Mining History Association

Annual Conference, June 6-9, 2019

Marquette, Michigan


The Mining History Association’s 29th Annual Conference was held in Marquette, MI, on June 6–9, 2019.  Marquette is a charming, historic and conference-friendly town of about 20,000, situated in a spectacular Lake Superior shoreline setting.  Founded in 1849, Marquette became the business hub and the iron ore shipping port for the mines in Ishpeming, Negaunee, Republic, and other towns on the Marquette Iron Range (see the map at the right).  The Marquette Range is the largest of the four iron ranges in Michigan.  The Gogebic Range straddles the Michigan-Wisconsin border about 140 miles west of Marquette.  The Eastern and Western Menominee Ranges lie about 70 miles southwest of Marquette.  The Marquette Range and the Menominee Ranges were the focus of many of the MHA program activities.  For more on the mining history of the area, see the link below.


MHA program sessions were held at the Masonic Center Auditorium, which is located in the heart of downtown Marquette and just a short walk from the conference hotel, the Landmark Inn.


While both current mining and the industry’s rich historic legacy remain prominent on the Marquette Iron Range, the region now boasts a more diversified economy.  Tourism thrives across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the “U. P.” as the locals call it.  If you were born in or lived in the U. P. (or wish you had), you qualify to be called a Yooper! 


Marquette is home to Northern Michigan University, with a student population of 7,900 in 177 degree fields, including 25 graduate programs.  Its 350-acre campus is located one mile northwest of downtown.  It includes over 50 facilities including the Seabourg Science Complex, library, university theater, two art galleries, and a sports and recreation complex centered on the all-wood Superior Dome.


There is plenty to do in Marquette in addition to soaking up the mining history.   From the shoreline, Lake Superior looks like an ocean.  During a storm, it acts like one, too.  Like many shore towns, Marquette has several lighthouses.  The pretty, red, Marquette Harbor Lighthouse warns vessels to keep clear of the peninsula of rock on which it stands.  A visit to the lighthouse and the nearby Marquette Maritime Museum requires only a half mile walk along the harbor from downtown.  Follow the City Multi-use Path along the shoreline beyond the lighthouse and you will encounter nearly a mile of excellent beach.  The water will be refreshing and it is a great place to catch a few rays.  The trail continues for 2 miles along the water to Presque Isle with its modern ore and coal dock.


You can also take a hike or go biking on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.   It is a 47 mile long interpretive trail that runs from 10 miles east of Marquette to Republic in the west.  It passes through Marquette, Negaunee, Ishpeming, Humboldt, and finally Republic.  Excellent signage tells the story of the mines, the towns, and the people along the way.





Our conference hotel, the elegant and historic Landmark Inn in downtown Marquette, is ideally situated near the Masonic Center Auditorium sessions venue, and an easy walk to the Lake Superior shoreline, the historic ore dock, and a broad array of downtown shops and eateries.  There are also a number of chain motels nearby.




Getting to Marquette by Air


Sawyer International Airport


For attendees traveling by air, Marquette is served by both Delta and American through the nearby K. I. Sawyer International Airport.  Car rentals (Avis, Budget, Dollar, Thrifty, Hertz, and Alamo) are available at the airport.  Shuttle services are also available.


Travel by Automobile


For those wishing to drive to the conference, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the U. P.) and the Lake Superior region has a lot to offer visitors and locals alike. Marquette is accessed from the East and West by US Highway 2 and Michigan Highway 28.  From the South, US Highway 41 takes you north from Green Bay, Wisconsin.





On average, June weather in the Marquette environs is pleasantly mild and sunny. Highs are generally in the mid- to upper-60s (slightly warmer inland), with lows around 50. Some rain can be expected in any given week, although June rain events are seldom prolonged. The “Big Lake” calls all the shots, and attendees will be wise to prepare for conditions that may vary widely from seasonal averages. Most MHA conference regulars know the drill.







Michigan’s Iron Ranges.


Early surface mining on the Marquette Iron Range at the Jackson Iron Mine in Negaunee (ca1860).


