The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Washington family seeks info on former Colby Mine worker


Ian Minielly/Daily Globe

THE BESSEMER Historical Society meets Thursday afternoon. Members discussed some of the recent successes in helping others discover interesting information about people from their past. Starting with Connie Pricco, red bandana, and moving counter clockwise are Ed Sandene, President; Dan Cvengros, Vice President; Miron Re, Jim Rouse, and Dick Steiger.


Bessemer - The Bessemer Historical Society met Thursday afternoon to discuss Bessemer historical business.

The society noted State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, sponsored a resolution to make January Finnish-American Heritage Month in Michigan. It passed the House on Jan. 12.

The historical society is up to 135 members from all over, based on ties to Bessemer. A yearly single membership is $12 and a family membership is $18.

In administrative news, the society is looking for a director with the time and inclination to take charge and direct.

Dick Steiger informed the group regarding a message he received from the state of Washington about a fellow named John Lillrose from the 1890s. The family in Washington reached out to the historical society because they thought Lillrose had roots tracing back to Bessemer and they wanted to know what was available.

Steiger opened a tome on the Colby Mine and within four pages found John Lillrose as an employee of the Colby Mine around 1886. Lillrose was a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and had a life insurance policy, with his wife as the beneficiary.

Lillrose was paid a daily wage of $1.73.

Apparently in 1905 and 1906, Lillrose began pushing his fellow workers to unionize and lost his job with the mine and was blackballed from working at other area mines. Lillrose took the set- back in stride and went to Montana to work the mines out West. Unfortunately, Lillrose died in a mining accident with three other fellows in 1910.

Lillrose's remains were shipped back to Bessemer on a train and he is buried in the cemetery. The headstone is difficult to read due to the age, but the cemetery plot book shows accurately where his remains are laid to rest. The historical society provided the information to the family in Washington, as well as the information regarding his widow, who had stayed in Bessemer and a daughter, who graduated from the high school in 1916.

The society discussed a miners' plaque dedication they expect to dedicate this summer. Sue Abelman is leading the charge, but the date has not been settled.

The third grade class from the Washington School is scheduled to attend the historical society session in March or May to watch a slide show and presentation on the area's mining history.

Connie Pricco tabled a possible ethnic music and food festival to engage the local community and visitors to recognize and celebrate the local Italian and Finnish heritages. The effort was discussed as a possibility for this summer or even next fall. The busyness of the summer does pose a difficult challenge when considering adding another event, which will certainly tax the same set of volunteers.

The society is considering different options to maintain the old newspapers as they are fragile and at risk of destruction from rough handling. They are narrowing the storage options to newspaper bins that would entail the expenditure of a considerable amount of money.


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