|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Article Title||It is a Great Mine|
1 IT IS A GI.EAT MINE. BTOnV OF SILVER I9LET ON LAKE StlPEnlOH. Stormy Waters Made It. Working Dangerous Th atocui King i:-nt-llr Cnu.nl In AlMndonuirnt filled Tllh Wal-r. V A Ilonghtun, Mich., correspondent writes: 7be rlehett sliver mlno ever opened by imin was not In I'eru or Mexico, far famed as ore tho mines of l'ototl and (luatnjuato, but on n mere i reef of that greatest of frcnli water soas, Lako Superior. Far famed ns l the Lake Superior district for Itn Iron ore and copper. Ha mine of those baser metals Icing the most extensive In tbo world, It lim been forgotten by nil but a few of the older resident! tbit I only n quarter of n century ago tho I richest silver mine In tho old or new I worlds ai operated under lt waters The story of Its discovery, Ita develop-i develop-i incnl under the moat trying conditions 1 nnd against tho power of all the ele ments, and the final triumph of nature, over man, nlfords n romantic chnptor In tho drama of real life equaling In apparent Improbability some uf tho , ' tales of Haron Munchausen, but all the S """ detalla of which nro vermeil by authentic authen-tic records and the memories of men now living. In tho excitement attending tho op-enlug op-enlug of Ilia pioneer copptr mines of tho 1-nko Superior country, then n wlldcrne, In tho latter forties, a mineral min-eral location una made on th north Bhoro of the lake, off Thunder Cape, that natural fortress of granlto which rises sheer fourteen hundred feet from tbo bluo waters of tbo great lake. Included In-cluded In tbo location was a reef of rock, unnamed and nearly overlooked by tho surveyors A Canadian ralulng comrany held the ground for a quarter quar-ter of a century, but In 1670 transferred the property to a Detroit corporation, which began a systematic exploration of Us lands. 1'ortunately their agent, I ono Thomas Macfarlane, possessed tbo j Scotch thoroughness, and among other . explorations he set foot ouu calm day I upon tho nameless reef. NOW KNOWN AS SILVKIt I8LI.T. Tho llttlo Island was but 75 feet long, by CO In width, rising but a fow feet I nbovo tho water on a calm day, and entirely submerged by the long swells frosi the east In stormy weather. Most ! men would huvo Ignored It, for tho Islet was nearly n mllo from tho main-land, main-land, and the moat unpromising placo Imaginable for mining work. To tbo surprlso of Macfarlauc, who was perhaps per-haps tho first white man to set foot Bon that llttlo speck ot solid ground encircled en-circled by tho deep waters ot tho lake, a plainly defined vein carrying small R nuggets of sliver was seen. Miners with drills, picks and blasting powder wore transferred to the reef on the ' first calm day follo'wln the discovery, and It took but llttlo work by them to R" prove tho existence ot a bonanza upon that Insignificant rldgo ot trap rock which exposed a tew square feet of Its apex aboro tbo water. So small was the Island that tho miners waded Into I the lake and followed the seam until tbo water grow too deep, picking nug-j nug-j gets of virgin silver from tho vein. 1 Five tons of rock was secured by this exploring party, much of It taken from i under tbo water by miners working ' to their waists la (be lako, tbo water ot which la always Intensely cold.oven on the warmest summer day. The re turns from tbo five tons of rock shipped ship-ped to the smelter were far richer than had been dreamed, giving moro than 11,200 to tbo ton, or sixty cents per pound, In refined slhcr. Hncouragcd by this result, the work of developing was begun In earnest, tinder perhaps tho most novel and ills J couraglng circumstances that have at- I tended the making of a mlno. It was necessary to shelter both mine and I miners from the angry waters, which j threatened to swallow them, and the mlno was started not by digging Into I the ground, but by building a substun- i tlal crib or block bouse over tho spot , where It had been decided to sink a j shaft. This was Imperative for the safety of the workmen and also to keep tbo waves from dashing Into the shaft on their passago over the Islet. , The crib was built very solidly, on tho jf plan ot a llghtbouso, with acrommo- I datlon for the minors In the upper I part, above the billows of the lake, V - but not abovo tho spray, which on I stormy days blew over tho top of the Ii l structure. Protected br this shelter l n beginning was mado and n shaft was 1 I sunk for somo twenty feet, but be- f tween tho water peculating through 111 tbo rock strata from tho lako, but n ' few feet distant, and the water which found Its way In from tho surface during dur-ing storms, despite all precautions. It was found Impossible to proceed with the primitive means at hand, nil tho time, ot tbo men being taken In an unequal un-equal battle with tho water which would fill the shaft Thus matters Mood until tho nutumn of 1870, when CapL William Krue, of Houghton, Mich., an experienced miner and a man ot bull dog persistence, was put In charge. It required all his ability and , all bis courago to conquer a foothold upon the reef. Caul. Krue brought with him from Houghton a Urge supply sup-ply of mining timber, food, blasting i powder and tools, with forty miners i It was realised that , TUB IBI.BT MU8T