History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Houghton County 

Source: History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: containing a full account of its early settlement, its growth, development, and resources, an extended description of its iron and copper mines : also, accurate sketches of its counties, cities, towns, and villages ... biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers. Publication Info: Chicago : Western Historical Co., 1883. Pages 250-256.


HOUGHTON COUNTY was named by the Legislature of the State in honor of one of its distinguished citizens —Prof. Douglass Houghton—a gentleman of ripe scholarship and practical talents. He was assigned the task of first exploring the Upper Peninsula for the location and extent of its vast mineral resources. To him we are indebted for the early geological investigations of the rich mineral fields of this region, which have produced such vast wealth and added so largely to the resources of the country. Had he lived to continue his labor of love, no doubt a larger and richer scope of the Peninsula would today be yielding its hidden treasure for the utilization of mankind.

Prof. Houghton came to his death by drowning in Lake Superior off Keweenaw Point, in 1845, while at his post of duty in the geological survey of the mineral fields of the Upper Peninsula. His loss was sadly lamented by not only the State of Michigan, but by the friends of science as well. The section of the State which has developed such vast wealth largely through his early explorations should erect a suitable monument to his memory near the field where he came to his untimely death.

Houghton County, as now formed, lies east of Ontonagon County, skirting Lake Superior on the north from southwest to northeast, adjoining Keweenaw County, Keweenaw Bay and Baraga County on the east, and Marquette County on the south. Like the adjoining counties of Ontonagon, Keweenaw and Baraga, the surface features of Houghton County are rough, broken, rocky and uninviting to the husbandman, but rich in its natural deposits of minerals. It lies on the northern slope of the watershed, extending east and west along its southern boundary, and itself lies upon and forms a water-shed in its length from south to north, and thus sending the rivers and other water courses, passing or rising within its limits, toward the northwest and northeast into Lake Superior and Portage Lake. The largest and main rivers coursing through the county are the Middle and East Branches of the Ontonagon, which courses, northwest and flows into Lake Superior at the village of that name. in Ontonagon County, and the Sturgeon River, which rises in the southeast corner of Baraga County, and, with its branches, courses into Houghton County and flows through the north end of Otter Lake into Portage Lake, near the northern entry of Portage River. Portage Lake is a navigable body of water lying in the northeastern corner of the county, extending from Portage River some five miles from Keweenaw Bay, a distance of about fourteen miles in a northwesterly direction across Keweenaw Point to within two miles of Lake Superior. It is irregular in its formation, the northern half being much narrower—river-like in width. Torch Lake, a body of water seven miles long, lies a short distance to the northeast of Portage, and connected with it by Torch River, some — miles long. There are several small rivers rising in Houghton County, and coursing northwest from the western slope of the county and northeast from the eastern slope, and flowing into Lake Superior.

For a further description of the surface features of the county, the reader is referred to the general history preceding.

Hungarian Falls.—This natural fall of water is situated in sight of Torch Lake, about three-fourths of a mile inland, and about one and a half miles southwest of the village of Lake Linden. They are formed by the Hungarian River in its descent down a rocky gorge. There are properly two falls. The upper or little falls are distant only a few hundred feet from the lower or main falls. The water is discharged in a broad sheet ever a precipitous wall of rock, some thirty feet in height, and falls into a deep basin —this basin inclosed by perpendicular walls of rock, excepting at the outlet, that have an altitude of perhaps twenty feet greater than the upper bed of the stream, which has worn a channel of corresponding depth. About the base of the falls is a beautiful glen, with rocky caverns, where mosses and ferns crop out in abundance. The place is approachable only on foot by a winter wood road and trail. Everything about it is in its wild natural state. The elevations given are from surveys made by Preston C. F. West, Civil Engineer of H. & C. M. Co.

The Douglass Houghton Falls.—A rival of the Hungarian Falls are situated one and a half miles due west of the village of Lake Linden, and a half mile north of the Hecla & Torch Lake Railroad. They are formed by a small stream, a tributary of the Traprock River. The height of the falls is about two hundred feet and the descent nearly perpendicular. Walls of sandstone shut in the deep ravine below. Some tall pines grow on the very verge of the sandstone bluffs, which rise far above the upper channel of the stream. The general features are similar to the Hungarian. The falls are reached only on foot, by a trail, and are found in their perfect natural picturesqueness.

For the climate, geology, flora, fauna and the red man of Houghton County the reader is referred to the respective chapters in the general history preceding.


Prior to 1843, all the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was unknown to civil organization. The first action in this direction was an act of the Legislature, approved March 9, 1843, " an act to divide the Upper Peninsula into six counties, and to define the boundaries of the same." March 19, 1845, this act was amended as follows: "All that portion of the State embraced between the north boundary of Township 49, the line between Ranges 37 and 38 west, and Lake Superior. together with islands in said lake west of the county of Schoolcraft, shall be laid off as a separate county and be known and designated as the county of Houghton."

