Slicing through the Keweenaw’s midsection is a natural waterway which for generations was used by native peoples to safely cross the peninsula. The waterway stretched inland for over 15 miles, leaving only a two mile portage to reach the west shore. It was this portage that gave the waterway its name, shared by both the lake and river that connects it with Lake Superior. As the copper rush progressed the waterway would be systematically improved to allow larger vessels to reach the mines and cities flourishing inland. In 1855 a lighthouse was built at the river’s mouth to help guide ships into the newly constructed canal – in what would later become known as Jacobsville.
A few years after the lighthouse was opened a stone mason by the name of Craig discovered a deposit of high-quality sandstone just up the river. Craig proceeded to open a small quarry at the site and began shipping the brownstone back east. The deep red color of the stone became highly sought by architects all across the country, raising demand and spurring more quarries to open up shop in the region. One of those quarries was opened to the east of the lighthouse by John Jacob, who would become the namesake for the town that developed in the quarry’s wake. Jacobsville grew quickly and soon found itself at the center of a sandstone empire. In response the town’s population rose to over a thousand by the turn of the century.