UK ANCIIOUBU , It miners were ever to work safely un der It, and work was begun and pushed push-ed diligently on the armor plating ot the rest. To the southeast the lake rolled for full two hundred miles without with-out a break, and the force of the waves can be comprehended only by . those who have seen the power of the ' ocean when lushed to fury by th ' storm. The first work was for tho I carpenters, not miners, and every man ' In tbo forco was Impressed as a bulld- I er, after tho carge hid been unloaded In safety, though with a narrow etseapo from a nate which rendered the Island dangerous for both vessel and crew. Heavy cribs of hewed timber bolted together to-gether with Iron rods and fil'cd with roek, were sunk on the more expoeed faces ot the Island. It was necessary to make more ground than the Islet afforded for mlno buildings, and the cribs were sunk several roils oft shore, and a. coffer dam constructed Inside them, Inclosing the outcrop of tho vein for the full length ot the Island. When the dam was rendered water tight the water was pumped out and mining bo-gun. bo-gun. All went well until lato In October, Oc-tober, when a storm cnrrled away all tho cribbing exposed to It, and the cof-i cof-i fir dam was ruined, thus flooding tho workings, and rendering It Imperative that the wurk be done all over, and rapidly, else winter would set In be-foro be-foro the mlno was secured. The of-foils of-foils of Frue nnd his brave workmen were redoubled, nnd within less than n month the broken cribs wcro not only on-ly replaced, but built of twlro their former strength. A week later tho vessel was sent away with tho rock inlnid during the few weeks tho men had been engaged with a hand to baud struggle with the lake. Short as tho tlmo had been, the reward was a rich one, tho cargo netting more than 1100.000 abovo the smelting charges, and visions of wealth Incalculable rose before tbo e)cs ot tho Detroit capitalists capital-ists who owned the mlno. A few days after tho vessel Killed, and about tho tlmo when the bays and landlocked harbors wcro f reeling oTer, a terrible, storm arose. Again was tbo work ot Krue and his men swept away, nnd when the storm nbatod tho scene of desolation would bale disheartened less courageous men. Not only was the new cribbing destroyed, but tho Islet was covered with a mantle ot Ice. Cut oft from all communication with their base ot supplies at Hougblon,anil facing the numbing blasts blowing over two hundred miles ot Icy lake, True and his ploueers took up their task for the third time Ihe work could scarcely have been resumed under un-der more trying conditions. Without further supplies of timber for their cribs and threatened by the waters of tho lake, the men cut timber from the mainland nnd rafted It across tbo half-froicn half-froicn strait separating tho Islet from Thunder cape, whose crest loomed a quarter of a mllo abovo them from the shore. Working on tho unsheltered Island tho heroic trensuro-hunters framed now cribs, sunk them. The work was again made much stronger than before, nnd It was hoped the savago lake had been safely chained. chain-ed. Mining was resumed In mtd-wln- ter and rapid progress made for boy-erdl boy-erdl weeks, but, alas for their hopes. Early In March a howling wind from tbo cast piled the billows higher and higher for two days, and on tbo second sec-ond day tho cribs gave way for the third time, '(treat blocks of'lee were brought from bays far to the eastward and hurled against tbo cribs In a can-nouade can-nouade which they could not withstand. with-stand. Hugo Ice blocks were thrown upon all parts ot the Islet, Invading tho buildings and endangering Ufa and limb. For three days tho storm lasted, last-ed, and during Its height all attempts to protect property were useless, ami the men counted tbemselves fortunate that llfo remained. Undaunted, tho bravo captain and his bravo followers began the work anew when the waves abated. It was apparent appar-ent that all previous fortifications against the elements bad been mere child's play. The new workwoaotlho most inastlvo character, and required many months to complete and a for tuno to build. A framed breakwater of squaro and hewed timber was constructed con-structed of five-fold strength, there being be-ing flvo separate, butkhcada.calkcd with hydraulic cement, bound with threo-Inch threo-Inch Iron rods, nnd Oiled with fully 10,000 tons ot rock. With Ita base 20 feet below tho water, tho cribbing roiio an equal distance abovo tho surface of tho lake, and tho work stood. It stood, but tbo first storm threw the waters against It with such violence that millions mil-lions ot gallons passed over the cribbing crib-bing and partially flooded the mlno once more. Another coffer dam was built and tho mine shaft protected with n cribbing made watertight with hydraulic hy-draulic cement. The work was costly and tedious, but It was well done, and In that year, 1871, A HOUND MILLION DOLI.AHS WOUTH of silver was taken from the mine. Tho following year was unmarked by acci dent, and tho mlno prospered highly, but during tho equinoctial storms of 1873, which wcro of unprecedented violence, vio-lence, tho bulwarks protecting the Island Is-land were again conquered. Part of tho cribbing stood, but tho damage was very great, tho Invasion ot tbo