Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ghosts of Mining Past - Camping Log Day 2

Over the years, I have been fascinated by the waterfalls and cemeteries of the Keweenaw Peninsula –the very top of Michigan’s UP. In the past, I have visited and photographed as many waterfalls and cemeteries as I could find.  Who doesn’t love a good waterfall – the water spilling over rocks and through crevasses? And you already know my fascination with all cemeteries, but put me in the midst of old decaying headstones and my imagination really takes off.

Yet there is one more aspect of the Keweenaw (pronounced kee-wa-nah, by the way) to be explored. The mining ghost town. 

One of the most noteworthy historical sites in Keweenaw County is Central, or Central Mine, a village whose population was once over 1,200 people. One the area’s most successful copper mines, mining began here in 1856. The mine's lode proved so rich that Central was able to turn a profit in its first year of operation and by the time it closed in 1898, the Mine had produced nearly 52 million pounds of copper.

The town was located in an ancient mining pit along an outcrop below a Greenstone Bluff and boasted over 130 structures, including mine buildings, homes, schools, businesses and the Central Methodist Church. In 1898 the mine ceased operation, and residents began leaving the town.

Several miners' homes and buildings still stand on the site. In 1996, the Keweenaw County Historical Society acquired 38 acres of the old Central site. Some of the residences are being restored, and a Visitors Center provides interpretive exhibits not only about the mine but also about the miners' families, homes, schools and churches.

Construction of the Central Methodist Church began in 1868. When it was occupied the following year, it became the major focal point of religious and social life in the community for all who were members of it and for many who were not. It was inevitable that there should be a close feeling among the former residents of Central, who were forced to relocate to other parts of the area following the closing of the mine in 1898. The opening of the Keweenaw Central Railroad in January, 1907, provided an opportunity for the old-timers to have a "homecoming." The last Sunday of every July since then, the church has been host to a reunion of descendants of the residents of Central as well as those with an interest in a time gone by. 

This is the site of the old schoolhouse. 
Mining - an occupation filled with danger. 

No comments: