2019 Mining History Association Tour

Mather “B” Mine, Negaunee High School,
Student Documentary, “A Vanishing Breed:
The Men and Memories of Mather B”
Negaunee, Michigan
June 8, 2019



 The Mather “B” Mine in Negaunee, MI was at the east end of a large underground complex that extended to the Mather “A” Mine in Ishpeming, MI. It was opened in 1950 by Cleveland Cliffs in partnership with Bethlehem Steel. It was the last of the great underground mines on the Marquette Iron Range. Initially, natural iron ore was hoisted to the surface and placed in the huge stockpiling area. Rail cars were loaded from the piles and sent to the ore docks in Marquette. In 1967, ore began to be shipped to the Ore Improvement Plant (OIP) in Eagle Mills, MI where it was pelletized. Later, the Pioneer Pettet Plant was built for the same purpose. The Mather “B” closed in 1979 as the industry had moved away from natural iron ores and shifted to higher grade pellets made from taconite ore from the Empire and Republic Mines.

The Negaunee High School, Home of the Miners, is in the repurposed buildings that once served as the Mather “B” Miners’ Dry, shops, offices, and Mine Rescue Station.

At the school entrance is a sculpture and memorial plaque to the 22 miners who lost their lives in the Mather “B” Mine, and the nearby Mather “A” Mine, and Ore Improvement Plant during their 29 years of operation. CLICK HERE to display a larger image of the plaque.  The sculpture was created by student Davis Bagley.

Mark Langenfeld describes the operation of the Mather “B” Mine and the interconnecting tunnel system between the Miners’ Dry, the Shaft and Hoist House.  CLICK HERE to view cross-sections of the orebody (USGS Professional Paper 788).

The foundations of the Mather “B” Shaft are in the foreground, immediately behind the high school.  The Hoist House is seen at the rear.

The large Hoist House once held massive drum hoists used to lower and raise men, iron ore, and supplies in the shaft.  CLICK HERE for a handout showing the hoisting apparatus.

Hoisting cables ran horizontally from the Hoist House to giant sheve wheels at the base of the headframe.

As many as 1,000 miners worked at the Mather “B.”  An extensive series of tunnels connected the Mather “B” buildings enabling the miners to avoid the cold winter weather as they headed to and from the Shaft.  (US Bureau of Mines Information Circular 7702)

The tunnels are now used for storage by the school.

to learn more about Negaunee High School and the documentaries. 

The MHAers had an opportunity to view the award-winning student documentary, “A Vanishing Breed – The Men and Memories of Mather B.”  The documentary was produced in 2018 by the Miner Broadcasting Program of Negaunee Public Schools under the direction of teacher, Andy Skewis.  Students Keegan McGonigle and Davis Bagley filmed over 100 hours of oral history interviews with Mather “B” Mine workers and edited them for the hour and one half long film.  The film received the 2019 Michigan Association of School Boards Foundation’s Education Excellence Award.


Copies of “A Vanishing Breed” are available from Negaunee Public Schools for $17 ($15 for the DVD, $2 for shipping). Please send your checks to Negaunee High School, 500 West Arch Street, Negaunee MI 49866.


In 2017, the Negaunee program produced their first film, “Those We Were Waiting For.”  It told the story of the Barnes-Hecker Mine Disaster that killed 51 men.  That film received an award from the Historical Society of Michigan.  Copies of that DVD are also available. 

Before the screening of the documentary, the MHAers had an opportunity to experience a Marquette Iron Range treat, Cudighi sandwiches.  The mammoth slab of Italian sausage contains an unusual mix of spices.  CLICK HERE for one of many online recipes.


Having trouble remembering the name of the sandwich? MHAer Mike Canty says it is easy, just think “copper (Cu)-dig-hi.”



Photos Courtesy Susan and Mike Canty, Dawn and Johnny Johnsson,  Mike Kaas, USBM, and USGS.

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