History’s Gem of the Month: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal Proposal Part 1

June 2008

While combing through the museum’s archives, I recently came across the original proposal for creating the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which was established by legislation passed in 1966. Grand Marais is the eastern entrance to the national park. I will relay interesting information from the report beginning this month, and continuing in the next month or so. For brevity, I will edit and shorten some of the sections.

Introduction and Summary

The National Park Service first became concerned with the Pictured Rocks area in 1957-58 during the Great Lakes Shoreline Recreation Area Survey. In the survey report released in 1960, the area was rated as one of the five areas on the Great Lakes of national significance. In June 1961, legislation was first introduced calling for establishment of the park.

The Pictured Rocks — multicolored sandstone cliffs, 50 to 200 feet high, and stretching about 15 miles along the shore of Lake Superior — have long been a major tourist attraction. But, although they are the dominant attraction of this region, people also come to see and enjoy the Grand Sable Banks and Dunes, the Beaver Basin, the picturesque inland lakes, and the numerous waterfalls.

With each season of the year having its own particular visitor attraction — forest wildflowers in spring, cool forests and lakes in summer, yellow birches and scarlet sugar maples in autumn, and snowscapes in winter — the area would no doubt receive year-round use.

The proposed lakeshore would be developed for the optimum use and enjoyment by the public. A minimum land area of approximately 28,000 acres, referred to as the shoreline zone, is deemed essential for protection, development and use of the primary features of the area. This shoreline zone is a continuous strip along Lake Superior, from Munising to Grand Marais, averaging about 1.4 mile in width.


The Department of the Interior recommends:

  1. Establishment, as a unit of the National Park System, of a Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore lying between Munising and Grand Marais, Michigan.
  2. Acquisition by the Federal Government of a 28,000-acrea lakeshore zone.
  3. Designation of a 39,000-acre buffer zone to provide protection of the watersheds and the forest setting.
  4. Construction by the National Park Service of a non-commercial scenic road to facilitate circulation within the lakeshore.
  5. Designation of the Beaver Basin as a natural area, containing only trails and minimum facilities necessary for the visitor’s enjoyment.
  6. Construction of a hiking trail along the entire length with hiker’s campgrounds at convenient locations.
  7. Emphasis is given to providing public use facilities which encourage enjoyment through observation and appreciation of its natural values.
  8. Hunting and fishing in accordance with applicable Federal and state laws.


Private developments within the area are located principally at Miners Beach, Grand Sable, and Beaver Lakes. Of the 164 structures within the proposed lakeshore, 60 percent are seasonal cabins, 25 percent non-farm residence, 2 percent farms, 7 percent commercial, and 6 percent miscellaneous buildings.

Land Ownership

The proposed area would contain about 67,376 acres of land and inland lakes. About 6,320 acres of water in Lake Superior are included within the boundaries. Categories of land ownership are:

Owner Shoreline Zone Buffer Zone Total
Federal 781 1,572 2,353
State 5,140 14,911 20,051
Other Public 77 4 81
Private 22,440 20,868 43,126
Inland Water area 1,765
Lake Superior area 6,320

Total Acres of proposed National Lakeshore 73,696

Note: To be continued next month

History’s Gem of the Month: Old Postcards

The Gem of the Month for May includes two old postcards I found among my mother’s things. The first is a picture of Sable Lake taken from the bluff of the dunes. The photo was taken by John Penrod of the Penrod/Hiawatha Company out of Berrien Center, MI. On the back there is the following notation:

Grand Sable Lake and Dunes — This is a part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a region of outstanding beauty between Grand Marais and Munising, Michigan.

Although there is no date on the postcard, the fact that it mentions the National Lakeshore places it after 1966, when the lakeshore was formed by federal legislation. Also, the existence of the swimming raft and buoyed swim area dates the picture to the late 1960s or early 1970s. Lastly, note that this picture was taken well before the new road was constructed in the 1990s, which changed the shoreline of the lake and eliminated most of the swimming area.

