The Wall of Silver Mine

Who can resist a story about a lost mine? King Solomon’s Mine in Africa, the Lost Dutchman’s Mine in Arizona, and The Wall of Silver in Michigan. They all have a story. Historically, Michigan had vast iron ore and copper deposits in its Upper Peninsula. Gold and silver were also found there, but no mother loads were found in Michigan. Richard Kellogg says he has seen a wall of pure silver at least 90 feet long in a mine in Michigan’s Keweenaw peninsula.

Mr. Kellogg’s story starts in the 1770s and involves a geologist, Sabin Stone, from England. Geologist Stone traveled to Sault Ste. Marie with his companion Alexander Henry. They searched for two seasons along the Lake Superior shoreline and only found copper. The expedition was a failure because copper was not what they were looking for, and not valuable to them. Mr. Henry then left the area, relocating to Detroit, but Sabin Stone believed gold and silver should be near the copper and stayed at Sault Ste. Marie in pursuit of treasure.

Stone hired Jacques Quinte, who was half Chippewa, to guide him. He wanted to go back along the shore of Lake Superior on his quest for gold and silver. Jacques could serve as translator and communicator with local tribes. The pair did meet up with natives along the way, and Jacques Quinte convinced them Sabin Stone meant no harm – he was only looking for gold or silver. They were impressed with Sabin Stone’s appearance and called him “Walking Big Tree.” Sabin was almost 7 feet tall with curly blonde hair and a beard.

As Sabin and Jacques hiked along the lakeshore one day, they heard screams and, from a distance, witnessed the murder of a native girl by two men. They chased the murderers and were able to kill one of them, but the other one escaped. When they returned to the girl, they discovered the murderous pair had cut her head off, and her body was in pieces. Knowing the natives would blame them if they didn’t report what had happened to the local tribe, they put the murdered girl’s body in a bag and started off to find the native camp. They had not gone far when they found another girl tied to a tree. They un-tied her and gave her something to cover her nakedness. Stone and Quinte carried both girls through the woods trying to find the native camp. When they found the tribe, the rescued girl told the story and affirmed the innocence of Sabin and Jacque. It wasn’t long before they were back to the scene of the murder and the body of one of the murderers. They searched for the one that got away, and when they found him, they tortured him to death. The two prospectors stayed with the tribe long enough for Sabin to fall in love with the rescued girl, and the chief offered her in marriage to Sabin. As a gift at the wedding, the chief gave Sabin a silver belt. When Sabin questioned the source of the silver, the natives were happy to show it to him.

Sabin Stone took his native bride, Princess Lilly, to Sault Ste. Marie. He knew where the silver was, but he had to arrange for ships to move the silver, and there needed to be provisions for miners. Sabin composed a document whereby the Crown of England would receive three-fourths of all silver taken from the mine, with the remaining fourth divided into 12 equal shares for those working the claim. According to Sabin Stone’s journal, the Silver Eagle Mine began production on August 12, 1772. On August 6, 1773, Sabin reported, “Because of the incredible masses of silver we have discovered, we decided to rename the mine the “Wall of Silver Mine.”

The miners had another successful season in 1774 and decided to stay for the winter in their camp. During the winter, they were plagued with illness, and 21 of the crew of 54 died. When the ships arrived with supplies in the spring, they decided to load the ore they had and return to Sault Ste. Marie to recover and hire more miners before attempting a return to the mine. The last journal entry of Sabin Stone is that he was awaiting orders from the Crown.

The geologist Sabin Stone’s fate is unknown, but about 150 years later, another geologist, Jake Stockard, accidentally found the mine. Jake Stockard moved back to the farm he grew up on to care for his ailing grandfather. His savings were dwindling, and he did not have any income. Jake could not leave his grandfather to fend for himself out in the country so he decided to do some prospecting – lots of moneymakers could be found and turned into cash. Jake drove to the Greenstone Cliff region and then wandered around the base of the cliffs, looking for something of value. He decided to set up camp and stay there for the night. While picking up dry sticks for a fire, Jake spotted something shiny and picked it up. It felt heavy for its size, so he took a knife and scratched the surface. It was a piece of silver. He looked around but did not see any more. He built up his campfire, and while watching the smoke rise from his fire, he noticed that the smoke darted to the south as though taken by a wind. Curious. He picked up some green sticks and added them to the fire, and the same thing happened: he knew there was some airflow coming from somewhere. He picked up a burning stick to see if he could locate where the airflow was coming from. He found the source around some rocks piled up at the base of the cliff. As he removed the rocks, he exposed a stack of rotting timbers. He thought – this might be a lost mine.

