September 3, 2013

Mines of the Porcupine Mountains

Ontonagon, MI

If you’re looking for a place of history, the abandoned copper mine and small ghost town of Nonesuch Mine is a great place to check out. It was one of my favourite stops in the Porcupine Mountains. It’s amazing to walk through the forest and look at all the crumbling building walls. A society once existed here, not thriving but existed. People worked and lived here. The sensation of the imagination makes this place quite a treat.

Nonesuch Mine

A bit of History

Nonesuch Runes

In 1865 Ed Less discovered the nonesuch vein of copper on the Little Iron River that would eventually lead to the town of Nonesuch. The mine was opened and closed give different times between the first opening in 1867 and the final closing in 1912. Each time under different ownership. The only time it actually made any profit was between 1879 and 1881. Over the 45 years it was open sporadically, it mined a total record production of 390 thousands pounds of copper.

The town of Nonesuch is now a ghost town but at its highest peak between 1881 and 1884 it reached a population of about 300 people. The town included a school, boarding house, livery stable, markets, stage-coach services, uniformed baseball team and an official U.S post office.

Current Day

Today Nonesuch mine and town is merely a ghost of what it once was. The forest surrounding the area has long ago reclaimed it. Moss and wines grow thickly on some of the crumbling stone walls and on the mine shaft opening. The park has blocked off many buildings with fences and warning signs to not touch to help preserve what remains of the mining community.

If you continue down the trail, past the mine ruins, you’ll come to an empty field. That is where the town once stood. Nothing appears to remain from the civilization. If you do visit the area, take a moment to think about how a late 1800’s mining community may have lived and picture the buildings that once stood there. Its kind of eerie and a powerful experience.

Halliwell Mine

The Halliwell mine was owned by the Halliwell Copper Company. The land was purchased in the 1860’s but didn’t open until November of 1895. By 1899 contract miners had completed three inclined prospecting shafts, two vertical shafts and many crosscut tunnels that connected to the main shaft. However, the mine had poor results and the low cost of copper prices and lack of money from the mining company caused the mine to close in 1901. It was acquired in the 1940’s by Michigan and became part of the Porcupine Mountains.

Union Mine

Union Mine

The Union Mine was opened in 1846 owned by the Union Copper Company. It’s opening was short lived and in 1847 the mine was abandoned, considered unprofitable. The mine was eventually reopened near the end of the Civil War under the direction of Thomas Hooper but again was closed shortly after that in 1865. It was opened for a final time in 1908 when the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company dewatered the underground shafts and explored the mine. They found little copper.

With the Union Mile is a mile long interactive trail. Along the trail are excerpts from miner William Spalding’s journal and additional information regarding the every day process of the mine.


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