The second picture, also taken by John Penrod, is of an assortment of Lake Superior agates. On the back of the postcard is the following information:

Lake Superior Agates from Northern Michigan. A beauty often hidden by a rough outer surface reveals vivid colors and strong translucent designs when cut and polished.

I am not sure where and when this photo was taken, but there are some nice agates among the assortment!

History’s Gem of the Month: Cedar Stump article from 1962

April 2008

The following newspaper clipping was found among my mother’s keepsakes. For those of you who have been to Grand Marais and noticed the wood tiled ceilings in various homes and businesses (including the Lake Superior Brewing Company), these tiles were made at the factory owned by Harry Habbershaw. The cedar stump constructed by Mr. Habbershaw survived until around 8 years ago when it finally succumbed to the weather and rotted away. Township officials recorded the history from the stump and hope some day to reconstruct it.

Cedar Stump Speaks of Pride, Joy and Sadness
By Harry C. Sahs
Detroit News (1962)

A tree woodsmen spared when they cleared land for the village of Grand Marais, Mich., lived on to tell the story — literally. A slab cut from a red cedartree well over 100 years old stands today in the village square. Lettered on its varnished face is the story of a town which has known joy, pride, fortune, disaster, famine and near-despair.

It took Harry Habbershaw, president of Superior Wood Products, Inc., and a college student, Dawn Ostrander, half a year to gather accurate information and to inscribe it on the tree trunk. Examples:

  • 1820 “I’m a very small tree. I watch Lewis Cass survey the land on which I stand.”
  • 1880 “A new lumber mill has things buzzing.”
  • 1900 “Grand Marais is now a town of over 3,000 people. The population is growing and so am I.” (Population in 1962 has dwindled to about 600.)
  • 1904 “Fire destroyed an entire village block.”
  • 1933 “Depression and everybody looks hungry. Sixteen trolling craft attract sportsmen.”
  • 1955 “The lamprey eel has taken its toll.”
  • 1960 “The town’s efforts are directed to the tourist trade. The town has a new face for our first homecoming.”

Not yet recorded is last year’s disastrous fire at Superior Wood. The firm is hoping to rebuild with aid of a government loan.

The cedar stands ready to receive the town’s final chapters.

History’s Gem of the Month: 1915 Rules for Teachers

March 2008

While in the Sarasota, Florida area in March, one of the places we visited was the Crowley Museum. I must admit that the $7.00 admission per person a little steep for what the museum had to offer, but there were some interesting items. One of my favorite items was a list of the rules for teachers from 1915. Although these were the rules for the school system located around 15 miles southeast of Sarasota, I imagine that similar rules were in place in Grand Marais. If these rules were in effect today, do you think there would be any takers for the job?

1915 Rules for Teachers

  1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.
  2. You are not to keep company with men.
  3. You must be home between the hours of 8pm and 6am unless attending a school function.
  4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
  5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
  6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or your brother.
  7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
  8. You may not dress in bright colors.
  9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
  11. Your dress must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
  12. To keep the schoolroom neat and clean, you must: sweep the floor at least once daily; scrub the floor at least once a week with hot soapy water; clean the blackboards at least once a day; and start the fire at 7am so the room will be warm by 8am.

The photo below is from the class in this Crowley school in 1915.

Also at the museum, was a carved dancing puppet. Below is a picture. It reminds me of some of the dancing puppets that the museum founder, Axel, carved.


History’s Gem of the Month: Unusual Wedding Invitation

February 2008

Unusual Wedding Invitation

I have seen a copy of Axel’s wedding invitation before. In fact, I have one on display at the museum that Axel mounted onto a board. However, when I looked through some of my mother’s things, I came across the copy that was sent to my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Richards. I must say, that Axel’s wedding invitation was as unique as he was.


History’s Gem of the Month: Grand Marais Tourist Signpost

January 2008

For those of you who lived in or visited Grand Marais during the 1960s, you probably remember the signs that were displayed on the pole outside of the Dunes Saloon, now called the Lake Superior Brewing Company. The founder of the museum Axel Niemi, was actually one of the movers and shakers that helped develop Grand Marais as a tourist destination. During that time, he managed Woodland Park and helped to develop tourism-related resources to draw more people to the area.

