Eagle River

After years of exploration and digging the Keweenaw was shaping up to be a massive disappointment for miners and investors alike. Although copper was being found, it wasn’t in large enough quantities to be profitable and most mines quickly exhausted their start-up capital without making a dime. In 1845 the district turned a corner, with the discovery of a highly rich copper vein within the massive cliffs along the Eagle River. One of the first mines to take advantage was the Cliff, which went on to become one of the most successful mines in the Keweenaw. With its success came the need for a convenient port, and fast. With the nearest natural harbor more than six miles away, a temporary solution was in order. That solution would be the town of Eagle River.

Though not ideal, Eagle River’s location at the mouth of the Eagle River made it the best candidate for a shipping port. With the river dredged and long docks lining its banks, boats would unload their supplies and take on cargo within the river’s mouth. In 1857 a lighthouse was constructed nearby, and the town quickly blossomed. Warehouses, hotels, and saloons were built up along the river’s sandy banks. On the weekends miners from all across the regions would come to town to spend their week’s earnings. Fights were common, and the regions first jail had to be built in response. Soon the town would supplant Copper Harbor as the peninsula’s center of commerce, and in return was established as the Keweenaw County seat in 1861.

Yet nine years later the village’s fortunes would change dramatically as its chief economic stimulator – the Cliff Mine – closed its doors. With the mine closed, the dock and warehouse at the mouth of the river were abandoned, and the village’s role as a port would end. With the docks rotting away and the river filling with silt there was no longer any need for a lighthouse and it too was abandoned. Only the presence of the county courthouse and a fuse factory kept the old village on the map until the advent of the automobile and auto touring gave it new life as a tourist destination. Today even the fuse factory is gone, leaving only its sand beach and county offices to draw visitors and residents.

The County Seat

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Before the rise of the great C&H and the sprawling metropolis of Red Jacket it spawned – the heart and soul of the Copper Country was located a bit farther to the north – in and around a small port town situated at the mouth of the Eagle River. Known as …

The Main Street Bridge

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Before the arrival of any major roads or railways to the northern end of the Keweenaw peninsula, those struggling mines that had taken root within the vast wilderness of the interior had only one lifeline to the outside world – by means of the big lake next door. Unfortunately the …

For the Children…

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The boom and bust cycles of the mining trade are rather legendary, and the pattern was no less vicious across the Keweenaw during the great copper rush preceding the civil war. At the beginning a flood of mines quickly sprang forth from the wilderness and along with them a collection …

A Past Not So Pretty

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Returning to the Eagle River Cemetery we find another reminder of the Copper Country’s legacy of toil and turmoil, a trait of the region that the Jennings family unfortunately knew all too well. This simple grave marker is only one of dozens upon dozens like it that litter cemeteries all …

James & Henry

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It was a typical hot summer’s day in the Keweenaw when two young teenagers – James Fezzey and Henry Hart – ascended 200 feet into the Ashbed lode of the Copper Falls Mine. The cold underground air was probably a comfort for the middle of July, and as the two …

Main Street Eagle River

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Eagle River was born out of the massive land holdings of the Phoenix Mine, platted by the mine in 1855. Though created by the Phoenix Mine, it was the runaway success of the nearby Cliff Mine that allowed the village to prosper. The first industrial structures built at the village …

Remains of the Phoenix

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Arising from the ashes of the late Lake Superior Copper Company rose the Phoenix Mine, a company that quickly found itself in need of money. To quickly raise some of the needed funds the new mine company sold off a good deal of its land holdings near the mouth of …