Copper mining in the vicinity of Boston and Paavola was characterized by a progression of
mid-sized and smaller mining enterprises, each speculating on the middle lode,
hoping that they would be competitive with their neighbors at the north and south ends of the
Pewabic lode and Allouez conglomerate. However, none of these properties quite
matched the volume and success of QMC or C&Hl.

 
 

EARLY SURFACE DEVELOPMENT
The earliest mining exploration near Boston began with the Albany & Boston Mining Company (A&B) in 1860-61. Their first efforts in June 1860 focused on probing/testing what they optimistically called the Albany & Boston lode; they also worked the Pewabic lode to a lesser extent. The A&B lode later came to be called the Allouez conglomerate. In the early 1860s, Albany & Boston owned 1200 acres of mineral land, as well as timber land and lakeshore along Portage Lake to serve as a landing. In addition to the earliest testing of potential mineral resources the company put quite a lot of energy, time, and resources into establishing the key surface resources needed for a successfully functioning mine. A road was built that led from the nearby Pontiac Mine as well as log houses for their initial workers. Their early efforts to prepare the land for mining included clearing the land of trees and underbrush, cutting a road, and construction of carpenter and blacksmith shops. By the next year's publication (1861) of the annual report to shareholders, Albany & Boston had established several more surface improvements because they expected a strong showing from the Allouez conglomerate. They cleared five more acres of land, erected an office, and established the core of the support structures for the mine including a powder house, a changing house for the workers, an engine house, a saw mill, a coal shop, a frame barn, and a frame tool house.9 In these early years the Albany & Boston Mining Company also established the earliest elements of the mining location that would come to be known as Boston. These were a store with a full cellar, an agent's house, and seven log houses, finished with plaster, for the workers.

At this early point in its history, the supervisors of the Albany & Boston Mining Company also began to think about how best to supply water to their processing equipment. They observed that there was a stream that flowed through the southern portion of their property that they hoped would supply enough water to stamp and wash as much as 100 tons of rock each day. They expected that for part of the year the stream's flow would be even greater. They hoped to exploit the seasonal surplus of water by creating a reservoir "by means of a dam at no great cost" that could hold as much as five million cubic feet of water.

RELATIVE SUCCESS OF ALBANY & BOSTON AND FRANKLIN JR.
Compared to some of the later mines in the area, and despite their portion of the lode having a limited production life, the Albany and Boston Mining Company was relatively successful. Even though the mine began to have diminished yields in 1863, in the next year the mine hoped to hire mine workers from Sweden. This may have been because workers from Sweden were seen as either particularly dedicated, suitable for this area, and/or skilled or possibly that A&B was seeking to replace workers lost to fighting in the Civil War. Surface improvements in that era included erecting a shaft house and renovating the changing house so that it was now a stone structure with a steel roof, implying that this was for the benefit of worker morale.

In the mid-1860s the Albany & Boston Mining Company expanded their community to 33 homes and a boarding house, demonstrating their continued success. The store had added a warehouse; both structures were owned by Albany & Boston and then leased to Hoar Brothers merchants who took responsibility for their operation. At this time Boston Creek had not yet been dammed. There were studies done to explore alternatives; at the time, the preferred alternative to developing what would come to be called Boston Pond (or Boston Lake) was to transport the rock down to the shore of the Portage where the Albany & Boston also owned land. A map of their surface improvements at the time shows the mining location as having eight platted streets and marks the location of the school house and the saw mill. In the span of almost ten years, Albany and Boston had become the most successful mine and well developed mine location of the middle lode. However, in 1869 profits had diminished so they turned over mining efforts to tribute miners who worked the lode until 1881.

In 1894 the former Albany & Boston property was sold to the Franklin Mining Company and renamed the Franklin Jr. The Franklin Jr. Mining Company utilized both the Allouez conglomerate and the Pewabic lode, but separate production was not necessarily reported between the two deposits.13 Their turn of the century yield was the greatest return of any "producing mine in the district with the possible exception of the Arcadian" but that may be because published reports of the Arcadian's yield were not available at the time. In 1900 Franklin Jr. planned to open a "very large" mine to fully exploit the Allouez conglomerate. The yield of the Pewabic lode had proved to be unsatisfactory and so the former workings of the Albany & Boston Mining Company on the Allouez were reopened.

By 1909 there were serious concerns reported on the yields of the Franklin Jr. At that time the yields were so poor in grade on both lodes that it was feared that the only profitable move would be to expand production to a "very large" scale "upon a most economical basis…"; i.e., as cheaply as possible. After the work on the Allouez conglomerate was closed in 1909 production shifted exclusively to the Pewabic lode, which yielded approximately 16 million pounds of copper at 9-12 pounds of copper per ton of rock extracted from their four shafts. As was the case for all mining in that period, as profits dipped too low, work at Franklin Jr. stopped between 1920 and 1926.

