Where Are You From?

MOTHER LODE, an historical and psychological mystery

The question comes up: Why did you use the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a backdrop for your novel MOTHER LODE? Did you grow up there? No, I’m from Lower Michigan— Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor. But my mother was raised in Ripley, a small town near Hancock. We used to visit my grandmother when I was a child. I remember her gardens, the tulips growing down the hillside, which she sold—in part to support herself. I recall the old well, the steep hill behind the house that led up to the Quincy Mine, the wrap-around porch with the Concord grapes I learned to love, and best of all the view of Portage Lake, with its parade of vessels, both pleasure and ommercial, plying the waters below.  The other reason I chose Mining Country in which to place my story is that the mines became a metaphor for the lives of my characters, whose secrets and twisted passions lay as deeply below the surface as the copper they thrived on.

In 1845 huge deposits of copper were discovered in the Keweenaw Peninsula—the upper part of the Upper Peninsula, four years before the gold rush in California. It never created the romance that the gold rush did because it was not something a single man could go after and get rich, as little of it was on the surface. One had to work for a mining company at very poor wages. People came from every part of Europe, hoping to better their lives, but the money was in the East. Less than five percent of stock was owned by residents of Keweenaw.

Old chimney still standing by smelting plant

Within ten years The Copper Country, as it is known, became a
hub of activity. As many as thirty-six trains rode the rails in key cities of Houghton, Hancock and Calumet. Demand for copper for electrical wire, the Civil War and WWI called for it. Copperdom became a significant part of the Industrial Revolution. Commerce of every kind reigned in these parts, including 99 saloons in Calumet alone!


Calumet Opera House, still in use

Entertainment was big too. Enrico Caruso, Sarah Berhardt, Lillian Russell and Douglas Fairbanks were among those who strode the boards of theatres in Copperdom. The beautiful Opera House, which we visited in Calumet opened in 1900, with electric lighting from a chandelier.

In about 1920 the demand for copper tapered off due to an abundance of it produced at that time, and also, although there was still copper in the mines, it was too deep to make it financially viable to go after. Many of the mines were over a vertical mile deep!

So this is a bit of history– maybe more later if it interests you. Please leave comments. And where are you from? Let’s share stories.

Order MOTHER LODE from CreateSpace.com/3555336,  $14.95 (preferred,) or at Amazon.com

‘Til next time,







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2 Responses to Where Are You From?

  1. Hi Wendy,

    I don’t see any earlier comment from you, but so glad to get this one. I lived in Kalamazoo until I went to the University of Michigan, where I rec’d Bachelors and Masters. Taught in Ann Arbor and area for 27 years before moving to Bay Area, CA. One of my plays, THE ZOO KEEPER was produced at Kalamazoo Civic Theatre. Do you know Jim Carver? I was in several Junior Civic Productions in early 50s. Do you know a dance teacher, Jerre Locke? I went to junior high with her. . . , The birches, yes, I envisioned them before I saw them, was watching for them. You’re right–not nearly as many as before. The picture was taken this last month on US41 near Lake Superior. . . Have you read MOTHER LODE?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I already sent you some background information on my great-grandparents (Capt of Red Jacket Mine, 50-year Medallions from Tamarack Mineral Company, “Silver Star”tavern on Tezcuco St.), but now it’s about where I am from …

    Born and raised in Marquette, but spent a lot of time in Copper Country with grandparents. Bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan in the 60’s. Moved to Kalamazoo and spent 37 years on the dance faculty at WMU. Choreographed for the Kalamazoo Civic, New Vic, etc. in the late 60’s and early 70’s, so I wonder if our paths ever crossed (noticed your interest in theatre).

    Love your birches on your website. Looks like a stretch of road between Negaunee and Ishpeming (across US 41 from Teal Lake) USED to look. A lot of those trees have been dying off in the past decade.

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