MinesQuincy Mine

The Quincy Shafts

For most mines along the Keweenaw shaft numbering was simple. The first shaft you sunk was the No. 1. Every shaft after that was named sequentially – working your way along the lode. Going from north to south, or vice versa, you would have the No.1, followed by the No. 2, then the No. 3 and so on. All pretty simple and easy to understand. Quincy did things a little differently. If you follow the lode from north to south you have the following order: No. 8, No. 6, No. 2, No. 4, No. 7. This always seemed wrong to me for a long time. At first glance it didn’t make much sense, and it looked like Quincy just arbitrarily named their shafts whatever they felt like at the time. Well, it turns out there was a method to their madness.

It was 1856 when Quincy started to take advantage of the copper-rich Pewabic Lode – sinking four shafts along its length. These were numbered from north to south as the No.1 through No.4 shafts. The most famous of these early shafts was the No. 2, which operated for the next 60 years. Originally these shafts were very simply structures, connected by tramways to a centralized rock house where the copper-rock would be crushed and sorted. Later, more modern combination shaft/rockhouses would be built atop of them (CORRECTION: No. 4 never received the treatment, check out the comments for info) – as seen in the photo of the No. 2 seen above.

Soon these original four shafts were joined by two more (No.5 and No.6), working the southern extension of the lode. Sinking several shafts in close proximity to each other was common practice in the exploratory stage of a mine. Several shafts provided more information about the lode, and made drifting and hoisting of poor rock much easier. But as a lode is mapped and drifted, these “extra” shafts become unnecessary and are no longer used to hoist rock. By 1872 all but two of these original shafts were abandoned, leaving just the No.2 and the No.4 to support the mine for the next 20 years. The photo above shows these shafts in their prime, with the No.4 in the foreground.

During Quincy’s rise to power in the mid 19th century there were six mines working the Pewabic Lode. The Quincy and Hancock worked the southern extension, the Pontiac and Mesnard worked the northern extension, and in the middle were the Pewabic and Franklin Mines. It was tight quarters, and Quincy pounced on the first of these mines to go under in order to expand its workings. This would be the Pewabic, which Quincy acquired in 1891. In the deal Quincy almost doubled its property while acquiring a shaft, hoist house, boiler house, and several other surface buildings. (including the boiler house and compressor house seen above)

In 1892 Quincy re-opened the Pewabic shaft in order to open up the northern extension of Quincy’s original working – which had previously been cut off by the Pewabic Mine’s boundaries. This shaft became known as North Quincy No.6, and featured Quincy’s first shaft/rockhouse combination. This set-up was so successful that Quincy retro-fitted its No.2 and No.4 shafts to features these shaft/rockhouse combo’s. To build the new shaft Quincy had to remove a great deal of the Pewabic Mine’s old waste piles and run the new hoist cable pulley-stands over the top of what remained. (as seen in the photo above)

Quincy had originally abandoned its shafts along the Pewabic Lodes southern extension because that had run into poor ground. Subsequent drifting from the No.4 to the south reveiled a great deal of copper-rich ground deep below the surface. In 1897 Quincy began sinking their next shaft – the No.7 – in order to access this rich ground. But instead of simply sinking the shaft from the surface as is customary, Quincy started at the other end – from underground. Starting from several drifts that had already been driven into the Pewabic’s southern extension, miners dug the mine upwards towards the surface. The No.7 was also unique as it was the first Quincy shafthouse to be built from steel – as seen in the photo above.

After acquiring the Pewabic Mine the next target on Quincy’s list was its new neighbor – the Franklin Mine. But unlike the Pewabic which had been a troubled mine from the start, the Franklin was in much better financial shape and wasn’t selling. Instead Quincy had to settle for buying up the last two mines along the Pewabic – the Pontiac and Mesnard Mines to the north of the Franklin Mine. With these purchases Quincy was able to open up yet another shaft which would become Quincy No.8, otherwise known as Mesnard No. 8. This shaft would never produce much copper, yet Quincy kept it in production for over a decade.

Last but not least in Quincy’s shaft inventory would be the ill-fated No.9. It was 1909 when Quincy was forced to abandoned the No.4 shaft. It also saw the end of the No.7 shaft – as it was nearing Quincy’s southern boundary. To make up for these losses, Quincy invested in re-opening an old shaft of the Pontiac Mine which it had acquired years earlier. The Pontiac Mine never had any luck at this location, and Quincy ended up with more of the same. Quincy kept sinking the shaft until 1913 when the strike shut it down. Although Quincy would have liked to keep it open, its location far removed from the rest of the Quincy property (at the intersection of Boston Road and US41) made it susceptible to trouble-making strikers determined to keep the shafts from operating. Instead of spending the extra money to protect it, Quincy simply shut it down for good.

