Calumet

It was a land surveyor blazing a path through the swampy highlands in the Keweenaw’s interior who first discovered the great Calumet Conglomerate lode. It was a discovery he kept to himself for several years as he secured the investors necessary to buy the mining rights to the land and form the Calumet Mining Company. Soon after a second company – the Hecla Mining Company- would began work along the lode just south of the Calumet’s holdings. These two mines proved to be highly rich in copper and would later merge to become the most successful mining company in the Keweenaw – the Calumet and Hecla Mine.

Originally known as Red Jacket, the town of Calumet first formed to the north of the great mine in 1864 to serve the workers of the newly formed Calumet Mine. As the mine’s success grew, the town of Red Jacket expanded and profited in response. By 1900 the small town had grown to nearly 5,000 residents, which together with the surrounding mining communities created a sprawling metropolis of nearly 30,000 people. Along its brick-paved streets were all the trappings of a modern metropolis: multi-floor department stores featuring the latest in European fashion, an opulent 1200 seat opera house featuring nationally touring stage plays and acts, and a large elegantly manicured city park designed by one of the country’s most renowned landscape architects.

Calumet was far from a simple mining town. Of course mining was the reason for Calumet’s existence, and it was the mine that provided its residents with most of the modern conveniences they enjoyed. C&H invested large amounts of resources in the community for the construction of modern schools, hospitals, libraries, bath houses, churches, and hundreds of houses for its workers. The mine also provided the town with many of its basic services including water, steam heat, and trash collection. But these resources and services didn’t come without a price. In return for its corporate paternalism C&H exerted a great deal of social control over the town and its residents – squelching dissent and limiting the influence of labor organizations. The result was an environment that nurtured a content and productive work force.

The Lady in Red

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In order for a business to survive it obviously needs customers with money to spend and an inclination for doing so. Yet in an era before the advent of modern marketing, social media, and page views, businesses had very limited options when it came to getting noticed.  Even more problematic …

A Copper Country Time Machine

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Tom Roberts was born and raised in Battle Creek, yet his heart was always in the Copper Country. His family was from Hancock and his grandmother lived in her family home on Lake Street overlooking the Portage. He would visit his grandmother often, and when he did he was sure …

The C&H Bathhouse

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It’s a rather unassuming structure, the squat brick building found at the corner of the US41 / M26 junction in Laurium. Things aren’t helped by the fact that its facade is largely blocked by several bushy trees along its front – providing a natural camouflage that shields the shy building from prying …

It Stands Alone

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At the Copper Empire’s peak the greater Red Jacket area was home to some 30,000 people – an expansive population that required a great deal of public infrastructure to support. A large portion of that infrastructure dealt with education, as over 5,000 of the region’s residents were of school age. It was a …

A Tour of the Red Jacket Fire Hall (p2)

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While the first floor of the Red Jacket Fire Station may have been dedicated to the tools of the trade – vehicles and the horses which pulled them – the upper floor was designed for human occupation. For a full time firefighting force like the one Red Jacket employed, this …

A Tour of the Red Jacket Fire Hall (p1)

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Before it was known as Calumet, the small commercial settlement bordering the Calumet and Hecla Mines was known as Red Jacket. Back then it was just a ramshackle collection of wood framed buildings, haphazardly aligned along a series of primitive dirt streets surrounded by cow pastures. In 1870 a small brush fire …

The Hand-Powered Pumper

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In colonial times fire fighting was nothing more technologically advanced as a collection of buckets and a crowd of men. Known as a  “bucket brigade” these men would simply pass buckets full of water between themselves from a water source to the fire, dousing flames one bucket at a time.  It was …

An American LaFrance in Calumet

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In 1873 a man by the name of Truckson LaFrance founded the LaFrance Manufacturing company, which primarily built hand-powered fire fighting equipment. With the popularity of steam-powered equipment rising, LaFrance expanded its operations into the new field and began building steam powered engines of its own. In 1903 the company merged with the …

The Central School

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With the discovery of the great Calumet Conglomerate Lode in 1864, the vast marshlands along the Keweenaw’s central plateau would be changed forever. From the once remote and swampy landscape rose a sprawling industrial complex – the Calumet and Hecla Mines – and with it a quickly growing community known …