This county was organized by legislative enactment, approved May 18, 1846, into three election precincts or townships—Eagle Harbor, Houghton and L'Anse—and with the other five counties organized into a judicial district; and the first election was ordered to be held on the first Monday of August of this year. In pursuance of this law, elections were held at Eagle Harbor, Eagle River and L'Anse. Schoolcraft, Marquette and Ontonagon were then attached to Houghton County for judicial, elective and revenue purposes. By the same act, the Governor of the State was authorized to appoint three persons as Commissioners to locate the county seat, which was accordingly located at Eagle River.

In pursuance of the act of 1846, the following persons were elected to the several county offices: County Judge, John Bacon; Judge of Probate, Edward Burr; County Clerk, Charles A. Amerman; Register of Deeds, Hiram Joy; Sheriff, Joseph Raymond; Treasurer, David French; Surveyor, Samuel G. Hill; Coroners. John Beedon and John Atwood.

The next action was a legislative act entitled "An act to organize certain townships in the counties of Marquette, Houghton. Schoolcraft and Ontonagon," and provide for elections therein, approved March 16, 1847, under which Houghton County was divided into six civil townships, as follows: "Copper Harbor" Township embraced all of Keweenaw Point, east of the line between Ranges 29 and 30 west, and in Townships 57, 58 and 59 north, and the islands adjacent thereto, including Manitou Island, and was named "Copper Harbor." The first election therein was held at the house of D. D. Brockway.

Eagle Harbor Township embraced Townships 57, 58 and 59, north of Range 30 west, and the east half of Townships 57 and 58, north of Range 31 west, and was named "Eagle River." The first election therein was held at the house of Hiram Joy.

Houghton Township embraced the west half of Townships 57 and 58, north of Range 31 west, and Townships 57 and 58, north of Ranges 32 and 33 west, and was named Houghton. The first election therein was held al the house of Martin Coryall.

Portage Township embraced Townships 53, 54, 55 and 56 north, of Ranges 30. 31, 32, 33 and 34 west, and including Traverse Island, excepting that part of Point Abbaye embraced in Township 53 north, of Ranges 30 and 31 west, and named "Portage." The first election therein was held at the house of R. Williamson.

Algonquin Township embraced Townships 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55 and 56 north, of Ranges 35, 36 and 37 west, and named "Algonquin." The first election therein was held at the house of the Algonquin Mining Company.

L'Anse Township embraced Townships 50, 51 and 52 north, of Ranges 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34 west, and that part of Point Abbaye, in Township 53 north, of Ranges 30 and 31 west, including the islands adjacent thereto, and named "L'Anse." The first election therein was held at the house of Mr. Knapp.

The next day. March 17, 1847, another legislative act was approved, entitled "An act to provide for the election of county officers in Houghton County," providing that the electors in the several townships of the county, and of the counties attached thereto for election purposes, shall meet in their respective townships on the first Tuesday of July next, 1847, for such purpose, and that the officers thus chosen shall enter upon their duties immediately thereafter, and hold their offices until January 1, 1849.

The above act was never carried into effect, but another legislative act was approved April 3, 1848, defining the boundaries and providing for the re-organization of the six counties, the same as provided in the acts of March 9, 1843, March 19, 1845, and May 18, 1846, except that the judicial functions of the county, and of the whole Upper Peninsula as well, were changed from a County Judge to a District Judge. This act of April 3. 1848, also provides for holding a special election thereunder, "on the first Tuesday of July next," 1848, for the election of county officers, which was accordingly held at Copper Harbor, Eagle River and L'Anse.

Inasmuch as the legislative act of 1846 failed to provide for the organization of townships, and the election of a Board of Supervisors, the act and the election thereunder were held as void, and were thus treated. Hence the reorganization and election of 1848.

The following were the officers chosen at the first regular election, on Tuesday, July 4, 1848: District Judge, Welles Hawes; Second District Judge, Lyman Pray; Probate Judge, John Beedon; Clerk, L. P. Morrison; Register of Deeds, Justin Shapley; Sheriff, John Atwood; Treasurer, John Senter; Surveyor, Samuel W. Hill; Coroners, William Boswell and Samuel Knapp; Supervisors for Houghton Township, James Bawden; Eagle Harbor Township, Townsend Green; L'Anse Township, Wm. A. Pratt.

James Bawden declined his election as the first Supervisor for Houghton Township, and the board elected John Bacon to his vacancy; and Townsend Green also declined his election as Supervisor for Eagle Harbor, and Justin Shapley was chosen by the board to fill his vacancy.

Prior to the organization of the county under the act of April 3, 1848, Houghton County remained attached to Chippewa County for elective, judicial and legislative purposes; and at the election held under the void act of 1846, Samuel W. Hill was voted for as a Representative in the Legislature, and contested the seat of the member from Chippewa, for the purpose of securing legislation curative of the organizing act of 1846, which he did in the acts approved March 16 and 17, 1847.

The first meeting of the Board of Supervisors was held at the office of the Lake Superior Copper Company, at Eagle River, January 20, 1849, pursuant to the call of the Supervisors elect, whereupon William A. Pratt was chosen the first Chairman.

The following was the first official business transacted: "Resolved, That John Bacon, Supervisor for Houghton Township, be and is hereby fully authorized to select a building at or near the office of the Lake Superior Copper Company, and employ at the expense of this county some suitable person or persons to put it in fit condition for the reception and safe keeping of prisoners; said expenses not to exceed $100."

The Next act was: "Resolved, That the office of the Lake Superior Copper Company be designated as the place of holding the courts for this judicial district, at a rent not exceeding $1 per month."

Supervisor Shapley reported $6 collected for tavern licenses in hisEagle Harbor—township, and Supervisor John Bacon reported $18 for licenses, collected for taverns and vitiating places in Houghton Township.

The first order drawn by the board upon the county treasury was for $8, dated January 22, 1849. in favor of N. D. Miniclear, as a member of the Board of Canvassers at the first county election.

Order No. 2, for $2, was issued to William Royal, "the man who owned the hog that found the Calumet and Hecla Mine," for bringing the first election returns from L'Anse to the county seat. The next three orders were drawn to pay the Supervisors for their official services.


Since the organization of the six townships of Eagle Harbor, Eagle River, Houghton, L' Anse, Portage and Algonquin, under the legislative act of 1847, the counties of Keweenaw and Baraga have been set off partly from Houghton County, the former including part of Houghton and all of Eagle River and Copper Harbor Townships, and the latter including L'Anse and Algonquin Townships. The townships of the county, as now organized, are Portage, defined March 17, 1847, and formally organized September 29, 1853; Hancock, organized by special act of the Legislature, March 16, 1861, out of a division of Portage Township; Franklin was organized by the Board of Supervisors out of the Township of Hancock, October 19, 1863; Schoolcraft Township was organized out of Portage Township, including Traverse Island, July 28, 1866; Calumet was set off from Franklin Township by the Board of Supervisors November 27, 1866, and organized by the electors thereof at a meeting for that purpose, held at the office of the Calumet Mining Company, December 17, 1866; Adams Township was set off from Portage Township, by the Board of Supervisors, in March, 1867, and, on the first Monday of April following, it was organized at a meeting of the electors thereof, held at the office of the South Pewabic Copper Company. In March, 1867, Portage Township was again divided, and a new township named Webster was set off and duly organized, but was not of permanent existence, as it was disorganized and its territory set back as a part of Portage again, in December, 1874.


The assessed valuation of Houghton County, in 1881, was $7,000,000, and the year 1882, about $24,500,000. The tax levy upon the valuation of 1881 was 1i per cent for all purposes, produced a county revenue of $105,000. This sum was divided into the following funds: State, county, general township, highways and schools, the latter fund being double that of all the other funds.

The number of acres of land in the county, assessed in 1881, was 411,710. The aggregate amount of real and personal property assessed in 1881 was $1,619,589.


The only county institutions are the court house, jail and poor-house and farm. The court house is a frame structure, two stories high, of ample dimensions and well finished, and seems to have been built for many years to come. It contains the county offices on the first floor, each occupying comfortably arranged rooms ample for the business of the county. On the upper floor are the court and jury rooms, all ample for the administration of justice.

On a line with the court house and a few yards to the west stands the jail, also a frame structure, two stories high, of sufficient dimensions to confine such evil-doers as the courts of justice adjudge a sojourn within its walls, which are of ample strength to secure the most vicious. They are constructed of plank two by ten inches, laid flat-wise one upon another and spiked together. The cells for the confinement of male prisoners are formed in two rows, one on each side of the building, and are constructed of narrower strips of two-inch plank than the outer walls of the building, and spiked together in the same manner. This structure has never yielded to but one escape, and this was effected by the prisoner cutting through the outer wall of the building while having the privilege of the corridors. The cells for the occupancy of female prisoners are located over the kitchen, outside of the main cell building. The Sheriff of the county occupies the rooms in the front part of the building. These buildings stand high upon the bluff of Houghton Village, the county seat, facing the north and pleasantly overlooking Portage Lake.

The Poor-House and Farm.—This humane institution of Houghton County is located in Hancock Township, on the south shore of Portage Lake. The farm which is ample in size, but of poor productive quality, was purchased several years since. The buildings thereon were soon erected, are ample in size, in good condition. There seems, however, to be one great defect in their construction—the want of ample bath-rooms. The only facilities for cleanliness in this respect are ordinary wash-tubs. The buildings are warmed with wood stoves and well ventilated with tin ventilators in the windows. Three meals of vegetables and meat are provided each day, with tea twice a day. The invalids are fed under the direction of the county physician. The clothing of the inmates seems warm and suited to the climate. The hospital is under charge of the county physician, and all the inmates are reported by those in charge to be well treated. The county has no accommodations for the insane; they are sent to the State Asylum. Six months' schooling during the winter is furnished the children, where there are a sufficient number. The whole number of poor maintained in the poor-house, for the year 1881, were thirty-eight. Of these, fourteen were Americans, two English, seven Irish, nine Germans and five Canadians. There was during the year 1881, but one death. The total number of persons who received assistance in any form from the county, during 1881, were 650, of which 150 were permanent paupers maintained outside of the poorhouse, and 450 temporarily relieved outside the poor-house, with 10 maintained at the State Insane Asylum.

