Celebrating 175 years of iron ore

News

ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) — For decades, mining has been a way of life for the residents of the Upper Peninsula. Now, it is a living history passed on to younger generations.

“Mining was the thing to do in those days if you wanted to go to work,” says Mike Ilmonen, a former miner.

Nearly 175 years ago, iron ore was discovered along the Marquette Iron Range.

“Discovered by William Austin Burt, the surveyor, in 1844, on September 19th,” adds Ilmonen.

William Burt, along with other land surveyors, discovered their magnetic compasses acting strangely. Burt later discovered the cause of the disturbance was the iron ore found underground.

By 1945 the Jackson Iron Company was formed and by 1946 iron ore was being mined, the first of its kind in the U.P.

This Saturday, September 14, 2019, the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum will be holding a celebration of, not just the 175th anniversary, but also the 100th anniversary of the A and B headframes (shaft houses) at the former mine, as well as the 40th anniversary of the closing of the Mather B Mine in Negaunee.

Cliffs Shaft Mine tour guide Mike Ilmonen was a former miner at the Mather B Mine.

“You know, I started my career in 1975 in mining and it was, at that point in time, when I came home from the service, it was just a fact of life,” explains Ilmonen. “It’s been so incredibly important, all the way from 1846 until today.”

Organizers say the event is a way to educate the public but also to remember the history of the once-thriving mining communities.

“To forget history is…it’s a sad thing. It’s nice to be here and be a part of this and be able to look around at all of these wonderful old buildings that we have here and start to understand the history of the mines,” adds Ilmonen. “It’s just very very important that we remember this.”

The event on Saturday is from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and is free to the public. The day will include tours of the former Cliffs grounds and presentations by local blacksmiths.

A commemoration ceremony will take place at 2:00 p.m. to recognize each of the anniversaries.

Food will be available for purchase from local area restaurants.

The Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum is still open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tours are offered at 10:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:15 p.m.

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