One doesn’t have to go to Appalachia to see the poverty and ghost towns from failed and abandoned mining.
One need only take a relatively short drive from Minnesota to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where copper mining isn’t what it once was.
Life might seem bleak in a ghost town. For some people though, it’s ideal.
Mining and lumber pretty much built Donken, Michigan, which sits on Lake Superior’s south shore.
“Now it’s just a brief interruption in a corridor of trees along a narrow highway,” the Detroit Free Press writes.
Mining ended with the collapse of copper prices during the Great Depression.
The mining/lumber economy has given way to tourism.
“This is also a very familiar story to so many American places, especially industrial places where you have a lot of people come and work in one particular industry,” said Sarah Fayen Scarlett, a 41-year-old assistant professor of history at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, which was founded in 1885 as the Michigan Mining School specifically to train new mining engineers.
“It’s a one-industry town mostly, and then when something goes wrong with the industry it really, really affects the people who live there. And that’s something that’s happened over and over again in so many American towns.”
She was standing in Lake Linden, near the ruins of a stamp mill for the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, for years the leading copper producer in the world.
An iPad in her hands featured an app that she helped create called the Keweenaw Time Traveler, which allows users to summon historical maps of any place they’re standing in the Keweenaw Peninsula, ghost town or otherwise, to evoke from the past the names of the buildings and streets that in many cases are now gone, and to give life to the ruins left behind. It showed a long row of buildings at the spot where she stood, where now there’s just a grassy park.
“I think there’s a lot of human story in ghost towns, even though there aren’t people there anymore,” Scarlett said. “They’re so evocative of what might have been there.”
Some people still live in the ghost towns of the U.P.
“I love it. Oh, I love it. You don’t even know,” one resident said. “I love just the peace and quiet, just the wind blowing. You can’t open up your door in a big city and piss out your back door. But here, you can.”
It’s a fabulous look at history of the region with incredible photos.