We are not sure exactly when the signs were put up, or when they were taken down. Most likely the Chamber of Commerce was responsible for installing them.

All in all, though, it was nice to run across this newspaper clipping and include the photo as this month’s History Gem. I remember many a summer evening when us kids hung out in front of Kozy Corner across the street from the sign post. We watched tourists try to read the signs and figure out what Grand Marais destinations they wanted to check out.

History’s Gem of the Month: Lake Superior Editorial

December 2007

This month’s History Gem continues with the Lake Superior information theme. Recently, I received an email from David J. Krause, a geology professor from Ann Arbor, MI. He is a UP enthusiast who wrote the book “The Making of a Mining District” about the history of copper mining in Michigan. David’s wife is from Ontonagon, where her father named a fish tug after her and her cousin: the Sheryl-Dennis. In fact, as David reports, for some years the tug belonged to Grand Marais fisheries.

Through a mutual friend, he found out about the web page and the Gitche Gumee Museum. He sent me an email to tell me about his campaign to have Lake Superior officially designated the lowest point in North America. In his email, David reports: “I am dead serious about getting this information out and the need for correcting the “Death Valley thing” thrown around by national people who should know better. For many years I made sure that everyone who took my geology class understood it. The Death Valley defenders will likely argue that the bottom of Lake Superior is under water, but this is a non-issue for several reasons. Death Valley (Badwater Basin) is itself a lake during part of some years, and the fact that the Lake Superior basin happens to hold fresh water (not marine salt water) is irrelevant to its structure.”

In his campaign effort, David sent the following letter to the National Geographic Magazine:

Editor, National Geographic Magazine:

Your article on Death Valley (Nov 2007) includes a photograph with a caption that states: “At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is North America’s lowest point.” This is not correct. Lake Superior currently occupies what is by far the lowest structural basin on the North American continent. The surface elevation of Lake Superior is usually cited as about 602 feet above sea level and the depth as about 1333 feet, leaving a bottom elevation of 731 feet below sea level. This point lies about 40 miles north of Munising, Michigan, and therefore falls within the borders of that state. Therefore, the lowest point on the continent of North America is the bottom of the Lake Superior structural basin, being nearly 450 feet lower than the minus 282 feet of Badwater Basin (which itself may be under water or not, depending on local climatic conditions).

One further point I would like to make is that I believe the sign at the Badwater Basin says that it is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. Thus, Lake Superior is actually the lowest point in the western hemisphere. The photo below show the deepest point in Lake Superior, which is not very far from Grand Marais. I’ve also included a photo of my hiking friends and I that was taken at Badwater in Death Valley. This was a vacation we took in the early 1990s wherein we hiked Mount Whitney (14,496 feet), which is the highest point in the continental U.S., and went to Badwater (-282 feet) within the same 12-hour period. On that trip, we also went to Las Vegas and stayed a night in the hotel on the Queen Mary. We called it our “vacation of contrasts” trip. In the photo, I am on the left.

History’s Gem of the Month: Tourist Information from the 1920s

Fall 2007

Last year, a couple of boxes of Grand Marais memorabilia were donated to the museum from the John Strom family. Included were several newspaper clippings going back to the 1920s, as well as some old post cards, logging equipment, and other items. The following article, written by Robert Page Lincoln, was published in the Minneapolis Tribune. In that this article mentions many areas that no longer exist, it must have been published during the 1920s. The post cards included below also were from the same era, or earlier. Notice that the Munising picture has almost no houses or other structures. Also, the Sable Falls picture shows a falls that is very much different that what we see today. Compare this picture with the one included in this month’s Grand Marais Scenes.

Outdoors . . .