Before attempting to enter the mine, Jake went back to the farm. He laid out his maps and tried to locate what he had found, but his location did not match any known mine. Jake returned to the campsite with gear for going underground. He first found a big boulder and threw it down the shaft to trip any boobytraps. Next, Jake lowered a line down into the hole with a heavy fishing sinker on the end. When it hit the bottom, he pulled it back up and could measure how far it was to the mine floor. He took a heavier rope, and after tying knots every three feet, he tied one end to a tree and threw the other end into the hole. Jake lowered himself one knot at a time into the mine. When he reached the bottom, he saw that the front of the mine had collapsed and concluded he must have entered through an escape tunnel.

Jake walked along the main tunnel for a while and came to a previously mined area where he found piles of broken ore. He picked up a piece and checked it with his knife – rich silver ore! He kept going farther into the mine and came to a wall that looked like rats had chewed it. It was a solid wall of silver. I appeared to be 90 feet long and vanished into the rock at both ends. This must be the mother lode, he thought. Jake saw that someone had engraved their name into the silver wall – it said, Sabin Stone 1772. Before returning to the surface, he picked up as much ore as possible and put it in his backpack. After several more trips to the mine, Jake had seventeen barrels of high-grade silver ore. But Jake had a problem. He did not own the property or have rights to mine there.

Jake had previously worked as a geologist’s helper, and while doing that he met a man, Salvatore Fattori, who was rumored to buy silver ore from unauthorized sellers. Jake contacted him, and Fattori asked how much ore Jake had for sale. Jake said, “Let’s just say I’ve got an awful lot of it. After some negotiation, Fattori agreed to buy silver ore and set up a connection with a bank in Chicago that would cash the check from the buyer to Jake.

Jake continued to haul silver ore out of the mine, and then Fattori sold it to his buyer. Jake happened to be home one afternoon when Salvatore Fattori appeared at the door. Fattori was visibly shaken. He told Jake that the people buying his silver were ruthless and planned to cut them out of the picture. Fattori warned Jake not to go near the mine because their plan was to follow him, find out where the mine was, and then kill him. Jake never saw Fattori again.

Since Jake no longer had an outlet for his silver, he took specimens on the road to rock and mineral shows. He was doing ok, but then he sold specimens to two undercover treasury agents. Faced with charges and fines, Jake hired a lawyer and claimed that even though silver is a monetary metal, the charges did not apply to him because he was selling his specimens as collector’s items. The charges were eventually dropped because it was ruled that his specimens were indeed collectibles.

World War II meant Jake enlisted in the Corps of Engineers and spent his military career building and repairing airfields in the Pacific. When the war ended, Jake returned to the Keweenaw Peninsula. He went to the Greenstone Cliff area and was surprised that it was no longer as remote and wild as it once was. Jake observed mining company security guards making rounds near other nearby mines. There was way too much activity near the mine, and he realized the time was not right to return there.

Jake wanted to see if he could learn anything about the name Sabin Stone, which he had seen engraved on the silver wall. Eventually, he learned a geologist, Sabin Stone, had lived in Sault Ste. Marie. Luckily, he was able to locate descendants of the very Sabin Stone Jake was looking for, and even more impressive was that they possessed his journal. Reading through his journal, Jake wanted to learn more about this guy. The journal talked about his coming to America from England, so Jake decided to go there.

Jake was at a library in London searching for information on Sabin Stone when he met a woman who was a great help to him. She located records showing the ship Sabin Stone sailed on from England to America and other details Jake found interesting. But more interesting than the details about Stone were the details about the beautiful woman librarian. Jake fell in love, stayed in England, and married the girl. Jake was already wealthy, so returning to the U.S. was not a pressing issue. The happy couple toured the world, and Jake was the happiest man alive for ten years. Then, sadly, his wife died suddenly of heart disease. Jake was heartbroken, and nothing was left to keep him in England, so he returned to the farm he grew up on in Michigan.

