Copper Country Explorer tells a story – a legend really. It’s a tale of a lost civilization, a forsaken empire that once reigned over the scenic shores of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was an empire ruled by the red metal king – copper. In no other place in the world did it occur in such purity and abundance. Its discovery led to one of the great colonizations of the modern age, transforming what was once nothing more than a remote and rugged wilderness into a sprawling industrial empire and modern metropolitan center of over 100,000 people.
What resulted was a shining oasis in a vast and remote wilderness. Opulent buildings of sandstone and marble lined streets paved with bricks where streetcars mingled with both horses and motorcars. Excursion trains took patrons to manicured parks on high bluffs, or amusement parks along white sand beaches. Multi story department stores offered the latest in Paris fashion, and grand Opera houses seated thousands while showcasing the theater’s best and brightest. Nearby the massive industrial machine employed thousands while providing neighborhoods of homes, staffed schools, stocked libraries, and modern hospitals.
It was not to last however. After over a century of rule, the empire would gasp its last breath. The mines closed, the people left, and the metropolis returned to the wilderness from which it had come. In its place would be only ruins, the crumbling remains of the dreams and hopes of thousands. The Copper Country had become yet another victim to the labored demise of an industrialized nation.
It is these shadows of a lost empire – the ruins and remains scattered across the Keweenaw peninsula – that captures CCE’s interest today. As progress lumbers on these ruins move closer to extinction. With them die the stories of the men, women, and children that served the red metal king with their sweat and blood. Because their story is our history, CCE travels the Keweenaw in search of those clues to the past and stories of a time largely forgotten – documenting what it finds with photos, videos, and diagrams and sharing them on the world wide web. It’s about bringing history a little closer to home. Its about preserving history and keeping it alive for future generations – one post at a time.
About the Author
Copper Country Explorer is written, photographed, and illustrated by me – Mike Forgrave. The history and heritage of the Copper Country has been my passion since laying my eyes upon the decayed remains of the Quincy Smelting Works over 20 years ago. Its mysterious ruins laid across the canal from where my parents and I were enjoying a last dinner together before begining my coursework at Michigan Tech. The ruins fascinated me, the juxtaposition between the modern restaurant we were eating and the ruins of another time just outside our window boggled my young mind. Up to that point I had not been to a place where its past and its future were so intertwined.
In the five years that followed I spent most of my free time exploring even more ruins and remnants scattered across the peninsula, “copper country cruising” becoming my favorite pastime. Upon graduation I would continue to explore the region as I got married and started a family in my newly adopted home. After six years I decided to combine my love for the Copper Country with my background in communications and build an on-line exploration journal to share my love for the Copper Country with the rest of the world. Thus Copper Country Explorer was born in the summer of 2006.