Lost Gold of Upper Michigan

The Lost Gold of Upper Michigan

Mikel B. Classen

This is a tale of exploration, of hardship, of discovery, and of shattered lost hopes in the Lake Superior region of Michigan. It’s a story of rivalry and friendship. It is also a true story, one that takes you back to the dreams that settled and brought the intrepid to the wild, untamed north country and provided the foundations for what the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was to become.

In the mid and late 1800’s, vast riches of minerals were discovered throughout the Upper Peninsula. Fortunes were amassed by many and the attraction drew countless with the hope of being the next one to make a major strike. It was just this that inspired three men to set out to explore an area of Marquette County that at the time was virtually untouched by white men. A few of the more prominent geologist explorers like Douglas Houghton and John Burt had gone through the area but other than that it was untravelled and unsettled. A mining captain of repute named Martin Daniels, John Tebo, and Sam York set out from Marquette in 1897, north to the Sauks Head Lake area. Mounted on horses with a string of pack mules trailing behind them, they journeyed through the huge virgin pine and hardwoods, skirting the monster outcroppings of rock, ever wary of the wolves, bears, and cougars which freely roamed the wilderness.

Gold had been discovered north of Ishpeming (as evidenced by the Ropes and the Michigan Fire Gold Mines) and traces of gold, copper, and silver were found on Mount Mesnard, south of Marquette. All around Marquette discoveries were being made and Daniels and his companions were certain that to the north would be no exception. There had been speculation on the possibilities for years previous in mining circles but its inaccessibility made its overall cost unfeasible. The trio wanted to prove otherwise.

They searched the wilderness while living in tents and acquired their food by hunting and fishing, year around, rarely returning to Marquette and their families. They chipped rock and dug test shafts. They suffered through every kind of weather that Lake Superior could throw at them. The life that they had chosen for themselves wasn’t an easy one.

The next spring, in 1898, their efforts bore fruit. Martin Daniels brought back ore samples that was rich in copper. Once again that familiar mineral was discovered in the U.P. This time there came a twist. When Capt. Daniels returned in the fall, the ore not only carried large concentrations of copper, but also, there was considerable silver and yes, gold! Daniels had little trouble hiring ten more men to work what he called the "Franklin A" mine, named after Daniels’ youngest child and the initials of John Tebo’s youngest sister.

The news was anything but a secret and several adventurers set out for the area searching for riches creating a small Sauks Head gold rush. But, the trio had prepared for this. They had purchased all of the surrounding area of their claim. Besides being known for locating mineral deposits like a bloodhound, Martin Daniels was known for his business aptitude too, so he tried to anticipate everything he could.

While in Marquette on that fall trip, he also set up a company called the Sauks Head Mining Ventures. All accounts were set up and he made arrangements for the printing of stocks as a means of financing his endeavors.

To the west of Daniels’ diggings was a true rarity for that area, a homestead, owned by the Krieg family on the Big Garlic River. The news of the Daniels discoveries prompted them to start their own explorations. Test shafts of their own was sunk in 1899. Their strike was announced which also led to the formation of a company of their own called the Sauks Head Copper Mining and Development Company. Frank Krieg was superintendent and John Krieg came from Detroit to help work it.

A rivalry ensued between the Daniels and the Krieg mines. Both sent back regular reports on their progress and the quality of ore produced. Each were selling stock in their operations in attempts to raise funds. The Kriegs sold theirs to interested parties in Detroit for 25 cents a share while Martin Daniels sold his to Marquette and area residents for 50 cents each. Both mines had to ship their ore overland by wagons to the mouths of the Little and Big Garlic Rivers where there was always a race to obtain shipping space on the occasional ship that would anchor offshore.

1902 saw both mines in peak production. Gold, silver and copper were all of the finest quality and appeared to be in larger abundance than either company had hoped in the beginning. The deeper each mine went, the wider and purer the veins got. Martin Daniels and Frank Krieg both commented freely on how they thought they had struck upon the richest deposits in the U.P.

A mine inspector who visited both mines that year named Joseph Tregonning concurred with these boasts. He said that the veins probably ran for miles and upon inspection said that the vein was nine feet wide at the Daniels site and was twelve feet wide at the Krieg site. He claimed that it was a good possibility that it was the identical vein that the Ropes Gold Mine had tapped. Tregonning stated that "There is no doubt that there is a bonanza at Sauks Head."

December of 1902 saw a reorganization of the Daniels mine. Money was becoming scarce and when Martin tried to sell stocks, it was difficult because of the similarities of names between the companies, prospective buyers weren’t sure anymore which mine they were buying into. Consequently he changed the name of his to The Original Sauks Head Mine Limited. With the new name and some new loans he invested in more equipment with all of the capital he could muster.

But, the Daniels luck had run out and in the summer of 1903, work was stopped. The difficulties of shipment, bringing the ore to the surface, coupled with the slowness of digging with hand tools finally strapped the finances into bankruptcy. With the abandonment, the shafts quickly filled with water and was never given another thought as to reopening or salvaging.

Meanwhile, the Kriegs were flourishing. They hadn’t spread themselves quite so thin and were into a slightly richer vein than Daniels had been. Now with no more competition for stocks and shipping, production was pushed to the limits. Their shaft was down 120 feet and branching off. Optimism was intense. Plans for a stamp mill was drawn up and a new shaft house erected. Everybody was going to get rich.

As the work continued unabated, some of the workers struck into a large piece of stone and as it fell loose, the Big Garlic River rushed in. Struggling through fast rising waters, the wet and scrambling miners escaped safely, the mine being the only casualty. It was irreversibly flooded. This was the end of the Krieg Mine and any other attempt at a later time never materialized.

It was also the end of what could have been eventually an Upper Peninsula gold rush. But instead the entire story faded into obscurity like so many other stories in the U.P., a bonanza lost yet lying there still, waiting for the next adventurers to try their luck.