Richness of Calumet Conglomerate inspired an explosion of development

Timothy O’Shea arrived at the Calumet mine location in December of 1865. By all accounts the area was a wilderness, except for the clearing in the woods around the site.

Edwin J. Hulbert was a civil engineer and surveyor who had worked at the Cliff Mine for several years, where he became an avid student of some of the most well-known geologists in the copper region. He combined his education with his acquired geology skills while surveying a road from Copper Harbor to Portage Lake. To make a long story short, it was while he was surveying the road that he discovered what became known as the Calumet Conglomerate Lode. It was on the lode that he organized the Hulbert Mining Company that soon became the Calumet Mining Company. This Hulbert Mining Company was not the only, nor the first, venture that Hulbert organized, though.

The year before he found the central portion of the conglomerate lode, Hulbert was instrumental in organizing the Schoolcraft Mining Company, which he named after his uncle, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. The company was formed, on the property adjacent to the future Hulbert company lands, to work what turned out to be the northern extension of the Calumet Conglomerate, but it, like the southern end of the lode, turned out to be worthless and the company went bankrupt. While there are critics of Hulbert who blame him for the failure of the Schoolcraft, that is not quite accurate. The mine was leased in 1873 to William Harris, who had already gained a reputation as a brilliant mining man. Harris, like Hulbert, thought the mine could be made to profit. He, too, failed. The property was liquidated and in 1876, became the Centennial Mining Company, which opened the northern end of what became known as the Osceola Amgydaloid Lode.

By 1880, the company had opened two shafts, and had built an office, a house for the company agent, along with several houses for employees. It had also installed two steam-powered hoisting plants and a pumping engine. It also constructed a stamp mill.

Meanwhile, Hulbert, with investment capital from Horatio Bigelow and his group, went on to obtain the land on which the Hulbert Mining Company (later the Calumet) was developed. Hulbert was unable to acquire the property to the south, but Quincy A. Shaw and Alexander Agassiz did, which became the Hecla Mining Company. Hulbert was able to obtain the property to the west of the Calumet property, however, and on that he organized the Red Jacket Mining Company, where he sank an exploratory shaft near what became Red Jacket Road, to the north of where C&H built its stone library. Like the Schoolcraft mine, however, the portion of the Calumet Lode opened by the Red Jacket company proved poor and the project was abandoned. Hulbert abandoned the mine, but not the property. It was on the Red Jacket property that he platted the streets for the village that would officially bear the company’s name when the village was incorporated in 1875. The settlement, from the time Hulbert laid it out, bore its name. Hulbert also lost this property in the Shaw-Agassiz take-over.

In just 10 years of O’Shea arriving at the Calumet site, he witnessed the surrounding area transformed from an unbroken forest in literally all directions. The Calumet was organized in 1865; the Hecla was organized a year later and in 1871, the two companies merged while absorbing two smaller ones, to become the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company. Two years later, in 1873, Hulbert organized yet another company, this one adjacent to the southern boundry of the Hecla property, and named the Osceola Mining Company. Horatio Bigelow and J.W. Scott were again involved, and Hulbert was appointed superintendent.

According to mining engineer, Thomas Rickard, in his 1905 book, The Copper Mines of Lake Superior, published by the Engineering and Mining Journal, when Hulbert opened the mine, he believed he had discovered another conglomerate lode similar to the Calumet lode. That assertion is open to question, however, because Hulbert had opened many shafts on the Calumet lode, from the Schoolcraft south to the Osceola, and also to the west; at that time, the only one who probably knew that lode better than Hulbert was his mining captain, John Daniell. Daniell was the captain who developed the amygdaloid lode.

Hulbert opened the Osceola mine on the northern end of the boundary, just south of the Hecla’s southern-most shaft; he knew into which lode he was descending — and at first, it was as rich as it was to the north. At first. The copper content of the southern end of the lode quickly petered out and the company was on the verge of folding up when, 800 feet east of the conglomerate lode, an amygdaloid lode was discovered and it was thoroughly tested.

According to Rickard, the exploration of the Osceola lode was begun in 1877. It looked so promising that in the next three years, four shafts were sunk into it. The first year, 1877, the lode produced just under 2,800,000 pounds of copper.

Still further to the south, the Tecumseh Mining Company was organized in March, 1880, adjoining the southwest boundary of the Osceola. Both the Calumet Conglomerate and the Osceola Amygdaloid lodes crossed the property. The Tecumseh sank a shaft on each of the lodes.

The Tamarack Mining Company was another company organized to exploit the Calumet Conglomerate. Owing to the brilliance of John Daniell, who was instrumental in bringing the Osceola company to profitability, he did what many thought he was crazy for attempting. Daniell’s plans were precise — but expensive. He theorized that the property to the west of C&H’s Calumet branch was a rich as the center of the lode. But, because the conglomerate lode dipped at an angle of 37 1/2 degrees, to intercept it, the vertical shaft he proposed would strike the lode at nearly half a mile from the surface. Albert S. Bigelow and his investment group decided to take the gamble. The Tamarack company was organized in 1882 and the shaft was started. It took three years of sinking through barren rock to strike what Daniell theorized was there, but that must wait for another installment.

For the moment, however, we begin to get an idea of the explosion of growth of the region in and around Calumet Township witnessed by Timothy O’Shea between 1865 and 1880, a period of just a decade and a half.


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