The total amount expended by the county for the support of its poor, for the year 1881, was $13,955.97, all paid from its poor fund. The total expense of the poor-house and farm, for 1881, was $3,284.50, of which $750 were paid to the keeper; $76 for clothing; $1,509.65 for food purchased; $120 for medical attendance; $450 for buildings erected, and $229.38 for improving the farm.

The following compose the present Board of Supervisors, by whom the general county affairs are managed:

John Duncan, Calumet Township; Joseph Gregory, Schoolcraft Township; Daniel Kloeckner, Quincy Township; Arno Jaehnig, Franklin Township; A. J. Scott, Hancock Township; William Tonkin, Adams Township; James B. Sturgis, Portage Township.


The names of the original towns of Houghton County, previous to the detachment of Baraga County, together with their population, from 1850 to 1870, are given as follows:

Eagle Harbor, in 1850, contained 125 whites and 1 colored inhabitant. In 1860, the number of whites was 1,303 and 3 Indians. Houghton contained 456 inhabitants, in 1850, and L'Anse, 126 in 1850.

The statistics for 1860 show the population of Copper Harbor to be 193 whites and 1 Indian; of Eagle Harbor, 1,306; of Hancock, 1,618; of Houghton, 2,124 whites, 18 colored and 3 Indians; of L'Anse, 327 whites, 253 Indians and 2 colored; of Portage, 3,808 whites, 32 colored persons and 18 Indians; of Houghton, 2,123 whites, 18 colored persons and 15 Indians.

The population of Houghton County, in 1870, by townships, was as follows: Franklin, 2,163; Adams, 670; Baraga, 160; Calumet, 3,182; Hancock, 2,700; Huron, 769; Webster, 876; L'Anse, 33; Portage, 1,540; Quincy, 1,117; Schoolcraft, 669.

The population of the townships of Houghton County in 1880 was as follows: Adams, 1,148; Calumet, 6,159; Red Jacket Village, 2,140; Franklin Township, 2,987; Hancock Township, 1,258; Hancock Village, 1,783; Portage Township, increased by Webster and Huron in 1875, 2,863; Quincy Township, 1,490, and Schoolcraft Township, 2,645, or a total of 22,473, including 24 Indians and half-breeds.


The aggregate expenditures of Houghton County for war purposes, up to 1866, was $39,152.71. The amount expended from 1861 to 1867. for the relief of soldiers' families, was $8,419, exclusive of private contributions.

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Association met at Lake Linden in June, 1882. The address of welcome was delivered by Mr. E. Brule. The banquet was a superb affair. The hall was decorated in a most artistic manner, and the tables were loaded with the choicest delicacies. From the opening to the close of the exercises, the most complete order reigned. The following officers were elected for the year 1881-82: President, James Ross; Vice Presidents, William Goodale, John Amasse, Mathias Mertes, Henry Wilkins; Commander, W. B. Wright; Adjutant, G. R. Sheldon; Secretary, Charles Smith; Treasurer, Graham Pope; Surgeon, Dr. Tidemann; Orator, Rev. John Hamilton; Executive Committee, Houghton. R. R. Goodell, Joseph Haas; Hancock, A. J. Scott, John Began; Calumet, J. N. Cox, E. G. Brown; Lake Linden, Peter Critchen, W. J. Smith; Keweenaw County, Stephen Cocking, W. B. Wright Eighty-one members answered at the roll-call, and seven new names were added.

Houghton County contributed to the military regiments of Michigan in the war of the rebellion, from 1861 to 1865, 460 men. Of these, 310 enlisted previous to September 19, 1863; 150 served three years, 13 re-enlisted as veterans, while the others served for shorter terms, or were discharged for disability or other causes.

Houghton County has, within a few years, achieved great prosperity through its immense production of mineral wealth, which soon became the basis of other industries, all contributing to its development until today it stands unrivaled in the extent and value of its resources. It has the natural resources for still greater development, until it becomes equal, if not already, to any in the State in wealth.


Nature has done more than human effort for Houghton County in the creation of ways for transportation. It created the great chain of lakes which almost connect the Atlantic with the Pacific through their great river connections, and thus afford unlimited means for the transportation of the vast mineral, agricultural and manufactured products of the country to the marts of consumption. Thus it is that Houghton County is favorably located, having, as it does, one of nature's highways passing through it—Portage Lake. This Lake, with its water connections, Portage River, five miles long from its entry into Lake Superior at Keweenaw Bay to its connection with its namesake, thence through Portage Lake in a northwesterly direction across Keweenaw Point to Lake Superior again, the last two miles of which being through the Lake Superior and Portage Lake Ship Canal, which is 100 feet wide and fourteen feet deep. The General Government gave to this company, prior to 1868, a subsidy of 20,000 acres of land, and in 1869, it made it another grant of 20,000 acres. Other subsequent land grants were made, until the company now hold 450,000 acres in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Bonds were issued, secured by this land grant, and money obtained to prosecute the work, which was commenced in 1868, and completed in 1873, at a cost of about $2,500,000.