By 1922 only two shafts were still operating: the No.2 and the No.6. Less then a decade later they would all close down for good – finally succumbing to the depression. Today only the steel shaft-rockhouse over the No.2 still stands, with only ruins remaining of all of Quincy’s other eight shafts. A good deal of semi-intact structures still manage to stand upon the property including the machine shop, blacksmith shop, No.4 surface plant, No.7 Boiler, No.2 surface plant, along with the boilers and dry house from the North Quincy. The Mesnard No. 8 still stands as well, except for a more modern headframe installed in the ’70s. To get a better idea of where these ruins sit today, be sure to check out my Quincy Mine Ruin Map via the link below.

Quincy Mine Ruins Map….

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  1. Okay, so if they started with #1 to the north and ended with #4 in the south, that would imply that there should be a #1 shaft to the north of #2, and a #3 shaft between #2 and #4. The shafts must still be there, hopefully capped. Are there any ruins left from #1 or #3?

    Second question. Anyone know why so many mines seemed to put the hoist house a significant distance away from the shaft house? Did it have something to do with the angle of the hoist ropes as they went from the relatively short hoist house to the realatively tall shaft house? Quincy #2 is an example, it seems like it could have been much closer. Also it would seem that closer would mean that a given hoist could support a deeper mine, at least a few hundred feet deeper.

  2. The #2 boiler house is a loooooong way away from the #2. Is that really where it was? It’s bizarrely far away from the #2 hoists.

    Speaking of hoists — and it’s only a guess — a lot of photos show hoist rope supports of steadily increasing height heading from hoist houses to shaft-rockhouses (as in the 2nd photo here). Perhaps the hoists were set back so far to keep the angle of the rope from being too steep. The rope would have to enter the shaft-rockhouse near its top at the sheaves, and it would be silly to put a huge steam engine up at that same height. That’s my best guess!

  3. Dale..

    The No.1 sits right on the corner of Lower Pewabic Road and US41 – right behind the shack that still sits there (which was a captains office). The old Pewabic boundary crossed right through that intersection – too close for comfort to the shafthouse. This is the main reason they didn’t keep up with the No. 1 – it just didn’t have any room.

    As far as the No. 3 I want to say it was switched over to serve as a man-shaft (the one I featured here a few days ago), but I’m not sure. I don’t think they would of sunk a whole new shaft just for a man-shaft, so they probably just re-used the NO. 3.

    As far as the hoist house question, I’m sure others here could answer that better. I’m with you though, and think it has something to do with a bunch of physics and science. But it does seem pretty standard across most of the ruins I have been too (in terms of distance to the hoist).

    dcclark –

    I didn’t think the NO. 2 Boiler House designation was correct, but thats what the HAER maps said. What’s even more odd was that the boiler house RIGHT NEXT TO the No. 2 hoist building is labeled as the No. 5 boiler house. Crazy.

    I think in both these cases this also has a lot to do with Quincy’s constant shaft roulette. The boiler house marked as the No. 2 is on old Pewabic property – so it could of been for the Pewabic Mine’s No. 2 shaft. As for the No. 5 boiler, thinking it was built for the No. 5 shaft, but when that shaft was abandoned they simply re-used it for the No. 2.

  4. I have a vague recollection that Quincy #5 is the man shaft. It certainly lines up with the bat cage.

  5. those old shaft-rockhouses like in pic #2 always made me think of scandinavian stave-churches…

  6. Adam –

    After looking up what a “stave church” was, I can see the similarity. Of course the shaft-houses were built with a frame construction and not a vertical type stave method. Of course there might of been some scandinavian influence with the designers, but I think in Quincy’s case it was just a product of constant additions to the building over time.

  7. dcclark-Negative No. 5 Shaft is capped, its located at the tour area of the Quincy adit, Man shaft is between No. 2 and 4 Shaft. On the shaft numbering there are several un-numbered shafts in between 2 and 7 and one raise past No. 7 so who knows which one was No. 3…

    Dale-One could go on for hours or days even on the placement of Sheaves and hoists, theres a bounch of things involved with fleet angles, etc. You tend to find hoists farther away from head frames on the inclined shafts… I think it maybe to get more of a horizonal load on the hoist foundations (remember some were made of poor rock). Today hoists are placed much closer, it doesn’t affect the Max depth too much since the weight of the wire rope is minimal compared to the payloads of the skips.

