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Bessemer, Michigan
City of Bessemer
Downtown Bessemer along S. Sophie Street
Downtown Bessemer along S. Sophie Street
Location within Gogebic County
Location within Gogebic County
Bessemer, Michigan is located in Michigan
Bessemer, Michigan
Bessemer, Michigan
Location in Michigan
Bessemer, Michigan is located in the United States
Bessemer, Michigan
Bessemer, Michigan
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Michigan
County Gogebic
Settled 1880
Platted 1884
Incorporated 1887 (village)
1889 (city)
Government
 • Type Council–manager
Area
 • Total 5.50 sq mi (14.24 km2)
 • Land 5.50 sq mi (14.24 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
Elevation
1,424 ft (434 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 1,805
 • Density 328.18/sq mi (126.76/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code(s)
49911
Area code(s) 906
FIPS code 26-07960
GNIS feature ID 0621184

Bessemer is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2020 census, the city population was 1,805. It is the county seat of Gogebic County.

The city is surrounded by Bessemer Township, but the two are administered autonomously. It is on U.S. Route 2 with Ironwood to the west and Wakefield to the east. The Big Powderhorn, Blackjack, and Indianhead ski areas are located within a few miles of Bessemer. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are also very popular in this area, due to lake-effect snow influenced by nearby Lake Superior; the area is often referred to as "Big Snow Country." Recreational opportunities in the summer months include Bluff Valley Park, the scenic Black River Falls, and access to the Iron Belle Trail.

History

Vintage picture of Downtown Bessemer (Sophie Street)
Vintage picture of Downtown Bessemer (Sophie Street)

In 1880, a hunter and trapper Richard Langford, discovered iron ore under an overturned birch tree. However, Captain N. D. Moore is credited with disclosing the ore which led to the development of the Colby property. Mining began in 1883. By 1884, the Milwaukee Lake Shore and Western Railroad (later the Chicago and Northwestern) was being built from Antigo, WI to Ashland, WI by way of the new mines. The railroad company platted the town of Bessemer in 1884. On June 4, 1886 Gogebic County was separated from Ontonagon County. In March 1887, 360 voting members assembled and voted to organize the village of Bessemer. In the same year Gogebic County was officially created by the Michigan Legislature. Also in the year Bessemer and Ironwood called an election to see which city would be the county seat and also have the Gogebic County Courthouse. Ironwood men traveling to Bessemer to vote were made drunk and the train did not stop at the voting site. Ironwood lost and Bessemer gained the county seat. From 1884 to December 31, 1958, a period of seventy-five years, the iron ore shipment from all of Gogebic County totaled over 245 million tons. In 1966 the last mine in Bessemer-the Peterson Mine was closed. Many left the area to work in car factories in Kenosha, and the local economy underwent a serious decline.

Bessemer is named for Sir Henry Bessemer (1813-1898), English inventor of steel manufacturing.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.47 square miles (14.17 km2), all land. Majority of Bessemer is situated on the north side of Colby Hill and the city consists of many hills and valleys.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 2,566
1900 3,911 52.4%
1910 4,583 17.2%
1920 5,482 19.6%
1930 4,035 −26.4%
1940 4,080 1.1%
1950 3,509 −14.0%
1960 3,304 −5.8%
1970 2,805 −15.1%
1980 2,553 −9.0%
1990 2,272 −11.0%
2000 2,148 −5.5%
2010 1,905 −11.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $27,639, and the median income for a family was $36,739. Males had a median income of $28,958 versus $21,708 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,499. About 8.6% of families and 12.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.0% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 1,905 people, 888 households, and 511 families residing in the city. The population density was 348.3 inhabitants per square mile (134.5/km2). There were 1,140 housing units at an average density of 208.4 per square mile (80.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.4% White, 0.5% African American, 0.9% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.3% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.7% of the population.

There were 888 households, of which 24.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.9% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.5% were non-families. 38.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 19.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.76.

The median age in the city was 45.4 years. 20.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.1% were from 25 to 44; 29.5% were from 45 to 64; and 21% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.1% male and 50.9% female.

Transportation

  • US Highway 2 is the Upper Peninsula's longest US Highway, stretching from St. Ignace to neighboring Ironwood.
  • County Road 513 (Moore Street/Black River Road) begins in Bessemer at junction with US 2 and runs 15 miles (24 km) north to Black River Harbor on the shore of Lake Superior. A section of the road is designated the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway.
  • County Road 200 (Old County Road) begins at the southwest end of Bessemer and travels west to Ironwood.

Indian Trails provides daily intercity bus service between St. Ignace and Ironwood, while Gogebic County operates a small public bus system, the Gogebic County Transit Authority.

Commercial air service is available at the Gogebic-Iron County Airport (IWD) north of Ironwood. Air Choice One operates flights from Ironwood to Chicago and from Chicago to Ironwood daily. Flights to and from Minneapolis will be added beginning June 1, 2016.

Notable people

  • Otto Binder, science fiction and comic book author (Mary Marvel, Legion of Super-Heroes, and Supergirl); born in Bessemer
  • Kevin Borseth, women's basketball coach at The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay; born in Bessemer
  • Jay W. Johnson, U.S. congressmen for Wisconsin's 8th congressional district; born in Bessemer
  • Arthur Redner, halfback for Fielding H. Yost's 1901 "Point-a-Minute" football team; lived in Bessemer
  • Al Rossi, Olympic bronze medalist in rowing at the 1952 Summer Olympics; born in Bessemer
  • Richard A. Sofio, Michigan state representative and educator; born in Bessemer.
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