True to Tom’s vision: Delaware Mine open under new ownership

Delaware Mine open under new ownership

Delaware Mine owners, Bob and Laurie Sullivan, pose for a photo at the entrance of the No. 1 Shaft, where the tours enter and exit the mine.

GRANT TOWNSHIP — The Delaware Mine opened for tours this week under new owners. Tom and Lani Poynter had owned and operated the mine since its opening on July 5, 1977, until September 2023, when Tom passed away. The mine is now owned by Tom’s daughter and her husband, Laurie and Bob Sullivan.

The Sullivans, who acquired the property in January 2024, do not live locally.

“Not yet, anyway,” Laurie said. “Bob owns a business downstate, with about 20 employees, so we’re working with that.”

Bob fired Laurie, she said, so she could come to Delaware off and on.

The Sullivans’ vision for the mine, said Bob, is to keep it true to Tom’s passion and what it became.

“This started out as a hole in the ground — literally,” said Bob. “Nothing was here but a hole in the ground that Tom crawled into with his brother, who said, ‘okay, if you’re not back in an hour, I’ll get somebody to help dig you out.'”

Tom crawled down the shaft, Bob related, because his passion was always to create the tour.

“So, our goal is to honor that,” Bob said, “and to figure out how we can make improvements, but remaining true to what Tom’s vision was.”

They have updated the gift shop, for example. The goal is to give it more of the feeling of entering back into the 1800s once the visitor walks through the door.

Overhead lights have been replaced, but more importantly, the roof has been repaired to stop the leaks.

A long-term goal is to create a museum of copper mining in the Copper Country, Bob said, from the prehistoric period, through the period of the development of the Delaware Mine.

“I envision that as a walking tour within the current maritime museum with graphic panels, video clips, even drawing on some of the videos Tom has online,” Bob said. “We scoured the internet trying to find anything on the Delaware Mine.”

The maritime museum referred to was Tom’s second passion, maritime engines and history. A museum containing maritime engines was admittedly out of place at a historical mine. It was moved from Copper Harbor in 2017.

To guide the Sullivans moving forward, Dennis Brewer and his wife, Penny Peterson, are on the grounds. They worked closely with, and for, Tom and Lani for the past three years.

“Tom’s focus was always preserve and present the early mining history,” Brewer said. “He always seemed to have the answers on most of the things when we got hard ball questions from the customers. I absorbed a lot of that by osmosis.”

The Delaware Mine has a long history relating to one of the oldest mining ventures on the Keweenaw, the Northwest Mining Association, which was organized in 1845. It was reorganized in March 1847 as the Northwest Copper Company and was reorganized yet again two years later as the North West Mining Company.

In 1861, the company was dissolved and new company, the Pennsylvania Mining Company of Michigan, was created. Two years later, in 1863, 720 acres of the west side of Pennsylvania company were separated from the company, on which was organized the Delaware Mining Company. In those early years, focus was on native copper in fissure veins located in the ancient volcanic rocks, or amygdaloid formation. Later, mining would focus on these deposits.

The Mining History Association’s report on the property states that, from the 1860s to the 1880s, a number of new companies were formed to raise capital for continuing mine development. Several of the companies and mines had names reflecting their eastern investors, the Pennsylvania Mining Company (1861), the Delaware Mining Company (1863), a new Delaware Mining Company (1876) consolidating the older Pennsylvania and Delaware companies, and finally the Conglomerate Mining Company (1881). By the 1880s, the Conglomerate Mining Company had developed an extensive mining complex, employee houses and a school at the town of Delaware.


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