Without doubt, Alger County, in the upper peninsula of Michigan, contains more attraction per square mile than any other section of the state. Here are a list of the attractions that are of interest to the traveler and outdoor lover:

  • The world famous Pictured Rocks of Sandstone.
  • The bathtub of the gods on William’s Island.
    • An enormous “tub” in the rock about 100 feet long and 30 wide.
  • Miner’s Castle
    • From the top of which Father Marquette preached to the Indians in their birch bark canoes below. On top of this rock can still be seen a rugged cross cut in the face of the sandstone and beside it a bowl hollowed out of the rock for the holy water.
  • Caves of the bloody chiefs
    • Where the Indians placed their prisoners of war, with such a thing as escape impossible.
  • Virgin’s rock and Bridal Wreath Falls.
  • The gigantic caves on Grand Island.
  • The remarkable grandeur of the shifting sand dunes of Grand Marais.
  • Remains of ancient iron furnaces near Munising, and the ancient charcoal kilns near Onota.
  • The enormous meteor at Star Siding on M-28, just a few miles from Munising.
  • The 200-foot glacial pothole on Perch Lake trail out of Munising.
  • Cox’s trout pond at Wetmore
    • The only inland body of water in the Upper Peninsula that flows both into Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.
  • Ancient Indian burial grounds on Sandpoint.
  • The location of Munising Bay
    • “Where stood the wigwam of Nokomis, daughter of the moon and grandmother of Hiawatha.”
  • Grand Island
    • The home of the elk and albino deer, where the renowned George Shiras III, famous wild life photographer, experimented with almost all of his night photography of wild life. … Grand Island is one of the most unusual islands in the United States, second only to Isle Royal, having 40 miles of shoreline, 13,600 acres of virgin timber.
  • The ancient fur trading posts of the American Fur Trading Company
    • Still standing, with fur derrick intact. Au Train, the resting point for the dog teams that carried the mail on one of the first mail routes to be established in the Upper Peninsula. Peter White was the mailman. The beautiful Adam’s Trail, one of the finest drives in the Upper Peninsula.
  • The Cusino Deeryard
    • Ranked as one of the largest deeryards in the United States.
  • The Hiawatha National Forest
    • One of the government’s most ambitious efforts in Michigan. It has considerable wilderness that is untouched by either fire or the axe of the lumberman. The vast pine plantings in this forest which are a study in themselves and might well be studied by foresters elsewhere.

History’s Gem of the Month: Lake Superior Origin from 1957

August 2007

This article was contained in the museum’s archive. It was glued onto a page on which the museum founder, Axel Niemi, wrote that it was written in 1957 by Dr. George M Schwartz from the University of Minnesota. The source of publishing was not noted.

Origin of Lake Superior

Lake Superior, is the largest body of fresh water in the world and also one of the deepest. The term, superior, referring to its position as the upper lake of the five Great Lakes of North America was first used according to Grace Lee Nute in the Jesuit Relation of 1647-1648. The lake is 300 miles long and has a maximum width of 160 miles with an area of about 32,000 square miles. Its normal surface level is 602 feet above sea level and the greatest depth 1,290 feet.

In view of its great size and depth, it is natural that there should be much interest in the origin of the lake. In addition to its size, another fact of importance in considering the origin is occurrence of the lake in the trough of a great syncline or down fold in the rocks. That this structure of rocks has had an important effect on the origin of the lake is certain, but that the down folding of the rocks is the primary cause of the present lake is doubted inn view of the great length of time since the folding. The folding can be fairly closely dated as late Keweenawan or some 600,000 years ago. This would seem to allow plenty of time for any depression formed by the folding to have been filled with sediments.

Another fundamental fact to be considered in the origin of the present lake is the great depth of the bottom of the lake below sea level. The depression could therefore not have formed by stream erosion unless this whole portion of the continent once was much higher with respect to sea level than it is at present. While there have been changes in both continental and sea levels, there is no good evidence that these were on a scale to account for the Superior depression.

There are two main possible explanations: (1) The lake was scoured out by successive ice lobes which probably occupied the rock basin culminating in the Superior lobe of Late Wisconsin time. The glacial erosion was probably guided by a deep river valley in the structural basin. (2) Depression of the basin by faulting at a sufficiently late date for it to have escaped filling with sediment.

