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Timothy O’Shea, like the Hecla Mine, was growing old

When Timothy O’Shea went to work for Edwin Hulbert at the Calumet Mine, on January 1, 1866, work at the Hecla mine, immediately to the south, had not started yet. But the Hecla paid its first dividend on December 15, 1869, nearly eight months before the Calumet mine paid its first dividend. O’Shea was a contract miner when Quincy Shaw and Alexander Agassiz took over the Calumet location, organized the Hecla company, and removed Hulbert. As the mines developed, their histories were printed for anyone who cared to read them, but they were all from Agassiz’ point of view and his versions. O’Shea knew the truth, because he was there before Agassiz was. By the turn of the century, however, both O’Shea and the Hecla mine were showing their age.

In 1896, the Summary of Operations of the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company reported the purchase of 120 acres of land that would permit the company to extend the Hecla No. 6 and No. 7 shafts, with the pessimistic remark: “We hope this new territory will prove to contain copper enough to warrant the purchase.” O’Shea was 52 years old. He had been a miner all his life and could interpret indicators as well as any college-trained geologist.

Between 1895 and 1896, the No. 4 Hecla Shaft was revamped and re-opened after having been abandoned for several years. The idea behind that was for that shaft to serve the explorations of the lodes east of the Calumet Conglomerate Lode. By 1903, the company began working farther to the north into an area known as the Five Forties in an effort to offset the decreasing production in the southern end of the lode, the Hecla mine. Six additional heads were installed at the Hecla mill, on Torch Lake, along with new extracting technology, Chile Mills, they were called. The company was attempting to cut expenses of processing Hecla rock while reducing the amount of copper going out with the tailings.

In 1904, the company had abandoned all exploratory work in the Hecla’s southern-most opening, the No. 12 Shaft, and had begun removing the pillars and rock supports in the No. 11 Shaft. The previous year, electric mine pumps were installed in the No. 7 Shaft. A new blacksmith shop and a new carpenter shop were built at the Hecla to concentrate the work of those facilities. The southern end of the Calumet Conglomerate Lode was reaching the end of its ore reserves.

While management tried to limp the Hecla along, it also invested in other properties, gaining control over smaller ventures to the south, including the New Jersey, Superior, Caldwell, La Salle, and the Gratiot mine, to the north. In 1906, the company secured an option on the Nonesuch mine, in Ontonagon County. O’Shea was fully aware that these acquisitions were just the corporation grasping at straws.

While C&H was struggling with its mortality in 1904, Timothy O’Shea was suddenly confronted with the same issue.

On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1904, O’Shea’s wife, Catherine, died at their home in Raymbaultown. It was a Sunday. Catherine was young, just 56 years old.

When Timothy and Catherine met, he was a 19-year-old contract miner at the Cliff Mine. She was 15 years old and living with her parents. They married in 1864, the year after he had started courting her. They were together for just over a year when Timothy made the decision to leave the Cliff mine to go see his friend, Edwin Hulbert, about working at the Calumet mine. In the winter of 1865, the Calumet was just an exploratory site with a dozen or so trenching works in a clearing in the woods and one log boarding house that Hulbert shared with his few workers. Catherine returned to her parents’ home to live until the Calumet company could build houses. He went back to Clifton to bring his young wife to their new home in 1867.

In their 40-year marriage, Timothy and Catherine had brought nine children into the world, six of them still lived in the area. Three of their boys, Patrick, John, and Timothy, had gone west to the Butte, Montana copper camps. Timothy at one time had the idea that he would eventually leave the Lake Superior district for bigger dreams. But that was when he and Catherine were first married and he left Clifton for Calumet. It is most likely that she persuaded him not to seek other places. Calumet was stable; it was growing. There was a good school, and there were churches, and it was a good place to raise children. The company paid the highest wages in the district, offered the best houses, and operated one of the best hospitals in Michigan. It was nonsensical to leave a well-established area for some far-flung, distant place when Calumet had everything they needed to raise a family. By the time Timothy’s father, Dennis, was killed in a man car accident at the Cliff, Timothy was ready to quit the Lake Superior copper district. Catherine seemed to be his anchor and calmed him down.

Proud, strong, and Irish, Timothy and Catherine were devout members of their faith in a land where they were free to be Catholic without fear of persecution from the English. They were free of famine. They attended the Sacred Heart Church, on Rockland Street, which was within walking distance of their home. Although the church had its own Catholic cemetery by 1904, Catherine was laid to rest at the new Lake View Cemetery a number of miles away, across the road from the Tamarack mine. By all accounts, Timothy and Catherine had loved each other and were best friends.

He remained a widower. He had learned, with the death of his father, to be independent and stand alone. But in Catherine, he had seen something he could believe in. In her, he saw the qualities that he trusted would make her the ideal companion. In him, she saw a stable, responsible man who would care for and provide for her. They did not disappoint each other.

After the funeral, Timothy went home. He went back to work at the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. He continued to work there. He did not follow through on his decades old idea to leave for bigger places. He stayed in the Calumet area, remaining near the six children who had also chosen not to leave. Tall, strong, and tested by the uglier challenges of life, Timothy O’Shea believed in God and he believed in family. It was the Irish way. After having left Bearhaven as a teenager, and living in Boston for a year before moving on to Clifton for seven years, Timothy and Catherine built a stable family, in a stable home, in a stable district, with a stable church. Once settled, Timothy never strayed far from his home.

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