October 8, 2015
“The proponents of the cometary explanation cite many fascinating details confirmed by eye witness reports: the descent of fire from the heavens, a great ‘tornado’ of fire rushing across the landscape and tearing buildings from their foundations, descending balls of fire, a rain of red dust, great explosions of wind accompanied by blasts of thunder, buildings exploding into flame where no fire was burning, and a good deal more.”
We all probably know of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow and the Chicago Fire that burned over three miles of the city to the ground, but perhaps you’d care to take “Fires beginning October 8, 1871” for $500? Four fires began 144 years ago on this day in 1871: the Great Chicago Fire, the Great Michigan Fire, the Peshtigo (Wisconsin) Fire and the Port Huron Fire.
Contrary to popular folklore, the Chicago fire is not the worst in U.S. history. It was not even the worst to occur on October 8 that year. The same evening—in fact, at the same time, about 9:30—a fierce wildfire struck in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, over 200 miles to the north of Chicago, destroying the town and a dozen other villages. Estimates of those killed range upward from 1200 to 2500 in a single night. It was not the Chicago fire but the simultaneous “Peshtigo Fire” that was the deadliest in U.S. history.
And there is more. On the same evening, across Lake Michigan, another fire also wreaked havoc. Though smaller fires had been burning for some time—not unusual under the reported conditions—the most intense outburst appears to have erupted simultaneously with the Chicago and Peshtigo fires. The blaze is said to have then burned for over a month, consuming over 2,000,000 acres and killing at least 200.
Concerning the Michigan outburst, it is reported that numerous fires endangered towns across the state. The city of Holland was destroyed by fire and in Lansing flames threatened the agricultural college. In Thumb, farmers fled an inferno that some newspapers dubbed, “The Fiery Fiend.” Reports say that fires threatened Muskegon, South Haven, Grand Rapids, Wayland, reaching the outskirts of Big Rapids. A steamship passing the Manitou Islands reported they were on fire.
There can be no doubt that weather conditions at the time favored wildfires. But never before, and never since, has the U.S. seen such wildly destructive simultaneous conflagrations. This “coincidence”, combined with many unusual phenomena reported by eyewitnesses, has led some to conclude that an extraordinary force, one not of the earth, was a more likely “arson” than either a misbehaving cow or a regional drought.
In 1883, Ignatius Donnelly, author of Ragnarok: the Rain of Fire and Gravel, suggested that in early historic times our Earth suffered great catastrophes from cometary intruders. To this claim he added: “There is reason to believe that the present generation has passed through the gaseous prolongation of a comet’s tail, and that hundreds of human beings lost their lives”. He was referring to the conflagration of 1871.
Ogedn took this photo of a controlled burn by the local fire department, who practiced on this house before letting it burn. View the photo background big and see this and lots more in their slideshow.
Tons more Michigan history on Michigan in Pictures.
PS: I definitely did more research on this than I should have on this, and while the cometary theory and Comet Biela was observed to be broken apart on its pass in 1846, it may be that Biela’s Comet returned in September of 1872. In any case check the article out and also their Picture of the Day for a lot more than you’ve probably thought about.
October 7, 2015
GoWaterfalling’s page on the O Kun de Kun Falls says in part:
O Kun de Kun Falls is one of the largest of the waterfalls in Ontanagon county. It is not as large as Bond Falls or Agate Falls, but it is just as scenic and far wilder. It is a mile plus hike to O Kun de Kun Falls and there are no fences or signs. The waterfall is also unusual in that it is an actual plunge falls. Only a handful of the many waterfalls around Lake Superior are plunge falls. You can go behind the falls if you want, but you need to be careful and sure footed.
If you’re wondering about the name of the falls, it was after a famous chief, Kun de Kun meaning “To Keep Up the Net” from the Leach Lake band of Ottawa. Here’s a picture of him!
Last Tuesday Tom took us to Bond Falls, and he returns this morning with a shot from O Kun de Kun showing that fall color is finally kicking off! View it background big and view lots more of his waterfall photos on Flickr.
