History’s Gem of the Month: Jonas Hill Letters

July 2017

When I researched the history book I wrote two years ago, Superior Land and the Story of Grand Marais, Michigan, one of my tasks was to search through the museum archive and other resources. I have a fourth cousin in Finland (Rauno Sarja) with whom I have been corresponding for several years. Rane found me on the internet due to the posting of a picture of my great-grandfather, Jonas Hill. Jonas was a sibling to Rane’s grandparent. A couple of years ago Rane sent me some letters he found that were written by my great-grandfather. They were written in Finnish, so Rane was kind enough to translate them.

My great-grandfather was born in Finland in 1871 and immigrated to the United States around the turn of last century. He resided in Grand Marais, other than a short time when he lived in Washington State, until his death in 1950. A picture of my great-grandfather and his family is below. Jonas is holding my grandmother. The photo was taken around 1908.

The difficult times livings in Grand Marais during the first few decades of the 1900s are explained in this series of letters between my great-grandfather, Jonas Hill, and our relatives in Finland. The first letter discusses the birth of my grandmother.

Grand Marais, Michigan, December 6, 1907

Well hereby I declare that the incorruptible laws of causes and consequences have increased our family with a daughter on October 18, a grace day in 1909. The name was suggested by a soul better than I — it is Anni Elviira. I hope she will be the beauty of the Promised Land.

Then I found myself to be in bed massaging my bones for three weeks, dead foot fever as they call it. I tried to fix myself, first by means of liquor and pills, which are used in these kinds of health situations. But my pharmaceutical skills were not adequate and I had to rely on medical assistance from a doctor. He willingly gave it proper treatment twice a day for the next week, so I was able to be cured. What a great burden this illness added to my fatherly concerns.

According to recent data there are over 500,000 people unemployed with more lockouts happening every day. Workers must consider if they think with their brains or with their intestines. During our lifetime they care about us very little — only trample and oppress us. Oh well, the situation will not get better by crying. One must open his eyes and start to do something about it.

Grand Marais, Michigan, February 25, 1946

I declare that I live yet, although I am already rotten old at 75 years. I guess nowadays there are only a few people alive who I knew years ago.

It has been difficult here [due to the war] — you need to have a ration card to get what you need. The government is giving me just enough old-age assistance so that I can get my daily bread.

Grand Marais, Michigan, March 5, 1946

My life has been multi-staged and one could write quite a novel about it. Wartime has not been the worst years here. There has been a lot of complaining, but compared to what is happening in other countries complaining here in the U.S. has been almost pointless.

Grand Marais Michigan, April 30, 1946

I thank you for your letter. Receiving it was a moment of joy – the first for me in a long time. I have been in poor health for a few weeks now and couldn’t do much. Old age is causing trouble for me. Also, a lot of younger people have been sick lately, too. It has been an unusually cold spring so far, it is causing troubles for us. This little village has no doctor and it is a bad thing.

The power of money in this country is devilish. The government does not share it with those of us who live in these small villages. Unfortunately, the people here don’t care to put pressure on the authorities. We have only about 100 elders in town now plus the children, but there has not been cooperation in this community for a long time. It is so hard to even get the most basic of goods here nowadays.

So to survive we must take advantage of Mother Nature’s breadbasket and grow what we need during the summer. Because of my age I haven’t been able to work for the last six years. Another issue has been that even if according the law I was entitled to have bread money from the state once I was 65 years old, they delayed giving me that money until I was nearly 68.

Here we have started a collection to send items to Finland. Some used clothes have already been sent. It is tough, though, because now when people are able to earn more money, it seems that the government takes it away. We are taxed so much that you have only empty pockets left. Only those who have no money to begin with have been left in peace. The rich have made a lot of money and now they want to start a new war. I still cannot say if they will succeed but everything is going in that direction.

In my life there have been so many chapters. Now when I’m alone in this cottage my thoughts tend to often return to my homeland in Finland, which I haven’t forgotten. There are no longer many Finns remaining here in Grand Marais as they have all passed away. I’m one of the oldest surviving Finns in town. The younger generation cannot speak Finnish, and they don’t want to learn Finnish — I think this is wrong!

I’m still living and taking care of myself. Although I don’t earn a wage anymore, I try to do something every day. Winter has not been too bad this year, but I am looking forward to the summer breeze when this old pal will hopefully revive a little.

