The Cornish Mines – by Graham Jaehnig (The Daily Mining Gazette – May 30, 2015)

From the very beginning of the mineral rush in 1843, miners from other countries worked Copper Country lodes. John Hays, in working the area around Copper Harbor, worked teams of German coal miners he had retained from Pennsylvania. Colonel Charles Gratiot, working for the Lake Superior Copper Company, had brought with him a crew of some fourteen Cornish miners from the lead district of Wisconsin.

Cornwall is a small peninsula on the southwest portion of England that juts into the Atlantic Ocean, and enjoys a remarkable mining history. Mining in Cornwall had begun as early as the Bronze Age (2100-1500 BCE) and by the beginning of the 17th century CE, the Cornish had earned the reputation as experts and world leaders in mining and mineral dressing.

At the time when Cornish mines were becoming too deep to be profitably mined, large copper deposits were discovered in England’s North Wales. To compete with these new, shallow mines, Cornish engineers made great advancements in mining technology, such as pumping engines and mineral processing.

By the mid-1840s, as the Cornish copper industry was in major decline, the mineral lands of Lake Superior were just beginning to make world news for their finds of huge masses of pure copper.

The Lake Superior mineral rush was the first major mining rush of the United States. While other mines operated in various states, there was nothing to compare to the mineral lodes of Michigan, and few Americans possessed knowledge required to mine as extensively as what would soon occur in the Copper Country. As mining was just beginning in Michigan, mining in Cornwall was major decline, and the Cornish miners became very desirable to American owned mines.

As American mining firms knew very little of hard rock, deep shaft mining, they trusted their companies, and their developments, to Cornish experts. One example is Richard Edwards. Edwards was born in Devonshire, in Cornwall, in 1809. Working in the mines of that region from the time he was a boy, he literally grew up in mines and mining.

When he arrived in the Copper Country in 1853, he was engaged by the Albion Mining Company, near Eagle River, as the superintendent of that mine. Until the early 20th century, Cornishmen served as mining captains, shift bosses, and superintendents, at nearly every mine operating in the Copper Country.

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