Shaft and ore stockpiles at the Negaunee Mine.


Underground mining at the Vulcan Mine on the Menominee Iron Range near Norway, Michigan.


The Ropes Gold Mine near Ishpeming (ca1882-1897).


Aerial view of the Mather “B” Mine between Ishpeming and Negaunee, the last of the underground mines (ca1970s).


Taconite mining at the Cliffs Resources Tilden and Empire Mines.


The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse and Lake Superior beaches are just a short walk from downtown.


(Photos courtesy Library of Congress, Michigan Tech Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Cliffs Natural Resources, USGS,





Welcoming Reception, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m., Thursday, June 6, 2019. Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum, 501 W. Euclid St., Ishpeming, MI. The 2019 opening reception was held at the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum in the historic mining town of Ishpeming.  The striking backdrop for the opening sequence of Otto Preminger’s classic crime/courtroom drama, “Anatomy of a Murder,” is the unmistakable profile of the unique and iconic Egyptian Revival-style A and B shaft houses of the Cliffs Shaft mine.  They are now preserved at the museum along with the mine’s dry, warehouse, shops and modern-era “C” shaft.  A light meal and beverages were served, and attendees were free to explore the museum's grounds, buildings, and extensive mineral display. Museum docents were be on hand to interpret exhibits and answer questions.

Awards Banquet, 5:30 – 9:00 p.m., Friday, June 7, 2019. A social hour and the annual MHA Awards Banquet was held at the Masonic Center ballroom. Special post-banquet speaker:  8:00 – 9:00 p.m.  Noted photo historian Jack Deo presented “A 3-D Trip to the Mines in 1870.” Using state-of-the-art 3-D and digitizing technology, Jack took us into the visual depths of the Upper Peninsula’s historic iron and copper mines as recorded by vintage stereo view cards.

Presidential Luncheon, Noon-1:30 p.m., Saturday, June 8, 2019.  The Presidential Luncheon was held In the Harbor Room of the Landmark Hotel.  The luncheon program included the “Passing of the Presidential Pick”  to Stephanie Saager-Bourret, MHA President, 2019-20.  The Presidential Lecture followed.

Incoming 2019-2020 MHA President, Stephanie Saager-Bourret (center),
accepts the Presidential Pick from Past-Presidents,
Eric Norberg (left) and Peter Maciulaitis (right).


Cleveland-Cliffs Tilden Mine Overlook and Historic Cliffs Cottage Tour, 9:30 a.m. – Noon, June 6, 2019. The tour departed from and returned to the Landmark Inn.  Bus transportation was provided by Cleveland Cliffs. 

This tour bus made its first stop at the pit overlook at the Tilden mine, the last operating iron mine on the Marquette Range.  The Tilden pit currently measures 1.5 miles E/W, 0.7 miles N/S, and is 1,400 feet deep. Taconite pellets made from the mine’s hematite ores were first produced in 1974, and it is expected to continue operations for at least another 15 years.

The second stop was at the remarkable Cliffs Cottage.  Built at the turn of the last century, the “cottage” served as Cleveland-Cliffs president William G. Mather’s residence and headquarters during his frequent visits to the company’s mines.  After expansion in 1903, the cottage saw increased use for business purposes, including board of directors’ meetings and meetings with local mine managers.  Although the cottage remains in use today (housing visiting executives and engineers, and hosting a variety of civic events), much of the original ambience remains – including the billiards and sitting rooms, and the polished jasper hearths.

Cleveland-Cliffs Tilden Mine Overlook and Historic Cliffs Cottage Tour, 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., June 6, 2019.  The tour departed from and returned to the Landmark Inn. This is a repeat of the of the morning tour described above.

 Tour of the Humboldt Mill, Lundin Mining Corporation, 10 a.m. (at the mill, 4547 Country Rd., 601, Champion, MI 49814) - Noon, Thursday, June 6, 2019.  Transportation by personal vehicles.

