The first mines to began operations along the Keweenaw did so at the peninsula’s norther end, around old Native American pits near Copper Harbor. Soon companies explored outward discovering rich fissure deposits of copper along the way. Unlike the large lodes discovered later, these early fissure deposits were mostly hit and miss with a few notable exceptions. These early attempts included the Deleware Mine, backed by the overly optimistic Pennsylvania Mining Company. Before the profitability of the mine was ever determined, smelters and stamp mills were built to process the foreseen copper riches along the shores of nearby Lac La Belle. Connected it with the mine was a short line railroad. With those tracks the beginnings of the Keweenaw Central had been laid.
The Delaware, however, turned out not to be the great producer it was hoped it would be. As the Pennsylvania Mining Company and its lands changed hands over and over again, new companies had high hopes of finding a rich lode in the area. As companies explored further west, the rail lines to Lac La Belle were extended to accommodate. The large investment of capital and resources at the mills at Lac La Belle were too great to leave behind. By the 1880′s the line had been extended as far as Phoenix and Cliff. Soon the line would be sold and would become the independent Lac La Belle & Calumet Railroad – the Keweenaw Central’s direct descendent.