Isle Royale MineMines

The Isle Royale No.6

Isle Royale No. 6

The Isle Royale Mine originally opened in 1852, on a section of the Isle Royale lode squeezed between the Grand Portage to the north and the Huron on the south. By 1854 the mine was joined by a small stamp mill, joined to the mine by a 2-mile long tramway. Unfortunately the mine found little success, and was leased on tribute to the Mabbs brothers. They too were ultimately unsuccessful, and the mine closed down by 1882. In the end over a million dollars was sunk into the property – with very little results to show for it.

In 1899 the mine was given a new lease on life, having been bought up along with the neighboring Grand Portage and Huron Mines in the formation of a new mining company – known as the Isle Royale Copper Company. Fueled by a large investment by none other then C&H itself, the new company got to work sinking a new series of shafts in the old Isle Royale Lode – this time with a little more success for their efforts.

Isle Royale No.6 sits on the company’s far southern end, originally part of the failed Frue and Dodge prospects. It was a three-compartment shaft with a depth of about 2,500 feet. Besides the adjacent rock house, the only evidence of the shaft today is the flat slab of concrete used to cap it.

More visible is the remains of the old rock house, which stand nearby. Since the No. 6 was one of the Isle Royale’s more recent shafts, it sported a more modern surface plant. This included a steel and concrete rock house that utilized a large steel rock bin (C) set atop a pair of concrete walls. Between those walls would have ran a line or rock cars (A), filled by means of a series of rock chutes protruding from the bottom of the rock bin sitting above them. The pillar rising up from the ruins (B) was the base for a steam powered rock hammer that once sat above it. The shaft is to the left in the picture (D).

Here is one of the concrete walls, which resembles the letter “D” from above. The weight of not only the rock house superstructure, but the rock bin and its contents as well, would have been supported by this foundation and its sibling to the left.

A closer look at the walls themselves reveals a great deal about how they were constructed. The vertical grooves in the wall are from the form itself, which was apparently built up from several vertical boards strapped together. This is in contrast to the rest of the wall, which is faced with horizontal grooves. In those sections horizontal boards were used instead. You can also see that the wall was poured in three stages, due to the slight change in color and consistency apparent as you move up the wall.

This narrow opening – about a dozen feet wide – was were the ore cars would be run when loading up on copper from above. The picture is looking north, towards the No.5. You can also see in the photo the horizontal grooves along the walls, evidence of the horizontal boards used in the form here.

Fastened into the base of the concrete walls – right at the opening of the ore car corridor – are a series of eye bolts similar to this one. No idea what these were used for, though it must have been used to tie something down to the foundation. (perhaps the cable stands?)

Meanwhile at the north side of the foundation we found these series of holes drilled into sides of the ore car opening. Obviously something was attached to the foundation here, I just don’t know what.

On the foundation’s north-west side is this pillar that supported the rock house’s drop hammer. This “drop hammer” was essentially a large weight that was dropped from great height onto a stubborn piece of rock to free the copper imprisoned within it. Here you can not only see the vertical grooves from the form, but the boards themselves.

Before leaving the old rock house remains, we spotted this interesting piece of concrete laying nearby. Its etched with the date of 1918, which as far as I know isn’t a date of any significance. The shaft was built long before 1918, and the cap would have been placed much later then that. Perhaps the current ruins are from a replacement rock house built around 1918? Or perhaps the things upside down and actually reads 8-1-61?

To Be Continued…

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  1. Three separate spaces in one extra wide shaft. Each dedicated to one function. (1) for the Man car. (2) for the rock car/skip. (3) water lines(pump), electric and airlines.

  2. Multi-compartment shafts became more popular as mines grew, got deeper, and had greater structural needs (like air hoses, the need for more hoisting, etc.). I think that the Tamarack shafts were 8- or 9-compartment — they were massive!

  3. I couldn’t imaging fitting 3 shafts in that space. That must have made for one cramped man car.

    When I found that first picture you have in the archives, it was titled “#4 & #6 Isle Royale Mine Shafts”. I thought maybe it was indicating that the smoke stack in the background was from the #4, but the orientation of the rock house suggests that the #4 shaft would be out of frame off to the right.

