It was deep within the conglomerate workings of the Osceola Mine that Captain John Daniell would first envision the Tamarack Mine. It was the late 1870′s and the Osceola had been attempting to mine the great Calumet Conglomerate Lode at its southern end, but with little success. It appeared that a lode so copper-rich just a mile north had become virtually barren under the Osceola’s lands. But all was not lost. After years working underground, Mr. Daniell had developed an intimate understanding of the conglomerate lode he was tasked to mine. For instance he noticed the lode kept a consistent dip of 37.5º along its known depth and postulated that this dip would continue indefinitely for as long as deep as the lode ran. With this in mind Daniell envisioned the possibility of mining the same rich lode that C&H was lucky enough to be situated atop of – by sinking vertical shafts down to the lode from lands west of of C&H – virtually mining the lode from right under C&H’s nose.
While many thought the captain was a bit off his rocker for such thinking, he did manage to convince a few people of his sanity – most importantly two Osceola investors by the name of Clark and Bigelow. With these two men’s backing and over a million and a half dollars of capital the newly formed Tamarack Mine quickly bought up a tract of land immediately west of C&H’s property. In 1882 Daniell’s crazy plan was finally set in motion and the mine’s first shaft began to take shape at the base of a large hill overlooking the town of Red Jacket. Three years and 2270 feet later the shaft finally struck the great Calumet Conglomerate lode, just ten feet deeper then Daniell had estimated it would be. And just like Daniell had thought, the lode was still just as rich at that depth as it was up near the surface within C&H’s workings. From that point on the Tamarack Mine would forever be known as one of the Copper Country’s great mines – right up there with the likes of Quincy and C&H.
An operation of such size and scope as the Tamarack Mine required a great deal of labor to succeed, nearly 2000 able bodied men when all was said and done. Since the adjacent village of Red Jacket was already quite overcrowded by the time Tamarack arrived on the scene, this new influx of workers required a new supply of housing. In response the company dutifully cleared land around the mine site, laid out a grid work of streets, and lined those streets with over a hundred houses and duplexes for those workers and their families to live. With this the community known as Tamarack Location was born.
Tamarack Location encompasses an area of roughly one square mile, most of which sits atop a high hill overlooking the swampy lands of adjacent Red Jacket and Osceola. Due to this unique topography, the rather strict and uniform street grid established through Red Jacket and Yellow Jacket was set slightly askew, turning northward to climb the hill. Its borderd on the south-east by the Tamarack Mine itself and the C&H community of Yellow Jacket. To the west lies swamp and on the north end is a steep hill that ends along M-203. Thanks to the close proximity of Red Jacket’s business district, the location never developed any sort of commercial center and remained largely residential in make up. But that didn’t make it any less healthy as a community.
Even without business or commerce, Tamarack Location would quickly become a booming community. By 1900 the mining location was running out of room atop the hill and expanded east up to the Yellow Jacket limits. By 1910 it had run out of room yet again, and started to expand onto the swampy lands skirting the southern end of the hill. Looking down over the community from atop one of the Tamarack Mine’s rock houses – as seen above – revealed a vast residential neighborhood populated by an almost endless array of roofs and chimneys stretching out towards the horizon. But like all mining camps, the community’s fortunes were tied to the mine that created it and as the mine fortunes diminished so too did the community’s size and scope. By 1917 the writing was on the wall and the Clark-Bigelow syndicate got out of the copper business as fast as it could – selling off all of its properties to C&H in the process including the Tamarack Mine and its adjacent land holdings. Tamarack Location’s zenith had been reached, and the community would never be the same again.
Nearly a century later, a view out across Tamarack’s hillside location reveals quite a different scene then witnessed earlier. That vast landscape of roofs and chimneys is now replaced with overgrown fields and emptiness. Out of the hundred plus houses that once resided here – only a couple dozen continue to stand. Out of the community’s original compliment of streets, more then half have been abandoned and forgotten. All in all less then a third of the community’s original lots are still occupied; the rest have reverted into empty fields and overgrown lots.
This drastic decline becomes painfully clear when you take a step back and look down at the community from above – as illustrated in the map seen above. It shows Tamarack Location as it currently exits, showcasing the old community’s roads and buildings. Those houses and roads that still exist are shown in black, while those that have succumbed to history are shown in gray. Along with those houses and roads are shown a collection of public buildings – many built by the mine itself – that once served the community’s residents but are no longer standing to tell their story. These buildings, which include a church, store, public school, and even a hospital, are no longer standing but were once an important piece of Tamarack’s community fabric.
While it’s true that much of Tamarack Location is no longer with us, there are a few glimpses of its more illustrious past scattered along the roads that do remain. You just have to now where to look.
Thankfully that process is helped along greatly by this beautiful photo shown above (click on the image for a full-resolution view). This shot – taken sometime around 1906 I believe – is part of a massive panoramic image taken of Tamarack Location and the surrounding landscape from the vantage point of the No.2 rock house. I’ve featured these photos before on CCE, but not at this high of a resolution. It’s because of this high fidelity that I can take a really close look at the Tamarack Location that once was, and compare it to what I could find on the ground a century later.
Before we do that, however, we’ll first take a look at a few structures that you cannot see in that high resolution photo show above, but are never-the-less important in understanding the old mining location as it once was. We’ll start with Tamarack’s beautiful Queen-Anne style hospital…
Like most mine companies of the day, the Tamarack Mine built and funded its own medical facility to care for its workers and their families. Known as the Tamarack Hospital, this impressive sandstone and wood structure was located atop the hill along Beech Street. Built in 1900 at a cost of over $30,000, this three and a half story structure housed several doctors’s offices, a laboratory, dispensary, drug store, ambulance garage, three large wards, and an operating room. In addition to a large freight elevator for transporting patients between floors, the modern structure also featured an unique indirect steam heat system used to create natural air flow in the rooms.
A view up that same road today reveals a bit of a different view, most notably absent the hospital itself. In its place now stands a collection of scrawny trees and bushes. What is the same, however, is the house just behind those bushes and trees.
That same house is also seen in this old archive pic, next door to the old hospital. Turns out the house was actually part of the hospital complex, used to house the facilities nursing staff.
Here’s another look at that house, this time as seen in its current incarnation. The old open porch has since been converted into a covered porch, but you can still make out the rather intricate sandstone foundation lining the original building’s perimeter.
Turns out there is actually a bit more remaining of that old hospital. After taking a closer look into that tangle of brush and trees we were able to make out a few old sandstone footings hiding in the grass. Based on their location and placement I would guess that they were part of the building’s front porch foundation.
In addition to the hospital the company also erected a modest wood-framed schoolhouse, the bell tower of which can just be seen behind and to the right of the old hospital in the photo above. Known as the Tamarack School, this two story building sat along 3rd street (but faced the alley oddly enough) and shared a heating plant with the hospital.
Here’s the old school grounds as they look today. That line of pines atop the hill are probably the only remnants of the old building, considering it was built from wood. Those trees were probably originally planted as a wind break up behind the school and are now full grown trees. The old school grounds are now home to an official weather station (seen just off to the left in the above photo) so we decided not to talk a walk up the hill for a closer look.
Instead we decided to move northward in search of a few structures that are actually visible in that panoramic image. Towards that end we move up 3rd street towards what was once the heart of the old community…
To Be Continued…