waters undermining n portion ot tbo made ground and demolishing a number of tho mlno buildings, Clrcat holes wero torn In tho shaft house and engine-housu engine-housu by rocks thrown by the waves with lncrcdlblo force, nnd no belong-tired belong-tired city was ever bombarded with more vlolcnco and under more threatening threat-ening aspect than was this llttlo colony col-ony placed on a reef In the waters. Tbo machinery was disabled, and a large part ot tho coal supply washed oft tho Islet by tho waves. Tho pumps stopped, and It was with groat difficulty difficul-ty that the mine was kept from filling with water. So trying was this experience expe-rience that many of the miner would no laager remain wbsre they wero threatened with drowning both underground under-ground aud on surface. The silver In the mine was always found a native, sometimes associated with copper, Just ns th copper mine on th southern shore ot the lake occasionally oc-casionally earry silver In connection with the baser metal. There aro very Uw mine In in werld which" earry silver otherwise than as an ore, the metal being usually associated In the ore with sulphur nnd carbon. For tne reason that the silver wss native lis mine presented n beautiful sight, especially es-pecially In the richer portions, where the sparkling masses of pure metal, many of them ot several pounds' weight, shone In all their purity and reflected the light from the miners' candles In a manner presenting a similitude sim-ilitude of the enve In which Aladdin gathered the Jewels at the behest of his bogus uncle. Tlllllll. WAS DANOKH THl.tlB, too, for tho Islet only afforded breathing spot for the mine Itself, being be-ing merely large enough to accommodate accommo-date the opening ot tho shaft, while even that was moat closely guarded to keep the lake from Invading It. As In oil deep mines with but n single shaft, theie was danger to the miners underground, for In tnse ot accident lo tho shaft, all chrncrs of egress was destrojed. The underground galleries galler-ies were carried under the bed of the lake, and n slnglo careless blast might let In the water from nbovo, to the destruction of all beneath IL Taken all In all, a Job In the Silver Islet wns not on which would ho rstlshed by most men, but there was never any scarcity ot workmen. The mlno paid Its men well, nnd tbero were rich pickings. It Is a matter of principle with mluers, lbs world over, that "specimens" belong to the man who finds them, nnd not to tho employer. When the "specimen" happens to be a inns of nstlto sitter ot two or three pounds weight tho miner who secrete It runs no great risk ot missing a collector col-lector witling to annex It, though the men who traded In "specimens" of silver sil-ver at the Silver Islet and at tho copper cop-per mines on tho southern shoro ot tho lake never paid above half the market valtio of the metal purchased. Iho mlno eventually reached a depth ot over 1,200 feet, or NO fathoms, to use tho vernacular ot the miners. In certain of tho upper slopes It wns possible pos-sible to hear tho rocks grinding against tho bed of the lake In tlmo of storm, so closely had the silver been followed to tho danger lino It wns estimated that nearly half n million dollara' worth ot silver was rontalned In thi tipper levels of the mine so closo to tho bed of tho lako that It would be dangerous to attempt Its removal. The temptation was a strong ono, and from time to tlmo n llttlo mining was done closo to the danger line, but was usually usu-ally soon dropped. It was not a pleasant pleas-ant thing to think thai, even though tbo silver wns brightest and apparently apparent-ly thickest there. IT8 HKCLINK AND ABANDONING. The largest year's production ever achieved wss 111 1877, when 7S0,00 ounces of silver, worth 1.32 per ounce, was refined from tho rocks taken from the mine. A single pocket ot sixty tons yielded more than 1100,000, and many smaller pockets yielded yield-ed even more In proportion aomslvlnar hlah llip.r'rounil.' while masses of nstlva melsl wsre common. The mine produced, all told, a trifle more than 13,000,000 worth ol silver during the period ot Its activity Tho profits wero grest, but would have been many limes as largo but for the unusual location of Ihe mine and the constant fight against tho elements A few years ot unusually heavy expen-dltures expen-dltures wiped out the surplus ot the company. Dividends had been paid too rapidly, and there was nothing lefl In tho strong box for emergencies. The owners disliked paying an assessment to perform work that was vital to tht mine's future, and It was decided tc unload on tho l.ngllsh public, which at that time, 1884. was buying mlnci extensively In this country. The apparent ap-parent certainty that the mine woul. be sold at a big price so Impressed tht ownors that the management forgot tc send supplies to the Islet that autumn Tho superintendent became discouraged, discourag-ed, fuel ran short and eventually dls appeared. Tbe pumps stopped, thi mine tilled with water, nnd to complcU the Ill-fortune a big storm again attacked at-tacked the Islet nnd did great damage Old miners say there Is millions of sll vcr still there, but It will take a mil lion dollars to start work again prop erly, and capital Is ntrald ot sllvei mines now. 1IOIIACI. J. BTRVKNB.