One of Michigan's Upper Peninsula's earliest industries was iron production, powered by dozens of charcoal iron furnaces. Charcoal was the fuel for the furnaces and the Upper Peninsula's forests were devastated to produce it. Most of the charcoal was produced in huge brick or stone charcoal kilns, usually located at or near the furnaces, or along the railroad lines for easy transport to the furnaces. These kilns were the chief industry for many early settlements and were local landmarks. Tourists found the igloo-shaped kilns to be fascinating and called them "Paul Bunyan's beehives." Gradually, the charcoal kilns have deteriorated. Two reconstructed charcoal kilns have been built as reminders of the industry, one in Marquette and one in Fayette. In 1978 an inventory of Upper Peninsula historic engineering and industrial sites included all the most representative, best preserved charcoal kilns. The survey included then-current photographs of the kilns. This article complements an earlier one in the last volume of this journal that discussed Upper Peninsula charcoal kiln history; the 1978 inventory sites were revisited, and charcoal kiln condition and background are discussed. Includes are current photographs of all charcoal kilns discussed. Major sites were in Marquette, Harvey, Onota, Rock River, Mangum, Fayette, Wilson, Bark River, and Stephenson. Comparison of the 1978 and 2021 photographs shows the charcoal kilns are slowly vanishing.
Straka, Thomas and Gueller, Lawrence A.
"Vanishing Ghosts of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Charcoal Iron Industry,"
Upper Country: A Journal of the Lake Superior Region: Vol. 9, Article 2.
Available at: https://commons.nmu.edu/upper_country/vol9/iss1/2