Keweenaw County Michigan

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FROM what had been written about this island by Pierre Boucher, and published in Paris in 1640, and from the accounts published by the Jesuit missionaries who penetrated into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as early as 1615, and whose wonderful accounts of the extensive deposits of copper in this region, and particularly on Isle Royale, were published in Paris in 1666-67, which records had undoubtedly been studied by Benjamin Franklin, no doubt decided him to insist, as one of the Boundary Commissioners, after the Revolutionary war, upon including Isle Royale within the limits of the territory coded by Great Britain to the United Colonies; and the boundary was placed midway between the island and the main shore on the north side of the lake.

When the early efforts, at mining were made in the copper region, much attention was directed to Isle Royale, and large expectations were centered there. The wildest imaginations, with regard to the enormous wealth stored in its mines, and the facility with which it might be obtained, were indulged; and these wild conjectures were stimulated by the fact that numerous veins bearing copper, which was kept burnished by the action of the waves, could be seen in the lake along the edge of the island. These formed the basis for the theory that the masses found scattered over the mainland had been broken from those island veins, floated over by icebergs and landed where found.

The geological survey of the island demonstrates that the same formations compose its structure as are found extending along the "mineral range" of the peninsula, and numerous cupriferous veins were located there by Mr. S. W. Hill while making the survey.

Isle Royale is about fifty miles north by a little west from Keweenaw Point, its extreme easterly point being nearly opposite Eagle River. It is fifty-one miles in length from northeast to southwest, averaging about five miles in width. It is eight miles at its widest point, and about two and a half in its extreme narrowest part, which is toward its northeasterly end. It is covered with a dense growth of dwarfish forest trees along the rocks on its north shore, and is heavily timbered in the interior, principally with evergreens. Mr. Wright, in his Mineral Statistics, says: "The frequent change in the formation, arising from the thin bedding or strata of rocks, affects, in a corresponding degree, the character of the veins, making the work of mining in them extremely uncertain, and causing all the mining ventures which have thus far been made on the island to prove unprofitable undertakings." But Mr. S. W. Hill, who made the survey, states that the formation of the island is the same as found on Keweenaw Point. The greenstone formation exists there in some places 200 feet in thickness, and holds its position parallel to that on Keweenaw Point. The same formation of the ash-bed, bearing copper, is also distinctly observable. Some of the members of the group found in Keweenaw County are not observable on the surface, while others found there are not seen on the peninsula; but, as a whole, the island is a complete counterpart of Keweenaw County—the dip of the rocks, being the reverse, shows simply application of the formation between, probably formed by the upheaval of the greenstone ridges running through the island and through Keweenaw County, and constituting the great lake basin between.

In the opinion of Mr. Hill, the best mines are found on the point where the beds of conglomerate alternate most frequently with the veins of trap, and that the same will hold good with regard to the island.

Inland, and in the valleys, he found large growths of white pine and cedar, of excellent quality. The whole island is well watered and timbered, except along the coast and on the rocky ridges.

Siskawit Lake is a considerable body of water lying near the center of the island, which, apparently, has no outlet.

Hills rising from 300 to 400 feet above the lake are found in many localities throughout the island, and in some places on the west are bold cliffs of greenstone rising from the water's edge, while on the eastern shore, conglomerate rock or coarse sandstone abounds, with occasional rocky beach. On the point, at the entrance to Siskawit Bay, superior sandstone for paving purposes is deposited.

Isle Royale County has more numerous and better harbors than can elsewhere be found in the same radius, some of the finest being completely land-locked, and capable of of sheltering the entire fleet of vessels sailing on the lake. On the north shore is Amygdaloid Island Harbor and and Todd's Harbor, and among the "Fingers Fingers"—as the northeasterly end of the island is called, from being divided by numerous bays, which run a long distance inland--are several good and commodious harbors. On the south, Rock Harbor is extensive and secure. Siskawit Bay is a fair harbor, except in a direct northeasterly gale. Chippewa Harbor, on the south, could be made one of the best in the county by dredging about one hundred feet. It can now only be entered by small boats.

Washington Harbor, on the west, has seventy-five feet of water for more than five miles in length; has three distinct entrances. Beaver Island, some four miles inland, is over three hundred feet high, and is surrounded by deep water, so that the largest vessels can pass all around it On account of numerous islets and rocks in places, navigation along thethe shore would be somewhat dangerous to one unacquainted with their location, but, once within the harbors, a vessel could outride one of Lake Superior's November gales.

In 1871, Isle Royale County was was set off from Keweenaw County, and has since been divided into two townships— Rock Harbor and Island Townships. The island is not generally settled, and contains but few inhabitants--some fifty-five at the last census.

Although the most extensive ancient or prehistoric mining was done on this island, and almost everywhere evidences of copper deposits are found, its distance from the mainland, and the necessity of having barges attached to the works, together with the fact that capital has thus far been concentrated to carrying on operations on the mainland, has heretofore retarded the work of developing the veins on the island; one mine only--the Minong—being worked on a small scalescale at present, but, not being practically operated, the results are not very profitable.

Some tributers are also engaged on the grounds, gathering what copper they can glean from surface work, the whole amounting to but little.

The waters abound in fish, and it is one of the very best points in Lake Superior for fishing operations.


Owing to the foresight of Franklin, Isle Royale was was grouped with other islands within the boundary of the United States. It appears to have been a terra incognita to local politicians up to 1847.

Isle Royale and the adjacent islands in Lake Superior were established as one township, under the name of Isle Royale Township, March 16, 1847. The territory was attached to Houghton County, of which it formed a part. The first town meeting was held at the house of Joseph Petit, in June, 1847.

The act approved March 4, 1875, ordered "that the several islands in Lake Superior known as Isle Royale and the islands adjacent thereto shall be organized into a separate county, by the name of Isle Royale, and the inhabitants thereof entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities to which, by law, the inhabitants of other organized counties of this State are entitled."

The usual provisions for the election of officers were made, and it was made the duty of the Supervisors' Board, on or after the year 1880, to establish the county seat.

The county of Isle Royale was organized in 1875, and detached from Keweenaw County. The only organized township in the county in 1880, as given in the census returns, was Minong, with a population of fifty-five.