Article: The Life of Charles Harvey

From the Escanaba Daily Press, Escanaba, Michigan January 12, 1939

Charles T. Harvey, inventor, engineer and soldier of fortune, who superintended construction of the first locks at Sault Ste. Marie and whose name has been linked to many projects in Marquette County and northern Michigan, struck gold when in 1868 he built the first "el" in New York City.

Harvey was the inventor, president and conductor of the West Side and Yonkers Patent railway. He was the first man to find a practical solution to the problem of New York's crowded streets. 

He made a fortune in New York and lost it there. It was Harvey who founded the village of Harvey a few miles south of Marquette and who was identified with construction and operation of the Northern Iron company's furnace at Harvey and the Carp River furnace, which was operated from 1874 until 1909. Harvey envisioned a metropolis of the north built on the banks of the Chocolay river.

It was Harvey's idea that the Chocolay river be dredged to permit entrance of ore boats to be loaded with great quantities of pig iron and ore for the lower lakes. Harvey induced the Chicago and Northwestern railroad to build a railroad grade to Harvey, but the track was never laid.

The old railroad grade which was to have linked the outside works with the biggest city of the north still can be seen running through the farm of Mrs. M. K. Reynolds, a short distance southeast of the village of Harvey.

Harvey's home is still standing and occupied, its front entrance overlooking US-41 about a quarter of a mile north of Harvey. It was purchased by the late D. J. Caven about 25 years ago and is now occupied by Mr. Caven's daughter.

When the Saint Mary's Falls Ship Canal company was organized on April 12, 1853, Harvey was placed in charge. He broke ground on June 4, 1853 and wheeled the first barrow of earth from the cut.

Picked Up U.P. Lands

He remained in control of the construction for one year when he was relieved and placed in charge of the finance and also appointed agent for the state to select lands under the federal grant to the canal company in the upper peninsula. He selected about 200,000 acres, 39,000 of which were taken in Marquette county and were subsequently sold for $500,000 cash to the Iron Cliff company, with which he was later identified.

Among the copper lands selected was the quarter-section on which the Calumet and Hecla company's mine is situated and which was sold by the canal company for $60,000. Exploration proved it to be worth millions.

In 1854 difficulties in construction demanded Harvey's return to the canal project and by the exercise of much skill and energy he succeeded in pushing the work forward to completion. On April 19, 1855, water was let into the canal and in the following June it was opened for public use.

After the canal was finished, it is not known what Harvey did during the year that followed, but it seems that he saw the possibilities of the iron business and came to the Marquette range to establish himself. With his canal success behind him, he had no difficulty in interesting others.

He was the organizer of the first charcoal-iron furnace in the upper peninsula, that of the Iron Cliffs company which built the Pioneer Furnace in Negaunee in 1857, with S. R. Gay and L. D. Harvey in charge. It went out of blast in 1893. The Pioneer Furnace, however, was preceded by the Marquette Iron company's forge at Marquette, built in 1849 by A. R. Harlow and associates.

The Pioneer Furnace was a two-stack furnace built near the Jackson mine. Part of it still stands.

Planned Chocolay Furnace

Harvey spent considerable time in Marquette, between trips to the blast furnace, and had studied the shoreline of Lake Superior well. He conceived the idea of establishing a blast furnace at the mouth of the Chocolay river, dredging out the mouth and making the community a metropolis.

Those who knew Harvey said he was most independent, willful and wanted things exactly his own way. These characteristics, it was said, which later lost him more than one fortune, prompted his desire to build Harvey so that it would rival Marquette.

In 1859 articles of the Northern Iron company were filed to operate a furnace at the mouth of the Chocalay river. Harvey was one of the three corporators. It was following this that Harvey interested the C. &. N. W. to build a grade from Little Lake to Harvey over which it was expected ore would be hauled from the mines.

The Chocolay furnace was operated up to 1869. Then came an important point in Mr. Harvey's life. He had previously built his house at Chocolay, which he called his Bayou house. He had an inventive mind and in 1867, not long after the furnace closed down, he took his invention of the elevated railroad and railroad car to New York, where the "railroad on stilts," as it was called, was given a tryout.

It might be said, without stretching the imagination, that preliminary plans for the famous elevated were drawn up at the Bayou house.

Quarreled With Associates

Although his invention was worth a tremendous fortune, he never fully capitalized on it because of quarrels with his associates. A few years later, in 1871, he left New York and returned to Harvey, enthusiastic to make his dream of a big port come true.

He planned erection of a sawmill to furnish timber and lumber, the substantial improvement of the harbor to admit vessels, the repair and reconstruction of the furnace to use hard coal and the completion of the branch railroad to transport ore. The grade, which was never used, can be seen plainly in several places all the way from the Reynolds farm to Little Lake.

What happened to Harvey's plans seems to be a matter of guesswork. A considerable amount of money was spent on all four major projects. A break water was built and loading docks constructed. The harbor basin was dredged and cribbed so that vessels could enter, and the furnace was repaired.

Lumber Mill Opened

A lumber mill which according to reports was located on the west bank of the Chocolay river just south of the DSS&A bridge, was started in the fall of 1873 and continued to cut throughout the winter, averaging about 6,000 feet per day. Thousands of logs were cut and driven down the Chocolay river.

By the middle of May, 1874, the furnace was also rebuilt; the laying of rails to Little Lake was being considered enthusiastically and the lumber mill was working feverishly, the company's tug was being repaired and a breakwater was under construction.

Just when the Northern Iron company had spent approximately half a million dollars to get everything ready for operation, the market for pig iron went to pieces and the furnace was operated only a short time. Little was realized from the big investment and after a few years Harvey gave up everything.

In the meantime, however, a number of farmers moved into the vicinity, cutting timber, clearing land and establishing their homes, so that the community never became a deserted village. But the dream of Harvey as a metropolis had been permanently shattered and from that time nothing spectacular happened to the village or to the man who gave this his name.

Little is known of Harvey's later life. He retained a few mineral land holdings, but when he returned her about 20 years ago, he was broken financially.