A picture of my great-grandfather’s home is below. The house is located to the west of the Lutheran Church on Brazel Street.

History’s Gem of the Month: Logging Era Photos

March 2017

When I researched the history book I wrote last year, Superior Land and the Story of Grand Marais, Michigan, one of my tasks was to locate relevant photos. Thankfully, the museum archives contained many dozens of film negatives and pictures. I also acquired some photos from the State Historical Library in Lansing. Finally, I was able to find a few photos from other sources.

Although logging began in the Grand Marais area in the 1880s, logging activity didn’t intensify until the forests located down state were depleted and when the railroad was built to connect Grand Marais to Seney. Today there are only around 350 full-year residents in Grand Marais. During the peak of the logging era, there were officially more than 2,000 residents. However, the actual population was probably much higher since the census did not always count transients who worked in the logging camps, nor did the census always count Native Americans.

Below are some photos from the logging era.

History’s Gem of the Month: Grand Marais Poems

June 2016

While searching through my archives to look for something to include as a “history gem,” I came across these three poems about Grand Marais.

Grand Marais by Esther Miller

On the shores of Lake Superior,
lies a special little town.
Inhabitants are very few,
but to me of great renown.
It brings back precious memories,
of my young and frivolous days.
School and teen days delving onward,
through every sort of phase.

I can see that stately lighthouse,
at the end of that rocky pier,
beckoning to ships that are lost in the night
Ships from both far and near.
I can visualize that harbor,
lit up by the vessels therein,
whose men await the storm to abate,
to get home to their kith and kin.

My ears still hear that great fog horn,
the lonesomest sound in the world.
But to many a weary traveler,
it’s like a banner unfurled.
I think of the times I have trod that beach,
when the lake was gentle and mild.
Picked up agates among the stones,
Oh! For the thoughts of a child.

The school overlooking that harbor
has memories too great to be told.
My childhood days so wonderful,
are treasures now that I’m old.
My friends are scattered here and there,
I often wonder if they
sometimes sit and dream like me
of places where we used to play.

The hills we used to slide on,
bob sleds we tugged up and down.
Over the snow banks and ridges,
then right through the heart of town.
in those days no cars were a threat.
We went merrily on our way,
singing at the top of our lungs
as we all went down in the sleigh.

We had such fun at dances.
He held me close to his heart.
not like the dances of today,
cavorting three feet apart.
Two steps, three steps and waltzes,
were more our cup of tea,
But of course – that was way back when,
this generation cannot see.

If I were to go home tomorrow,
I’d probably look in vain,
to find the things I’ve dreamed about,
things are never the same.
But I can keep on dreaming,
of the times that used to be,
and that in my book of memories
is good enough for me.

At Grand Marais by Roland A Beens

I hear the surging breakers roar,
along a far-off northern shore;
To fling their cascades crowned with spray
upon the sands at Grand Marais.
While towering birches, beaches, pine
stand guard along the rock-rimmed line
to Sable Point Light’s friendly ray,
leagues to the west of Grand Marais.

There dreams oft come and vanish too,
like gulls that veer above the blue.
Dreams of another tide that roars,
and breaks against grim, concrete shores—
of city canyons, dark and deep,
men toil to a hurried beat,
and never glimpse, where, far away,
one’s dreams come true at Grand Marais.

Custom soon comes with good and truce,
to draw me from these carefree days,
and lash me to life’s treadmill too,
Far from those sparkling waters blue,
but when the harness galls and sears,
and city life its ugly talons rears.
I’ll have my dreams to light the way
to Sable Light and Grand Marais.

Ode to Grand Marais by Sylvia Truhn (1963)

Oh, lovely Grand Marais, there is no place so fair
as you—a precious gem in setting rare;
when Lake Superior’s waves swirl in your bay,
and scenic wonders usher in each day.
I first laid my eyes on you in days of yore,
and lost my heart to you for evermore.

The years passed slowly, often sad and blue,
until that rapturous day when I return to you.
Since then I’ve walked for miles the sandy beach at dawn,
to watch the sun dispel the fog or kiss a startled fawn;
and in the eve with mirrored lake reflecting rainbow dyes.
I’ve stood among the gulls and heard their haunting cries.

