With the kind permission of the good people of Marquette, Michigan, or,
as Victor Borge might say, "maybe entirely without it," we'll
stick around for another week. Today visitors to the city can see St. Peter's
Cathedral, where Father Baraga lies buried, a replica of his statue (the
original, by sculptor Gaetano Trentenove, is in Washington's Statuary Hall),
and the restored home out of which William Burt and his brother John ran
the Burt Brothers Sandstone Quarry.
The early starving times had soon passed, thanks to William's gyrating compass.
The iron speculators lost no time in building a forge at the mouth of the
Carp River and a settlement, the future Marquette, soon coalesced around
the small foundry. The crude pig iron was hailed twelve miles downhill,
through snow and/or mud, on sleds to the docks. When H. B. Ely built a plank
road, the job became easier as wagons replaced the sleds. In 1854 three
steamboats, the Napoleon, Peninsula and the Sam Ward, their decks loaded
with the reddish ore that was too heavy to hoist in and out of their holds,
carried over a thousand tons to eastern mills. It was off- loaded by wheelbarrow
at Sault Ste, Marie, transported by the railroad cars of the Chippewa Portage
Company and the freight wagons of Spaulding and Bacon, past the rapids of
the St. Mary's River, and then reloaded onto other vessels, for mills along
the lower lakes. All in all, a an extremely labor-intensive process. As
a chantey of the lake boats proclaims, "Oh, we're bound down from Marquette/My
two hands are sore./I've been pushing a wheelbarrow/I'll do it no more."
By the time the ore reached Cleveland, many laborers had sung that song.
And soon they would indeed, "do it no more." With the completion
of the canal at Sault St. Marie in 1855, linking Lake Superior with the
four lower Great Lakes, the Iron Age truly came to the Upper Peninsula.
(The canal met resistance from local industry, but that's a story for another
time). For a while the Upper Peninsula tried processing it's own product.
The region's 25 furnaces were kept busy turning out pig iron. But the newborn
smelting industry quickly ran into a wooden wall. Or, to be more exact,
a wood-less wall. It took charcoal, made from wood, to run furnaces and
when the surrounding region became denuded of timber, the forge fires went
out. The Upper Peninsula lost its smelting industry, but was made prosperous
just providing the raw materials. In the early twentieth century that prosperity
faltered, as high grade surface ores became depleted. In 1954 the Ford Motor
Company and the Cleveland- Cliffs Iron Company devised a process to pelletize
low grade ores, which revived the faltering economy of the region. Another
commodity provides an even greater economic shot in the arm. The Cornish
immigrants who once worked the local mines, bringing with them their dialect
and terms, might proclaim today's van- and car-loads of tourists "a
brave keenly lode."
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor
© 1999 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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