A Thank You to the DNRE Core Sample Facility and You

Today I had the chance to visit the Department of Natural Resources and Environment drill core sample repository located just outside Marquette, MI. The facility holds thousands of geologic samples taken from all over the Upper Peninsula dating from the late nineteenth century to the present. Melanie Humphrey, who works with the samples, saw the TV6 news story on the Cliff project and emailed me to let me know about some of the documents the DNRE has relating to the mine.

Many of the documents in their possession can also be found at the Michigan Tech Archives (Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. drill reports of the area for example), but the facility had a colored plan of the underground workings I hadn’t seen before. The plan dates from May 1st, 1857, and was created by mine superintendent, John Slawson. Each level of the mine is laid plan view style but without each level lying on top of each other. Each level is also colored differently in order to better differentiate. The shafts are shown in relatively the same location for each level and this provides a guide to follow the workings both vertically and horizontally on the page. You’ll notice that at this time, the Avery Shaft was being sunk from the surface as well as being driven upwards from the lower levels. Also, at this time the No. 4 Shaft is not included in the plan view since it had not been worked to a point where it was located on paying ground yet.

Plan of the Underground Workings of the Pittsburgh and Boston Mining Company's Cliff Mine, 1857.

Included is another map from the DNRE core facility: a longitudinal section of the mine from March of 1870, the P&BMC’s last year of direct oversight of the mine work. What you can see here is that there were 5 shafts running south and 4 running north of Cliff Drive. The southern shafts were part of the South Cliff Mine while the shafts located to the right of “the boundary mound” are part of the Cliff Mine proper. Shaft No. 5 (far right near the black “x” shaped drawing signifying a large mass of copper) was actually begun underground and never reached the surface.

Longitudinal Section of the Workings of the Cliff Vein, 1870.

These documents are wonderful for the information located within them. I want to thank Melanie and the DNRE core facility for hanging on to these valuable documents and making them available to me (and to you via this blog).

I’d also like to thank those of you who made the trip out to the site last Saturday to take a tour. At 10:00 am we had 20-30 visitors ready to explore and more and more people came throughout the day. If you weren’t able to make it, don’t forget that we will be conducting tours the next two Saturdays as well.


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About Sean Gohman

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

5 responses to “A Thank You to the DNRE Core Sample Facility and You”

  1. Joe Dancy says :

    Note that the June 1, 1857 plat of the Cliff workings was apparently prepared by Hulbert & Lum Mining Engineers (see notation by the Cliff Mine label).

    If I recall correctly Hulbert went on to find the C&H main lode several years later down in Calumet.

    It would be interesting to review the P&B corporte documents if they are still around to see if capital calls were made for the cost of the Avery shaft. As I recall the shareholders did not approve the call so Avery financed it himself and took a mortgage on the entire mine property according to some historians.

    The use of the corporation as an entity for financing large projects such as the Cliff mine was just in it’s infancy in the mid-1800’s, so the law regarding shareholder rights and capital calls was a bit different than today. In some cases shareholders who did not make the a capital call lost their stock.

    Great tour by the way.

    • Sean Gohman says :

      The story about Avery financing the mine is often misunderstood as being the creation of the Avery Shaft. The financing that Avery put up himself was much earlier in the mine’s history, like 1847-49 period actually. He was financing the #1 Shaft. To find the company records I suspect I would have to travel to Pittsburgh at some time and hope to stumble upon something.

      • Joe Dancy says :

        Interesting Sean. I went back and re-read Monette’s book where I had run across the Avery financing discussion and it is not clear from Monette’s work what shaft Avery was financing – just that they wanted to use a vertical shaft to go deeper than 700 feet and the shareholders were not wild about such a project. $60,000 was the loan amount according to Monette’s book.

        I figured if Avery did the financing he might have placed a mortgage or lien in the real estate records to reflect his interests and to put third parties on notice, in addition to the loan documentation retained inside the corporate records. So I went to the Eagle River courthouse 5-6 years ago to run title.

        Sort of interesting experience. First, I was the only guy in the real estate record vault the entire time I was there. Second, the local employees were really curious why a guy would be interested in examining records of an old mine during his vacation – they drove by the mine every day to work but had no idea of the significance or the fact that Clifton existed next to the workings. Third, since Keewenaw County was spilt off of Houghton County in 1861 much of the early records were transcribed and copied – by hand – from the Houghton County records (what a boring job, thank the lord for modern copiers).

        I also had an interest if the surface around any of the townsite or mining area had a different ownership than those who owned the mineral or mineral lease. The “Reasonable Use Doctrine” adopted at common law and in Michigan allowed a mine owner to use a reasonable amount of the surface for roads, buildings, tailings piles, etc. for their operations, without paying for such use, even if the mine owner did not own title to the surface (that same doctrine applies today to oil and natural gas wells in many states).

        Unlike many oil and gas wells where title is incredibly interesting with all sorts of leases, royalties, financing documents, liens, judgments, agreements filed of record – giving a title examiner a great view of development from a business standpoint – the filings on the Cliff Mine properties were remarkably ‘cold’ or ‘barren’ – I did not see a mortgage by Avery in the records, as I recall the surface and minerals were not severed (not unusual, although ‘severance’ of minerals and the surface became much more common after the 1859 Drake well in Pennsyvania and oil development in the decades hence).

        To my disappointment nothing was real interesting in the records, but the Eagle River courthouse property vault is pretty cool. And the employees gave me a tour of the entire building when I was done researching.

        Avery made a fortune in cotton, then copper at the Cliff, and apparently donated half his fortune to educate minorities by offering scholarships and setting up a small college according to Monette and some other sources.

        So an interesting point about the Cliff heritage is that some of the wealth generated from the mine was used to provide equal opportunity and promote diversity – pre-civil war so this was not without controversy at the time – more than 100 years before the civil rights legislation that was adopted in the 1960’s.

        Great project. Keep up the good work.

  2. Joe Dancy says :

    Here is something cool I just stumbled across – the 1870 Federal census for Clifton:


    Looks like the town had 726 citizens at the time, probably down from the peak a few years earlier. Note that the females for the most part have occupations of ‘keeping house’. Also note James R Dee of Dee stadium fame is listed in the census (he is buried up by the MTU ice arena).

    Also the graves of several of the citizens in this census can be found at the mine – Jane Peters and her two kids are in the Hillside cemetary with the unique pointed marker.

    • Timothy James Scarlett says :

      Thanks for the great info, Joe. It is interesting how few people listed in the census record specify that they work in the mill. Only two– one “washer” and one “millhand” among all the non-specific surface laborers. I also like “Ostler” among the those general laborers!

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