When Spring drifts in on soft, caressing air,
the friendly frogs have sung their serenades beside my lair.
But that charmed season which enchants me more than all
Is crisp, sun-sparked, and artist frost’s be-painted Fall.
Then I have climbed the dunes to view the land,
the indigo of Sable Lake midst green and gold and red and sand.

When Winter winds blast snow across the ice-stilled bay at night,
I love to go exploring the drifted solitude in pale moon-light.
Whatever season comes your way, dear, captivating Grand Marais,
some glorious sight lends magic to each day;
and through the dark your flashing lighthouse beam,
comes dancing through my window pane to brighten every dream.

The only boon I ask of life is but to spend my days
among your priceless beauties, in sunlight and in haze,
and welcome every whim of weather that knocks upon my door,
and capture whiffs of your pure air forevermore.

History’s Gem of the Month: Gitchee Agomowin

November 2015

I have hundreds of documents in the museum’s archives, all saved by the museum founder (Axel Niemi) and his family. One of the items I have is a copy of The Alger Echo, a newspaper published by James Carter. The following article was included in the Fall 1969 issue, Vol I, No 9.

Gitchee Agomowin

In early times, man stayed close to the shore when traveling on Lake Superior; Their light crafts were no match for the lake in its angry moods. Indians and early French knew well the sheltered spot they both called Great Bay or Great Harbor – “Gitchee Agomowin” in the Chippewa language, and Grand Marais in French.

Use of the harbor on the long stretch of shelter-less coast began centuries before recorded history. Activity there was noted in earliest French accounts, and it was mentioned frequently by most travelers from that time on.

Grand Marais Harbor 1903

After a sharp decline in 1910 following the abandonment of the Manistique Railway, Grand Marais settled into a small but stable village where fishing and lumbering and later, tourism, provided a livelihood for this historic and beautiful community.

History’s Gem of the Month: Vintage Grand Marais Photos

June 2015

This past winter one of my projects was to dive into a closet that has not seen the light of day for 17 years. The closed contained Grand Marais historical items. Back in 1998 I had gone through all the artifacts and organized them into categories. Some of the items were not conducive for being incorporated into museum displays. Other items were duplicates. One of the things I forgot that I have is a collection of large format film negatives of Grand Marais from a century ago. I also had dozens of vintage prints and post cards.

The film negatives intrigued me. I researched on the Internet the available methods of converting old film negatives into positive images and was excited to find out there are new scanners that do this automatically. I have wanted a high quality scanner for the past few years (since one that I had stopped working), so I decided to purchase one of these new types of scanners. Not only was I able to use the new scanner to convert the film negatives to positive JPEG images, but I also scanned all the vintage prints and post cards. Some of the images are included in this update.

The first picture below shows how many trees there were in Woodland Park a century ago. When the largest lumber company pulled up stakes and left Grand Marais in 1910, it donated three prime parcels of land to Burt Township. A campground was established in two of these lots; a baseball field was left intact on the third lot. Today, the recreation center, ice arena, basketball court, and tennis courts are on this third lot. During the last few years Burt Township has cut a lot of the trees down in Woodland Park. In fact, my son now calls it “woodless park.”

Prior to 1893 Grand Marais had very few residents. Everything changed in 1893 when a large lumber company located in Seney, MI decided to move its entire operation to Grand Marais. This company already had a short-line railroad from Seney half way to Grand Marais, so they extended the railroad the remaining 15 miles. In Grand Marais they constructed different railroad stations. The first photo below shows the passenger train that stopped at the head of Grand Marais Bay where the picnic shelter is now located. The second photo below shows a local dog sled team with the train in the background. Dog teams were commonly used by Grand Marais residents to get around during the winter. The third photo shows the railroad warehouse, which was located along the bay. This building no longer exists.

This next photo shows the Marais Lumber Company that was located where the marina is now situated. The trees cut west of town were dragged to the Log Slide and pushed down a chute to Lake Superior. Then they were corralled in a boom and floated seven miles east to Grand Marais. Trees cut east of town were transported by several short line railroads, none of which survive to today.

A century ago Grand Marais was a much larger town. The official census documented over 2,000 residents, but the actual number was probably a lot higher since there were many hundreds of transients that worked in the lumber camps. The photo below shows Main Street.

