Bush Pilot- Iron Mines of Ely

by Chick Beel

Part 3<BR><BR>Now, how about Miners Lake? In February 2000 1 received an email from Jim Cochran, who used to live in Calumet Location. The family left Ely in 1930 when he was 10 years old. I believe his father was a policeman for plant protection at the Oliver Iron Mining Company. I vaguely remember someone in officer’s uniform, but the name Kauppi comes to mind. I was six years old at the time.<BR><BR>Jim was in Ely in 1999 but didn’t see anyone he knew. He asked a man how long that lake had been there, and the man replied that the lake had always been there. Not so. <BR><BR>Jim said he walked home from Pioneer School (at Eighth Avenue and Camp Street) to Calumet Location, through the land where the lake is now. I walked that road often, along with many others. <BR><BR>After the bus unloaded students at Pioneer School, it continued on to Washington School. At Calumet the road went through the Oliver shops and over the dead end railroad tracks. It crossed more tracks near Ely and came out at Washington Street and Eighth Avenue, near a house that used to be the Oliver Pay Office. To the miners, that was its main function, but it served other functions as well. I found where the road came out on Washington Street, but it is too grown over to see at Calumet.<BR><BR>To keep the mines operating, water had to be pumped out 24 hours a day. The water went into Shagawa Lake, but it wasn’t noticed until there was a strong west wind. Then the water at the beach at Sandy Point turned red.<BR><BR>Some of the miners’ contracts were dry with a decent temperature, but others were like working in the rain. It was constant and the men worked in rubber suits. <BR><BR>In 1947, while I was working at B shaft, we were living at Eighth Avenue, east of the park. It had been raining for a very long time and the water filled the basement and the park looked like a lake. I had the 11/7 shift, so I put on 16” rubber boots and headed to work. I walked down to the tracks and then to the shaft.<BR><BR>When I got there, I saw that the earth was washed out near the enclosed area of the skip rails. Water and dirt were pouring into the mine. I went into the dry house to check with the rest of the crew. We decided that we couldn’t do anything there without heavy equipment, so we went home. The water depth came to within six inches of the pumps underground. Fortunately, the water stopped rising at that point, otherwise the pumps would have had to be shut down. The word was that if the mine had to shut down, it would take six months to get it going again.<BR><BR>My father said that when he came to Calumet in 1919 the land was relatively level to Ely and B shaft. At that time Pioneer had been in operation for 30 years. By the time it was shut down, it had operated for another 48 years. Chandler operated for 54 years, both underground and open pit, but the Pioneer out produced all of the other mines in the area. The 41 million long tons of ore removed accounted for the settling of the surface of the west end of the pit. On the east end, the Zenith and the Sibley mine produced less, and the ground didn’t settle as much.<BR><BR>Zenith shut down in 1965 and the Pioneer shut down in 1967. Without any more pumping, the water slowly began to rise in the pit after the mines filled up. This had been going on for several years when a fellow came to see me at the Forest Service hangar. <BR><BR>I was the chief pilot at that time. I don’t remember his name, but I knew him. He said he had to know how high the lake was in relation to Shagawa Lake. He asked if I could do it from the air. I told him that I thought I could. I went up in the Cessna and spent 20 minutes circling at different altitudes. I told him that the new lake was 75 feet lower than Shagawa. <BR><BR>Several weeks later he came and told me that my information didn’t sound right so he hired an outfit with all the fancy gadgets, and they concluded the new lake was 73 feet lower. <BR><BR>He said, “I should have listened to you because the new information cost me $3,000 and you did it for nothing.”