Central Upper Peninsula

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The majestic forested land of the Central Upper Peninsula lies between the rugged shore of Lake Superior on the north and the gentler sandy shore of Lake Michigan on the south. Islands and bays shelter harbors on both of the big lakes. Grand Island protects the harbor at Munising Bay on Lake Superior. On Lake Michigan, Green Bay shelters the harbor at Menominee, and Little and Big Bays De Noc give refuge to harbors at Escanaba, Gladstone, and Fayette.

Fur trading and fishing were the earliest economic ventures. But the forests of Alger, Luce, Schoolcraft, Delta, and Menominee counties and a system of water transportation supplied the foundation of the region's economy. Although vast virgin forests were apparent to French voyageurs and missionaries and to traders who explored the coastlines of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, logging and milling did not begin in earnest until the mid-nineteenth century. In the 1830s lumbermen built sawmills at the mouths of the rivers on the north shore of Lake Michigan. The industry peaked between 1889 and 1900, when twenty-three mills operated at the mouth of the Menominee River. The lumbering industry was augmented with wood product and paper manufacturing. Menominee, Escanaba, and Manistique grew and developed around docks and mills. The character of the architecture is connected to the preoccupation with wood as a dimension of life.

In the 1870s, C. J. L. Meyer of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, founded Hermansville and built a saw and shingle mill, a hardwood flooring factory, and a company town. This town of wooden buildings stands intact in Menominee County and is one of the state's best examples of a lumbering or wood products company town. Other company towns based on iron processing, charcoal producing, or lumber cutting and milling are at Munising, Fayette, Newberry, and Manistique.

The mines of the Marquette, Menominee, and Gogebic iron ranges contributed to the economy and growth of the Central Upper Peninsula. Railroad companies coveted Escanaba's deepwater harbor on Lake Michigan, which was closer by far than Marquette Harbor to the steel mills at Chicago, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. The Peninsula Railroad from Negaunee to Escanaba opened in 1864, and docks were built to load and ship iron ore from the Marquette Iron Range to steel mills below. In the late 1870s, a rail line was laid from Escanaba westward to the ore fields of the Menominee Range. Today, pellets of ore from the Marquette Range are shipped from Escanaba.

Smelting furnaces needed charcoal, and the hardwood forests of the Central Upper Peninsula furnished the timber that was burned to charcoal in furnaces throughout the region. From the mid-1860s to 1890, using local limestone for flux and local hardwood for charcoal, the Jackson Iron Company smelted iron ore from Negaunee at Fayette on the Garden Peninsula of Delta County ( DT5). Blast furnaces for smelting iron ore into pig iron were operated by the Bay Furnace Company at Onota ( AR7) and the Schoolcraft Blast Furnace in Munising. In yet another example the White Marble Lime Company built kilns near Gulliver (Duck Inn Road) in 1889. Lime mortar was produced by roasting limestone or dolomite in the large stone kilns. Some furnaces and kilns survive in various states ranging from masonry structures to ruins with piles of rock rubble and slag.

Today paper mills are found throughout the Central Upper Peninsula. The Manistique Pulp and Paper Company ( ST2), organized in 1916, operates as Manistique Paper, Inc., with mills at Manistique. Mead Paper Division has mills in Escanaba, and Kimberly-Clark has mills at Munising. The Louisiana-Pacific Corporation Plant opened in Newberry in 1985 to make particle board.

Excellent fishing, hunting, camping, and winter sports attract tourists to the scenic forests, streams, and lakes of the Central Upper Peninsula. Blaney Park ( ST5), a resort on cutover land, and tourist cabins and motels along the major highways are among the remnants of the tourist industry that flourished in the 1930s with the widespread increase in automobile transportation. Much of the land in the Central Upper Peninsula is under the jurisdiction of the national and state forests and parks, and the U.S. Forest Service has its administrative buildings for the Hiawatha National Forest at Munising ( AR3) and Manistique. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stretches along nearly twenty miles of Lake Superior coastline eastward from Munising to Grand Marais and encompasses twenty-nine-thousand acres. Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Hiawatha National Forest, Lake Superior and Tahquamenon River state forests, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park preserve vast acres of wilderness and forest and wildlife.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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