With the increase in commerce not only in Grand Marais, but throughout the Lake Superior region, the U.S. government established a series of lifesaving stations including one in Grand Marais that was located at the end of what is now called Coast Guard Point. A picture of the original lifesaving station is below. The next image shows the first lifesaving boat, led by Captain Trudell. How would you like to head out into a Lake Superior storm with this type of boat?

Although the lifesaving station was very competent, these brave men could not prevent shipwrecks – but could save the crews of the doomed vessels. The southern shore of Lake Superior is called “the graveyard coast.” Hundreds of ships sunk between Whitefish Point and Marquette, including dozens in the Grand Marais area. The photos below show ships that sunk just outside Grand Marais harbor in a fierce storm. This storm took out the Galatea and the Turret Crown. More information is included in the History Gem posting from July 2010 about these shipwrecks (see archive at the bottom of this page).

Although the lumber companies thought they had an almost unlimited supply of lumber in the Grand Marais area, it took less than 20 years for them to clear cut the surrounding country side. In 1910 the larger mills shut down. The mill owned by Alger and Smith moved their entire operation to Minnesota. Although railroad service was shut down immediately, since the lumber company took their train with them, innovative residents of Grand Marais were able to use the tracks for a few years by fashioning track-compatible coaches pulled by horses. By 1914 the lumber company finished taking its train tracks, too. For the next five years Grand Marais was a very isolated town. The only way to get to Grand Marais was by boat in the warmer months or by dog sled in the winter months. The photos below shows the temporary Seney stage.

History’s Gem of the Month: Michigan’s Mystic Dunes;Where Wily Paw-Puk-Keewis DancedBy Arthur W. Stace Date and source unknown

February 2015

NOTE: I found this newspaper article in the Gitche Gumee Museum’s archive. At the beginning of the article, it states that this is number 27 in a series of touring articles dealing with the Dunes of Michigan.

Four score years ago Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave to the reading world his rhythmic “Hiawatha,” epic of th Northland Indians. Ever since that time children and grown-ups of the English speaking world have read in succeeding generation of the “Dunes of Nagow Wudjoo,” where Pau-Puk-Keewis, the mischief maker “whom the people called the “Storm Fool” danced at Hiawath’s wedding to Minnehaha, Laughing Water.

“On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
On the dunes of Nagow Wudjoo
By the shinning Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the lodge of Pau-Puk-Keewis.
It was he who in his frenzy
Whirled those drifting sands together,
On the dunes of Nagow Wudjoo,
When among the guests assembled
He so merrily and madly
Danced at Hiawatha’s wedding,
Danced the Beggars’ Dance to please them.”

How many Michigan children and how many Michigan grown-ups, reading the “Song of Hiawatha” have known that the “Dunes of Nagow Wudjoo, by the Shining Big-Sea-Water” are the dunes on the Grand Marais shore of Lake Superior in their own home state?

How many tourists speeding along M-28 and Us-2, main east and west arteries of travel in the Upper Peninsula – and mistakenly thinking that in so doing they are really seeing the Upper Peninsula – know that 25 miles north of M-28 and 42 miles north of US-2 are massed some of the most astonishing, most breath-taking dunes on the North American Continent?

Lonely, Remote Shore

The reason that the “dunes of Nagow Wudjoo” are little known in spite of the immortal and international publicity given them by Longfellow is that they are on a remote, deserted coast of Lake Superior, unfrequented by present-day travelers.

They were, perhaps, better known to the travelers of Indian days, of missionary days, of trader days, of pioneer days than to the far more numerous tourists of today because in those far-off times the principal means of transportation was by water. The canoes of the Indians, the barges of the traders, the sailing craft and steamboats of explorers and pioneers passed along the shore. The these tourists of primeval Michigan the towering dunes atop the bluff extending from Grand Marais harbor to Au Sable Point were outstanding landmarks. They were in sharp contrast to the steep, jagged cliffs of the Pictured Rocks, their immediate scenic neighbors on the shore to the west.

The dunes impressed themselves on the minds of the Indians. They impressed themselves on Henry Schoolcraft, explorer, student and collector of Indian lore. It was from Schoolcraft’s writings that Longfellow is said to have derived the descriptions and the legends he embodied in word music in “Hiawatha.”