  4. Matt.. Those photos were throwing me for quite a while. The one I used is indeed labeled “#4 & #6” but you can only see one shaft in the photo. So I had to figure out what shaft it actually was showing. To do this I used the Sanborn maps. It turns out the No.4 and No.6 surface plants were very similar in terms of layout and design. But there were a few noticeable differences that helped me make the determination.

    FIrst is the relation between the hoist and boiler houses. From the vantage point this photo was taken the No.4 boiler house would sit just behind the Hoist and slightly to the left. The No.6 boiler house sits to the right.

    The second is the placement of the boiler stack. At the No.4 the boiler stack sits to the south-west of the boiler house, or to the left in the photo in question. The stack for the No. 6 sits to the north of the boiler house, or to the right in the photo.

    Because of this I was able to be relatively certain that this baby was the No.6, but those stacks seen near the shaft continue to throw me. I have no idea who they belong to. They are completely in the wrong spot to be part of the No.4 (or even the No.5). The fact that there appears to be three of them also throws me. No where on the Sanborn are there such a collection.

  5. These photos are off of glass plates. How certain are we that when they were scanned, that they were oriented correctly? If you flip that picture horizontally, then the layout (from what you are describing) would fit the #6, and it would put those stacks in the rough location of the Huron stamp mill.

    Also if you look in the archives, there are 2 other pictures with the same label, but showing distinctly different topography and different buildings. So I’m betting that we have pictures of both the #4 and the #6, but they labeled as a group. I might have to go compare the other photos to the Sanborns

  6. Matt.. That is very true, and I find more than a few photos in the archives that are flipped incorrectly. During my confusion with the stacks in this photo I also flipped it, but it makes even less sense that way. Though the location of the boiler and hoist match the No.4 layout in the flipped version, the coal trestle is going completely the wrong way and intersecting the Boiler House at completely the wrong angle. So I don’t think it was inadvertently flipped during scanning.

    I like your idea about the photos all being labled as a group. That makes sense. I do know that there is a photo of the No.4 in that group, and you can see the differences between it and the No.6.

  7. Yep, Mike’s first photo is #6.
    The photo of Number 4 is interesting as the mine is still being built, the top portion where the cable goes in is still open. Kind of gives a clue to the date of the photo.
    Also interesting is the lack of cable stands for supporting the cable between the hoist and shafthouse, unless they haven’t been installed yet. All 3 photos maybe from when the shafts were built.

  8. #4, 5 and 6 had similiar shafthouses. #6 was formerly known as the Section 11 exploratory shaft opened in 1904, it had good ground from the start. So I would guess those smaller stacks next to the shafthouse may have been from the old exploratory shaft.
    Now I wonder if that 3rd photo off Tech’s Archive is the Number 5 shaft since its surroundings look different from the other 2

  9. Steve,
    It was a three compartment but there was a bit of confusion in compartment numbering… It had two conveyance compatments and a smaller ladderway/utility line. Man cars would run in the same compartment as the skips… In modern vertical shafts we now usually put in 4 compartments; one for utilities and ladder, one for the Mary-Ann or single drum hoist for men and materials and two for skips. In general the copper country was ahead of the curve on hoisting, but way behind in shaft utilization, the exceptions being, as Dave mentioned, Tamarack shafts and Red Jacket

  10. Did the Tamarack and Red Jacket Shafts dedicate a compartment just to man handling? I was sure I had read something refering to three or more compartments moving men and rock in separate compartments and not having to unhook and re-hook the man car.

  11. Allen,
    Yeah Tamarack and Red Jacket had dedicated cage comparments, in vertical shafts its a bigger pain in the drain to re-hang a conveyance, as you have to remove the guides. In an incline shaft you just need a set of run off rails, an overhead crane, a tugger or two and a couple of strong backs to set the pin (linking your cross head to the socket on the hoist rope) and your off to the races.

    The typical copper country shaft was only thres comparments, two for hoisting and one for ladders and utilities.


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