Copper Falls MineMines

A History of Copper Falls (p2)

After two failed endeavors along two separate fissure veins atop Petherick Hill, the struggling Copper Falls Mine became desperate to find a paying lode on its massive land holdings. Luckily, the mine happens across yet another fissure struck across the hillside alongside the same creek from which the mine was first born. This new vein became known as the Owl Creek, located just to the east of the mine’s current operations and named after the adjacent creek . Preliminary work was highly promising, and in a last desperate grasp for life the mine moved all it’s operations over to this new vein. It was a move that would prove to be highly clairvoyant, considering the Owl Creek would turn out to be one of the richest fissure veins of the Keweenaw.

In 1861, to secure more cash for the mine’s newest endeavors , the company sold off 1200 acres of it’s old holdings to a new independent company – the Petherick. Named after the Copper Falls then president William Petherick, the new mine was charged with continuing the work the Copper Falls had started on the Copper Falls and Hill veins. Meanwhile the Copper Falls mine would work the newly discovered Owl Creek fissure, boosted by funds obtained from the land sale. The sale was so successful that a few years later the mine set off another section of it’s considerable land holdings, this time to form the Arnold Mine atop it’s west vein, known as the Jacobs Creek vein.

The Owl Creek

With the land sales behind them, the third incarnation of the Copper Falls mine went straight to work opening the Owl Creek fissure, sinking several shafts along it’s length. Soon the rich fissure would begin producing copper, and the mine would find itself making its first profits by 1861. This incredible feet was made easier by the mine’s installation of Ball stamps in it’s mill, the regions first. Just a few years later the mine would mark another first, paying out it’s first dividends. It would be the only mine north of the greenstone to do so, a trend it managed to continue for many more years. When all was said and done the mine would end up paying out over 100,000 dollars dividends to it’s shareholders.

The Copper Falls would continue to be profitable for some time, thanks to the incredible richness of the owl creek vein. But as is the case with any fissure vein, the coppers runs out eventually. It was a good run for the owl creek, but it too began to peter out by the late 1870’s. To make matters worse, a duo of disasters besieged the struggling mine. First, a massive stope collapse in 1874 resulted in the deaths of 7 men and the mine’s closure for several weeks. Then in 1878 the mines original stamp mill burnt down, ceasing all copper production for over a year.

While these events could of easy led to the end of most mines, the Copper Falls wasn’t ready to call it quits yet. The company used the mill demise as an excuse to completely revamp their operation, renovating the mine into one of the more highly efficient – and unique – operations found throughout the Keweenaw. Instead of rebuilding the mill at its original site, the company elected to build a brand new mill down the road at the opening of the Owl Creek’s main adit. The company than proceeded to use that adit to move the majority of its rock – both copper bearing and poor – out of the mine. This created significant savings in both labor and hoisting costs, and gave the mine yet another lease on life. The year was 1880.

For another decade the Copper Falls mine continued to dig away at the copper within Petherick hill. By now the Owl Creek fissure had been exhausted, but the mine had been able two take advantage of the adjacent Ashbed lode, a feat made possible by the modern and efficient mill it had just finished. But fate would finally catch up to the stubborn mine, as dropping copper prices and diminishing returns forced the mine to close down for good in 1893. There would be no reprise this time, or so it seemed at the time. But the old mine still had a trick or two up it’s sleeve.

The Petherick and Ashbed

While the Copper Falls would see some success after its land sales, those newly formed mines had a much tougher time. The Petherick would work its lode for a few years, clearing its own townsite and producing a minimal amount of copper by utilizing the Cooper Falls mill. But copper was tough to come by and the mine would have to close down in 1865. The Petherick would make a second go of it in 1872, when it purchased the old stamp mill from the defunct Indiana mine and installed it at their mine. But success would still be out of reach, and after another half decade of marginal operation the mine would be forced to shut down once again.

With the Ashbed providing some success for the neighboring Copper Falls mine, a new flock of investors looked to reopen the old Petherick in hopes to share in the wealth. This new operation exclusively worked its portion of the Ashbed lode, and thus this new operation – organized in 1880 – was called the Ashebed. The new mine chose to work the lode in much the same way as the Copper Falls had – by opening a long adit into the vein from the base of the hill and erecting a new mill at it’s mouth. This new mill, however, was unlike most found in the Copper Country as it did not utilize stamps but instead relied on rollers to work the copper bearing rock. It was hoped that this new method would greatly increase the mill’s yield but that would sadly not be the case. The experiment a failure, the mine was forced to close down for good in 1882.

