Ontonagon copper district was reorganized at turn of century

Hotel Jeffs boasted that it was new, handsomely furnished, and had every modern convenience. Owned by Mrs. Anna Bowden, the Hotel Jeffs, was managed by J.W. McKenna. There was the Rockland House, too, but it was not as fancy.

In his position, McKenna was well-informed on the goings on in his community, and most likely those of the surrounding environs. As the hotel’s manager, he had frequent encounters with representatives of companies dealing in mining supplies and those selling other wares in the town and surrounding locations. There were also the local professionals who enjoyed a chat occasionally, like Dr. Evans, the physician, Anton Hendrich, the Marshall and fire chief. Of course, J.H. Kohn, the railroad express and telegraph agent, who was always privy to news and information. Linus Stannard was the president of the First National Bank of Rockland, which was a small bank — a capital of $25,000 — but, still, Stannard, and Charles Mueller, the vice-president, were always current on events.

There were of course, like every other town in the copper district, more watering holes than churches. There was the saloon run by John Laine, Fred Pilppo’s saloon, Peter Veria’s saloon, the Richards Brothers’ place, Simon Bahan’s saloon, Henry Gagnon’s saloon, Fred Stone’s saloon and also John Zar’s saloon. There was little chance than anyone in Rockland in 1909 would get overly thirsty. To counter the eight saloons, there were the Episcopal, Catholic and Methodist churches in town.

But there was refinement and culture in Rockland, too. There was the Rockland Opera House, for example, managed by Simon Reahan, and Frank Scharf’s tailor shop. He competed with Joseph Pelmarsh for business. Anna Thomas was a music teacher. There was Bernard Mueller’s shop too. He was a jeweler. Rockland was a busy place in 1909. It boasted a population of 1,800, including a weekly newspaper and a school, along with six teachers, and even a photographer. The Ontonagon County Agricultural Society’s office was also in Rockland.

In addition to all that Rockland had to offer, the offices of the Michigan Copper Mining Co. were located in Rockland, the offices of the Victoria Mining Company, and the National Mining Company’s office was also in town. Down the road, at Mass City, with a population of 500, was the office of the Mass Consolidated Mining Company. Around the turn of the 20th century, “consolidated” became the operative word.

Starting in the late 1890s, many of the smaller, abandoned mines were absorbed by other larger companies the directors of which gambled on the idea that profit could be made from fewer but larger companies. This included the oldest mines in the Ontonagon district.

The Minesota, for example, began mining at Rockland in 1848. A year later, the National Mine started on land adjoining the Minesota. There was also the Superior Mining Company, and the Rockland Mining Company, too. But by 1870 these properties were all but abandoned.

In January of1899, they were purchased by, and absorbed into the Michigan Mining Company, when that company was organized.

The nearby Adventure Mining Company, organized in 1850, reorganized under the Adventure Consolidated Copper Co. in 1898, the new company included the original Adventure, along with the Hilton and Knowlton mines.

The Adventure Mine was originally owned by the same group of investors who owned the Quincy Mine. On June 16, 1900, the Engineering and Mining Journal reported that at the June 7 annual meeting, the directors were T Henry. Mason, William Rogers Todd, Charles Devereaux, all Quincy officers. Thomas Dunstan was also a director fo the “Old” Adventure. The annual report of the company, published in Dec. 1900, listed Devereaux as the president and Mason as vice-president.

The same publication reported that the Adventure Consolidated, in 1900, employed about 125 men and was shipping five cars of rock (about 1,100 tons) per day over the Copper Range RR and Atlantic and Lake Superior RR lines, to the Atlantic stamp mill, in Redridge, in Houghton County.

The Victoria Consolidated was organized by Thomas B. Dunstan, a native of Camborne, Cornwall. Dunstan was a lawyer and in the 1880s was a Houghton County prosecuting attorney. He also organized the Adventure Mining Company, was president of the Ontonagon County Bank of Hancock, as well as an attorney for the Quincy Mining Company, and was on the Board of Control of the Michigan College of Mines. He was also a politician. In 1883-84, he served in the Michigan House, was a Michigan senator 1889-1890, and was elected Lt. Governor in 1896.

The Mass Mining Co., which organized in 1856, was caught up in the consolidation craze in 1899, when the Mass Consolidated Mining Company was organized, also absorbing the Ridge, Evergreen and Ogima mines and the Merimac and Hazard prospects.

The Michigan Consolidated was organized by John Stanton, whose group also owned the Mohawk and Wolverine mines and the Central Mine, in Keweenaw County, and the Baltic Mine, in Houghton County. He was also vice-president and director of the Michigan Smelting Company and a director of the Copper Range Company, and of the Houghton National Bank.

In that same year, 1899, the old Victoria Mining Company was re-organized and its name became the Victoria Copper Mining Company. In re-organizing, the Victoria absorbed the old Victoria, Glenn, Shirley, Sylvan, Oneida, and Arctic mining companies.

On a corporate level, the Ontongaon copper district in 1900 bore little resemblance to what it had in 1860. The old, pioneer companies, like Cyrus Mendenhall’s 1845 company, the Lafayette, and William Spaulding’s Union Mine, were memories by 1900.

But while the eastern investors breathed new (or more accurately, new money) into the Adventure, Mass and Michigan properties, the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, along with its Boston money, would very soon enter the mining business in Ontonagon County, on a copper lode so out of any geological character that it was named the Nonsuch.

Mr. McKenna, at the Hotel Jeffs in Rockland, however, was very much aware of all these things; he was located at the epicenter of the mining goings on in the Ontonagon district.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today