Many of my Finnish ancestors have lived in Calumet and Hougton area in Michigan. Some of the men in the family have worked at the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. Some were painters or carpenters at the Ruuttila's Paint Shop in Calumet. There is one person, not really related to the family, Henry Hautaperä, is a father of Helena, who married Matti Ruuttila. Henry died accidently was working in No. 4 shaft house and had gone up to move some scaffolding. When there a short time by some means he lost his balance and fell a distance of about twenty feet, striking his head on the rail in the shaft, fracturing the base of the skull.
RUUTTILA's Paint Shop
Calumet and Hecla Mining Company
It's very possible my ancestors are in these photos.
In 1864, Edwin J. Hulbert discovered a copper-bearing section of what was to become known as the Calumet Conglomerate. The find was in Houghton County, Michigan, between the rich Cliff mine to the northeast, and the copper mines of Portage Lake to the southwest. Hulbert formed the Calumet Company in 1865, with Boston investors. The company spun off the Hecla Company the following year, and assigned shares in the new company to Calumet shareholders.Hulbert was a major shareholder in both companies, and was in charge of mine operations. But despite the rich ore, Hulbert did not have the practical knowledge to dig out the ore, crush it, and concentrate it. Frustrated with Hulbert’s lack of success, the company sent Alexander Agassiz, son of famed geologist Louis Agassiz to Michigan to run the mine. The town of Red Jacket (now named Calumet) formed next to the mine.
Under Agassiz’ expert management, the Hecla Company paid its first dividend in 1868, and the Calumet Company began paying dividends in 1869. The two companies merged in May 1871 to form the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company, with Quincy Adams Shaw as its first president. In August of that year, Shaw "retired" to the board of directors and Agassiz became president, a position he held until his death.
Calumet and Hecla built itself into a copper mining colossus. From 1868 through 1886, it was the leading copper producer in the United States, and from 1869 through 1876, the leading copper producer in the world. From 1871 through 1880, Calumet and Hecla turned out more than half the copper produced in the United States. In each year, save one, between 1870 and 1901, Calumet and Hecla mined most of the copper produced in the Michigan copper district.
The Italian Hall Disaster on Christmas Eve
Imagine a crowded Christmas Eve party inside a large social hall at the heart of the Upper Peninsula's Copper Country. Most of the guests are miners' families, glad for some holiday cheer because they're five months into a labor strike.
Someone falsely yells “Fire!” and hundreds of people on the second floor panic, causing a stampede down a steep stairwell as they all try to get outside. Seventy-three people died on the stairs, 59 of them children. The youngest was just 2. There was never any fire.
It was the largest mining-related disaster to occur in Michigan. The fact that it happened above ground - and that most of its victims were children enjoying a Christmas party - made it even more heartbreaking, researchers say.
That it happened against the backdrop of a bitter labor strike added a harsh political edge, and tore the grief-stricken community apart.
Speculation was that the false fire call came from an anti-union person, perhaps affiliated with mine management, who wanted to break up the striking workers' party. Several witnesses in a federal inquest in 1914 testified that one of the people seen yelling "Fire!" had an anti-union button on his coat.
No one was ever charged with the crime.
This event has become a touchstone for tiny Calumet, which sits in the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula. But why does this tragedy still resonate a century later?
A Strike in Red Jacket
Before it was called Calumet, the area was known as Red Jacket. And for many it seemed to be ground zero for the sprawling copper mining operations that absorbed wave after wave of immigrants into the Upper Peninsula.
Red Jacket itself was a company town for the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, a large firm that in the 1870s was known as the world's largest copper producer. For a time, C&H had the world's deepest copper mines.
But the company wasn't immune from the organized labor push that swept across the Keweenaw Peninsula and other parts of the U.P. in 1913. Miners in Montana and Colorado had unionized, and in July of that year, the Western Federation of Miners called a strike against all Copper Country mines. The were pushing for a $3 daily wage, 8-hour days, safer working conditions and representation, according to a mining journal published that year.
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