The Arnold

There would be one last chapter written about the Copper Falls empire, this one involving one of it’s 1860s offspring – the Arnold. The Arnold Mine encompasses a tract of land to the west of both the Copper Falls and Petherick properties, along one of the veins originally discovered by Mr. Hill. That vein was the Jacobs, named after the small creek which accompanied it. But the mine never fully got off the ground and closed down before the civil war. It would be opened sporadically after the war, but would never go into full production until 1897, when the mine would fall under the direction of captain Clark.

Clark undertook a massive investment in bringing the old mine into full production. He elected to ignore the Jacobs vein and instead concentrate on the Ashbed lode, sinking two shafts on either side of the creek. The creek was damned and a small reservoir was formed nearby to supply the mine’s boilers with water. Clark then proceeded to buy up the lands of the Arnolds old parent company – the Copper Falls – in order to secure more mineral rights along the Ashbed and to acquire a stamp mill. A two and a quarter mile narrow gauge railroad was then built from the mine to the old Copper Falls Mill, known as the Arnold and Eagle Harbor railroad. The railroad was outfitted with a Baldwin locomotive, six rock cars and a flat car.

With the mill and railroad in place, the Arnold embarked on mining the Ashbed for the next few years. But once again the old Ashbed proved too poor of a lode to sustain a profit, a fate seemingly destined for all mine’s that attempted it (except for the Atlantic for some reason, which is the only mine able to turn a profit on the lode). The Arnold would be forced to lose down for good by 1901. With that the great Copper Falls empire would come to an abrupt end, only a half century after it first burst on the scene.

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  1. Seems to be a lot of talk here lately about streams near these fissures. I see that in other CC locations. Hey geo-gurus, any connection? Streams following the cracks in the topo? Streams uncovering fissures? Etc. Yah, now that I read this back it seems sorta like a no brainer, but lets hear from the rock jocks, eh? (Also, Mean Editor Jim here believes you might want to read this post over for typos. (ex: “feet” “damn”) Great post, but I thought you like to know.)

  2. Been down in the Copper Falls mine several times back in the mid-80’s to early 90’s…great backstory, sorry to hear all the mines have been capped in the 6 yrs I was away

  3. Almost all of the mined fissures veins in the Keweenaw are mineralized transvere fissures. Transverse means they run across not along the bedding layers. A fissure is a geological fault where the strata cracked or slipped. So a fault represents a line of weakness in the rock strata. Once a fault occurs erosion takes place more quickly along the fault than in the surrounding rocks. I mineralized fissure or copper vein is a fault where significant amounts of copper was deposited by hot, mineral laden water similar to what happens at black smokers along the bottom of the mid Atlantic ridge. The faults provided the piping system for the hot fluids to move upwards through the strata.

    Throughout the Keweenaw streams, rivers, and cuts through the Greenstone follow the course of fissures. In additiona to Jacob’s Creek, a few other prominent faults occur along the North American Gap south of Cliff, the Phoneix gap, the Aetna fault, and the fissure that cuts through the Greenstone along the road leading up to the Star mine.

    Not a mining or geology student — but I do lick rocks :-)

  4. I believe the hoist in the top picture above is the one that is currently displayed at the Sigm Rho Fraternity house in Chassell, MI.

    It was taken out piece by piece by some Sigma Rho brothers back in the 50’s, then reassembled on the Fraternity grounds. Quite a feat for college students at the time.

    Here is a website that might lend some additonal info on the hoist.

  5. MT – correct its one and the same. Both that photo and the one from the previous post both document the removal of that engine from the underground. Thanks for the link and additional info!

  6. Brian, I know of one way to get in that was open as of this last fall. I have heard that it got closed up recently, I haven’t checked personally though.

  7. If I remember right, I heard a story told of a… “Explorer” who thought he was slipping into a Copper Falls mine “entrance”, until he got inside and discovered that it was not part of the mine, but in fact was a bear den. :)

  8. A very fascinating thread of information. My great grandfather was born in Copper Falls. He grew up working the Tamarack and Centennial Mines.

  9. Hey Mike,
    Ever thought of doing a map for your readers of all these locales? Love reading up on the posts and comments that add so much more, but I’m a context hound, and I love to have a visual of what I’m reading.

    Please oh please Explorer man?!


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