Aviva Directory » Local & Global » North America » United States » States » Michigan » Cities & Towns » Bessemer

Located in northwestern Bessemer Township, which surrounds it, the City of Bessemer, Michigan is situated along US-2, between the cities of Ironwood and Wakefield. It is the seat of Gogebic County.

The city is near the western end of the Upper Peninsula. Due to the lake effect from nearby Lake Superior, the area receives a large amount of snow each winter. The region is often known as Big Snow Country. The snow, its rural landscape, and proximity to Lake Superior bring people into the region for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and other winter sports each year.

The city itself is situated on the northern slope of Colby Hill and is somewhat protected from the wind on all sides by high bluffs, which add to the picturesque beauty of the site.

The city's history is tied to Ontonagon County, which was created in 1852. Originally, that county extended west to the Montreal River on the Wisconsin border and included two large townships: Ontonagon and Pewabic. Pewabic Township included the current townships of Bergland, Carp Lake, Matchwood, and all of what is now Gogebic County.

The first recorded European-American exploration of the region was conducted by single men in small exploring parties. In 1880, Richard Langford, a hunter and trapper, discovered iron ore. This led to the development of the Colby Mine. A few log homes were constructed there in 1882.

Besides its iron ore resources, this was a heavily wooded area, which would later develop a local timber industry.

By 1884, the Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western Railroad, which later became the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, was building tracks from Antigo, Wisconsin to Ashland, Wisconsin, passing through the area upon which the region of the mines near Bessemer.

The railroad established a station, and platted the village of Bessemer in 1884, naming it for Sir Henry Bessemer, an English inventor whose steel-making process was in common use from 1856 to 1950. A post office was established on December 10, 1884, with Frank F. Jeffries as its first postmaster.

Within a year, the population of the new village was increasing rapidly, encouraged by the railroad, the mines, and the availability of timber. Ore from the Colby Mine was transported by horse-drawn wagon to the railroad station, located at what is now Old County Road and Fourth Street, where it was moved into railroad cars and transported by train to the ore docks in Ashland.

As miners were traditionally paid in gold, and the County Sheriff was in the county seat of Ontonagon, several miles away, robberies were common. The Military Road to Ontonagon was often made impassable by winter storms and by spring muds.

Consequently, Bessemer earned a reputation as a lawless town by 1887, with about fifty saloons and little regard for the law. Its population was a mixture of surveyors and prospectors, new immigrants who came to work in the mines, and railroad workers, many of whom themselves were immigrants.

On June 4, 1886, Gogebic County was formed out of Ontonagon County. In March of the following year, the Bessemer was incorporated as a village. After a heated rivalry between Bessemer and Ironwood, the former was chosen as the seat of the new county, and a courthouse was built on the site of a cemetery after the bodies were removed to a new cemetery site. Bessemer became a city in 1889.

Mining was the chief industry and, as more mines were developed, nearly every home boarded mine workers. Soon, however, logging began to rival mining, as logging camps were developed and sawmills were built to process the lumber.

In time, both industries declined, as the pine was gone and the iron mines were depleted. The Peterson Mine was the last area mine to close in 1966.

Bessemer's population began to decline in 1920, and in all but one census year since (1940), the city has lost population, and the 1940 increase was only 1.1%. With a peak population of 4,080 in 1940, its population in 2010 was 1,905, and it is projected to decline further by 2020.

Today, the city's economy is based largely on service industries, health care, and light manufacturing.

The focus of this category is on the City of Bessemer, Michigan. Appropriate topics for this category include websites representing the city and other government offices and services situated within the city, as well as local businesses, industries, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, and events.



Recommended Resources

Search for Bessemer on Google or Bing