Mines of the Delaware Region

The Delaware is a mine with a long and convoluted history, so much so that it suffers from a rather chronic and cumbersome identity crisis. As is the case with most mines along the Keweenaw, the mine’s ownership and corporate status were constantly evolving along with its fortunes (or lack thereof). In the Delaware’s case, however, those changes and evolutions were far more numerous and short lived. All in all the mine we know today as the Delaware has had over six owners and was known by just as many names. To make matters worse the area on which the Delaware sits was home to over a half dozen mines at one time or another, all working a tight collection of fissure veins which make their way under the ridge line. In fact the “Delaware Mine” that you can currently tour was in actuality worked by a completely different mining company. Its all enough to confuse even the best local historians, not to mention those copper country explorers who happen to write their own daily blog on their exploits. To try to make some sense of the mayhem, I thought we’d take a break from our exploration of the site to get a better idea of what exactly we were looking at. Lets start at the beginning….

The Northwest

The Delaware begins its long career in 1847 as the Northwest. Operating under the auspices of the Northwest Copper Association, the old mine worked a recently discovered fissure vein sitting just to the west of the current Delaware property. Generally the ground was rather poor, but enough mass copper was removed to warrant further work at the site. Two more neighboring fissures – the Stoughtenburgh and Hogan – were subsequently mined in the later years. By 1849 the mine was re-organized as the Northwest Mining Company and would build itself a modern stamp mill complete with a battery of 24 cornish stamps. In the next three years the mine was only able to produce $100,000 worth of copper, but occurred costs exceeding $170,000. Though the writing was on the wall, the mine labored on for a decade more and managed to build itself a second stamp mill on the Montreal river (with supporting incline railway) and establish the adjacent village of Wyoming. But by 1859 the mine had run out of money and its inevitable closure was finally a reality.

The Pennsylvania

All was not over for the Delaware, however. After the Northwest’s demise a new mining company grew from its ashes. This was the Pennsylvania Mining Company, and entity created by the Northwest’s directors in 1861 simply to garnish more funds for continued work at the site. Towards that end another half million dollars of financing was secured and the new company resumed with reckless abandon the Northwest’s unfinished work. Luckily this new company had learned something from its predecessors failed attempt, and concentrated its efforts on a pair of new fissures discovered a bit eat of the old workings. But instead of mining, the new company elected to first spend upwards of $100,000 on surface improvements including a new stamp mill (!), road to Lac La Belle, inclined railway, and hoisting plant. But when finally ready to concentrate its efforts on the actual act of mining the company had found itself out of money, and had to raise new capital to continue. To do this it came up with a novel solution – create yet another mining company!

The Delaware

In 1863 over 700 ares of Pennsylvanian lands were set aside to form a new mining company – the Delaware Mining Company. For this privilege the new company paid the Pennsylvania $100,000 in stock, and with fresh capital the two companies redoubled their efforts to mine the neighboring fissure veins. Another round of extensive surface improvements were embarked upon that resulted in the construction of yet another pair of stamp mills. The two mines worked independently and concurrently for over a decade before finally merging back together under the Delaware Copper Mining Company banner in 1876. The new company immediately stopped work on the old Pennsylvania fissures and concentrated its efforts back at the old Northwest property, specifically the Stoughtenburgh vein. A new shaft house was built along with a large wood rock house and connecting tramway. But once again the resulting copper yields were disappointing and the company desperately searched for a new deposit to pillage before its funds ran out yet again. Luckily the Delaware had one last trick up its sleeve – the Allouez Conglomerate.

The Conglomerate

With the discovery of this new copper lode came a new name, as the company re-organized yet again to raise the necessary capital to switch production to a new copper deposit. The new company was established in 1880 and was fittingly called the Conglomerate Mining Company. It consisted of not only the lands of the former Delaware and Pennsylvania Mines but the extensive holdings of the defunct Mendota Mining Company as well. All in all the company owned over 20,000 acres including the entirety of lands surrounding Lac La Belle, where it erected itself yet another new stamp mill. Connecting the new mill to the mine was the short line Lac La Belle & Calumet RR, a railroad first began under the authority of the Delaware and Pennsylvania Mines but never finished until now. With the new railroad and mill in place the Conglomerate began operations atop the Allouez Conglomerate lode, sinking several shafts along its length. But once again the results were unsatisfactory, and the mine had only succeeded in blowing over a million dollars in capital with very little to show for it. By 1884 it was all done.

Thought finished with mining, the Conglomerate continued to maintain and preserve its impressive surface infrastructure in the years that followed, in hopes for a brighter future. In 1888 the property was reorganized yet again as the Lac La Belle Mining Company, and later as the Oneida Copper Company in 1899. Finally the property fell under the ownership of the Keweenaw Copper Company in 1905, which extended the idle Lac La Belle & Calumet RR to form the Keweenaw Central Railroad.

But the Delaware is only one part of the puzzle, as the region on which the Delaware sits was home to another mine. It was this mine that we had in fact discovered during our exploration, a mine that sits to the west of the current Delaware location. That mine is the Amygdaloid.

The Amygdaloid

While the Northwest had owned several thousands acres around the current Delaware mine, its holdings were limited to sections 15 and 14, leaving the neighboring section 16 open for exploration. After the Northwest’s excavations revealed evidence of several amygdaloid belts running through its property, the Amygdaloid Mining Company was organized in 1860 to take advantage of those belts, buying up neighboring section 16 in the process. Though those amygdaloid belts turned out to be less then stellar, the mine had managed to produce some $45,0000 worth of copper and silver from its work on several fissure veins that also ran through their property – the Drexel being their largest producer. An impressive surface plant was erected along the Drexel fissure and a 1600 foot inclined tramway connected it with a stamp mill down along the Montreal river. The mine would continue to produce for more then a decade more, finally closing down by 1878.

The Connecticut

The Connecticut Mine was an offshoot of the Amygdaloid, mining an adjacent fissure vein of the same name to the east of the Drexel and just west of the old Northwest vein. The mine sunk three shafts along the vein along with an adit. It ceased production around 1857.

Conclusion

The Delaware region is much more then the Delaware Mine we know today. These two square miles of land were once home to a half dozen mines spread across eight fissure veins and a conglomerate outcropping. To get a better idea of how it all came together, I’ve put together a small map of the area showcasing its mines and fissures (click on the image for the big picture)…

With this in mind I’m pretty sure now what mine we were previously exploring, and as I thought it wasn’t the Delaware. In fact it had nothing to do with the Delaware, instead belonging the the neighboring Amygdaloid Mine. More specifically we were looking at the remains of the surface plant sitting atop the Drexel vein. With that in mind I’ve switched the category for the previous posts to its new identity and will refer to it by its correct name – the Amygdaloid – in the subsequent posts.

But for those Delaware fans out there don’t worry. We’ll get to the old mine once we’re through with the Amygdaloid. Then we’ll take an even closer look on the illustrious life and times of the Northwest… I mean Delaware….er…Pennsylvania….Conglomerate….Lac La Belle…Oneida….

6 comments

  1. Accidentally found this over the weekend, you want to talk about an interesting way to view the Delaware Mine…. Apparently, this was done with permission of the mine tour owners, a dive team with lights and cameras going into the flooded parts of the mine!

  2. grant holmstrom

    i have a great booklet on the Delaware mine

  3. Thanks! The map really helps.

  4. Awesome!

  5. Really good article. It is easy to forget all of the comings and goings of the different mining concerns. Great map too. I will have to look at a color version at the USGS.

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