Location: Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
Visiting Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a step back in history to a place where nature and humans co-existed. Buried among thousands of acres of old-growth forests and stunning vistas are abandoned mines, echoes from communities long gone. There is no place better within the park to experience the ghosts of the past than Nonesuch Ruins.
In the winter of 1865, Ed Less discovered the Nonesuch vein of copper on the Little Iron River. Mining first began in 1867 and by the time it ended in 1912, the mine was opened and closed 5 times, under different ownership. With it grew a community of workers and their families.
The population peaked at 300 people between 1881 and 1884. The town included a US Post Office, open from 1876 to 1887, a school, boarding house, livery stable, markets, stage-coach service, and even a uniformed baseball team.
Lacking in production and with copper prices low, the mine eventually failed. In the 1940’s, Michigan bought the mine property and made it part of the Porcupine Mountains.
Today visitors can hike the easy 3-mile round trip and see what remains of the little town. Rubble from stone buildings, collapsed walls, an old hoist, and an abandoned mine entrance. There are informative signs throughout the area, providing a glimpse into what life was like for the residences of Nonesuch.
The most powerful moment for us was standing in the middle of the field. The field was once filled with market wares, and bursting with life. Now the land has taken it back, leaving no trace of what once stood there.
Nearby the Little Iron River tumbles a small waterfall known as Nonesuch Falls. We were a bit disappointed with the size and flow of the waterfall, but we did visit during one of the hottest and driest times of the year. It may be more impressive in the early spring after the snowmelt.
Mining has played a very large role in the development of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. People from all over the world traveled here to make money and raise families. It was a rough life. Places like Nonesuch ruins paired with a little imagination gives us a glimpse into the lives of the past and shows us how nature reclaims the land once we are long gone.
For more information visit the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.