Under the first management, the enterprise was bankrupted, and passed into the hands of a Receiver, by whom it was completed. In 1874, the canal, thus completed, together with its subsidies, was sold by the Receiver to Alvin P. Mann and other gentlemen, and the present company, Lake Superior Ship Canal, Railway and Iron Company, was organized at Detroit. James Prior, of Houghton, Mich., is the Superintendent in charge of the canal. The annual income from this canal is some $8,000. By this route through Keweenaw Point, lake vessels, making Houghton, Hancock and other inland points, are saved a hundred miles of distance in their course to the upper lake regions. Portage River, five miles in length, has also been improved, by the straightening, widening and deepening of its course.

The upper lake lines of transportation which have contributed benefits to Houghton County and productive interests are the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior Transportation Company, owned by the Leopold Brothers, which they established eighteen years ago, in a moderate way, beginning with only two propellers, the Norman and Ontonagon. This may almost be called the pioneer line, which has grown to large proportions since it was consolidated with the Lake Superior Pioneer Line of A. T. Spencer in the autumn of 1879. This company now own the fine lake propellers, Peerless, Hurd, City of Duluth, the Manistee, and other lesser crafts. This line is owned by A. F. and Samuel F. Leopold, Joseph Austrian, A. T. and C. F. A. Spencer, all of Chicago. John Trelease is their general agent at Hancock. The Leopolds and Austrian were, before their removal to Chicago, prosperous merchants in Hancock.

The Lake Superior Transit Company also have a line of fine and excellent steamers plying between Buffalo and Duluth by way of the upper lakes—the China, Japan, India, Arctic, Empire State, Badger State, St. Louis, Winslow, Nyack and Arizona, all of which stop at Houghton and Hancock except the latter. This company also have an office on the dock at Hancock, with J. C. Thompson as their agent.

The fine mail steamer Ivanhoe makes her daily trips, except Sundays, between Hancock and L'Anse, and carries the mail, passengers and express matter. She is owned by R. M. Hoar and T. W. Edwards. The management of the boat throughout is of the best, and has a carrying capacity of 177 tops.

As illustrative of the travel on the L'Anse and Houghton route, during the months of May and June, 1882, there passed up on the Ivanhoe 1,521 passengers, and 1,543 were carried down.

The engine of the Ivanhoe has quite a history connected with it. It was originally built for "Boss" Tweed, in the days of his prosperity, by David Bell, of Buffalo, who had a contract from Tweed to build for the New York river police service a cigar-shaped boat, after the pattern of a Mr. Wyman, of Baltimore, and one of the best upright engines was put into it. When completed and placed on trial on a rough sea, it was found that she could not be kept right side up while using this engine. It was accordingly taken out, an oscillating engine put in its place, and the Wyman boat run around to New York and accepted. It now occurred to Mr. Bell to construct a boat of his own model to fit the engine he had on hand, and the Ivanhoe, an iron hull, was built and run out of Buffalo for about two years as an excursion boat.

At this time, James Bendry, in consideration for ceding to the Marquette, Houghton Sr, Ontonagon Railroad the town site of the village of L'Anse, obtained a grant stipulating to give him the exclusive carrying trade to the upper points for twenty years. Securing the aid of R. M. Hoar, of Houghton, they purchased the Ivanhoe and placed her on the route. About two years afterward, Mr. Bendry sold his interest to Mr. T. W. Edwards, one of the present owners.

Besides these, there are other steamers and sail vessels entering the ports of Houghton County, especially those of Houghton and Hancock, which add to the business life of Houghton and Hancock during the shipping season of the year, as the extensive docks and warehouses of Hoar Brothers, Hennes, and Pope & Sheppard, in the former village, and those of J. A. Close, Peter Buppe and the Quincy Mining Company in the latter, fully confirm.

Besides these great water-way means of transportation through the lakes, the lesser one of Portage is made lively with a tug line owned by a company organized late in 1879, called the Portage Lake Towing Company. They began with two tugs, the Anderson and Mary E. Miller, then acquired the Minnie Brown and J. W. Croze. The Misses Miller and Brown are retired. The company have under lease the additional tugs Maytham and Syphax. These are employed in towing sail vessels and other crafts from point to point in and through the lake.

The first steam vessel that entered Portage Lake was a small stern-wheel steamer, originally built for Ontonagon River. After being run into the lake, she was remodeled for a side-wheeler, her heavy engine taken out and used for other purposes, and a light one substituted, and the vessel named C. C. Douglass. In 1855, the Douglass was run into Torch Lake. This was accomplished by often stopping and chopping out the trees which overhung the channel. The principal parties on board at that time were, besides C. C. Douglass, the owner of the boat, Henry W. Nelson, the Secretary and Treasurer of the Isle Royale Mining Company; J. W. Clark, of Boston; Dr. L. W. Clark, of the Cliff Mine; H. Bigelow, of Boston; Capt. R. Edwards, Joseph P. Edwards and Ransom Shelden. The second steam vessel was the tug Pratt, Capt. James Bendry. In the spring of 1859, a side-wheeler called the Princess was placed on the lake, and, with the Pratt, run between Houghton, Hancock and Keweenaw Bay, to bring in the freight brought there by steamers too large to run through Portage River. She was commanded by Capt. C. Sheldon. After the improvements, the Mineral Rock was, the first large steamer that passed through Portage Lake, which was in 1860.

