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Ghosts of the Porkies

It was a small but booming community, with 300 people, a school, a post office, and a baseball team. But everyone left the little mining town of Nonesuch Falls; the buildings crumbled, the trees grew in the streets and the only sounds you hear today are the wind in the leaves and the rush of a nearby waterfall. What happened here? Discover for yourself.

 

Copper dreams

In 1865, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, a prospector named Ed Less discovered a vein of copper near the Little Iron River. By 1867, mining had begun and a town sprung from the forest, centered on a few streets carved from the wilderness. The town’s school had 30 students, and there was a boarding house, markets, stagecoach service and livery stables.

 

What happened?

The mining did not go well. While the shale and sandstone contained particles of copper, the equipment of the time could not effectively separate the copper from the stone. By 1887, mining was abandoned and the equipment was removed so it could be used in other, more profitable mines. A few people stayed on and logged or farmed in Nonesuch for a time, and there was a brief attempt in 1912 to resume mining operations, but that too failed and the last remaining people left. Nonesuch disappeared from the maps.

 

What’s there today

The Nonesuch ghost town is located in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The site has been overtaken by forest, but you can still see remains of the mining operations, including stone foundations and other ruins that rise up from the forest floor. You’ll see unusual circular holes, the product of a chemical leaching process. An open field marks where the village once stood.

 

How to visit

In the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, take the South Boundary Road to the North Country Trail parking lot. The hike to the Nonesuch ruins is roughly a mile round-trip. Nonesuch is an important part of the history of the Porcupine Mountains and Ontonagon County, so take care at the ruins—don’t remove anything from the site. While there, consider hiking a short distance on to Nonesuch Falls, a small waterfall on the Little Iron River. Late fall is a perfect time to explore this area—as leaves fall, the forest offers expansive views of the site.

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Note: Please travel safely and responsibly when you are visiting the Porcupine Mountains and Ontonagon County. Some businesses and facilities may have modified hours or procedures; please contact them directly for information. See Michigan’s latest coronavirus orders here.

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