The “dunes of Nagoe Wudjou” were on a lonely shore in Hiawatha’s time, in Schoolcraft’s time. They are on a lonely shore today. The exploring tourist may reach then by way of Highway M-77 to Grand Marais, thence by a local road to Grand Sable Lake two miles to the west.

NOTE: The photo in the article was quite faded without contrast, so I substituted my own photographs.

History’s Gem of the Month: Michigan Beach Stones By Robert W. Kelley

September 2014

NOTE: Last May I purchased a small rock collection from a woman in Gwinn, MI. The collection belonged to her husband, who passed away a decade ago. This information sheet was included in the collection. The source is unknown.

OUR GREAT LAKES SHORELINES ARE TREASURE-LADEN WITH A HOST OF TRULY fascinating gem materials—not only hard-to-find agates, but also easy-to-find chert, jasper, granite, quartz, arid basalt. Though more plentiful around Lake Superior, the common varieties may be found most anywhere. No special training is needed for rock collecting. Just look for colors and patterns that please you. You’re the judge. It’s as simple as that. The variety of stones is infinite. Seldom are two precisely alike, so giving them names is also difficult. Unlike plants and animals, classes of stone grade one into another. Divisions are purely arbitrary based upon subtle differences in chemistry and texture. Sometimes, identity is difficult to establish, even in the laboratory!

One note about beach combing along Michigan’s Great Lakes: To walk on the exposed strip of dry beach, you should obtain the consent of the property owner. His rights extend to the edge of the water regardless of water level fluctuations. Permission is not required, however, if you wade in the water, just off the beach. The submerged bottom lands of the Great Lakes are public, owned by all of us together. Now, turn the page and see some of the beautiful stones awaiting you on our beaches. The specimens are reproduced at one-half their true size. Photography is by John R. Byerlay and Robert W. Kelley of the Geological Survey Division, Illustration is by Jim Campbell, and the specimens are shown through the courtesy of Warren and Dorothy Kelley, Calumet, Michigan.

Description of Stones Shown In This Folder

  1. AMYGDALOID (Greek: “almond”)—Pebbles of basalt, or lava, with almond-shaped cavities created by gas bubbles trapped beneath the crust of a once molten rock flow. Green “amygdules” are chrysocolla: red, analcite. Note copper amygdules in pebble nearest upper left corner.
  2. NATIVE COPPER — Michigan’s “honor mineral.” Specimens found in old mine waste piles usually have a green patina coating; when polished the bright copper color emerges.
  3. NATIVE SILVER— Lake Superior copper is noted for its silver content that imparts “superior” qualities for many uses. Hammered nuggets of inter-mixed copper and silver are called half-breeds.
  4. LAKE SUPERIOR AGATES—Typical beach specimens. Besides their inherent hardness and fine lustre, concentric banding is a definite clue to the identity of two of these specimens. The specimen on the right, however, might easily go unnoticed.
  5. LAKE SUPERIOR AGATES—A string of tumbled round agates of the size most commonly found.
  6. LAKE SUPERIOR AGATES—cut and polished gem stones collected at various beaches from Ontonagon to Sault Ste. Marie.
  7. HONEYCOMB CORAL—the original limey skeleton of this fossil has been replaced by silica (quartz).
  8. JACOBSVILLE SANDSTONE — not considered a lapidary material, but sometimes weathering processes cement the grains into a compact mass that takes a fairly good polish.
  9. PREHNITE—a member of the zeolite mineral group, which also includes thomsonite, chlorastrolite, and an alcite, common to the Copper Country. See the minute flecks of copper?
  10. BRECCIA (Italian: stone fragments)—Angular pieces of basalt fragmented in a zone of violent rock breakage and re cemented with other minerals, often quartz or calcite.
  11. JASPILITE—a specimen of iron formation in which the usual red iron oxide coloring has been weathered to ochre-colored limonite.
  12. CONGLOMERATE — an aggregation or “conglomeration” of rounded pebbles cemented together by other mineral matter.
  13. RHYOLITE — red to brown fine-grained type of igneous rock.
  14. QUARTZ—with green epidote and red jasper.
  15. QUARTZ—with red jasper.
  16. EPIDOTE—in basalt.
  17. BRECCIA— Fragments of basalt cemented by milky quartz with traces of red jasper.
  18. EPIDOTE—in basalt.
  19. BRECCIA—Fragments of basalt cemented by milky quartz with traces of green epidote.
  20. FINE-GRAINED GRANITE — contains small interlocked grains of clear quartz and flesh-colored feldspar.
  21. JASPILITE—Interbanded red jasper and grey hematite. The ever-increasing production of iron from occurrences of this ore is a vital factor in Michigan’s economy.
  22. PETOSKEY STONE — fossil colony coral.
  23. RAW BEACH STONES — a collection of various hard unpolished pebbles, typical of Lake Superior shores, but also found elsewhere to a lesser extent. True cherts are usually white, pale brown, brownish yellow, red grey, sometimes black, and occasionally green. In all cases, however, they consist of a dense, non-crystalline water-deposited form of silica that takes an exceedingly high polish. Colors are the result of other mineral impurities: iron oxide imparts the red color; green pebbles (basalts) are colored by epidote; glassy white to grey stones with frosted surfaces are usually vein quartz, a crystal line variety of silica.
  24. THOMSONITE—Exquisite shades of pink and green with a radiant fibrous structure.
  25. CHLORASTROLITE—the famous Lake Superior gem, “greenstone”.
  26. TUMBLED BEACH STONES—Same as in group No. 23, except the inherent beauty of their colors and textures has been enhanced by tumbling.
  27. RHYOLITE — A fine-grained igneous rock shaped into a convex gem form known as a cabochon. The group of four banded reddish brown pebbles immediately beneath are also rhyolite.
  28. CHERT—with small orbs of red jasper.
  29. CHERT—just chert, but most unusual and pleasing gem specimens.
  30. DATOLITE — often very colorful, and though not as hard as either agate or chert, takes a superb polish because of its very dense texture. Unusual, too, because it contains the element boron. Rarely occurs on beaches, but the two yellow pebbles were picked up on a Keweenaw beach fifty paces apart—and they’re mates!

