Mining History in Bessemer

There are three iron ranges in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:  Gogebic, Marquette and Menominee. The Gogebic was the last of the three great iron ore fields opened in the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin. Beginning in 1848 with Dr. A. Randall, federal and state geologists had mapped the ore formations almost perfectly long before any ore was mined.

Bessemer is in the Gogebic Range

The first mine to go into production on the Gogebic Range was the Colby Mine. Richard Langford is credited with the first iron ore discovery on the Gogebic Range in 1880 which led to the development of the Colby Mine.  In 1884 it shipped 1,022 tons of ore in railroad flat cars to Milwaukee. By 1890 more than thirty mines had shipped ore. Over the 83 years of mining activity on the Gogegbic Iron Range some 325 million gross tons of high grade iron were mined.

The Gogebic Iron Range extends for 80 miles from Lake Namekagon, Wisconsin, in the west, to Lake Gogebic in Michigan, in the west. Nathaniel D. Moore uncovered ore deposits in the Penokee Gap near Bessemer in 1872, but it was not until 1884 that the first iron ore shipment was made. The Gogebic Range area experienced an initial speculative boom in the mid-1880s, and saw recurring booms and busts from 1884 to 1967.

The Bessemer/Ramsay and Wakefield area had the Yale mine, Ramsay mine, Anvil/Palms mine, Sunday Lake mine, Castile mine, Brotherton mine, Wakefield mine, Mikado mine, Tilden mine, Colby mine, Asteroid mine, Plymouth mine and other smaller producers.  It should be noted here that often a mine was purchased by another mining company and the names changed or were merged with the old name and a portion of the name from the new company. Details of these mergers will be noted with each individual mine.

The Range became the center of frenzied economic speculation during the late 1880s, and the total capitalization for the companies formed in the year 1886 reached a total of over one billion dollars. Production rose steadily from 1884, reaching a high in 1892. From 1893 through the first decade of the twentieth century, production levels ranged from approximately three million tons of ore to four million tons shipped, and the Gogebic continued to be a productive iron range.

Conditions in the mines were dangerous and unsanitary. There was no electricity and early miners wore a candle in their hats for light.  Many miners who couldn’t stand the smell of powder took up lumbering. The average miner earned $1.05 to $2.00 a day  Mules were used to haul the ore out and kept in the mines so long that they would go blind.

This web page will briefly focus on the mines located in the City of Bessemer and Bessemer Township.  For more in-depth information about these mines and historical information about the mines, refer to ARTICLES on this web page.  For additional information about these mines and other mines in the area please visit the Bessemer Heritage Center or the Bessemer Public Library to review these books published by local author:   Bruce K. Cox  from Agogeebic Press

Read more:

A Day at the Mine by Ed Sandene

My Mining Experience by Ed Sandene

Map of Gogebic Range Mines

Created for Bessemer Area Historical Society


Mining Articles

A Day at the Mine

By Ed Sandene Day shift meant getting up at 5:30 and having that first cup of coffee. After waking up with the caffeine, it was time for breakfast. Then, get dressed, and wait for my ride, or if it was my turn to drive, I’d get started. There were three of us who shared the […]


A Familiar Place

By Ed Sandene The sign describes the role this shaft played in the rescue of the miners trapped as a result of the Pabst G shaft cave in. I knew the H shaft only as the place where I worked. Visiting this site again after so many years brought back a lot of memories and […]


The Wood Needed to Make Iron (and how it got there)

By Ed Sandene A side effect for the economy in the iron mining regions was the need for all of the different types of wood products used underground. This created many jobs for loggers, their employees and small sawmill operators. During the early 1950’s I worked for a logger who specialized in serving the needs […]


My Mining Experience

By Ed Sandene I will always remember that first trip underground. It was on a Saturday, and only a few men were on the cage going down. The only other workers were the shift boss, who was on fire patrol, and the repair crews. Later on I would get extra shifts to accompany the shift […]


Penokee Mine Memories: A Shining Moment

By Ed Sandine My work station was on the 29th level at the Pabst H shaft which was located near Jesseville, just east of the Bonnie road. The shaft was an incline shaft instead of vertical as some of the others. The slope was about 70 degrees to the North which put the 29th level […]


Mines in the Bessemer Area

Anvil Mine

Anvil Mine


colby mine 3

Colby Mine



Eureka Mine



Geneva Mine


Ironton mine headframe

Ironton Mine


Yale Mine Shaft early 1900's

Jack Pot and Yale Mines

Palms shaft #1 & Co. Office

Palms Mine


1950 Employees working on the Peterson shaft

Peterson Mine


3 locomotives at plymouth

Plymouth Mine


Railroad into the Puritan Mine

Puritan Mine



Tilden Mine