The Old U.P. Town of Michigamme: Moose, Mine, a Movie, and More
Driving through Michigamme, you might think it's just another old Michigan Upper Peninsula mining town that went downhill after the mines closed down. True, there are plenty of old empty buildings still standing, many of them over one hundred years old...others have been torn down completely, making the downtown area look 100 times different than it did in the early 1900s.
The churches are shut down, with one of them turned into a library. There's a post office, some houses, a museum, a souvenir/gift shop, and an eatery just outside of town, the 'Mount Shasta' restaurant.
However, don't be too hasty in blowing off Michigamme as just another U.P. town. After all, they did shoot some scenes of a Jimmy Stewart movie at that very same restaurant – Anatomy of a Murder – in the late 1950s.
Not only that, but another big deal that involved Michigamme was the Great Moose Transfer of the 1980s, when Canadian moose were lifted over and flown to the Upper Peninsula to help populate the area.
In 1872, Jacob Houghton founded the Michigamme Mine (originally called Mount Shasta, according to lmpowners.org). The town was immediately platted that same year by the Michigamme Mining Company, and the first building in the community was a log cabin built to house the mining engineers.
The post office opened in 1873, the same year the village was incorporated. Also that year, a fire blazed through town, with just 3 homes and one business surviving. By September, the town had been quickly re-built, but the townsfolk panicked that their land was now worthless. Even the mine had its share of woes – once having a work force of 300, the mine employee number had shrunk down to 17. needless to say, perseverance paid off, and they lasted for over three decades.
Thirty two years later, in 1905, the mine had been depleted, shut down, and residents began looking elsewhere for employment and homes.
Michigamme's post office still operates to this day. You'll find Michigamme (which is a Native American term for 'large lake'), in Marquette County, thirty seven miles west of Marquette on US-41. It's a very unique roadtrip experience that you really shouldn't pass up next time you're up there.
Stop in, look around, check out the museum, grab a bite at Mount Shasta, buy a moose t-shirt or hat, and be on your way.
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