Phoenix

Only a couple years after the great copper rush began along the Keweenaw, things were looking grim. As prospectors rushed into the rugged hills of the peninsula, they quickly found the terrain unforgiving and the copper scarce. Newly established mines quickly exhausted their cash supplies in search for only a marginal amount of copper. Mine after mine failed, and investor after investor lost their shirts in the process. In desperation companies moved southward, hoping that the great copper lodes Houghton suggested did indeed exist. It would be 1845 – with the discovery of the copper-rich Cliff Mine – that faith would be restored. The region would never look the same.

The first copper mine to pay a dividend to its investors, the Cliff proved that copper in profitable quantities did indeed exist. The mine would spark a second copper rush, this time concentrated along the miles of steep cliffs in the peninsula’s interior, known today as the Cliff Range. The Cliff Mine was soon joined by several new mines including the sprawling Phoenix Mine just a mile to the east. These mines were accompanied by hastily constructed town sites, home to stores, churches, schools, and hundreds of houses and bunk-houses for the mine’s workers.

As the mines grew, so too did these towns. Before long the town at the Cliff Mine – known as Cliffton – had become one of the largest settlements in the Keweenaw. For the next twenty years the mine and town prospered. With the mine’s inevitable closure in 1870, a lot of the town’s residents and a few of its buildings migrated a mile to the east – to the Phoenix Mine. While never as successful as its neighbor, the Phoenix managed to stay in intermittent operation for a few more decades – sustaining the town of Phoenix in the meantime. Unfortunately the mine would finally succumb to the Depression, and the town of Phoenix would all but disappear.

The Phoenix School

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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 ...

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A Phoenix Dam?

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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 ...

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The Phoenix Church

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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 ...

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