Lundin’s underground Eagle mine, not part of the tour, is located about 27 miles northwest as the crow flies from Marquette. It produces high-grade nickel/copper ore. CLICK HERE for a video of the mine. That ore is transported by truck to the Humboldt Mill for processing.  The mill is located about 23 miles (approximately 40 minutes) west of Marquette at the village of Champion.  At the Humboldt Mill we learned about the history of and operations at the Eagle mine, and saw what happens to the nickel/copper ore after it leaves the mine site.  This was a walking tour, beginning at the administrative office. The tour followed the circuit of crushing, grinding and flotation processes, taking the ore from haul truck to concentrate shipment via rail car.  

The Humboldt mill is itself historically significant in its prior roles as the primary mill for the co-located Humboldt iron mine for which it was built, later as the gold mill for Callahan Mining Corporation’s mid-20th-century operations at the nearby Ropes mine, and as an industrial minerals plant for the Minerals Processing Corporation.  Lundin has since completely upgraded the mill to modern standards and metallurgical technology for processing its nickel/copper ores.  The long-abandoned and flooded Humboldt pit is now used for environmentally friendly tailings disposal. 

Tour of the Humboldt Mill, Lundin Mining Corporation, 2:00 p.m. (at the mill, 4547 County Rd., 601, Champion, MI 49814) - 4:00 p.m., Thursday, June 6, 2019. This is a repeat of the morning tour described above.

Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives Open House, 1:00 pm – 4:00 p.m., Thursday, June 6, 2019.  The extensive collections housed at the Northern Michigan University Archives in Marquette include a remarkable assemblage of more than a century of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron (CCI) Company and other mining industry records, documents, and photographs, many of which will be on special display during the Open House.  Conference registrants who were unable to attend the Open House were encouraged to visit the Archive during its regular business hours.  Additional information is available on the Archives web page, .

Rock and Mineral Collecting Trip, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Thursday, June 6, 2019.  Some MHAers won’t call a conference complete until they have had an opportunity to wield a rock hammer.  Representatives of the Ishpeming Rock & Mineral Club led by Bob Clark, guided MHAers to the old Champion Mine, one of the better local collecting spots.

Historic Downtown Marquette Walking Tour, 1:30 - 4:00 p.m., Thursday, June 6, 2019. The tour began in the lobby of the Landmark Inn.  This 12-block walking tour featured downtown Marquette and some of the finest buildings constructed in the history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Participants learned about the city’s rich history and saw many of its magnificent old red sandstone and white limestone buildings. Featured sites included the Peter White Public Library, The Marquette County Courthouse, and St. Peter’s Cathedral. Other sites included the Statue of Jacques Marquette, Harlow’s Wooden Man, and the iron ore dock and customs clearing house in Marquette’s Lower Harbor. The guide for the tour was Fred Huffman from Marquette Country Tours, a noted local historian and tour guide. Unfortunately, no photographs were taken on the Walking Tour.  The CONFERENCE OVERVIEW GALLERY has some nice photos of downtown Marquette.

Michigan Iron Industry Museum Open House, Special Session and MHA Membership Meeting, 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Saturday, June 8, 2019.   The museum is located at the historic site of the Carp River Forge between Marquette and the neighboring towns of Negaunee and Ishpeming.  This special Saturday afternoon session in the museum auditorium featured a short film, “Iron Spirits,” and a special presentation at 3:00 p.m. by Mary Tippet, “Barnes-Hecker: The Legacy of Michigan’s Worst Mining Disaster.”  The session concluded with the Annual MHA Membership Meeting.  Members were also free to explore the museum exhibits and its extensive grounds.  

Special Saturday Evening “Tour, Tasting, and Documentary,” 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., June 8, 2019, Negaunee High School.   A VANISHING BREED - THE MEN AND MEMORIES OF THE MATHER B.  The last of the Marquette Range’s underground mines, Cleveland Cliffs’ iconic Mather B, operated from 1950 to 1979.   Bottoming at 3,660 feet, the mine produced a remarkable 42-million tons of high-grade natural iron ore (almost 57-million tons when combined with the connected Mather A mine).