September 19, 2015
Travel Marquette shares the story of the Iron Ore Dock in Marquette’s Upper Harbor is also known as the Presque Isle Dock.
The dock was built in 1911 and is still commercially active. Each year approximately 9.5 to 10 million tons of ore are shipped from this dock. The dock is owned and operated by the Cliffs Natural Resources. This steel-framed dock is 1,250 feet long and 60 feet wide, with the top deck sitting 75 feet above the water level. It contains 200 pockets, each of which has a capacity of 250 tons of ore, for a total storage capacity of 50,000 tons. Supporting the dock is a foundation of 10,000 wooden piles enclosed by a 12-inch thick timber sheet plank wall filled with sand.
After being mined the ore is crushed and the iron separated out with either a chemical or magnetic process. The iron is combined with a binding agent (a glorified cornstarch) and rolled into small balls roughly an inch in diameter. The balls are fed through a kiln and fired by temperatures exceeding 2,000 degrees F. The result is Taconite Pellets which are loaded on the ore boats and shipped. Most of the pellets shipped from the Presque Isle dock go to Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario the largest integrated steel mill. These pellets, which are roughly 70% iron, will be combined with coke and limestone at the mill to make steel.
The ore comes to the dock via railcars and is dumped into steel “pockets” or bins beneath the tracks. To load the boat, the chute is lowered to the open cargo hatch and a door at the bottom of the pocket opens, allowing the pellets to run into the boat shown in the picture. Loading time is variable, depending on the size of the boat and how prepared the dock is to load. Four hours is typical. Loading is the responsibility of the First Mate. It is important to load the ore in a proper sequence to avoid over-stressing the boat unevenly. Each chute (or drop of ore) is about 20 tons.
September 13, 2015
A special Sunday “I changed the cover of the Michigan in Pictures Facebook” edition of Michigan in Pictures.
The Keweenaw County Historical Society page about their Phoenix Church in Houghton explains:
St. Mary’s Church was built in 1858 to serve the Catholic residents in the nearby mining community of Cliff, scene of the area’s first major copper discovery in 1844. Services continued until 1899 when the church was dismantled and reassembled in Phoenix, where it was renamed The Church of the Assumption. Masses were held until 1957, when the last service marked a century of providing spiritual guidance to mining families and their descendants.
In 1985 the Keweenaw County Historical Society took over the property and began extensive repair and restoration work. The church now appears much as it did when folks from another century knelt in prayer, a fitting memorial to one chapter of Keweenaw’s proud heritage. Although now deconsecrated, the church is still used for weddings and memorial services.
More on Pheonix Church from the Keweenaw County Historical Society.
September 10, 2015
Check the photo out background big and see TONS more pics mainly from Michigan in Don’s massive UpNorth Memories Photo Tribute to Michigan Historian Dave Tinder slideshow.
September 7, 2015
A very happy Labor Day to everyone and also a salute the generations of hard-working Michiganders whose struggles helped to build the society we have today.
September 1, 2015
Monument to the Dean of Michigan’s Tourism Activity on Roadside America says:
If someone asked, “Who has had a rock pyramid built in their honor?” you might think of an Egyptian pharaoh or an Aztec king. You would probably not think of a bespectacled, middle-aged, mid-western man named Hugh J. Gray. Nevertheless, Hugh has one — on a smaller scale compared to the ones in Egypt and Mexico, but a rock pyramid nevertheless.
Hugh was, according to the plaque on his pyramid, the “Dean of Michigan’s Tourist Activity.” The pyramid, erected in 1938, stands on Cairn Highway, named apparently in reference to Hugh’s pile of rocks. Cairn Highway is an obscure back road today, which says something about the transient nature of fame.
Hugh’s pyramid is built of rocks from each of Michigan’s 83 counties.
Ragnar suggests that you plug the coordinates 44.948227, -85.352708 into Google Maps to find your way there. View his photo background big and see more in his slideshow.
More roadside attractions on Michigan in Pictures!