Edwin J. Hulbert

Edwards, George, “The Late Edwin J. Hulbert”, Mining and Engineering World, Volume 33, Nov. 26, 1910 p 988.

“In the recent death of Edwin J. Hulbert at Rome, Italy, there passed from life one of the greatest mining men of the early days—or of any day, for that matter-—not only in the Lake Superior region, but in the entire world. Even had he performed no other work—which is not the case—his discovery of the Calumet & Hecla copper mine in Houghton county, Mich., would have stamped him as a genius. This mine, easily the greatest on the globe, was opened in 1865.

Hulbert had the distinction of being the oldest living white person born in the upper peninsula of Michigan. His father, John Hulbert, settled at Fort Brady, Sault Ste. Marie, in 1821. The elder Hulbert was the sutler to the garrison. He was married at the Sault in 1827 to Marie E. Schoolcraft, sister of Henry R. Schoolcraft, historian, geologist and pioneer explorer of the Lake Superior country. Edwin Hulbert was born at Sault Ste. Marie April 30, 1829. Thus he was upwards of 81 years of age at the time of his demise. A portion of his boyhood was passed at Detroit.

It was through association with Schoolcraft that Hulbert went to the Michigan copper country in 1852. He was then 23 years old. He had adopted the profession of civil and mining engineer and was first employed at the old Cliff mine, in Keweenaw county. At that period it was the general belief that copper existed in paying quantities only in amygdaloid rock and fissure veins. Hulbert’s discovery of copper in conglomerate boulders near Eagle river led him to the conclusion that the red metal would be found deposited in the conglomerate reefs of the district—once the beds of seas—in sufficient richness to permit of profitable mining. He continued his investigations and finally made certain discoveries which he held to verify his suppositions.

Hulbert had not been in the copper country many years when he purchased approximately 2000 acres of land from the government at $1.25 an acre. Included in this tract was the property now controlled by the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co’. In August, 1864, while Hulbert was agent-of the old Huron mine, now part of the Isle Royale, he employed the late Captain Asz Scott to open the lode which he had reason to believe in part traversed his lands. He directed Captain Scott to proceed to a point near the site of what subsequently was the Calumet No. 4 shaft and there to sink a test pit, the depth of which he specified. There was nothing on the surface at that particular location to indicate the existence of a copper-bearing reef, yet when 8 ft. below the grass roots, Scott and his men uncovered the Calumet lode. Hulbert afterward explained that due to certain geological features ‘2 miles distant and to carefully worked-out deductions he knew that the conglomerate was just there.

The discovery of the conglomerate was followed by the organization of three mining companies to work the lode, these being the Calumet, Hecla and Hulbert’s Red Jacket. The two first- named companes controlled the outcrop for more than 2 miles, while the Red Jacket was located to the westward. The owners of the Calumet and Hecla properties felt satisfied that the Red Jacket must eventually come to them on their own terms, but Hulbert decided to open a mine there in his own way. His proposal to sink a vertical shaft to the conglomerate and then deflect the shaft to the angle of the lode was laughed at as ridiculous; but after the shaft was fairly started the feasibility of the plan was recognized by the owners of the outcrop and when the opportunity presented itself they acquired the Red Jacket mineral rights.

The early miners searched for fissure veins and had but hazy ideas regarding the conglomerate and amygdaloid lodes, which they called floors. Various attempts to develop mines on conglomerate reefs came to grief and it was for this reason that the possibility’ of opening a paying mine on the Calumet conglomerate was generally scouted by experienced mining men during the early days of the Calumet & Hecla. After that property had demonstrated its wonderful value, and thus effectually upset all previous theories regarding the conglomerates, public opinion veered to an exactly opposite quarter and many prospective bonanzas were opened on the conglomerates. None of them have ever paid, and at present a conglomerate proposition would receive but scant attention from any experienced mining man, unless the showing were of a truly phenomenal nature. With the single exception of the Calumet & Hecla, all of the big and lasting mines have been opened on amygdaloid lodes, and it is on these that every one of the new mines of the district, from Keweenaw point to the Ontonagon river, are now being exploited.

That there are fissure veins which will yet prove as rich as the old Cliff, and contact veins which may duplicate the record of the famous old Minnesota, seems probable. It is even possible, though improbable, that conglomerates may yet be found which will give the world another Calumet & Hecla. It is of interest in this connection to note that it always was the claim of Hulbert that he had discovered a reef carrying even more copper than the Calumet lode. This lode has been styled the Tomahawk. As far as known, Hulbert never disclosed the existence of this formation and by most Michigan copper mining men the Tomahawk is regarded as a myth. Houghton county, during the days of Hulbert’s activities, was covered with primeval forest, but for many years most of the land over which he conducted his explorations has been
denuded of its trees and brought out into the open light of day, exposing every ledge and vein not covered by heavy soil. Practically every inch of outcroppings has been thoroughly scrutinized time and again, and as Hulbert did not have the diamond drill to assist him in revealing a geological cross section of that portion covered by heavy overburden. he must of necessity have confined his attention to the diabase outcrops, on which the geological studies of mining engineers have been concentrated for full 40 years, and they have been unable to discover this famous Tomahawk vein, or anything approaching it in richness.

Hulbert had lived in Rome for the past 30 years. While he was a wonderful mining man—it was he that put down the first successful vertical shaft in the Lake Superior copper district, this at the Cliff mine, a project that was begun in fear and trembling by the owners—he possessed but little business ability. He hypothecated his financial interest in the great property he had discovered, and he finally lost it. He was granted a comfortable annuity by his successors, based on the transfer of his mineral rights, nevertheless he became embittered not only at his former associates but apparently at the Lake Superior region in general and he sought solace in Italy. It was because of this embittered feeling that he is said to have kept to himself the secret of the alleged Tomahawk lode.

Even his opponents—and he had opponents, for he was a man of marked individuality and strong likes and dislikes— admitted that in mining and geological scope and foresight he was a wonderful man. His examination of the Michigan copper district was of the most minute and yet of the most comprehensive character, and his mappings have set a classical standard that has never been equaled.”

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