To better promote neighborly relations and to facilitate passage and transportation between the twin villages—Houghton and Hancock—a company was organized in 1871, the "Portage Lake Bridge Company," which built and completed in April, 1876, a toll bridge over Portage Lake, connecting these towns at the west or upper end of Houghton and at the east or lower end of Hancock. This bridge has a draw span, which admits the largest vessels to pass. The company also own the rapid and amiable little passenger tug "Lizzie Sutton," named after a daughter of one of the manufacturers of her engine, in Buffalo. She made half-hour trips between the two villages as gracefully as need be, for five cents each way. The bridge and "Lizzie" cost $65,000, and both pay the company good profits. The company are: T. W. Edwards, President; George C. Sheldon, Secretary and Treasurer.

For the purpose of improving and keeping in good condition Portage Lake and river therefrom to the entry on Keweenaw Bay, a company was organized in 1862, under a State charter obtained the year before, composed of the Quincy, Pewabic and Isle Royal and Mesnard Mining Companies, with R. Shelden, as Secretary and Treasurer. When the work was completed, which consisted of straightening, widening, deepening and dredging, they cut a channel from the entry of the river in Keweenaw Bay, along and to the river 14,000 feet long, 100 feet wide and 12 feet deep, and the channel of the river the remaining distance to Portage Lake was dredged to the depth of eleven feet. The present officers of the company are: Frederick Ayer, of Lowell, Mass., who holds the largest interest; Secretary, and Treasurer, James Prior, of Houghton. Portage Lake, from the entrance of Keweenaw Bay to the mouth of the ship canal at Lake Superior, constitutes the United States customs district of Houghton, which is a port of entry. Mr. Breesford is the Collector.

Thus not only does this important water-way make navigable for the largest lake vessels, but these improvements have made the harbors along its course in Houghton County as ample and safe as any found elsewhere, especially at Hancock, Houghton and Lake Linden on Torch Lake, which is an arm of Portage.

Another means of travel and transportation by roadway is the "Mineral Range Railroad," a narrow gauge, which was built by a company organized June 19, 1871, with Charles E. Holland as President; J. N. Scott, Secretary; O. W. Robinson, Treasurer, and J. C. Sharpless, Chief Engineer in charge of the work. It was completed October 11, 1873, and admitted the first train over it on that day under the charge of A. H. Viele. It extends from Hancock to Calumet, a distance of twelve miles, leading around back of the range of bluffs extending high up from the lake. The cost of construction was $328,235.86. The equipage of the road consists of four locomotives, two passenger coaches, two baggage and passenger cars combined, twenty-two flat, thirteen box and forty mineral rock cars. The gross earnings for the past year1881—were $117,956.24. It does a large freighting business, especially in mineral rock from the Osceola Mine to its stamp mill, on Portage Lake at Hancock. Its present officers are: Charles E. Holland, President; Charles A. Wright, Secretary and Treasurer; Charles A. Holland, R. M. Hoar, J. A. Hubbell, Peter Ruppe, Jacob Baer, J. A. Close, J. H. Chandler, M. L. Crandell, David Kendall, William Condon and James R. Devereaux, Directors.

Another roadway important to this region during the close of water navigation is the wagon or stage road from L'Anse to Houghton and Hancock. It extends from Houghton to Ontonagon as a mail route the year round, and as a passenger and traffic route during the close of navigation. The completion of the Marquette, Houghton & Ontonagon Railroad at no distant day will dispense with this route for mail and traffic purposes. Thus, through the working of its great mines and its facilities for intercourse with all parts of the country, by lake and railroad, Houghton has, in the brief period of thirty-seven years, become the wealthiest county in the State of Michigan. The territory which this State almost spurned as worthless at the conclusion of the Toledo war has since made her one of the most famous mineral-producing States in the Union. For copper, Houghton County stands unrivaled before the world, the Detroit Lake Superior Copper Works turning out from the products of the mines more refined copper in 1881 than was produced by any other works in the world, it amounting to 80,000 tons.

In the winter, the owners of the steamer Ivanhoe—Messrs. Hoar & Edwards —run a line of three mail, express and passenger coaches each way, and 104 freight wagons, making two trips each week, between Houghton and L'Anse, connecting at the latter point with the Marquette, Houghton & Ontonagon Railroad. In this, the company employ over 100 men and 238 horses. During the last winter1881-82—they thus handled over 8,000 tons of freight, some 5,000 tons of which was copper. This is a stage route also.


The Agogebic Iron and Pine Land Company have 7,000 acres of mineral and timber land in the Agogebic District, in Towns 46, 47 and 48 north, Ranges 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 46 west. F. G. White, President; C. E. Holland, Vice President; E. H. Towar, Secretary and Treasurer.

The Sturgeon River Land and Iron Mining Company have 1,200 acres, situated in the counties of Marquette and Baraga. F. G. White, President; E. H. Towar, Secretary and Treasurer.

The Kloeckner Land Pool is an association of gentlemen, who have pooled their money and purchased 22,000 acres of mineral and timber land in the Agogebic District.

These lands have all been secured at Government prices, and are within the great iron belt of the Upper Peninsula.