RELATIVE FAILURE OF THE PENINSULA MINING COMPANY AND THE ARCADIAN MINING COMPANY
In between its working by the Albany & Boston Mining Company and Franklin Jr., the middle lode property was sold in 1881 to the Peninsula Mining Company and work began that next year. An 1889 account in the Portage Lake Mining Gazette noted that prior to that year the Peninsula Mining Company's nearly $1 million investment yielded only 1500 tons of rock. In the previous year a scathing editorial piece appeared in the Ontonagan Herald criticizing mines - particularly Peninsula - that failed due to overinvestment and poor management. The author wrote "If the owners of valuable properties would exercise a little judicious judgement [sic] and appoint skilled and tried men with a practical turn of mind, to lay out, develope [sic] and operate their properties, the copper district would not be marked by so many abandoned mines with fine shaft-houses, engine-houses and other good buildings going to waste and decay."Mining was concluded by the Peninsula Mining Company in 1892.

The Arcadian Mining Company was another unfortunate failure on the middle lode; perhaps they did not heed the advice given by local interests such as The Ontonagon Herald. This property, originally known as the Concord Mining Company was sold off by the Franklin Mining Company in 1864. In the late 1860s-early 1870s there was a proliferation of small mining groups in the area that would later become Standard Oil Company's Arcadian Mine. West of what would become the Paavola Wetlands, the St. Mary's Mineral Land Company owned 320 acres between 1867 and 1872. In section 19 there were more complex shifts in mining property ownership, with Highland Copper Company owning 80 acres in 1867 and 1870 and Concord Mining Company owning 160 acres in 1870 and 1872. In that same period the first incarnation of the Arcadian Mining Company owned 160 acres in section 20, also just west of what would become the town of Paavola. Exploratory work began at Arcadian in 1864.

Popular lore has suggested that at some time before the beginning of the Arcadian mine, "a couple of Finnish farmers" attempted to sink a well on the Ripley plateau, hit a boulder, and abandoned their well; they did not realize that they had come down upon the amygdaloid vein. In the late 1890s, the Arcadian Mining Company reorganized under the laws of New Jersey, which may have had more favorable laws for investors than the laws of Michigan, at $3.5 million capitalization.

Their total holdings at this point included approximately 3200 acres made up of five defunct mines. In 1900, Arcadian had total assets of $1.8 million. The old Arcadian of the 1860s-70s had become the "nucleus" of the new "amplified" Arcadian Mining Company which included several adjoining properties: Arcadian, Edwards, Douglass, Concord, Highland, and St. Mary's mining companies. The first four of these were incorporated together in 1898. These holdings were said to be the most "extensive" of any of the mining outfits in the Copper Country.

Arcadian was heavily invested in by Standard Oil magnates; as a result, its operation was similar to the largest three or four mining operations in the area. Early work included six shafts and drifts at every level of excavation, comparable only to the workings of C&H. The investors erected shaft houses of steel and engine houses of stone. Stevens describes the landscape changes there as "…where cows had pastured around half a dozen decaying dwellings one year before [1899], a town sprang up, as if by magic, with two parallel streets each a mile in length."

At its height the Arcadian Mining Company employed 1100 men in varying mining occupations and 500 more contractors and subcontractors to construct the elements of its surface and underground built environment. The mine was said to be equipped as one of the best in the world. As many as seven shafts were open at the turn of the century. Their surface workings were also of top quality, with "ample accommodations" for the mine officers and their clerical staff. Arcadian took its water supply from the "old Boston Dam which once furnished water for the mill of the Albany & Boston mine." The Mineral Range Railroad served both the Arcadian and the Franklin Jr. as of 1899.

Community development there included a "modern" schoolhouse built for $6,000 and an independently run general store. The mine's location included quality homes for the mine's bosses and 150 dwellings for the mine workers, "nearly all of which are new and of 6 rooms each. The better among the old dwellings of the various locations have been remodeled and the others torn down".

As of 1900, the returns on Standard Oil's investment were disappointing because they were unable to run their 3 stamp mill at Grosse Point to maximum capacity. It became clear at this point that Arcadian's management overinvested in the mine and overestimated its possibilities. Low yields as of 1903 led the company to divest itself of some of its capital investments. They sold some of their hoist machinery and shaft houses to the Trimountain Mining Company and their stamp mill to the Centennial mine; as a result their property was "almost completely dismantled." Exploratory work resumed between 1905 and 1908 but then suspended again in March of that year. The management had hoped that a new diamond drill would improve their chances for a good return. During that period Arcadian sold 800 acres of their property to the QMC to alleviate approximately $700 thousand in debt, though the source of that debt is unclear.

 

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Pathways to the Past: Historical Narrative

Photos Courtesy of MTU Archives

Keweenaw Land Trust, 801 N. Lincoln Drive - Suite 306 - Hancock MI 49930 --- (906) 482-0820

This project was supported in part by the Federal Highway Administration's National Scenic Byways program and Finlandia Foundation National.