The Ontonagon Boulder

Ontonagon Copper Boulder at the Smithsonian

Ontonagon Copper Boulder at the Smithsonian by Ian Shackleford

Today’s post is what we call a foreshadowing in the photo blog game. It concerns the extremely messy saga of the Ontonagon Boulder which is now at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. You can (and should) read it all, but here’s some highlights:

In 1669 the French government sent Louis Joliet to search for copper deposits in the area. Joliet decided to discover the Mississippi River instead.

English adventurer and fur trader Alexander Henry trips up the Ontonagon River in 1765 and 1771. An underwhelmed (and astoundingly wrong) Henry was unimpressed writing, “The copper ores of Lake Superior can never be profitably sought for but for local consumption….” The 5 million plus tons of copper 5,400,000 disagree.

In 1819 Gen. Lewis Cass directed an expedition to the boulder & sought to move it by burning thirty cords of wood around the boulder & throwing water on the hot copper which didn’t succeed in fracturing the boulder.

In 1841, Detroit hardware merchant Julius Eldred and an interpreter set out to buy the boulder from the Chippewa on whose land it stood for $150. He failed that time & the next, but in 1843 with a portable railway & car managed to move it (after having to buy the rock AGAIN from some Wisconsin miners for $1,365).

From the U.S. National Museum report of 1895: For four miles and a half, over hills 600 feet high, through valleys and deep ravines; through thick forests where the path had to be cut; through tangled underbrush, the home of pestiferous mosquitoes, this railway was laid and the copper bowlder (sic) was transported; and when at last the rock was lowered to the main stream, nature smiled on the labors of the workmen by sending a freshet to carry their heavily laden boat over the lower rapids and down to the lake.

At this long-awaited, triumphant point, Eldred was confronted by an order from the Secretary of War to General Cunningham, directing that the copper boulder be seized for transportation to Washington.

“The persons [Eldred and his sons] claiming the rock have no right to it,” the Secretary decreed, “but justice and equity would require that they be amply compensated for the trouble and expense of its removal from its position on the Ontonagon to the lake; and for this purpose General C. will examine their accounts and allow them the costs, compensating them fully and fairly therefore, the sum, however, not to exceed $700….”

In the end & with the help of Congress, Eldred received $5,664.98 which is roughly $200,000 in today’s dollars.

Read lots more from the Smithsonian & also check out a more detailed look at the drama around Eldred from The Mining Journal.

The photo was taken by Ian Shackleford & appears in the Wikipedia entry for the Boulder

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Haunted Michigan: Mishipeshu, the Water Panther

Note: While this is a tale of Michigan, it’s not a photo of Michigan, but rather Ontario!! That might be the scariest thing about today’s post – I hope that you all can deal with it! ;)

agawa pictographs lake superior provincial park ontario

agawa pictographs, lake superior provincial park, ontario, photo by twurdemann

Monstropedia says that the name Mishipeshu can be translated as Great Lynx and that this beastie was also known as “Gichi-anami’e-bizhiw” which means fabulous night panther.

The Cryptid Chronicles on Tumblr shares the tale of the Underwater Mystery Cat:

Native North Americans have a long tradition of stories regarding the Mishibizhiw, an underwater panther. Some tribes, particularly Anishinaabe, Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi, of the Great Lakes region of Canada consider this being as the most powerful underworld being. The Ojibwe held them to be the master of all water creatures. Some myths include this water lynx in their creation legends.

In the Ojibwe language, this creature is called “Mishibizhiw”, “Mishipizhiw”, “Mishipizheu”, “Mishupishu”, “Mishepishu”, “Michipeshu”, or “Mishibijiw”, which translates as “Great Lynx,” or Gichi-anami’e-bizhiw (“Gitche-anahmi-bezheu”), which translates as “the fabulous night panther.” Often, it is referred to as the “Great underground wildcat” or “Great under-water wildcat.” In Lake Superior Provincial Park on Ontario, there are pictographs of a mishibizhiw and two giant serpents. These creatures were described as water monsters that live in opposition to the Thunderbirds which are masters of the powers of the air.