The agricultural interest in its various branches in Houghton County is secondary to all other interests. However, in some portions thereof, considerable attention is given to farming. In Schoolcraft Township, adjacent to Torch Lake, there are a number of fair farms, probably embracing fourteen sections in extent. The same may also be said of Calumet Township, in which about 1,500 bushels of oats, 3,000 bushels of potatoes and 225 tons of hay were produced by the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company alone the past year. These are the chief productions of this county, although almost all kinds of garden vegetables are grown luxuriantly and abundantly, including the hardier varieties of apples and the smaller fruits, such as strawberries, currants, raspberries and blackberries, etc.

The time will come when the Menonite and Scandinavian elements of the population will give greater attention to the agricultural industry, including stock raising, than is given it now; the mining and lumber interests are overshadowing every other productive industry.

Houghton County contains 640,000 acres of land, of which twenty-three farms are made, containing 3,033 acres under improvement.

The number of acres of United States Government lands in the county, open to entry in October, 1881, was 59,000. There were also then 13,543 acres of school lands, 60,000 acres belonging to the Ste. Mary's Canal and Mineral Land Company, and 10,000 acres belonging to the Lake Superior Ship Canal, Railroad and Iron Company, located in Hough ton County, at the same date.

Aside from the vast mineral deposits in Houghton County, it also contains an extensive and valuable quarry of the old red sandstone, called the Torch Lake sandstone quarry, and is located a mile west of Lake Linden, on the sandstone bluff. From this formation, blocks of red sandstone seventeen feet long and seven feet in diameter have been taken out, which have been used in building the Calumet and Hecla Water Works. Rocks ten and eleven feet long, by thirty inches in diameter, are common. In 1880, the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company took out 70,000 cubical feet of dressed stone. In July, 1882, specimens of the red and white sandstone were shipped to Boston, where they were submitted to a pressure test. The red stone was found to be equal to 70,000 pounds to the cubical foot, while the white registered 85,000 pounds' pressure. The works are extensive, as are all the branches of industry operated by the Calumet and Hecla Company.


An event of thrilling calamity occurred in Houghton County many years ago—"the Massacre of Battle Island" —which is authentically narrated in the following account, contributed by the Rev. Edward Jacker to the Houghton County Historical Society several years ago:

"The following statements are almost exclusively gathered from relations of aged Indians, some still alive, some already gone on their last great journey, by Rev. Edward Jacker. The earliest well authenticated fact relating to the local history of Portage Lake is the last hostile encounter between the Otchipwe Indians and their Eastern foes, the terrible Iroquois, terminating in the destruction of a strong party of the latter, near Battle Island, a spot well known to those accustomed to travel between the Portage Lake Mines and the Entry. For those not acquainted with the locality, the following will be a sufficient guide:

"Sailing up from the mouth of Portage River, at a distance of about two and a half miles, you pass a large wood dock (Church's), then, turning with the river, you perceive to the left a slightly wooded point, partly cut off by a bayou, but connected with the main land by a low, marshy ground, which, at the time of the event, may possibly have formed a branch of the channel; this is Battle Island, a rather incorrect translation of the Indian Tchibai Miniss' (pronounced Che-bae-ee-me-niss), that is, the Island of the Dead. The relation was thus:

"Three generations have passed away since the last battle fought between the Otchipwe and the Iroquois Indians took place. The point of land at the mouth of Portage River, now disconnected from the main land by the Ship Canal, was at that time, as it continued to be until the beginning of the present century, the site of a large Otchipwe village. One day it happened that a young man started from this place toward the point now occupied by the light-house, to pay a visit to a young woman, his intended wife; when at once, he descried, in the direction of Traverse Island, something like two large logs floating on the surface of the lake. A closer examination revealed to him the startling fact than the objects seen were nothing less than two large Iroquois canoes, apparently manned by a strong war-party. The young brave kept himself concealed until he was satisfied that the enemy had landed at the beach next to the light-house point, from whence they undoubtedly would soon wind their way through the woods and bushes, to surprise in the darkness of night, and massacre the inhabitants of the Otchipwe Village. Hurrying back thither, he communicated the strange news, whereupon the plan of escape, as well as of retaliation, was instantly settled. All the domestic animals—only dogs, of course—were killed, to prevent their betraying, by their barking, the intended general move. Then the whole population embarked in their canoes and took to the river. The females and children were sent as far as Torch Lake as a place of safety in the case of untoward events; the warriors concealed themselves and their canoes on both shores of the river, on and opposite the point, which was to obtain its name from the following stroke of Indian strategy.

It was not long before the waylaying party received the news of the Iroquois approach, for two young heroes, mere boys, had been left behind, concealed in the bushes across the river's mouth, to watch the movements of the enemy. According to their report, the result had been as follows:

"The Iroquois (Nadowey) at their arrival, finding the village deserted, the dogs slain, the wigwams empty, broke out into a terrific howl, with mingled expressions of rage and disappointment. Upon this, the boys let fly among them some arrows, which, coming from unseen quarters, served to increase their bewilderment and probably filled their minds with superstitious misgivings. They seemed to hold a consultation, at the end of which they took to their canoes, in pursuit of the Otchipwes, but were outrun by the little reconnoitering party, who brought the welcome news to the waylaying Indians at Battle Island, just in time to have them prepared for action.

