Isle Royale Mine

During the early years of the copper boom, over two dozen shafts were sunk into the high ridge line atop Houghton from no less then thee separate mines: the Huron, Grand Portage, and Isle Royale. By the end of the century these mines had all been consolidated under the Isle Royale name and the company took another look at its massive holdings with renewed interest. Before long the new consolidated company would find itself working a highly profitable stretch of land, a rich deposit of copper that would continue to nourish the mine for another 30 years.

In terms of surface holdings the Isle Royale Mine was one of the largest single mines in the Keweenaw, stretching south of Houghton for over two miles, compassing over 3500 acres of mineral-rich lands in the process. At its peak the mine had a workforce of over 700 men, helping to grow the nearby city of Houghton as well as creating the mining towns of Dodgeville and Hurontown in the process. While successful, the mine would prove to be no match for the arrival of the great Depression. The mine was forced to close in 1932. Buoyed by high copper demand and government contracts the mine was re-opened shortly during the Second World War, but finally closed for good soon after.

At first the Isle Royale mine simply re-opened two of its original shafts along the lode, but as the copper accessible by these shafts began to diminish the company expanded southward in search of more copper. These new shafts – including the No. 6 – were sunk into the old mineral lands of the defunct Huron and Dodge properties. In the end the company had a total of six shafts working the Isle Royale Lode, and became one of the Keweenaw’s largest mining companies in the process.

On the Road to Superior City

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Since its inception it has always been my hope that CCE would not just be a place for me to share my explorations of the Copper Country, but a place for other people to do so as well. I have always been open to guest posts from fellow CC enthusiasts …

An Isle Royale Encore (p2)

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The hoist foundation at the old Isle Royale No.2 is accompanied by a second rock and brick foundation sitting just to its rear. Like the hoist, this foundation features a pair of parallel pedestals sitting about six feet in height – support stands for cylinders belonging to a Nordberg air …

An Isle Royale Encore (p1)

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More then a century ago the Isle Royale Mine was the king of the mountain, sitting high atop the hill overlooking Houghton and the Portage valley. Its line of rock houses and soaring piles of poor rock stood as monuments to a more prosperous and industrious time. Yet as was …

That Which Survives (p2)

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As first built, the Isle Royale’s original surface plant consisted of a series of rather small wood-framed buildings set upon stone foundations. These buildings included a dry house, machine shop, blacksmith shop, and carpenter shop, each built to almost the same specifications. By 1917 this arrangement had become incapable of …

That Which Survives (p1)

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For the most part copper mines along the Keweenaw erected very modest surface plants, directing most of their money into the actual work of mining. Surface improvements were often considered wasteful embellishments, especially by investors looking to get large returns on their money. Mining was were money could be made, …

Another Isle Royale Dry

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The new Isle Royale Copper Company began its reinvigorated life in 1899, quickly investing large sums of money into the re-opening of the Isle Royale lode atop the bluff overlooking Houghton. Production resumed in 1901, but the lode would reveal itself to be a low-grade and sporadic producer. It wasn’t …

The No.4 Rockhouse

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After finally making our way from the Isle Royale No.4’s engine complex, we followed a trail through the surrounding woods out into a clearing. As we expected sitting right smack dab in the middle of that clearing was the next subject on our tour – the No.4 rockhouse remains. Also …

The Complex (p4)

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One of the challenges faced by explorers such as myself while attempting to interpret the ruins we find is a determination of purpose – why a ruin exists and what purpose it once served. Often this is a problem of context, since ruins by their very nature are isolated in …

The Complex (p3)

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After exploring two large machine foundations within the sprawling Isle Royale No. 4 complex, we found ourselves face to face with yet another – this one sitting within its own room on the complex’s south side. This foundation was oddly familiar to us, and looked very similar to the one …

The Complex (p2)

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From atop the old hoist foundation at the Isle Royale No. 4 we found ourselves peering out over a sprawling concrete landscape stretching off towards the tree line. Littered along it were a collection of massive foundations, machine mounts, and walls. In addition to the hoist itself the large complex …

The Complex (p1)

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The boiler house that we had discovered previously at Isle Royale No. 4 provided the mine with the fuel necessary to run its collection of steam powered equipment. In Copper Country mines this equipment consisted primarily of two machines. The first was the hoist engine, used to haul materials from …

A Pillar

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Before moving on from the Isle Royale No. 4 boiler house, there was one other thing that caught our eye hidden deep in the woods. From afar it looked like a concrete pillar, a good five feet square and standing about a dozen feet in height. It was like nothing …

The No.4 Boiler House

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The small town of Dodgeville just south of Houghton was conceived – like all Copper Country towns – by a nearby mine. This particular mine was the Dodge, a failure of a property that never developed into anything greater then a few exploration pits. It wasn’t until the Isle Royale …

The Hoist in the Swamp

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Though the Dry House was the first building to catch our eyes after leaving the Rock House remains, it was not the first building we ended up looking for. According to the standard operating procedure for CC exploring (at least in my book) the hoist always follows the shaft/rock house …

The Boiler in the Jungle

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Boiler houses have been – and continue to be – the most annoying ruin I have ever had the displeasure of attempting to document here at CCE. On the ground the remains of these structures boil down to (no pun intended) a couple trenches and a some shallow concrete pedestals. …

An Isle Royale Dry House

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With the shaft and rockhouse taken care of, it was now time to search for the remaining pieces of the puzzle, namely the shaft’s complimentary structures such as the boiler, compressor, hoist and dry houses. Most of these were no were to be seen from our vantage point at the …

The Isle Royale No.6

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Isle Royale No. 6 The Isle Royale Mine originally opened in 1852, on a section of the Isle Royale lode squeezed between the Grand Portage to the north and the Huron on the south. By 1854 the mine was joined by a small stamp mill, joined to the mine by …

The Isle Royale Dock

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The growth and development of many communities up and down the Keweenaw was molded by the success or failure of an adjacent mine. For Calumet it was the massively successful C&H that pulled their strings. For Hancock it was the Quincy. For Houghton it would be the Isle Royale. Though …