With the body of a cat, usually like a lynx and the horns of a deer, it also sports scales on its back and sometimes even bird feathers. They typically are sporting long tails. Like many other creatures in native lore, it is said to be a shape shifter. It is said they roar or hiss like the sound of rushing water. Mishipizheu were said to live in the deepest lakes and rivers and can cause storms. Other traditions claim they can sometimes be helpful and protective, but generally they are viewed as bringing death or other misfortune. Traditionally, offerings are made to help with safe passage across the water.

“While skirting some rocks, which by their height and length inspire awe, we saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. They are as large as a calf: they have horns on their heads like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish’s tail.”
—French missionary Jacques Marquette, 1637

It was a widely held belief that copper came from the creature and charms were made to bring luck to hunters. After the hunt, these charms would be destroyed. Native Canadian preferred guns with brass plates depicting European dragons; they likely were interpreted to be images of Mishepishu. An Anishnaabe Ojibwa club from around 1800 has a Mishepishu figure on the end closest to the blade. In 2011, one of the Canadian Mint Mythical Creatures coins depicted a Mishepishu. The Canadian Museum of Civilization includes an underwater panther in its coat of arms. While often depicted in both ancient and modern art, modern sightings are virtually nonexistant.

Read on for more and you can also watch an episode of Grimm featuring the Mishipeshu right here!

Twurdemann writes that the Agawa Pictographs are at Agawa Rock, at the base of a 30 meter (100 foot) cliff and precarious ledge on the shore of Lake Superior. The site is sacred to the local Ojibwa and depict both historical events and legends. The paintings are believed to between 150-400 years old and were painted with a mixture of hematite (mineralized iron oxide) and animal fats. Check out the photo bigger, and see more in his Lake Superior slideshow.

More ghost & spooky stories on Michigan in Pictures.

PS: I’ve been to Agawa Rock, and if you ever get a chance to drive around all or part of Lake Superior, definitely stop here. These are some very cool pictographs!!!

Quincy Dredge No. 2 is actually C&H Dredge No. 1


signature, photo by Marty Hogan

The Copper Country Explorer has an excellent feature on The Mining of Torch Lake begins:

Early stamp methodology was a very simple and archaic one – nothing more than a simple process of smashing rock down into small pieces and sorting out the copper. Everything that remained would then be dumped into tailing ponds as waste. In the Copper Country the largest of these tailing ponds was Torch Lake, where no less than five mines dumped millions of tons of waste rock into its depths. Unfortunately, these waste tailings often contained a great deal of copper which the jigs and wash tables of the mills failed to remove. Copper that ended up in Torch Lake.

As copper prices dropped and milling technology improved, mine companies began to take a second look at these copper bearing deposits in Torch Lake. It was now possible – and economically advantageous – for mines to retrieve those tailings and remove the copper that they still contained. The process was known as reclamation, and was first undertaken in earnest by C&H around 1920. Towards that end C&H built itself a dredge that could suck up those sands from the lake bottom and send them out to the reclamation plant on shore. This first dredge – known as C&H Dredge No. 1 – would be responsible for retrieving over 48 million tons of C&H sands in its lifetime, yielding over 423 million pounds of copper for the company.

The Quincy Mine got into the reclamation game several decades later – in 1943 – after failing to make a profit on its underground operation. In 1953 the C&H Dredge No. 1 was bought by Quincy to supplement its own dredge. It turned out to be exceptional foresight, as Quincy’s first dredge ended up sinking in Torch Lake in 1956. Its roof top can still be seen sticking up from the center of the lake. As for Quincy Dredge No. 2, it continued to mine Torch Lake for several more decades until it too sank in 1967.

Read on for a detailed account of the workings of the dredge, lots of views of the dredge and some great historical photos.

Check Marty’s photo out background big and see more in his 2012 August Road Trip slideshow.

More Michigan industry on Michigan in Pictures.