John Hays, Jim Raymond, and the creation of the Pittsburgh and Boston Mining Company

This is the second in a series of posts providing an historical context for the Cliff Mine beginning with the creation of the State of Michigan and ending with the discovery of the Cliff vein.

The possibility of making a fortune in the copper country of Michigan lured men of all backgrounds to Copper Harbor in the mid 1840’s. Rich and poor alike traveled by boat and land in the hopes of staking a claim in this mostly unexplored wilderness. Others profited from the rampant speculation of permits and information that could be overheard in the village’s bars crowded with prospectors just returned after weeks of roving in the bush. For a druggist from Pittsburgh, a chance encounter with one of these thirsty prospectors would be the start of a long and profitable enterprise.

John Hays, a one-time pharmacist who longed to leave the city behind and take a chance on adventure, spent his time in Copper Harbor listening and waiting for an opportunity to present itself. Jim Raymond, a Bostonian and one of the first men to file a permit in the district, presented Hays will an all too common dilemma in boom-towns. Raymond told Hays he had, “three of the best god-damned claims on the Keweenaw,” but that he couldn’t, “raise a cent to take the stuff out.” Hays, not wanting this chance to slip away, quickly wrote up an agreement giving he and his Pittsburgh physician and backer, Dr. Charles Hussey, an option to buy a one-sixth interest in the three locations for $1,000. Raymond, speaking on behalf of his fellow Boston backers, agreed.

Charles G. Hussey, backer of John Hays and original partner in the P&BMC.

Hays left for Pittsburgh, enthused by the prospect of three bonanzas, and informed Hussey of their new opportunity. Easily won over, an excited Hussey grubstaked (traded work for shares) Hays one-fourth of all profits made from the mining and smelting. They soon realized one-sixth interest wasn’t going to be enough if these claims were as promising as advertised, and quickly sought more backing. Three more Pittsburgh investors, Thomas Howe and Dr.’s Charles Avery and William Pettit, each put up another $1,000, giving the Pittsburgh contingent a two-thirds control over the locations. The Boston partners either sold outright, as Raymond did, or later traded in their stake in the permits for shares in the company. Formalizing the new arrangement in 1845, the partners created the Pittsburgh and Boston Copper Harbor Mining Company, later dropping “Copper Harbor” from the name once it was realized the fortunes of the company would not be found on the harbor, but 20 miles west at the Cliff.

Reverend Dr. Charles Avery, partner in the P&BMC.

The company would come to be defined by these two geographically separated factions. The majority shareholders, Hussey, Avery, Howe and Pettit, all hailing from Pittsburgh, became from the beginning the main source of capital and proactive company involvement. The Boston faction, represented by Thomas Jones, Charles Scudder, and George C. Bates (the later of the Isle Royale Mining Co., a successful enterprise in its own right),  stayed passively involved, and took a more conservative approach to risk-taking.

Further reading:

Angus Murdoch, Boom Copper: The Story of the First Mining Boom (Hancock: The Quincy Mine Hoist Association, 2001).

Donald Chaput, The Cliff: America’s First Great Copper Mine (Kalamazoo: Sequoia Press, 1971).


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About Sean Gohman

Currently a PhD Degree seeking student in the Michigan Tech University's Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program.

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