Difficulties with the fault hypothesis are the lack of evidence of late faulting anywhere at this portion of the North American continent and the lack of good evidence of faults in the proper positions to account for the depression. Certain great faults are known to exist in the Superior region and it is reasonable to assume that erosion was modified by their existence.

The hypothesis of glacial erosion has more obvious support. The movement of the Superior ice lobe down the axis of the lobe was one of the last great geologic events in the region. The timing to account for the present depression is excellent. Furthermore it is evident form the moraines of the Superior lobe as shown by Leverett’s maps that a great deal of rock debris was picked up by the ice lobe and deposited to the southwest of the present lake. It is also shown by glacial drift to the southwest in Minnesota that earlier ice sheets passed over the superior region and gathered up enormous amounts of rock debris and carried it on to the south. It is reasonable to suppose therefore that the Superior syncline was occupied by previous lobes that moved along the length of the basin gouging it out to a greater extent each time it was occupied by a lobe of ice.

In summary it may be said that Lake Superior probably owes its origin to a combination of conditions. The first important event was the formation of the great syncline following the extensive igneous extrusions and intrusions of the Keweenawan. This syncline no doubt was expressed at a surface by a basin that was filled by later and softer rocks than the older rocks round the edges. Faulting at a still later time modified the structure of portions of the syncline. Some of the faulting has been considered of late Keweenawan age, part of the movement is Paleozoic or later. The immediate cause of the present topographic basin was erosion by successive lobes of glacial ice that occupied the bottom of the syncline and eroded out the soft sediments but modified only in a moderate degree the resistant pre-Cambrian rocks on the sides. It is generally assumed that a large river valley occupied the present site of the lake and guided the early glacial erosion.

History’s Gem of the Month: Hints on Hunting Glacial Agate Article

July 2007

While looking through the museum’s archives to select this month’s history gem, I came across a draft of an article written by the museum founder, Axel Niemi. I’m not sure if and when he ever published this article, but I thought it worthy of sharing.


Grand Marais to Whitefish Point are gravelly for the most part. The glacial rocks leave the harder agates and other quartz minerals to be picked by the lucky hunter. There are a number of gravel pits scattered throughout the U.P., but the chances of finding anything of importance in these pits are slim. The author found only one large green jasper moss agate (1 pound), which was identical to a specimen found by a conservation worker on the high banks of the Sucker River. However, rockhounds will have better luck combing the beaches.

Many visitors examine the Gitche Gumee Mineral Museum collection every year and are amazed at the multiple varieties of agate, jasper, and other gem minerals that have come from the local beaches. That the collection was found within a few minutes walk to a couple hour drive from the museum seems unbelievable. To those rockhounds who understand the difficulty encountered in hunting these all but camouflaged mineral gemstones, it is apparent that a great deal of time is required to find these priceless rarities. Those who are willing to put in the time, though, are often rewarded.

The biggest reason beginners are not successful in finding glacial agates is the fact that they give up too easily. Since the agates have become worn to the point that they are rather indistinguishable from other translucent non-gem rocks and opaque stones, the problem of spotting a choice agate is readily understood. To add further to the confusion, until the rockhound becomes accustomed to spotting agate characteristics, it is easy for your focus to be diverted by a host of variously colored pretty jaspers, cherts, and granite pebbles that are thrown into the jumble. Even the experienced agate hunter must avoid being inflicted by “the pretty rock syndrome.”

Another reason why agates are hard to spot is that many are covered with dozens of tiny powdery fractures that may hide the true nature of the interior beauty. If you were more than a billion years old having to contend with the waves and ice of Lake Superior, as well as its predecessor lakes and oceans, you would have a few fractures, too. Thus to be successful it is important that you keep your focus, spend the hours required, and concentrate on looking for the agate characteristics. With such a variety of rocks on the beach, coupled with the need to look through or among millions of other glacial-worn stones, the task to spot the elusive agate is a challenge in itself.