Hell Town

If you listen to somebody long enough, you WILL be amazed... truly....  

Here in the Copper Country of Michigan (The Keweenaw Peninsula), during the summer, it stays light so late, you don’t realize you haven’t eaten yet.   It was quarter to ten, and realized my favorite Mexican Restaurant would be closing in 15 minutes!!  Ran over there and they were closed due to a camping trip.  The next place I went to, had just shut down their grill….(the sidewalks roll up here)…..but they told me of the “Drift Inn Bar”, Copper City.  I knew this would be an experience before I got there.

Just a bedroom community now…. lots of old worn buildings…old old homes and a bar.  You can tell it was vibrant at one time though. I  find the "Drift Inn"..... enter, and get my large pepperoni pizza ordered!! Bartender asked if “for here or to go”….

So I’m looking around.. Little horseshoe bar.  2 couples.  a guitar on the wall.  an old jukebox.    The two guys are talking about the mines.  So, I pull out my notes (from the breakfast restaurant yesterday…”The Miners Cafe”), and asked them if they knew what “The Walking Bomb” was.  The didn’t…. so here we go.

Walking bomb is the last man out of the mine (in the olden days)… set the dynamite…kept it in his shirt, with the fuse, then placed it… lit the fuse.. When the dust settled…. the next shift came in.  Don't wear a belt buckle... you can't afford the spark.   They said…yeah…. they don’t do it that way anymore lol.  So then I started hearing all their stories….one is a 4th generation miner.  Was related to the other guy.  Another one walked in… another cousin.  Said on Friday night… everyone in there related one way or the other.  One of the wife’s said she’s even related…. said Uncle so and so told her she's related by “injection”.  You cannot make this stuff up.    Another mining term learned “Diggered Out”.    They all knew my Uncle, which always gives me a “Get out of Jail Free Card”…. actually what it does, is gets folks to open up... makes me more of an insider.   The other lady, it was her father’s guitar on the wall.  He died  4 years ago…. played bluegrass.  she said he played the banjo.. “George”…. So down came the guitar.  Played some songs for George.

I shared with them that my Grandfather was a Copper Miner for C & H.  Told them after the 1913 strike he didn't go back to work for the mines, that he became a bartender here in Copper City.... I didn't know where, but Uncle said that bar was tore down long ago... told them how in 1919 he and his brother bought a bar in Calumet, named it "Shute's Tavern".    Then I shared how I was songwriting and writing a story album, called “The Keweenaw Secret", and that the stories here were endless….They asked what the story was about, I told them it was a secret!! :) ….then they asked me if I knew about “Hell Town”, by Lac La Belle.  I said no.  They said 1/2 their family lives there too!  I asked if there was a bar/restaurant there.. they said no, but I could still go there and find everything I need ….. and to talk to Aunt so and so and she will tell me all the history….I said OK!

Hell Town…..   from what they tell me…  back in mid 1800’s, when mining first started, the mine owners wouldn’t allow bars or brothels on company land….so folks created Hell Town, to house the unmentionables.  Well, one of the whores was known as “Crazy Annie” (not to be confused with Big Annie)…. she died somehow, in the middle of winter.  There is sooo much snow, you can’t bury anyone until spring.  So legend has it that they buried her in the snowbank, behind the bar.  Come spring, went to fetch her for burial.  They found her, but she was headless…… It is said that she still haunts the place.  “Crazy Annie”…. said there’s many a story about her.  Was wanting to head toward Lac Le Belle, to kayak…. suppose I should stop and see Aunt first..  

Hell Town.

Be the first to respond!

Leave a comment: