1997 Mining History Association Field Trip

 

RETURN TO THE COPPER COUNTRY -
A Visit to the Delaware Mine

Delaware, Michigan

Sept. 14, 2015


Mike and Pat Kaas


PHOTO GALLERY 1 of 2

 


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In 2015, Mike and Pat Kaas made a return trip to the Michigan Copper Country.  They visited many of the same spots that were part of the 1997 MHA tour of the Keweenaw Copper Mines plus a few more.  Pat is a Yooper and although they had driven by the Delaware Mine several times they had never stopped.  While researching the career of Richard Pascoe, Mike discovered that the Cornishman had been the Mine Agent at the North West Mine in 1858.  It was later known as the Delaware.  That finding made the Delaware Mine a “must see” during their 2015 trip.  The 1997 MHA tour made only a brief stop at Delaware so this Photo Gallery gives an overview of what there is to see at this historic copper mining location.

 

The Story of the Delaware Mine

 

The Delaware Mine, got its start in 1846.  In 1849, the North West Mining Company was officially chartered.  The area was still wilderness at that time.  Men and supplies came in and barrels of copper were shipped out through Eagle Harbor on Lake Superior, about 5 miles by wagon road from the mine.  In the early years mining was focused on the native copper in fissure veins that were roughly perpendicular to the east-west trend of the ancient volcanic rocks in this part of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Copper was also present in the Allouez Conglomerate beds in these volcanic rocks.  Later mining would focus on these deposits.  Five shafts and winzes and 10 mining levels were eventually developed along the formation.  An early stamp mill was located downhill from the mine on the banks of the Little Montreal River.

 

Delaware Mine Area Geology Map.  The Allouez Conglomerate is shown in orange. 

The fissure veins are in red.  The shaft locations are marked in black.

(USGS, Bedrock Geology Map of the Delaware Quadrangle, H. R. Cornwall, 1954)

1887 Longitudinal Section of the Conglomerate Mine, AKA the Delaware Mine. 

(Conglomerate Mining Company, 1887 Report)

From the 1860s to the 1880s, a number of new companies were formed to raise capital for continuing mine development.  Several of the companies and mines had names reflecting their eastern investors, the Pennsylvania Mining Company (1861), the Delaware Mining Company (1863), a new Delaware Mining Company (1876) consolidating the older Pennsylvania and Delaware companies, and finally the Conglomerate Mining Company (1881).  By the 1880s, the Conglomerate Mining Company had developed an extensive mining complex, employee houses, and a school at the town of Delaware shown in the map below.  It had also constructed a railroad to Mendota on Lac LaBelle where they built a new stamp mill.  It had a sheltered harbor that was perfect for shipping on Lake Superior.  No effort or expense was spared.  The investors’ hopes were running high.


 

Unfortunately, decades of optimism and investments of many hundreds of thousands of dollars never paid off.  Although over 7 million pounds of copper were produced at the Delaware Mine, there simply wasn’t enough copper in the ore to turn a profit.  Mining stopped in 1887.  Occasional exploration efforts continued by other companies but no further mining was done.  The land eventually became part of Calumet and Hecla. 

Today, the remains of the Delaware Mine provide a first hand glimpse of the underground copper mine workings and the extensive ruins of the surface plant.  The mine workings below the first level are flooded.  In 2012 and 2013 a team of scuba diving historians led by John Janzen made videos of the underwater parts of the mine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYPwH54UKX0)    A prehistoric copper pit believed to be 5000 years old Is also located on the mine property.  Special thanks to Tom and Lani Pointer for their hospitality at the mine.

Pat Kaas at Shaft No. 1, the entrance to the Delaware Mine.  Visitors walk down a stairway into the mine.

Looking up toward the entrance of inclined Shaft No. 1 from Level 1.  This shaft is 1600 feet deep.

 

The spacious Level 1 haulage drift followed the strike of the Allouez Conglomerate Formation.  It was designed to accommodate two tracks.

Stope in the copper bearing conglomerate bed.  An original 2-foot diameter timber likely came from the abundant local timber.


An original drift along the Stoutenburgh Fissure Vein.  Mining started from the surface in this vein in the 1840s.  Ore was hoisted through the North West Shaft.  In contrast to the spacious main haulage drift which was developed later, this one is only about 3-feet wide.


A compressed air drill is displayed along the Level 1 drift.  The early miners would have used muscle powered, hand-held single and double jack drilling and black powder explosives.

The decking of the No. 3 Shaft Station on Level 1 still exists.  The skips in the shaft passed through the large rectangular hole in the deck.

The water level below Level 1 can be seen in the No. 2 Shaft.

Photo Credits: Mike and Pat Kaas

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