Location: Negaumee, Michigan
Webpage: Michigan History Center
General Description: The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is located outside the town of Nagaumee, Michigan on Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula at the site of the first iron forge in the region back in 1849. Rich iron deposits were discovered during the land survey to establish the east line of township 47 north, range 27 west when their compasses were being effected. The next year a party of men from Jackson, Michigan formed the Jackson Mining Co and opened the Jackson mine. They established a forge in 1849 to reduce the iron ore to pig iron to reduce transportation costs. With the opening of the port in Marquette, iron ore and pig iron from the forges became the major industry in the area. By the turn of the century this area had produced nearly 2 million tons of pig iron, however, the additional cost of the forges which could only be operated in the summer months, has led to the shipment of iron ore to smelters in the Detriot area. The Michigan Iron Industry Museum commemorates the site of the first commercial mine and forge on Lake Superior. Exhibits follow the history of iron mining in the area from its earliest beginnings to today. There are also exhibits about the changing lifestyle of the miners and their families.
1) The museum is relatively new, opening in 1987, and is very well done. Admission to the museum is free, however, I recommend spending the $1 fee to view the documentary about the iron industry. It does a very good job of not only giving the history of mining but gives a good sense of what life was like for the miners since the 1850s.
2) The exhibits are extremely well done beginning with the first mine and forge and going throughout the entire history ending with reclamation of the mines. There are also exhibits about the changing lifestyle of the miner’s families. There is even a short recreation of a mine shaft that you can walk through.
3) Outside the museum are two short trails. The first provides overlooks of the first forge on the Carp River with interpretive signs about the native Indians. The second trail loops to an overlook of the Carp River with interpretive signs about the geology of the area that created the iron ore deposits.