Curse of the Copper

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By By Jon Paul Michaels & Brent Michaels

As mid-summer afternoons on northern Lake Huron go, August 9, 1865 wasn’t anything special. A light rain fell, and a fresh easterly breeze made the lake surface dance on light choppy waves. The Civil War had been over for nearly five months and the Northern States were still morning the assassination of President Lincoln.

Hope was in the air along with steady rain, as the S. S. Pewabic headed south down the lake. Built in 1863 by Peck and Masters of Cleveland, OH for the Superior Transit Co., the Pewabic had a length of 200.25 feet, a beam of 31 feet and a depth of 12.42 feet.

One of the new- fangled steamboats in an age where sailing ships still dominated shipping on the Great Lakes, the S.S. Pewabic had loaded a diversified cargo in Houghton, MI and other Lake Superior ports.

The vast underground natural resources of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were just now being tapped and, of them all, copper was currently “King”.

It should have been no surprise that the Pewabic’s cargo manifest listed; Copper ingots – 350 tons, 18 kegs of silver, 75 tons of hematite iron ore, 25 barrels of fish and two horses. A rumored additional stash of $50,000 in cash and jewels was also reportedly secured in the ship’s safe.

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