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Big Bay is a small town in the Northern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We’re about 28 miles from Marquette and have a lot to offer to tourists, campers, fisherman & hunters.
One of Big Bay’s historical aspects is the movie “Anatomy of a Murder”. After the actual crime and trial, the movie was shot here. So if you’re in town, visit the locations that you recognize from the movie and the place where the murder took place.
If you are a hiker or shutterbug, enjoy the view from Gobbler’s Knob or watch the sunset from the Black Rocks Point. Bring your camera nd get a few pictures of our local wildlife. For camper’s, we have Perkins Park, fully equipped for tents and rv’s. There are also several lodging places in town if you’re not into roughing it.
The first settlers were English iron miners from Cornwall and French woodsmen from Canada, who took jobs at the new Champion Mine. By 1900 a new wave of immigrants, led by the Scandinavians, Germans, Italians, Irish, and Finns had arrived and quickly established Champion as a vital railroad, mining, logging, and farming center.
Forsyth Township developed in the mid-1880s as a part of the iron-mining boom that marked much of Marquette County at the time. Settlements such as Little Lake and Swanzy arose in the 1860s and 70s to support the railroads built to bring ore from the existing mines in Negaunee and Ishpeming to Lake Michigan seaports.
In 1906, expansion of mining by the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company necessitated more housing. CCI president, William Gwinn Mather decided a new town should be built and hired nationally known landscape designer Warren II Manning to design the community.
Gwinn was to be a “model town,” unlike most previous company towns, aesthetically pleasing with no detail ignored. The plan provided for the social, physical, and cultural well-being of its occupants. Paved streets were laid out, houses were constructed from a variety of housing styles and churches and a business district were built.
The origins of Chocolay Township began when the Wisconsin Glacier which was 8,000 to 10,000 feet thick melted. It was under this glacier for 30,000 to 40,000 years. This glacier carved out the rivers and hills throughout the Upper Peninsula.
This location was used by the Indians as a summer camping place. French explorers used the name Chocolate for the river because of its dark brown color in their map marking. In the early 1900’s that spelling was changed to Chocolay. In 1842 this river was a well known boundary marker in the Treaty of 1842, when mineral lands to the west of it were ceded to the United States by the Chippewa Indians. This territory extended to the head of Lake Superior, which was known then as Fond du Lac or “bottom of the lake”.
Chocolay Township was created in March of 1860 from a part of Marquette Township, which at the time covered all of Marquette County. Various parts were later given to surrounding townships of Forsyth, Turin, Sands, Skandia and West Branch. It became a Charter Township on May 16, 1972. The census in 2000 was 6,095.
Ishpeming’s history is rooted in the discovery of Iron Ore in the 1840’s. In 1846, an Indian named Madji-Gesick led explorer, Philo Everett, to a shining mountain. What Everett found was a mountain of ore measuring 180 feet high and 1,000 feet wide. This historic spot was named Jasper Knob–known today as the World’s Largest Gemstone.
Up until 1862, this area was referred to as The Lake Superior Location, but the settlers saw it fit to give the City an official name. Translating the Chippewa Indian name for “on the summit”, the settlers gave the name of ISHPEMING to the newly formed City. The name proved to be fitting for a City that is situated upon the dividing ridge between the waters of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan and 850 feet above Lake Superior.
Marquette was founded by Amos Harlow and his expedition leader Peter White. The city was originally named Worcester. Marquette is named for Father Jacques Marquette, the early French Jesuit missionary-explorer who ministered to the Ojibwa and other native people in the area from 1669 until his death in 1675. A statue of Marquette stands on a boulder in a small rock garden adjacent to the Marquette Chamber of Commerce at 501 Front.
Although Native American and French voyageurs used the sheltered waters of Marquette harbor for rest, fishing and transport of furs and other cargo, no significant settlement existed at the site until the late 1840s. The 1844 discovery of iron ore at Teal Lake was the spur that led to development of the harbor and the city starting in 1849. The Marquette Iron Range took on the city’s name, despite the fact that the iron mines exist closer to the cities of Negaunee and Ishpeming, about 10 miles inland from the harbor.
Nestled on an inlet on the northwest shore of seven-mile-long Lake Michigamme, this old mining village, settled in 1872, had a population of 1,000 and two sizable hotels when several mines operated in the vicinity. (It’s pronounced “MICH-i-GAH-me.”) The first and biggest, the Michigamme Mine, is just northeast of the village across Highway 41 on the western slope of Mt. Shasta behind the Mt. Shasta Lodge. The mine produced almost a million tons of iron ore until it shut down in 1900. Although the area around the mine is fenced off, rock-hounds still like to sneak in and sift through the waste rock surrounding the mine shafts looking for once-plentiful “Black Diamonds,” shiny garnets which are now hard to find.
The Jackson Iron Company first settled this land in 1846. On January 21,1858 this settlement was given a post office named Negaunee, with Edward C. Hungerford as its first postmaster. On February 11, 1858 the spelling was changed to Negaunee.
The village was incorporated in 1865, and became a city in 1873.
The city is home to the Michigan Iron Industry Museum. The name Negaunee comes from a Native American word (Chippewa tribe) meaning pioneer.
Koski Corners on U.S. 41 about 3 miles east of Champion marks the intersection with M-95 heading toward Iron Mountain. The town, beach, and mine at Republic seven miles south, are a worthwhile detour. Today the village of Republic has around 600 residents in two locations. They are separated by the huge, now inactive open-pit iron mine that has been developed into an interesting year-round visitor attraction with outstanding interpretive panels. Our paraphrased history is drawn from theirs; see the panels for a detailed on-site illustrated explanation.
The Republic area is surrounded by woods, lakes, and wetlands, much of it part of the Escanaba River State Forest. Rustic state forest campgrounds are on Squaw Lake and North Horseshoe Lake west of the town of Witch Lake, which is a little over 10 miles south of Republic. Land prices have climbed so high that younger people in the area can’t afford to buy a camp, once a standard perk of Upper Peninsula life.