Here at the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives we are proud of the many collections and resources we have to offer to the public. We enjoy helping each one of our researchers uncover the unique histories they’ve come to explore. And every so often, their discoveries make for an interesting day for us, too.
Ruth Smith is a born and raised Michigamme resident who has set out to write a book about the history of the mines in the Michigamme area. So far, she has spent four days in the NMU Archives reading letters dating back to 1870 written by the mine superintendents in the Michigamme Mine and addressed to the main office in Chicago. Smith says she was surprised when she read the letters because they were not the dry statistics she was expecting. Many of the letters contain stories and updates about everyday life at the mine. There are comments about the weather and references to insect problems, even a statement from the superintendent saying, “It’s election day today, the men won’t work.” Smith enjoys getting a look into what life at the mine was like back then; her family was very involved in the Michigamme mines when she was younger, and that connection helps fuel her interest in the topic. Her mother was born at one of the mine locations and her grandfather was an accountant for the mine.
“I’ve always been around those mines” Smith says. “I can find each one of them to this day. If someone doesn’t do this research, soon there will be no one left who will.”
Smith works at the Michigamme Historical Society, but this research is one of personal interest. “It’s my baby” she jokes. If it isn’t impressive enough that Ruth is doing this research by herself, remember that she is 86 years old! When asked why she still does extensive research like this at her age she simply replied, “To me, it is absolutely fascinating.” She has done research at the NMU Archives as well as the Michigan Technological University Archives in Houghton. This project has been her focus for the past four months and she hopes to be finished by mid-October. “I just finished the first box, Hallelujah!” she announced as I finished up my questions. It looks like she’s well on her way. We wish her luck and look forward to reading her book when it comes out.
Prepared by Savannah Mallo and Olivia Ernst.