From 1870 to 1884, the Leland Lake Superior Iron Co. operated an iron smelter north of the river mouth. With ore from the Upper Peninsula and charcoal made from local maple and beech timber, up to 40 tons of iron per day was produced. In 1884 the plant was sold to the Leland Lumber Co., which operated a sawmill.
This unique material was a by-product of the short-lived days of smelting iron ore in lower Michigan's Northwestern corner. The great Mesabi iron ranges of the Upper Peninsula supplied the ore. It was unloaded by hand on the docks of the new foundries on Lake Michigan. The blast furnaces were stoked with high-grade charcoal, made only from the hardwoods of beech and maple. This charcoal, combined with local limestone flux to reduce the iron ore to pig iron, gave this foundry glass its unique colors and textures.
The smelters began operation in 1875, and by 1900 most operations had ceased due to the exceedingly costly supply of hardwoods as nearby forests were clear cut.
Today, the lucky rock hound may find a piece of the blue slag glass washed ashore on Lake Michigan's beaches in Leland, Michigan. A man-made throw-away created from natural materials over 120 years ago at the Leland Iron Company in Michigan. For a brief 14 year period in history, the slag was discarded in the waters and tumbled naturally. A treasure found and re-purposed.