Mining history

Lani and Tom Poynter, with their pet skunk Oreo, stand next to a train display in the Delaware Mine Gift Shop.

 

Story and photos by Deborah K. Frontiera

The first thing that Delaware Mine owner Tom Poynter told to me as I talked with him about the mine was that the “working years” of the mine numbered 40, and this is the 40th year since he opened the mine for tours.

“The tours will last much longer than the original mine,” he said.

Tom acquired the property at the Delaware in May of 1977 from Lake Superior Land Company after looking at different mine sites for a year-and-a-half. He felt the Delaware was the best option for development for tours.

Even so, there was still plenty of work to be done to get it ready for tours. The mine shafts had been bulldozed shut, there was no road, and no electricity.

Tom began by building a road simply to get near the operation. Just as a bulldozer had covered the entrance to the mine shaft, he used one to open it back up again.

The first few weeks, he and those working with him used camping lanterns and flashlights. They got a construction generator and then traded that for bigger one that came from an ice cream truck. They built an outhouse to start with, (but the mine  tours now offer chemical portable toilets.) Once the debris from the entrance was moved, and some equipment left in disarray had been taken care of, he could see that the mine itself was in excellent shape—the rock was as solid and safe as it had been over 100 years before…

To read the full story, please pick up a copy of this months Marquette Monthly at one of our distribution outlets.

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