  8. The Hoists were placed a distance from the shafts to reduce the risk of collapse due to the vibrations. QMCo. Shaft #1 is right north of the gift shop (Supply office). Shaft #3 is underneath the poured concrete floor of the old compressor building. The man-shaft/bat cage would be Shaft #3 1/2. Shaft #4 never got the hybrid rock/shafthouse. It sent its product via tram road to the rockhouse which was adjacent to Shafthouse #7 (as seen in the 6th photo on this page and also in the first photo, right behind the roundhouse).

  9. Chuck,

    Thanks for stopping by! Your messages got grabbed by my spam filter at first and I apologize. Its always great to have readers who can provide some expert knowledge of the stuff I attempt to cover here. (My other readers are great too, don’t get me wrong) I had never thought of a vibration risk to the shafts. I suppose working in a hoist house you would feel that vibration through the floor all day long – probably continue vibrating for some time after you got home too.

    About the rockhouse at No. 4 – my mistake at that one. Thanks for the correction. I suppose out of the original shafts only No. 2 got the star treatment, which makes sense since it seemed like their star pupil. One question if you don’t mind however (now that I got you here!), is the boiler house currently adjacent to the No. 2 hoist for the No. 2 or the No. 5 as the HAER maps seem to indicate? It seems too far away from the No. 5 shaft.

  10. Joe,

    When you say the #5 shaft is at the tour area of the Quincy adit, do you mean at the top of the hill by the cog rail tram or actually at the bottom by the adit?

  11. After reading about Quincy’s problems with “air blasts” which were actually cave-ins caused by the lack of supports (rock or timber) in the mine, how did they determine it was safe enough for tours?

    Makes ya appreciate that helmet.

  12. Jay, I had to puzzle out the #5 comment too, but if you’ve been on the tour it makes a bit more sense. When you take the tour, you go into the adit for quite a distance, and the tour ends when the adit intersects the #5 shaft.

  13. So the shaft with the water in it at the end of the tour is the #5? I always thought it was the #2. I guess that makes more sense ’cause the #2 seems to be quite a ways from the top of the hill, let alone the bottom.

  14. The cream colored brick boilerhouse, next to the 1895 No. 2 Hoist is boilerhouse #5. The numbering of the boilerhouses at one time may have attempted to stay the same at the hoists that they served but this one was just given a number that wasn’t being used at the time.

  15. In answer to Jay’s question about the safety at the Quincy mine. There are mine inspectors, I would assume they are employed by the county, that do yearly safety checks of the shafts and tunnels used for the tours.

    Here is some more information about the air blasts that occurred at the Quincy Mine on March 25 1914.
    According to an article from the May 22nd 1915 Engineering and Mining Journal (E/MJ) the damage was the “No. 6 shaft timbers were crushed between the 51st and 58th levels. No. 2 shaft was crushed and closed between the 40th and 50th levels. Below the 50th level the shaft was not damaged, though crosscuts at 57th, 64th and 66th were entirely closed and levels north badly damaged. The 67th, 68th, 69th, 70th and 71st levels north and south were not injured. The cost of repairing the damage done by the air blasts amounted to $57,190, and $21,847 was spent in efforts to prevent them.” In most cases each level was 100 feet deeper than the previous level. The 40th level would be 4000 feet from the surface. Later some of the levels went to 150 to 200 foot spacing.

    The article states that in most of the areas where the air blasts occurred there was no support for the hanging wall. It was common practice in “earlier times” to stope out the ore to the shaft and not leave any type of support, be it pillars or wood stulls. In some cases the stopes were filled with either poor rock or stamp sand. In “later years” the Quincy adopted a policy of leaving 200 foot pillars on each side of the shaft. They also discussed changing from an advancing system (stoping from the shaft to end of the drift) to a retreating system (driving the drift first then stoping toward the shaft). Retreat stoping is more expensive than advance stoping. In 1906 they started using “crib work” (timbers to support the hanging wall) but it was shown that the area where the the cribbing was done was not large enough to prevent the hanging wall from collapsing from the pressure it is under. The Quincy did not adopt the retreat stoping until the 1920’s

    I guess my answer to Jay’s question is that the caving that caused the air blast happened in very deep portions of the mine.