History’s Gem of the Month: Souvenir View Book of Sault Ste. Marie

April 2014

Thanks to my friend, Jill Phillips, I was able to borrow a souvenir book published during the 1930s by Photogeletins Engraving Co., Toronto, Canada. It is one of the Dominion Series books that this company published.

The Soo Locks (pronounced “soo”) are a set of shipping locks arranged parallel to each other. These locks enable ships, sailboats, and other vessels to travel through the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, traversing between the United States and Canada. The locks allow boats and ships to bypass the rapids of the river, where the water falls 21 feet (7 m).

According to the web page http://www.guideoftravels.com “Sault Ste. Marie’s … the oldest city in Michigan. It’s where Ojibwa settled to fish the productive rapids, and where the French established a busy fur-trading post, and it’s also why the Soo Locks were built—the first one completed in 1855—to finally tame those rapids and open Lake Superior’s vast mineral riches to shipping.”

The locks pass an average of 10,000 ships per year, despite being closed during the winter from January through March, when ice shuts down shipping on the Great Lakes. The winter closure period is used to inspect and maintain the locks. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the freight transported through the Soo Locks exceeds that of the Panama and Suez canals put together, making it the busiest waterway in the world.

A couple of the photos of the locks from the souvenir booklet are below.

The locks share a name with the two cities named Sault Ste. Marie, situated in Ontario and in Michigan, located on either side of the St. Marys River. The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge permits vehicular traffic to pass over the locks.

The U.S. locks form part of a 1.6-mile (2.6-km) canal, which is owned and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Although these locks are not inexpensive to operate, the locks, provides free passage.

The current configuration consists of four parallel lock chambers, each running east to west; starting at the Michigan shoreline and moving north toward Ontario, these are:

  • The MacArthur Lock, built in 1943. It is 800 feet (244 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 29.5 feet (9 m) deep.
  • The Poe Lock, originally completed on August 3, 1895. The first ship to pass through was the passenger ship Majestic in September 1895. It was re-built in 1968, after the Saint Lawrence Seaway opened. It is 1,200 feet (366 m) long, 110 feet (34 m) wide, and 32 feet (10 m) deep.
  • The Davis Lock, built in 1914. It is 1,350 feet (411 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 23.1 feet (7 m) deep.
  • The Sabin Lock, built in 1919. It is 1,350 feet (411 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 23.1 feet (7 m) deep.

