Thomas and Bartley Breen, two brothers from Menominee who were timber cruisers and inspectors, discovered an outcropping of ore at Waucedah in 1866.
The site, then a part of Menominee County, was identified only as northwest quarter of section 22, township 39, range 28.
The Waucedah discovery became known as Breen's Mine and later a township was named after the discoverers. However, further development other than exploration at the Breen had to wait practically until the railroad came to the area.
The first active mining operations were recorded in 1870 after ownership of the properties came into the hands of the Breen brothers and Judge E. S. Ingalls and S. P. Saxton, prominent men from Menominee. Several test pits were sunk and two long trenches were cut across the formation.
Meanwhile, news of the Breen discovery spread and the area became overrun with exploring parties.
Every pine cruiser became a mineral expert in his own mind, although not one in 20 could tell ordinary rock from ore.
A sample of the Breen ore reached Harrison Ludington, the governor of Wisconsin, who personally brought it to Milwaukee for analysis by Dr. Nelson P. Hulst. The latter was a Yale graduate and chemist from the Milwaukee Iron Company.
Results of the examination of the Breen specimen sent Hulst to the wilderness of Waucedah. He visited the Breen and other locations, returning to Milwaukee fully satisfied with the results of his first-hand investigation.
Hulst returned to the Breen location in October, 1872. Playing an important role in the early explorations was Lewis Whitehead, engaged by Hulst as the head of a party of explorers.
Whitehead hired a dozen mean at Negaunee and took them by tug from Escanaba to Menominee. They went by road 60 miles up the river to the property known as Breen Mine.
On Oct. 15, 1872, Whitehead marked a tree near the site which later became the location for the Vulcan depot and began erection of camps for 40 men. It was called Breitung camp and a supply road was cut to Breen Mine.
The summer of 1873 was spent exploring other sections of the range. A wagon route was surveyed and built to Felch Mountain, now known as Metropolitan. It was called the "Iron Road" and the 23 miles cost the Milwaukee Iron Company $1,300.
The memorable financial panic of 1873 then struck like a bolt of lightning and further development was left at a standstill until 1876.
Actual mining at the Breen Mine in Waucedah was started in 1877. The mine, under Captain Jerome Schwartz, shipped 25 carloads of ore. Schwartz later became a leading citizen of Crystal Falls.
In 1878, the Breen was closed and vacated.
Some years later, a new shaft was sunk 30 rods from the Breen and some blue Bessemer ore was raised.
However, the Breen Mine, which resulted in the establishment of the town of Waucedah, was short-lived as a mining center.
The apparent richness of ore on more western points on the range cut short the development of Waucedah as a gateway to the Menominee Range.
Waucedah, as a result, failed to mature. Its chief claim rested in possession of timberlands and farms. In 1890, Waucedah had a population of 150, a post office in charge of S. P. Saxton and was visited at intervals by a Catholic priest and a Methodist minister.