Keweenaw County Historical Society

Caretakers of the past, stewards of the future


The Historic School at Gay

The town of Gay, Michigan, is located on the shore of Lake Superior along the southern edge of the Keweenaw Peninsula, about 12 miles south of Mohawk. It was originally a commercial fishing village to harvest fish from Lake Superior and later a lumber community to harvest wood for the copper mines of the Keweenaw. In 1898 the Mohawk Mining company built its stamp mill in Gay to take advantage of the water available from Lake Superior to use in stamping or separating copper from mine rock. Soon another mill for the Wolverine Mining Company was built alongside the Mohawk mill, and the town of Gay became part of the copper mining process in the Keweenaw. The town was named for Joseph E. Gay, one of the founders of the Mohawk and Wolverine Mining Companies. The stamp mills closed by 1932, and today only a large smoke stack and a mile of gray stamp sand are left of the mills.

(Photo: Some of the historic looms used by Gay Industries to make rag rugs, etc.)

The first school in Gay was built in 1902 to meet the needs of the families working at the mills. It became overcrowded and a new, six room, two story building was built in 1927. It served students from grades one through 10. Students attending school past grade 10 went to Calumet. The school was a center of community life until the mills closed in 1932. By 1959 only 25 students attended the school, and it was closed in 1961.

In 2009 the Keweenaw County Historical Society took over the property and began extensive repair and restoration work. The school is now a museum telling the story of the town of Gay and the impact of the Mohawk and Wolverine Copper Mining Companies' mills on the town of Gay and the environment. It also tells the story of commercial lumber and fishing in the area.

(Photo: Our 1907 Jewell motor car and a carriage are also on display.)

Visiting the Historic School at Gay

Hours & Admission- The Historic School at Gay is open on a wide range of selected days during the summer.   Normal hours are 1 - 4 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays from mid-June through early October.  The 2021 opening date expected is June 26th.  There is no admission fee for this museum, but a donation is appreciated.

Location- The Gay School is located at the intersection of Lake Street and the Gay Road in the town of Gay, Michigan, about 12 miles south of Mohawk, Michigan via the Gay-Mohawk Road. GPS:N 47 13.645 W 88 09.764, Decimal Degrees:47.227417, -88.162733

Related Links-

KCHS museum sites and the cottage rentals will be opening for the Summer of 2021, except the Bammert Blacksmith Shop which is closed for repairs.  Sites expect to open buildings during the week of June 20th.  See the museum sites’ webpages for opening dates and hours.

Public events have NOT been scheduled, except for the Woodward Concert in Copper Harbor on September 22nd and Cider Making at Central on September 25th; both events will be held outside.  See the Events/Adventures in History webpage for more information.

The Keweenaw County Historical Society’s Board of Directors will follow the COVID-19 Epidemic Orders issued by the State of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services.  These public health orders are updated as needed, so KCHS may need to change access to buildings and events.  This spring, group events held inside community buildings were not allowed.  Therefore, KCHS cancelled the Adventures in History programs for the summer.  

Please check back for updates.
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