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 272-276.

HOUGHTON. (Village)

Village Of Houghton

The seat of justice of the county, like other villages and hamlets of the county, is the outgrowth of the mining interest therein. Its first settlers located within its limits in the fall of 1852. Ransom Shelden was the first. He came from L'Anse, in 1845 and remained during the winter. The following spring, he went to Portage Entry, fourteen miles distant, where he erected a warehouse and two or three dwellings, and where he removed his family in 1847 and did business until the fall of 1851, when he removed to the Quincy Mine. In 1852, in company with C. C. Douglass, who purchased the land where Houghton and Hancock now stand—in fact, all the land now occupied with the mines along Portage Lake—he erected a model store building, opposite where Pope & Sheppard are now located, which was generally known as "Shelden's Store." This was the first building erected on the ground now occupied by Houghton. The next pioneer building was a log house erected opposite the present Shelden residence. The next pioneer was Capt. Richard Edwards, who came soon after Shelden; then came Joseph Wallace.

The next year, 1853, W. W. Henderson came to the new Eldorado, and erected a saw-mill. Then, also, came Charles Page. The next year, 1854, C. C. Douglass came over from Hancock and built a log house opposite the present Douglass residence. Thus there had gathered quite a settlement.

The population rapidly increased, and great expectations pervading the minds of the inhabitants, a village plat was proposed, and, in December, 1854, Ernest F. Pletschke surveyed and platted the fractional northeast quarter of Section 36, Township 55 north, of Range 34 west, into town lots.

Houghton, with a population of 854, was incorporated as a village, under the general incorporation law of 1857, November 4, 1861, embracing the territory-described in the plat of 1854 together with a strip of land lying on the south of the original plat between it and the section line.

The first election of village officers was held at the office of John Atwood, December 2, 1861, at which 185 votes were cast. The following were the officers thus chosen: President, William Rainey; Clerk, John Atwood; Treasurer, William Harris; Assessors, Seth Reese and Alexander Pope; Trustees, William Miller, Edward Roma, George Fuller, James D. Reed, Richard M. Hoar and Jay A. Hubbell; Street Commissioners, Thomas M. Hubbell, Edwin Berrer and Ransom Shelden. John Atwood, Thomas J. Brown and John Blandy were the Inspectors of this election.

The village is pleasantly located on the southern slope of Portage Lake, presenting a picturesque view of this fine lake. and the mining and business activity of thlakeosite slope.

Fire Department.—For the protection of the property of the village a fire department was organized in 1860-61, under the official supervision of Richard M. Hoar. Through his efforts organization was thoroughly perfected—equal to the best in this section. The first fire engine purchased by the village was the last improved hand-engine used in Detroit. In about 1872, a steam fire-engine was purchased together with some 2,500 feet of hose. Besides these equipments, the department has now a thoroughly organized hook and ladder company, composed of eighty active members. The supply of water is brought from Portage Lake and the cisterns on Third street, which are 30x42 feet in diameter

and twelve feet deep. These are supplied from four springs on the hillside. As evidence of the department's efficiency, it is said that fires have never extended to the second building since its existence. A new brick engine-house has recently been built on Third street, in connection with a new town hall, 46x60 feet in size, extending two stories high. Under this building is a cistern, 30x46 feet in diameter, which will hold fourteen feet of water. It is constructed with a stone wall three feet thick and surfaced inside with brick. This, with the other water facilities of the village, will afford an ample supply in the wildest defiance of the destroying flames.

Educational Interests.—Like other localities of the county, Houghton has given generous attention to the educational interests of her children. The schools are in a very flourishing condition. School District No. 1, in Portage Township, was organized April 11, 1857. There were 105 legal voters then in the district, 134 children of school age, which increased in two years to 300. A small wooden building was erected opposite the location of the Catholic Church, and, in 1873, they had 478 children in the district drawing public money. In that year, a schoolhouse was built at Hurontown, and $1,200 raised to defray expenses, and $5,000 more were raised to purchase the ground, and bonds for $15,000 were issued to erect the present high school building, the same to be completed by November 1, 1864. In 1867, $5,500 were raised to pay teachers and $9,500 to pay bonds and for incidental purposes.

District No. 1 extends over twelve miles east and forty miles south, and has three different schools under its directorship, employing one teacher at Sturgeon River, four at Hurontown and nine in the high school. Total expenses last year, 1881, were $11,200.09; balance on hand from last year, $3,809.02; raised for teachers the present year,

$8,000; present number of children of school age, 1,121. This does not include East Houghton, which is set off into a separate district, No. 2, and has an attendance of fifty-five, employing two teachers; has a neat one-story schoolhouse, supported like other district schools.

The Union school building in Houghton is constructed of stone, is 95x74 feet in size, and two stories high, with basement, with walls two and a half feet thick. The basement contains rooms for janitor's family, fuel, eating and waiting room for scholars who bring their dinners, and for those who arrive before school hours, the latter being 27x67 feet. The rooms on the first floor are 27x53, 27x40 and 20x30 feet in size, besides smaller recitation and dressing rooms. The rooms on the upper floor are the same in number and size of those below them, besides an office, laboratory and library room, containing, some 800 volumes. The whole building is heated with steam and is well ventilated. Total cost of building was $35,000. It is pleasantly located, well up the slope overlooking the village and Lake Portage. The total enrollment of scholars for 1882 is 762; average attendance, 537. The above enrollment includes 321 at Hurontown, 25 at Sturgeon River, twelve miles east; Houghton, 416; total, 762. The Union School is graded into a high and other lower departments.


