CHAMPION — The U.P. is filled with mining stories. The many successes of fruitful mining as well as the tragedies. Some local residents want to make sure the 41 miners who died and are still trapped under ground, almost a century later, are not forgotten.
Tragedy struck 51 miners digging red ore deep in the earth in Champion, killing 51 miners, on November 3, 1926. An explosion caused a nearby swamp to flood the mine, drowning 51 of the miners. One man was able to escape. Only 10 of the 51 bodies were recovered. 89 years later, the others still lay trapped below the earth, in this mine. The area was made into a makeshift grave site, unknown and unobserved by those driving down county road CL.
“We didn’t know about it, even though we have lived down this road for several years. Finally we were talking to one of the locals here and he told us this is where that mine use to be. There is a monument for those people who died in the mine. I asked where is it? It was not all that easy to find, and we thought that was a terrible shame because it is an important part of our history,” said artist Maria Serafin, Woodworks Chainsaw Carving.
Jon and Maria of Woodworks Chainsaw Carving created this statue that they donated to the Cliffs Mine Shaft Museum to honor these miners from the Barnes–Hecker Mine Disaster, as well as other miners who lost their life, working the earth.
“As we did these underground miners we thought it would be a fitting thing to dedicate it to their memory. Those who died here but also all of the miners who have died over the years. It means a lot to us honor the miners in this way,” continued Maria.
Jon and Maria would like to see an improved path to visit the gravesite.
Maria adds, “41 are still buried here, under the ground, you can’t even tell there was a mine here, there are just a few relics of concrete and metal.”
Maria says attention to the gravesite area as well as better signage to honor these hard working, fallen men is also needed.