Barb and Dick Kellogg owned the Sportsman’s Bar, and business was not good for them after the mines closed on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Dick was working in the bar one afternoon when a pickup truck pulled into the parking lot. The man, older with a deep tan, entered the bar. He was handsome with a robust build and deep wrinkles that lined the chiseled features of his face. He reached out his hand and said, “Hi! I’m Jake Stockard!”

Jake told Dick he was born in the Keweenaw but had been in England for the last ten years. He came back to sell his grandfather’s farm. Jake and Dick shared their love of the area, and its minerals. Dick had a collection of copper pieces he was going to have to sell due to his failing business. The next day Jake was back and asked Dick to go fishing. Over the following weeks, Jake and Dick became friends. Jake was aware of Dick’s financial difficulties and offered to help him with some silver samples he could sell from the bar and split the profits. This deal went well, and soon, the bar was packed again with people interested in buying silver collectibles.

After providing Dick with so many silver samples, he had to tell him the story of the lost mine. He told Dick he did not have any intention of returning to the mine; he still had some silver hoarded on his farm. We can continue selling it as collectibles from the bar.

However, Dick was worried about the consequences if anyone could connect the silver he was selling to where it came from. “I’m not familiar with the mining laws, but I seriously doubt that there is any statute of limitations on jumping mine claims. Jake asked how they could prove his silver came from the lost mine. Dick said, “Did you leave anything there with your name on it or anything that could be connected to you? Jake said, “Well, Yes. There’s a steel box with some papers in it. It was too dangerous to return there after Fattori said my life was threatened, and I left everything there.”

As the silver samples Dick and Jake were selling from the bar were depleted, they decided to take one last trip to the mine. Jake said the safest time to go would be during a storm. About a week later, the National Weather Service warned that a line of severe storms was moving in, and Dick and Jake were on their way to the mine. “As the two men headed north on U.S. 41, they scanned the side roads for parked cars. Finding none, they continued north and passed Cliff Drive, where the mine was. Satisfied they weren’t being followed, Jake doubled back and headed for the mine. When they reached the barely visible logging road near Seneca Lake, Jake turned west and headed for the cliffs.” They parked the truck, put on their backpacks and hard hats with battery-powered lamps, and entered the thick brush. Jake found the rock pile covering the entrance to the mine and started to remove rocks. After the rocks and timbers were removed, Jake backed into the tunnel, with Dick following behind him.

Dick’s flashlight beam shined on a large pile of potato sacks, and he asked, “What are those?” Jake said, “Bags of silver ore.” Jake dug at the base of a support pillar, found the steel box, opened it, and secured all the papers in his jacket pocket. Dick was amazed at the wall of silver and suggested writing Jake’s name on the wall. Jake said, “Sure, put my name there – my name on the wall doesn’t prove anything. Who knows when the mine will be found again? Dick carved the name Jake Stockard into the wall, and then they left the mine.

Dick’s experience at the mine was constantly in his thoughts. He was happy they had more silver collectibles to sell, but every time he looked at them, he felt uneasy. And then one week after their trip to the mine, Dick Kellogg got a phone call that Jake Stockard had died. The news was shocking – Jake was such a strong and healthy guy. Dick thought about returning to the mine several times after that, but Dick had no rights to anything there. The risk was not something Dick was willing to undertake. He would never return to the mine.

Will the mine remain hidden for another 150 years?  Dick suggests that if you are an adventurer, you could go to the Greenstone Cliffs in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. The mine’s entrance is concealed to blend in with nature, but you might get lucky if you notice a draft coming from underground. If you gain access, look for the names Sabin Stone and Jake Stockard on the silver wall.

This story is based on Kellogg, Richard. Wall of Silver: A Treasure Hunter’s Dream. Avery Color Studios, Inc. 2004

About Valerie Winans
We like to camp because it’s easy to take our best friend with us. When we were hired as campground hosts in Denali National Park and Preserve Remington Beagle was only about a year old. Since that first trip up the Alaska Highway we have been in love with not only all things Alaska, but also the adventure in getting there each time with our truck and trailer.