The Davis and Sabin locks have been slated for replacement since 1986 with a new ‘Super-Lock’, which would provide a second lock capable of accommodating the “lakers”. Groundbreaking for the new lock project was held on June 30, 2009, but no work has continued since funding has not been appropriated.

A single small lock is currently operated on the Canadian side of the Soo. Opened in 1998, it was built within a damaged older lock, and is 77 meters (253 ft) long, 15.4 meters (51 ft) wide and 13.5 meters (44 ft) deep. The Canadian lock is used for recreational and tour boats;


History’s Gem of the Month: Excerpts from The Grand Marais Herald

November 2013

A few years ago, former Grand Marais resident (but current property owner) James Carter borrowed a copy of an old Grand Marais newspaper that is in the Gitche Gumee Museum’s archive. I was curious why he even knew about it. I loaned him the paper, along with a few other items. When he returned the envelope, he included the letter below. Mr. Carter has a passion for local history and published a Grand Marais history book, Voyager’s Harbor, in 1967. The Grand Marais Herald was founded by A. De Lacy Wood in 1894.

Karen – Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010
Really enjoyed our visit. Seems good to talk “shop” with someone who understands book printing and publishing.

I’m sending you your papers without further delay. Many thanks for the loan and your patience in their return.

The Grand Marais Herald was given to me by Ray Barney. When I was in high school I traded it to Axel for an agate ring, which I still have. I didn’t place as much value on historic items then! As far as I know, there are about half a dozen copies of the Herald existing. I have all but the one of yours. Mine have been micro-filmed by several libraries, including the Library of Michigan. The Herald was moved to Munising in 1910 and later the editor, Arthur D. Wood, bought into the Munising News and the Herald files were kept there. Unfortunately th Munising News office burned in the late 1930s, and the Herald’s files were lost or otherwise discarded in the aftermath of the fire. What a loss!

