Notes from the North Country, by Lon and Lynn Emerick

Notes from the North Country
Let’s take a stroll through the autumn forest, admire the annual display of color and visit the ghost village of Rock Kiln in western Alger County.
An interpretive sign provides some background on this village that flourished in the late 1880s. Just ahead is a long row of the remains of twelve huge kilns; here charcoal was prepared to fuel the blast furnaces smelting iron ore in Munising, Ishpeming and Negaunee.
In 1880, Charles Schaffer was hired to supervise the building of charcoal kilns at this and two other sites—Onota and Whitefish. The first kiln attendants were French Canadians and Swedes; Albert Trombly was the head collier (tender of kilns) and Gustav Lindquist was hired as blacksmith. A large boarding house was built.
Later in the brief operation here, many Finnish immigrants were hired to cut the hardwood that fueled the kilns. They chose to live south of the railroad line in a site that came to be known as Finn Hollow.
See the huge field just north of the kilns? That was where the workers piled the wood that fueled the charcoal kilns. Each kiln held an amazing thirty-five cords of hardwood, and the surrounding forest was soon stripped of usable wood.
Look for the pipeline that brought water to the community from a large pond to the north. Scout around the east side of the large field for a long, low stone fence that supported the water pipe.
Life was harsh in the wilds of Alger County in the nineteenth century. A small cemetery is located to the east of the town site.
Here you will find small wooden crosses marking the graves of three young girls, all daughters of the same family, who died of diphtheria in 1885.
A local group of volunteers—headed by Bea Anderson and John Parlin and assisted by the U.S. Forest Service and members of the Alger County Historical Society—is attempting to restore interpretive signs and stabilize at least one of the kilns. Last year they removed brushy tangles so the structures can be seen more easily.
Please treat this historical site with respect. Tread lightly and do not remove any artifacts from the old village. The people who lived, labored and died here so long ago deserve a full measure of our courtesy.
—Lon and Lynn Emerick

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