Thursday, April 8, 2021

(98) Upper Pennsula Michigan Cornish Stamp MIlls


Cornish Stamp Mills


The following information was obtained prior to, during and after my trip to Michigan Upper Peninsula (UP) to learn more about the Cornish Gravity Style Stamp Mills used over the years in the UP.

The first contact that I experienced with Cornish Mills was a U Tube video of a Cornish Mill in Pochwerk, Cornwall that was shown in operation. You could see looking at the video that the mill was different from the California stamp mills in the USA. It had wood stamp stems, the cams (barrel design) were different, the classic bull wheel was missing, and the shoes were rectangular. I did not think about the video until I heard that the UP once had Cornish Stamp Mills brought to the UP by the Cornish immigrants. The video reported that the stamps were 400 to 500 pounds each and (8) stamps could crush about 100 tons of ore per week. Click on the video below.


Prior to Visit I started to research mining in the UP and found that not only the Cornish gravity mills were used, but also a steam driven stamp mill that I will discuss in another presentation. Prior to visiting the UP I contacted several individuals at the Michigan Tech and Keweenaw National Historical Park to find out where the mills were located and if there were any Cornish mills still existing in the area. The first person I contacted was Steve Delong, Landscape Architect at Keweenaw National Historical Park. He referred me to Tim Scarlet an engineer at Michigan Tech who might have knowledge on the Cornish Mills. Chris Trevino was also identified as a person that was interested in the early stamp mills in the UP. Sean Gohman’s name came up in reference to the stamp mills. He is a noted scholar on mills in the UP. I also researched the area to see if there were any Cornish mills still in existence and through the Michigan Tech Archives, obtained pictures of early Cornish Mills on the UP. The two pictures below show the early Cornish Mills that were on the Upper Peninsula back in the day.


This was very positive information that proved there were gravity Cornish stamp mills in Upper Peninsula at one time. During my review I found pictures on the Internet of a gravity Cornish Stamp Mill near the Ontonagon in the Porcupine Mountain district (Wilderness). The pictures were taken by an amateur explorer that were very interesting and showed most of the parts. During my discussions I was referred again to Tim Scarlett, who was familiar with the remains of the Cornish stamp mill at the Carp Mine. He said that he could arrange a hike to the millsite, but it was a long walk and very hilly. I told him I would contact him when I arrived in Houghton in a couple weeks

During my Visit I managed to make it to the Houghton area where we stayed during my visit to the UP. Houghton was chosen since Michigan Tech was in the area. We spent (3) days in the area, one day touring the Upper Peninsula mines, discussing and viewing steam operated Nordberg stamp mills, and discussing and viewing gravity Cornish Stamp Mills. The Nordberg steam stamp mills will be discussed in another article.


Tim Scarlet met me at my motel at about 08:30 and headed towards Ontonagon, picking up one of Tim’s associates.


We drove about an hour and stopped at a trail head where a sign was posted and then hiked in. We traveled for a while on a marked path and then left the marked trial. I was lost, but Tim and his associate seemed to know where they were going. The mine was closed down in 1929 and a fire destroyed the wood parts sometime after, leaving only the metal parts. It does not look like it was tampered with over the years. The boiler, mortar boxes, roller cams and stamps appear to be untouched and in the original orientation that the mill was constructed. The only concern was the area was devoid of any equipment such as sluice tables, buddles, washing areas, battery sill, or jigging machines that would have been in the area. There was also no piles of stamp sands visible anywhere in the area. The Upper Big Carp River was several hundred feet from the millsite that supplied water to the operations. We did not make it to the river since it was raining. That could be where some of the equipment was located. I noticed that there was NO rust on the cams and the shaft. This is very unusual, in that, these items have been in the weather for over 80 years.

Carp Lake Cornish Stamp Mill Visit



Cornish Stamp Mills vs. California Stamp Mills



There were several questions that came out of the trip to the Upper Peninsula and investigation of the old Cornish Stamp Mills. The following are some questions that were identified during the trip:

Cornish Stamp Mill Sites How many stamp mill sites were in the Upper Peninsula? I obtained a listing of stamp mill sites in the Upper Peninsula from the folks at Michigan Tech Library. The information was retrieved from “Copper Handbook” Horace J. Stevens, 1911. This was a very interesting listing of  (40) the millsites, the number of stamps and support equipment. It also gave a date for most of the millsites. It appears that most of the millsites were Cornish Mills. You could tell by the number of stamps and the statement of “gravity” in the description. The mills that were placed in service after 1860 were most likely  later design or steam actuated stamp mills.

Stamp Mill Identifications The stamp mill at Carp lake did not have any identification of where it was manufactured. Most California mills had the manufacturer stamped on the mortar boxes or the cams. That was the only mortar boxes I found during my trip and they were not stamped. I talked with several engineers at Michigan Tech and Keweenaw National Historical Park, but they could not shed any light on the manufacturers of that mill.

Stamp Mill Foundries Where were the stamp mill components manufactured? I did get the names of three foundries in the area.

Hodge Foundry Lake Superior Iron Works This company was in business from 1880 to 1902 and catered primarily to the three stamp mills in the vicinity, the Quincy Mill, the Pewabic Mill, and the Franklin Mill, all located in Ripley.

Portage Lake Foundry & Machinery Company The company in business between the 1860s and 1920s.The primary products of the company included stamping equipment, stamp shoes, rock crushers, jigs and pumps. An early mining machinery manufacturer for Michigan copper mines.

Knap & Wade, Pittsburg This companies name was stamped on one of the Boss Heads on the Cliff Mine Stamp Mill during archeological digs. I found no other information on this company.



      Cornish Stamp Mills vs. California Stamp Mills