The earliest of those copper hunters was the Lake Superior Copper Company, who acquired 21 square miles of lands along the Eagle River’s route in the mid nineteenth century. While initially promising the lode proved spotty at best, and after years of effort and hundreds of thousands of dollars the failing mine was reorganized as the Phoenix in 1849. The new masters went to work finding new lodes to explore, sinking shafts not only along the Eagle River’s route, but into the towering cliffs of the Cliff Range as well. A total of five new veins were explored and worked in earnest, though not all at the same time. In addition to its collection of mines, the Phoenix also boasted three stamp mills scattered across its lands with an impressively sized narrow gauge railroad to connect them all. All four of these mines operated as one to form – for at least a time – a mining conglomerate of a size and scope rivaling any of its time or after.

Such an empire demanded a capital city to serve it – a community of an equal size and scope as the mines it served. With Eagle River too far away, a new community would take shape along the Phoenix’s lands nestled within the crook of land tucked within the river’s cut through the cliffs. . First began around 1845 it was nothing more then a collection of small log cabins to house workers, but as the Phoenix Empire grew so too did the small little community. By 1875 the town had grown to over a thousand residents, large enough to warrant its own school and a pair of churches. It also boasted a general store, a hotel, sawmill, blacksmith shop, several tailors, a jewler, a doctors’s office and its own post office.

The Lands of the Phoenix (p2)

Lands of the Phoenix Part Two

As with most Keweenaw mining towns, the community of Phoenix along the Cliff Range ebbed and flowed along with the fortunes of the copper mines at its doorstep. The town’s overseers – the Phoenix Mining Company – toiled away at its trio of mines on and off for nearly forty years until …

The Lands of the Phoenix (p1)

Phoenix of Old

The Eagle River is one of the Keweenaw’s longest natural waterways, running over 10 miles from its marshy headwaters deep inside the peninsula’s interior to its Lake Superior outlet along the sand dunes of the identically named town of Eagle River. While unremarkable for most of its length, it grandeur …

The Phoenix School


The sign alongside the highway proudly declares you’ve arrived to the town of Phoenix, as you’re welcomed by a quaint country church and a small general store across the street. Yet don’t let its diminutive scope deceive you, as the town was once a rather large and bustling center of …

The Phoenix Dam


I have done several posts here on CCE about a copper mine’s biological needs, namely a hunger for large quantities of coal and a thirst for an almost equal amount of water. This was due to a mines reliance on steam power for all the heavy lifting, a power source …

The Phoenix Church


Built in 1858 at nearby Cliffton, the Saint Mary’s Church served the Catholic people of Cliff and Eagle River for almost 50 years before it’s continued existence was threatened with the mines closure. Understanding the need for a Catholic Church to stay in the area, an ambitious plan of physically …