The staff and students of Negaunee High School offered MHAers a unique opportunity for a first-hand look back at the Mather B by visiting the school itself - which, before being repurposed, served as the mine’s dry, shops and administrative offices.  Attendees got a through-the-fence view of the Mather B hoist house and shaft cap, and a brief tour of the service tunnels which remain below the school - largely untouched since the mine closed.

A light supper of the regional favorite cudighi sandwiches was served in the school cafeteria (you haven’t REALLY experienced the Michigan U.P. until you’ve had both a pasty AND a cudighi).  Supper was followed by a showing of the acclaimed student documentary film, “A Vanishing Breed – The Men and Memories of the Mather B,” in the school auditorium.

All-day Field Trip, The Menominee Iron Range, 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Sunday, June 9, 2019.    The tour departed from the Landmark Inn.  The Menominee Iron Range lies about 50 miles south of the roughly parallel Marquette Range.  Because of the steeply dipping ore bodies common to the Menominee Range, most of its mines went underground from the start.  The range was in continuous production from 1870 through 1978.


This all-day tour explored the range from west to east by air-conditioned motor coach.  Stops included: the substantially intact, early-20th-century Cardiff and Caspian mine headframes (the last two headframes still standing in Iron County, MI); the Iron County Historical Museum (where we enjoyed of a traditional pasty lunch); the spectacular 1893-vintage, 725-ton, E. P. Allis pump at the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum at Iron Mountain, MI; and the “Iron Mountain” (Vulcan) tour mine, where we went underground for a first-hand sense of the scale and substance of historic Menominee Range mining.  Local historian/geologist Tom Mroz joined us there to help interpret both the geology and development of the eastern end of the range.)


All-day Post-Conference Field Trip, Fayette, Michigan, An Iron Smelting Town, 10:00 a.m. (at Fayette) – 4:30 p.m., Monday, June 10, 2019. 

The Fayette historic townsite is located approximately 92 miles and about a two-hour drive SSE of Marquette and the Landmark Inn.   There is no individual admission fee, but each vehicle must display a park pass (currently $16 [annual] for vehicles with Michigan license plates, and $9 [one-day] for those with out-of-state plates), available on site. 

The Michigan History Center offered us an exceptional opportunity for a detailed tour of the Fayette Historic Townsite. It is perhaps the most picturesque and best-preserved historic village in the mid-western United States.  From 1867 to 1891, Fayette was a busy smelting town, producing charcoal pig iron from ores supplied by nearby Michigan and Wisconsin mines.  It was constructed by the Jackson Iron Company with the objective of producing a value-added iron product and saving the transportation cost associated with shipping the waste components of the iron ore.   Today, it is preserved in a state of arrested decay on the scenic north shore of Lake Michigan. This spectacular historic site invites visitors to explore numerous domestic and commercial structures, as well as the iron furnaces and charcoal kilns themselves.


The site historian, Troy Henderson provided the walking tour focusing on the site’s industrial history, and on the civic and social dimensions of a remote 19th century company town.  A catered lunch was served.


VISITOR INFORMATION (Accessed, May 6, 2019)


Michigan Travel,


Upper Peninsula Travel,


Marquette Tourism,

The Landmark Inn,

Ishpeming-Negaunee Tourism,



Views of the past and present along the Marquette Iron Range.  (Left to Right) One of the two Cliffs Shaft Mine concrete, Egyptian Revival obelisk headframes, ca1919, and a Koepe Hoist on top of the adjacent modern “C” shaft and headframe, ca1952, in Ishpeming, MI. 
Marquette ore dock No. 6 with wooden railroad trestle, ca1932, and its current state of preservation.


Boyum, Burton H., The Saga of Iron Mining in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, John M. Longyear Research Library, 1983.

Reed, Robert C., Michigan Iron Mines, Michigan Geological Survey, 1957,

Allen, R. C., Gold in Michigan,, Michigan Geological Survey, 1980,



Terry Reynolds

Stephanie Saager-Bourret

Erik Nordberg


Mark and Lynn Langenfeld


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