The following guest post is contributed by Ian Tomashik, a sophomore at Dearborn High School outside of Detroit. Ian is a frequent Copper Country explorer with family ties to the region (his grandfather continues to live Mohawk). One of Ian’s frequent explorations took him to the little known ruins of the Wolverine Mill in Gay. He wraps up his tour today…
Here was perhaps the most interesting floor of the mill, and definitely the most photogenic. The drop between each of the upper levels had been only a few feet per floor while separating those levels from the wash floor was a 12-foot high sandstone wall. Even in such a state of ruin, it was still one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever seen in the Copper Country, and even through the trees of the vast stamp sand desert that was sprawled out in front of the mill I could see its huge reddish mass. The wall, despite its size, was only half-intact, with the northern half being destroyed by that landslide of dirt and debris. What a shame; for a moment I tried just to picture the wall as it once was in its full glory, before moving on.
The wash floor was interesting in the fact that it was the only level where signs of the mill’s purpose still showed through the rubble. Most notable was the sandstone wall, still intact, growing out of the piles of dirt that enveloped the mill’s sides which surrounded the wash floor.
Throughout this level stubby blocks of sandstone could be found tossed about while concrete bases marked where each one once sat – in an 8×3 grid, likely signifying roof supports.
Here’s a closer look at one of those blocks of sandstone. Each one had a pair of iron bolts protruding from the top.
Three launders, all strangely perpendicular to the lakeshore (connecting the two sides of the mill), were carved into the floor.
I don’t think these guys are launders. Besides the fact that they run the completely wrong direction (as you note), they are also far to narrow and shallow. You would also expect to find some evidence of a wood liner inside. I would guess these might be some type of expansion joint or maybe drain system in the floor.
To the far northeastern end of the mill sat the mineral house, the second place where the Mohawk & Traverse Bay Railroad entered the building. But here is where my memory of the exploration gets a little hazy. I snapped a photo of a concrete basin-like structure where the mineral house sat, complete with holed ends to suggest where rails once entered the foundation.
Other photos, however, show sandstone walls exiting the main building at the same location, to the sides of the basin. I assumed the concrete foundation sat inside a structure surrounded by sandstone walls, or at least steel walls sitting on sandstone foundations.
This would be the mineral house, or as Sanborn notes “copper scale”.
Other than this, there was little else to see at the site of the old Wolverine Mill. Buried in debris and the wreckage of a collapsed retaining wall, the mill overall is in far worse condition than its neighbor, the Mohawk. Not much was identifiable here in the way of machine foundations; neither was it very picturesque, save for the huge sandstone wall.
Out in front of the mill stretched the remains of the mill’s decrepit wooden launder, no doubt a victim of time and the ever-shifting desert of stamp sand which was sprawled out at the base of the mill. Following the launder a good distance from the mill I came to what could have been the end – still several yards short of the lakeshore. Here is where the Mohawk Mill soldiered on following the Wolverine’s closure – a last, fleeting period of prosperity before the Great Depression put an end to operations at Gay.
Looking back, only the smokestack of the Wolverine’s neighbor marked the place where the mills once stood. The bulk of the Mohawk Mill’s massive concrete foundations bulged out of the forest and was clearly seen, while the Wolverine, though faint, only shows itself to those with perfect vision – still, even from great distance, that towering sandstone wall was faintly visible through the trees in front of the mill.