in Illinois on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 06:38 pm:

Mary Lou & Froggy,
As far as I know, Torch Lake is still a super fund site, but check with the EPA to be sure. The dumping I read about in the report occured in the late '60's - early '70's when people were supposed to know better. My Grandfather worked in the C&H smelts in the teens and twenties, he didn't mind the native copper but was very wary of the "black muck" brought up from White Pine when C&H owned it. That stuff undoubtedly had some bad actors in it and who knows how much made it to the Lake. The activities around the mills, reclaimation plants, and smelters during WWII and later were the worst. They were working with other metals and were making copper compounds for pesticide use. I don't doubt that C&H dumped stuff into the Lake as Froggy relates, there are numerous stories about that. Was it legal? - back then, yes. Did "they" know it was bad? - obviously the men working with the stuff thought so, but was it like asbestos, which was generally thought to be OK at one time, and the powers that were didn't recognize the risk. Was it ethical or a wise thing to do? - we know now that it was not. Torch Lake is the worst in the Keweenaw. On ther other side of the issue is Red Sands at Lac la Belle, that is the stampsand from the Delaware mine. Then there are the developments on the Isle Royale sands at Houghton. That stuff is stampsand.
We are looking at things from our 21st Century hindsight. Like Mary Lou, I grew up in Kenosha, Wisc. As a child in the '50's, my most vivid winter memories include the pervasive smell of sulfur dioxide. This was from the steam locomotives, coal heat in almost every home, and foundries such as Arneson's and Nash Motors. I was surprised when I returned in later years to find that the church I had attended for years was built of cream colored brick and not black and grey. A neighbor had asbestos siding installed and all the kids in the neighborhood would wait to get the cardboard boxes the stuff came in to play with. Now we know all of that was bad. Back then it was prosperity!

By Mary Lou on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 07:46 pm:

Paul-in-Illinois.....If Torch Lake is still considered a superfund site.....isn't that indicative that it is not cleaned up? I do not have a clue as to where to find out if the lake is really safe for swimming now......I personally would not swim in it.... but Lake Linden has a lovely park and campground on the lake....with a beach for children....I think C&H knew it was seriously polluting Torch Lake and the employees had no option but to do it....I know they were not at liberty to talk about it!......even to family!!

By Joe Dase MTU Miner on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 10:20 pm:

Rick Carl and Ned-
It is a shaft capping operation, The old C&H #17 shaft, however there never was a wood cap, Lake superior land filled the shaft with old timber, cars and mine rock, what happened was the concrete shaft liner failed and caused some serrious subsidence issues. I know there never was a cap because I worked on the Job since day one, and I spent more than half my summer snaging logs timbers, and jackhamering broken concrete in that shaft, you should have seen the mess! Weve had people stop by many times asking if we were putting in a gas station ect, you would be suprised the rumors that start.

Mary Lou and Paul-
Torch lake is still a superfund site however they have one iseeue theres nothing to clean up as mentioned, they are so strapped to spend the money they have they have started digging up and seeding the talings from Boston Loc. As for the barrels, C&H probably didnt intentionally dump them. The barrels when recovered were empty with no signs of any harmful chemicals. If you looked at the pattern of the barrels, where they were found in relation to shore, they could have easily been drug out on the ice during winter by children, or even the wind as they seem to arch out from the smelter area I believe it was. This information is from some of the people that were involved with what little was cleaned up. I have heard stories about the C&H white pine operation on a seperate note, I am told that the pebble mills are still intact on site.

Take care all

By froggy on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 09:11 am:

Paul,Mary Lou,Joe --It seems clear to me from narratives I heard over the years, that the guys (at least in the smelts) knew bad things were going into the lake, from both smelter operations and sewage. This would be in their time frame of 40's to 50's. If the young men working in the smelts knew the stuff was bad, then I would expect that the educated and experienced managers also knew. Maybe there was no alternative, but I do know the guys needed the jobs and probably did as they were directed. No judgement here, just wondering about the current status. Thanks for your comments.

By rick Karl, wisconsin on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 11:34 am:

Joe Dase MTU Miner....

I was just relating what a contractor at the site told me when I was there recently....if he steered me in an inaccurate direction I apologize...

Say, does anyone know what became of that Keweenaw National Park proposal to actually OPEN two of the shafts at opposite ends of Calumet and run a small train underground between them to show folks what it was like? During the pre-park process I heard that suggested along with plans to rebuild replicas of the shafthouses above them...anyone else remember that? Just curious....

By Mary Lou on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 03:32 pm:

Joe and Froggy...Thanks for the appears that the Lake is safe to swim in now....that is certainly good news......I remember hearing about a chemical operation in the same area in the mid to late 50s I think it was called "Prozite" and they also had a reclaimation process where they brought in copper clad objects like Reverware and they reclaimed the copper...wonder what sort of chemecials went into Torch Lake at that period of time. I heard the barrels went out on a barge...... so do we now know what caused the tumors on the fish??

By froggy on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 04:13 pm:

Mary Lou, we'll probably never really know all the answers regarding Torch. I've read that water and timber were so abundant in the Great Lakes area that popular thinking in the very early 1800's was that you could never cut all the timber nor polute the huge supplies of water. By the beginning of the 1900's much of both penninsulas were completely logged over and the first signs of water polution appeared. My dad died early in his fifties and I've always wondered if his work in the smelts had anything to do with it. Don't mean to blame, just wondering.

By Joe Dase MTU Miner on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 06:10 pm:

I have heard rumors but I have no idea what they were about, can you elaborate? I have hear of some intrest in reopening some of the shafts, I dont know why though because the upper C&H workings would be collapsed or under water, due to the fact that the water level is dictated by the Sweedtown Ponds.


By Paul in Illinois on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - 12:41 am:

Rick, Joe and all,
Most, if not all, of the upper works of C&H's Calumet Conglomerate had the pillers pulled between 12 South Hecla and the Red Jacket Shaft during the '20's and '30's. The 81st haulage level and below, is all that was left. No way that could be a tourist ride. Perhaps there is a less deep path in the Osceola Lode between 6 and 13, but everything is interconnected, they would have to pump both the Conglomerate and the Osceola lode to do something like that. Neat concept, but very expensive. Rumours have been going around since 1968, Osceola, and the 5-40's or Hills Creek project on the Conglomerate. Management was optimistic, but a miner named Tony who was down there says there wasn't much.

By rick karl. wisconsin on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - 01:59 pm:

I agree, it WOULD be expensive, and the rumors were just is indeed sad that more cant be done....perhaps at the Osceola shafthouse or Centennial 6....????????

By vicki lowell, mi on Thursday, August 28, 2003 - 10:21 pm:

If you are looking for someone to call about a lake being safe to swim in especially the track record Torch Lake and Lake Linden have had. I would call the DEQ in Michigan. You could get their phone number from your city hall. They are responsible for the environmental quality and also handle the clean ups of waters and land that have been dumped on by harsh chemicals etc.

By lynn ; on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 05:56 pm:

i am doing a paper on early steam locomotives (1800's-early 1900s), what type of contribution do you believe they may have had to pollution at that time ?

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