It was night, but the two long canoes were soon plainly seen in hot pursuit, paddled along by many strong arms through the middle of the channel. A shower of sharp-pointed arrows met the foe, striking some, discouraging the rest. The Iroquois neared the opposite shore, to meet another cloud of missiles; their ranks were quickly thinned, and soon the boats were seen motionless, floating on the blood-stained water. Every invader had been slain, but one young boy, who was found alive and unhurt in the bottom of a canoe; and he was weeping. 'We shall not hurt you, child,' the victorious band said; 'go home in peace, and bid the men of thy tribe come up and pay a visit to the Otchipwe country; we warrant them a hearty welcome.' Upon which he only wept more, and said: 'Alas, there are no more Iroquois left but women and children.' In pity they sent him off with a badge of safe conduct; and it is believed he reached his native village somewhere on the lower lakes.

"This is the history of the fight, or rather, the massacre of Battle Island, as preserved in the memory of the Keweenaw Indians. Will it be worth the while to make an attempt at a critical examination of the facts contained in this simple narrative? If so, the first question will be, on whose authority do these facts rest? And here the precedence must be given to the fair sex.

"Nibinckwadokwe, pronounced Ne-be-na-quah-duck-wa, that is, 'the woman of the clouds standing in a bow,' is a person of clear intellect and undoubted veracity; she enjoys a remarkably retentive memory, especially for one of her age, which is about seventy. This good woman, when a child of probably ten years, heard the story of the massacre repeated by an eye-witness of the scene—her own grand father, Ojinini, pronounced Oh-zhe-ne-ne, 'the handsome man,' one of the very boys who sent their arrows across the mouth of Portage River among the Iroquois raiders, and afterward, a noted chief of the Portage Lake band of Indians, she remembers perfectly well, as an old man, probably a nonagenarian, if not more, who used to grope his way along the net poles, from lodge to lodge, in her native village at the mouth of Pilgrims' River. The remembrance of his words was, of course, kept fresh in her mind by their frequent repetition in the family wigwam; and the story, as rendered by her, coincides almost in every particular with the account given of the same event by other persons of her age, who probably have it from a different source. Its intrinsic evidence of truth also leaves scarcely anything to be desired. The accuracy of the statement, together with those seemingly trifling incidents, which could scarcely have been invented by narrators of a later day, such as the visit of the lover, the first appearance of the distant canoes, the killing of dogs, etc., give to the whole story an air of truthfulness, which vouches for the general correctness of the relation.

"That such a number of persons, perhaps not less than thirty, should have been so easily cut off by the means of so inefficient a weapon as jasper, or flint-headed arrows, seems somewhat strange; but, judging from the skill evinced by Indian bows-men, even nowadays, it is by no means impossible. The night may have been a clear one, and both shores wooded more thickly than now, so as to shelter the badly armed natives against the fire of the invaders, who must have been, at least partly, provided with guns, but could hardly make an efficient use of them, endeavoring, as they were, to save themselves by force of paddling.

"The assertion of the young Iroquois captive, that there were none but widows and orphans left of his tribe, which, literally interpreted, would, of course imply a great exaggeration, may have been true, too, in this sense, that all the warriors of one particular band had participated in the ill-starred campaign. And in fact, this encounter between the two hostile nations, on Otchipwe ground, is the last recorded.

"As for the precise period of the event, it is impossible to make out the year, the Indians being rather deficient in chronology, even as far as their own ages are concerned; but by deducting fourteen, the probable age of the young spy Ojiminini, from ninety, which may have been his age at the time of his death, and deducting again the number seventy-six thus gained, from 1806, when his granddaughter Nibinckwadokwe was about ten years old, the year 1730 will be found; and this cannot be far from the true date.

"So much—and amost too much—of the history, and now for the legend!

"Once upon a time, some Indians (dates and names are failing here in a suspicious manner) were encamping on Battle Island. They had scarcely stretched out their weary limbs on the mossy ground when voices were heard as of persons whispering around them in an intelligible language, and motions of men coming and going perceived by the ear, though nothing became visible to their keenest gaze. When they got up in the morning to prepare their meal, what was their astonishment, as they looked for their provisions, fish, rabbits, muskrats, ducks, corn, or whatever they had, all gone, eaten clear out of their kettles, bags and baskets! The slain in the battle, the grim ghosts of the 'Nadowey,' had been visiting the Island of the Dead (which thence derived its name) to feed upon the daintiest of their slayers' children!

"Travelers or excursionists, if you wish to shake hands with the courageous young spy's granddaughter, stop the course of your boat at the first house that greets you from the river's left shore, after you pass, on your way downward, the second wood dock (Drapeau's), about a mile below Battle Island."

Includable Page Index History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: Houghton County
 Pages 250 - 256 | Pages 256 - 264 | Pages 264 - 272 | Pages 272 - 276 | Pages 276 - 279 | Pages 279 - 283 | Pages 283 - 286
Pages 286 - 291 | Pages 291 - 299 | Pages 299 - 302 | Pages 302 - 305 | Pages 305 - 311 | Pages 311 - 316 | Pages 316 - 320
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