  16. Hello everybody! Haven’t posted in a while, but saw this thread and had to tell a story… When I was a mining engineering student in 1981 (yikes!) we were driving a drift at the end of the adit (where the tour runs) towards the #2; we simply drilled, blasted, then mucked out the rock and trammed it over to another shaft where we dumped it. At orientation, they showed us the emergency exit in case of fire or cave in; it was a little “coyote hole”, or man-run about 5′ tall and 2′ wide with a steel gate. It snaked through the rock and opened up into the old workings, the likes of which I never imagined! Massive stopes that went higher and lower than your light would shine, eerily quiet and awe inspiring. We walked along the edge on the water drainage troughs for what seemed like hours, until we met up with shaft #2; they had a rope down the center of the incline which could be used to scramble up the 7 levels to the shafthouse. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done (but the Owl Creek was close). We were always told that if we fell down the stopes or shaft where we dumped the rock, they wouldn’t come after our corpse, unless we were wearing new boots. I still think about the summer I worked underground, and can’t wait to open up the shaft at my mine and get down another level! It’ll be a couple years, so don’t get too excited. I haven’t taken the new tour, but will one of these days. Oh, and I believe the air blasts stopped occuring in the late 1960’s, so I’m sure the adit is safe. Besides, it’s just a falling hanging wall; you’d never feel a thing if you were in there when it gave way.

  17. Sorry Kurt, your comment got mistaken as spam. Had to OK it – (obviously you have to post more often!) I had a friend that was a tour guide at Quincy a decade or so ago, and he would tell me the same stories about those old workings. It was like a massive black hole in the middle of the earth. It sounded pretty exciting, and would definitely be something to see.

  18. Capt. Kurt,

    Very cool story about the underground world at Quincy.

    Can you tells us about your Owl Creek adventures? I only know it from the surface.

    Also, some details about your mine? Where is it? What is your project there? Sounds very interesting.


  19. Hello Herb. The Owl Creek (Copper Falls) mine was awesome. 4 of us spent the entire day underground mapping what we could, and seeking the foundations for the old hoisting equipment on display in Chassel at the fraternity house; we did find where it had been located, many levels down. In all I’ve probably been in there 4 times, but I heard it’s sealed up now. We walked for about 10 hours and never duplicated our steps, that’s how big it is underground. My mine is the old Robbins/West Vein at Phoenix, and it’s just a “hobby mine”. I have plans to put a concrete portal with doors on the adit next summer, and eventually clear out the main shaft inside. You missed a nice get-together at the mine this summer; I believe everybody had a good time. I’ll do it again next summer, schedule permitting. Can’t wait to get underground again! Yea, I’m strange… :)

  20. A while back I posted a link to an 1866 NY Times article written by a journalist who toured Cliff Mine. I just found an earlier article where he also toured Quincy. It talks about either having to ride the skip or climb the ladders to get into and out of the mine, since Quincy didn’t have a man engine at the time (they later had one in the #4 shaft). They chose to climb down the ladder and ride the skip up. They went to the 8th level (taking a half hour to climb down about 500 feet), wandered around there for a bit, then went down to the 9th level and saw a stope that went up 500 feet, to within 50 feet of the surface! It Quincy part takes up most of the left two columns, the rest of the page is something about the Adirondacks.


  21. Man, I wish I could’ve been inside of one of those shaft houses! Does anyone know when the last of these was torn down? I checked out a book at my local library awhile back that was written in the 50s. I think it was called” Michigan In Four Centuries” But I’ll have to check on that. It has what I think was a currant photo at the time of one of those great Quincy shaft houses. I’m thinking it was #6. It’s bigger like the #2 but the floor plan is reversed and it’s wood construction.

  22. Wow! That’s an impressive photo — I’ve never seen it before. I’m guessing #8 (#7 was pretty distinctive as well).

  23. That’s #8, probably not too long before it was torn down. She started shedding sheet metal onto the highway which annoyed the government.
    Actually, according to the somewhat foggy history of Quincy recycling things, parts of #7 are probably in the the photo. Supposedly they used parts of 7 to rebuild 8. One source says they moved 7 to 8, but later photo evidence doesn’t support that since most of 7 was still in place up until the WWII scrap frenzy. I suspect #7’s machinery and part of the structure was used at 8, probably the gabled section over the shaft collar.

  24. The Quincy man-engine shaft was a separate shaft from the No3, about 90 ft south along the strike of the vein. You can see both in the vertical section Grant posted on 4/22/2009. A similar map can be found in the book, Old Reliable. Also, per Quincy Co. report just after they purchased the Old Franklin the new owners indicated they would not need to reopen the existing Franklin shafts because they would be able to access the Franklin workings from existing Quincy workings. The original Pewabic mine had 2 shafts and the Old Franklin (to distinguish it from the Franklin Jr.) had 5 shafts. When Quincy purchased the Franklin mine property the only Franklin shaft houses still standing were the No 3 and No 5. The Franklin hoists had been moved north to the Franklin Jr. property several years earlier.

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