The Presbyterian

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Just outside of village limits atop property original owned by the C&H Mine sits a trio of small churches huddled together within a criss-cross of roads. Today this small little plot of land is often referred to “God’s Little Acre”, and a century ago it was known as Temple Square. …

The Norwegian Lutheran Church

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The first Norwegian Lutheran Church was built in 1871, and was known as the Scandinavian Lutheran Church.  This was because the building not only served those hailing from Norway but all Scandinavians as well. The first church was built along Pine Street soon after, and four years later the congregation …

M.M. Morrison Elementary

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At its peak the Calumet township school system consisted of a high school, middle school, and over 17 elementary schools scattered arose the greater Calumet area. These satellite schools – most named after past U.S. presidents – were all built in a similar style and with an almost identical layout. …

The Croatian Co-Operative

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The idea of the great American melting pot was more myth than reality, at least in the short term. While today the country’s variety of cultures and ethnicity has homogenized somewhat, America at the turn of the nineteenth century was a different story altogether. This was especially true for the …

The Calumet and Hecla Library

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Almost a full decade before Carnegie money found its way to the Copper Country, it was financial support from another capitalist with more local ties that brought the first dedicated library building to the region. That man was Alexander Agassiz, president of the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. Like Carnegie, …

The Schumaker Block

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Frank Schumaker was a first generation American, born in Centriville Wisconsin in 1859. His parents – Frederick and Henrietta – had just arrived to America a few years earlier, leaving their home country of Germany for greener pastures in the new world. When Frank was only nine his father passed …

A Victorian Tapestry (p2)

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The rich tapestry of the St. Paul’s nave is impressive, but its true brilliance lies up front at the church’s sanctuary where the buildings artists and tradespeople assembled something truly stunning. First off is the main alter itself, a soaring cornucopia of carvings, sculpture and all the trimmings that rises …

A Victorian Tapestry (p1)

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As the great copper riches of the peninsula began to flow freely, what was once nothing more then a frontier wilderness quickly matured into a modern metropolitan community. Dirt paths and wood-framed buildings gave way to paved streets and masonry business blocks. The simple and utilitarian nature of old was …

The Art of St. Paul (p1)

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St. Paul the Apostle Church is the region’s largest and most opulent house of worship, its soaring twin spires and sandstone buttresses marking a stark contrast with the pedestrian banality of the neighborhood around it. Built by Red Jackets Austrian residents, this impressive building was one of the most expensive …

A Space Left Empty…

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In a habit made completely from flammable materials – such as a forest – fire is a constant and terrifying threat. A spark from lighting, or a carelessly tossed cigarette can in moments wipe the entire forest from the earth and leave nothing behind but blackened trunks and ash covered …

From Petrol to Coffee

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With the arrival of the automobile came the need forfilling stations, and in a town as densely built up as Red Jacket was by the turn of the century finding space for those stations was a bit of a challenge. Adding to that challenge was a requirement that those stations …

The Centenarian Road

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With the increasing popularity and adoption of the automobile for transportation, much of the nations roadways that had previously been built for horse and buggy traffic had become woefully obsolete. The dirt roads and pathways of the past were quickly chewed up and degraded into nothing more then mud pits, …

Jim McClure

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Jim McClure immigrated to the United States in 1887, beckoned to the bustling town of Red jacket by the promises of a burgeoning Copper Empire. He was the son of a Scottish harness maker, and upon setting foot on American soil went straight to work following in his father’s footsteps. …

Pillsbury’s Best

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In the later 1860’s Minneapolis had become a major player in the flour milling industry. The city was home to the St. Anthony Falls, the largest falls along the upper peninsula and an excellent source of cheap power for flour milling. Several mills sprung up along the river, all utilizing …

A Few Additions…

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As the copper empire’s fortunes grew, so too did the collection of once modest mining towns scattered across the peninsula. As thousands upon thousands of immigrants arrived to the region those towns had to grow to accommodate. Unfortunately for the now bustling village of Red Jacket, space was at a …