This post was originally written not knowing that the ruins here are in fact those of the Mohawk Mill’s Pump House. Scroll down for an update
Sitting just outside of Gay – north of the vast expanse of stamp sands along the shore – the fast and shallow Tobacco river flows into Lake Superior. Today the site is home to a serene park – but scattered along the shore and within the bordering woods lie evidence of a more industrious past. These clues – when put together – seem to make the case that a mill once operated on these shore. What type of mill – I’m not sure. First the clues:
Clue #1: The Smoke Stack
The first clue sits just inside the park in plain site along the entrance road. This masonry structure is built up out of what looks like sandstone, sitting a good 10 feet in height. Roughly octagonal in shape, one side has fallen down reveiling a hollow inner core. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the base to a smoke stack – which in the Copper Country means there was a steam engine of some type nearby.
Clue #2: Machinery Mount
Sitting in the woods back from that smokestack is this pedestal made of brick and adorned with threaded rods. We have seen this many times before as well – and it no doubt supported some type of machine. Perhaps a steam engine, or maybe a boiler. Not Sure.
Clue #3: Old Dock
I’ve featured this old wood dock before (check it out HERE). It stretches out from a small point near the mouth of the river, and consists of two parrallel wood “cribs” sunk into the river by piling stones inside of its walls. The dock seems to continue back through the beach and up to the small bluff beyond – evident by the series of steel spikes running up the shore. A dock would suggest that either supplies were brought to the site by boat, or something was shipped away from here by boat.
Clue #4: Stamp Sand
This evidence seems to point to a Stamp Mill, since the existence of stamp sand strongly suggests the other. Most of the beach along the dock (seen here) and down into a small cove south of here is covered in a thick layer of very coarse and dark stamp sand. At first I thought these sands could have simply came from the nearby Mohawk / Wolverine mills. But that might not be the case.
Heres a shot of those Gay sands in question, as seen from that old dock. While they are close to this point – they sit a good half mile to the south of the Tobacco River. Sands don’t travel northward on this side of the Keweenaw, if you look at aerial images of the Gay sands you can see that they are clearly migrating south (which they would continue to do if it wasn’t for the breakwater at the Traverse River). While some of those sands might have made their way up here, there is just too much for it to be from freak happenstance. Also a good stretch of clean beach sits between the Tobacco River and the Gay sands. These sands seem to of been put here by man, not nature.
Here’s an aerial view of the area in question. I marked the location of the dock and the stack. The Gay sands sit to the southwest of here, and as you can see there are clean beaches sitting just south of the river. I also marked what could have been an old railroad spur feeding the mill – which does seem to continue out to the Gay mills.
The way I see it there are only two possibilities for this site: a stamp mill or a lumber mill. While the presence of stamp sand seems to strongly suggest the presence of a stamp mill, those sands could have made their way here from someplace else. The problem with the stamp mill theory is that I have no idea what mine the mill would have belonged to. Also there isn’t that much stamp sand here, so whose-ever mill this was it didn’t process very much ore. And as far as the lumber mill idea, logs could have been floated down the Tobacco River – its fast enough and wide enough for most of its route. But the presence of those stamp sands don’t seem to fit.
Perhaps one of my readers has an idea, or even the answer….