Eastern Extent of Cliff’s Stamp Mill: Part 1

The Cliff mill sitting in ruin towards the end of the nineteenth century. The stamp room’s eastern extent is the framed section jutting out to the right of the larger wash-house remains at center.

At the opposite end of things in the stamp room area of the mill site we have another excavation going. I am interested in seeing just how long the stamp room was. According to historic photos the stamp room extended eastward more than the wash-house did. The two buildings therefore made a “T” shape. The stamp room of the Cliff mill held (at its greatest capacity) 32 stamps. From photos the structure is a wood-framed building, with post construction and little evidence of stone foundation walls.

Here is AM100.T11 once the top soil was removed. The top half (western) was expected to be inside the stamp room while the lower (eastern) half was expected to be outside the building. We chose this location because in the middle of the unit a steady slope occurs, indicating a possible wall.

The excavation was set up as a 0.5 x 3 meter trench to hopefully bisect both the interior and exterior of the building, while also avoiding (as best as possible) two stands of trees. The narrow width of the trench is risky; you might miss a post, a door, or really anything. But if you place it right, you should at minimum get a look at both interior and exterior. Lucky for me (and really, I’ve been gifted with more luck than I deserve at this site over the years), we were able to get the best of everything.

Here is the damaged ceiling layer.

The western half of the trench quickly showed a heavily damaged wood surface consisting of nails and window glass. My initial guess was that this was the ceiling. What was found underneath indicates I’m right. Under the damaged wood was a layer of copper-infused clay-like material sitting just above a milled wood surface. This would be the floor, at minimum the floor at the edge of the building.

Here is the wood floor that was uncovered below the damaged ceiling. Note the green stain at upper right of trench, the remains of copper mixed with soil and sediment.

The eastern half could not be more different.

If you would like to see more historic images of Cliff and the Copper Country, check out the Keweenaw Digital Archives of Michigan Technological University:



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About Sean Gohman

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

2 responses to “Eastern Extent of Cliff’s Stamp Mill: Part 1”

  1. Joe Dancy says :

    The photos and description are great Sean, thanks, but you really need to see the structure live to get a feel for how it was set up and the physical nature of the stamps and wash. Glad you are having the open houses, it really gives folks like myself an opportunity to see what this is all about – and learn about your methodology (lots more involved than just digging stuff up).

    Here are some pictures of you and the students and some of the neat stuff going on at the site:


    • Mary Hill says :

      The photos were great Joe. Thanks for including the gravesite. It was nice to meet and talk with you in person at the Eagle River Community Center.

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