All the best,
Your friend,
Jim Carter

Volume Xi, No 30, March 4, 1905 — Grand Marais Herald

Red Hot News
Page 5

  • Tomorrow is Quinquagesima Sunday. [Name used for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday].
  • A large number of young folks enjoyed a sleigh ride party on Saturday evening.
  • Hundreds have been benefited and more are being pleased daily at Saulson’s fire sale.
  • Fred Masse has accepted the position of deliveryman for the People’s Meat Market.
  • March came in – in lamblike fashion – which is a bad omen as to the manner in which it will take its exit.
  • Thomas Regan moved his cigar factory to his new quarters in the Beaulieu building, Brazel Street. [This is the building that now houses the Gitche Gumee Museum.]
  • Another wedding is booked for next Wednesday evening. Who can guess the principals?
  • The local fishermen are ready for the season to open, and are hoping for an early ice breakup. Last year the season did not formally open until late.
  • John Monte, who has been stationed at Seney for the past two years in charge of the Manistique Railroad Company’s interlocking plant has resigned and returned to this city this week. Verily the poor railroad men have been up against a hard proposition for some time and will doubtless welcome a change of conditions with as much pleasure as will the general public.
  • If you cannot eat, sleep, or work; feel mean, cross, and ugly – take Hollistor’s Rocky Mountain Tea this month. If taken this month, keeps you well all summer. A tonic for the sick. There is no remedy equal to it. It will bring rich, red blood and firm, flesh and muscle. 35 cents; tea or tablets. H.A. Schall.
  • Conductor Lou Williams is able to be out and around, with the aid of a cane, and is rapidly recovering from his confinement caused by blood poisoning in the knee, brought on by receiving a cut from an ax. He will be able to resume his duties on the passenger run of the Manistique Railroad within a short time.
  • NOTICE: Mr. Doorman, S. brown formerly of Grand Marais, who is at present visiting in the city at the home of his parents, wishes to inform the public gossipers of this community, that if they do not desist at once, from talking about his personal affairs and character, that he will take legal steps to make them prove their assertions in a court of law. It is hoped that a word to the wise will be sufficient and that the slanderous assertions will cease.
  • We call to the attention of our many readers to the new advertisement of Mrs. M.C. Levdque, which appears in this issue of The Herald. Mrs. Laveque recently opened up dressmaking parlors in the Logan Building, Carlson Street. Being an expert in her line and a specialist in the art of making ladies tailor made suits, she now has a lucrative trade. Her work gives eminent satisfaction and her prices on ladies garments are very reasonable. In the near future it is Mrs. Leveque’s intention to add to her dressmaking establishment, a hairdressing and messaging department for the ladies. These will no doubt prove to be a great convenience to the ladies of Grand Marais and will not only be generously patronized, but much appreciated as well. Mrs. Leveque with the aid of two assistants, is very busy at this time until the spring rush in dressmaking is over.
  • Of course you kick, more or less, about the Russian winter that we are enjoying. You get up in the morning with an effort. You shiver as you put on your clothes, and you hope that you will never see any more snow or ice. Not in years has there been such a consistent and steady winter…. But it is good for the country. It is good for the health of the people. It is especially good for the farmers. Next to fertilizer, a blanket of snow is the best thing for land. It protects the growing wheat and gives it a good start for spring. There are weather prophets who assert that a long cold winter means fine weather for the rest of the year. They claim that the history of this country will back up their assertions. They insist that the sequel to the hard winter will be found in bounteous crops next year. Bounteous crops of wheat, corn, and oats means good times. The farmers friend – a cold snowy winter is here, and bids fair to stay for a while. So you see that the weather that annoys and makes one grunt and complain is a national blessing.
  • This is time to plan for spring improvement of private and public property. If painting is to be done, consult the surroundings and decide on a color in harmony with them. There bids fair to be an unusual rivalry in gardening this coming season. The old-fashioned formal flower garden is very much in vogue again, and surely nothing could give more pleasure and satisfaction. It will soon be time to plant it. Those who began several years ago are fortunate.
  • NOTICE: Members of the city fire department, as well as citizens who in emergency may act in the firemens place, are requested in time of fire, to always try a water hydrant before removing the hose from the hose cart. If after trying the hydrant, it is found to be in working order, it is then proper to remove the hose from the cart and make the coupling. This request is made to avoid the loss of time in picking up hose after it has been laid in the event that some of the hydrants might not be in working order when most needed. Thus the hose is not laid until after ascertaining whether or not a hydrant is working. … This is requested of the entire community and it is hoped for the good of all concerned that in future it will be complied with. William Rivers, Superintendent of Water Works, Feb 25, 1905.
  • With butter and eggs selling at 35 and 40 cents, the possibilities of a good dairy farm in this locality are again forcibly brought to view.
  • Services at the M.E. Church, Sunday:
  • Sunday-Class meeting 9:30 a.m.
    Preaching service 10:30 a.m.
    Sunday School 11:15 a.m.
    Praying Band 4:00 p.m.
    Epworth League 6:30 p.m.
    Preaching service 7:30 p.m.
    Prayer Meeting Thursday 7:30 p.m.

History’s Gem of the Month: All That Glitters….

 August 2013

‘All That Glitters….’
By Harry C. Sahs
August 31, 1958 The Detroit News Pictorial Magazine

If agates were gold nuggets, Axel A. Niemi would be the richest man in Michigan. Of all the “rock hounds” who have combed the storm-tossed beaches of Lake Superior for agates, probably none has found as many of the beautiful rocks as Niemi.

Known as the “agate king” of Grand Marais, Niemi has been an avid collector since he came home from two and a half years of Army service during World War II. Although he had spent all his life where agates are relatively common. Niemi didn’t “get the fever” until he met an Australian in the South Pacific who carried a clear orange chrysolite faceted agate. (NOTE: Axel hand wrote a note on the article stating that this is a “Big Lie!. In fact, Axel was a rockhound his whole life.)

Today, self-taught in the art of cutting, grinding, sanding, and polishing the semi-precious stones – and with a study course in gemology under his belt – Niemi’s “agate king” title goes undisputed.

The 40-year-old collector believes he has found the second largest agate ever discovered in the United States. It is an almond-shaped translucent stone weighing five and a half pounds and valued at $200. Only the 10 ½ pound stone now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., surpasses Niemi’s find.

Best time for agate hunting, says Niemi, is immediately after a violent storm when deep waves churn the lake bottom and toss up new rocks on the beach. Even then, however, it is no easy job to find the elusive agates. It takes time – and patience.