Silver Islet General Store

Silver Islet

Silver Islet General Store

Silver Islet General Store

Silver Islet is one of the most unique places on Lake Superior. Located Northeast of Thunder Bay on the Canadian coast, lies an island of diminutive size, approximately 90′ in diameter! This islands was was undoubtedly the most financially significant island on the entire lake. ¬†Located over a half mile from shore, it is the site of the richest silver vein in the world. Discovered in 1869 by the Montreal Mining Company, the small island was deemed an engineering nightmare and was sold the following year to Alexander H. Sibley (the brother of the first governor of Minnesota) for $225,000. The island was eventually expanded with crushed rock and cribbing to support mine shafts, four boarding houses, lighthouse, and several other buildings. The island was expanded to about ten times the size of its original dimension, like a mushroom top supported over a small base. Unfortunately water was always a problem, and pumps were required to run constantly to keep the island from disappearing underwater. The success of the island was short lived, in 1883 the island was due for a shipment of coal at the beginning to the season. That coal was desperately needed to keep the pumps going, unfortunately the captain of the ship was a drunkard and couldn’t make it to silver islet in time. Frantically, the miners took the the island to burn the furniture, building, and any scrap wood to keep the mineshaft from flooding. Inevitably the lake reclaimed the island, and all that is left is submerged cribbing of where the island once stood. This is an interesting place to explore by dinghy. Please be aware that the trip from the wharf to the island is over a half mile each way, so have plenty of gas for the outboard.

Over the 14 years the mine saw enormous profits (over $3.25 million in silver) and led to the development of a small mainland town nearby. This spot is where the families of the miners lived. Many summer cottages were built along the shore and are still in use. A general store that dates back to the 1880′s is still open in the summer. It has been lovingly maintained. There are pictures of the store online.