Houghton is supplied with a fair number of churches, including the Methodist Episcopal, the Protestant Episcopal and the Catholic.

The Methodist Episcopal Church is located at the corner of Montezuma and Isle Royale streets. The first steps to erect an edifice were taken at the quarterly conference, held August 20, 1857, Rev. Robert Bird being Presiding Elder of the district. William Newcombe, Josiah James and Thomas Webb were appointed a building committee. Of its erection and dedication there is nothing to be found in the records. The work here was originally conducted as mission work, and in 1854, the Rev. Lewis Earl was sent to what was then known as the Portage Lake Mission, and the Portage Lake Class was organized, with twelve members. The society now numbers about forty. There is also a branch church at Hurontown, the settlement at the Huron mine, at which place the Rev. William Cook, the present pastor, officiates every Sunday afternoon.

The society has a comfortable frame church edifice, at present ample for its accommodation, which has been repaired and improved the present year—1882.

Trinity Episcopal Church was first erected on the site – of the present Congregational Church of Hancock, in 1861. After it was up and inclosed, and partly plastered, the Houghton people returned to the Hancock subscribers the money they had paid to aid in the erection of the building, moved it from its foundation, ran it down the hill on ways, and placing it upon two large flats, bound together by heavy timbers, started it across Portage Lake. The lake had commenced to freeze over in places, and above where the bridge now stands considerable ice had formed. Small row boats started to tow, it over, breaking the ice before them as they went. When near the middle of the lake, these scows, with a church for a sail, were caught by the stiff breeze, and started at a lively speed, crushing the ice in its course, toward Portage Entry. A full coil of new rope had been made fast and carried by a small boat to the Houghton side just before the strangely freighted craft ran out into the open water, barely in time for Mr. R. M. Hoar to take a turn with the cable around a large tree on the bank. The craft came up in a full sail on the rope, but, by slacking the few feet in hand, it was held fast and swung around to the shore, landing near the old ferry, staving in the scows on the rocks. From this point it was taken up the hill and placed on its present foundations.

In 1879, improvements were made in the interior of the church. A memorial window was placed above the altar, and a set of altar vessels made from the native silver of Lake Superior. The society now has a membership of eighty, with the Rev. J. L. Boxer as Rector. The edifice is finely arranged inside, with ample seating capacity, and is pleasantly located midway up the slope from Lake Portage.

The Rector of Trinity also holds services in St. Peter and Paul's Lutheran Church, in Hancock.

St. Ignatius' Catholic Church was organized here and a church edifice completed in 1859, under the supervision of Rev. Dennis O'Neil, who, for some time, was its first pastor. The edifice is a large frame structure, standing on the slope in the east part of the village. The congregation now numbers over two thousand, including the families of members. The pastors since Father O'Neil have been Revs. Edward Jacker, Mr. Kopleter (who died here in service in 1864), John Power, John Burns, John Vertin (who officiated here from 1866 to 1871, and is now Bishop of the diocese), Oliver Pelisson, William Roy, Fabian Pawmar and James Kelly, the present incumbent.

The pastor of this church also holds services at the Atlantic Mine, Sturgeon River and Portage River.


The newspaper press of Houghton is represented solely by the Portage Lake Mining Gazette, a quarto form of six columns to the page, which was established in June, 1859, by J. R. Devereaux as proprietor and editor. In 1860, he sold the office to Henry McKenzie, who conducted it until 1870, when it passed back into the hands of Mr. Devereaux again, and who has continued its publisher and editor until the present time. It was not long after the paper was started before it was changed to the folio form of six columns to the page, in which form it still continues. The Gazette, like the other papers of this locality, is mainly devoted to the mining interests of the Upper Peninsula, and to the general local interests of the county.


Of this class of institutions there are but the Masons and Odd Fellows in Houghton.

The Houghton Lodge, No. 218, of Free and Accepted Masons, was organized about 1860, in their first quarters, over Pope & Harris' store, now Pope & Sheppard, with a small charter membership. The lodge, awhile after its organization, was burned out, destroying all of its effects, including its first records; hence the precise time of its organization, its charter membership and first list of officers cannot be obtained therefrom, nor correctly from traditional sources. The lodge now occupies rooms in Dallmeyer's building, and has a membership of ninety. Its officers are: Joseph Mayworm, W. M.; John W. Rice, S. W.; E. T. Douglass, J. W.; William Bath, Secretary; William Harris, Treasurer; George Quirk, S. D.; S. Halley, J. D.; E. E. Langdon, Tiler.

The lodge is in a healthy social and financial condition.

Mesnard Lodge, No. 79, of Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized January 18, 1860, at the house of Joseph Wallace, with a charter membership of six—George Fuller, Dr. Tompkins, J. P. Edwards, Joseph Wallace, James Slasson and E. F. Douglass. The first officers were: J. Wallace, N. G.; J. Slasson, V. G.; E. F. Douglass, Recording and Permanent Secretary; E. F. Douglass, Treasurer.

The present membership numbers sixty, and the present officers are: James Shields, N. G.; Malcomb Sindclair, V. G.; Sampson Uren, Recording Secretary; Joseph Schnitzer, Permanent Secretary; Walter Chubb, Treasurer. The lodge was moved from the residence of Mr. Wallace, in 1860, to a building standing near where the First National Bank now stands, and in 1867, it was moved to its present quarters, on the upper floor of Miller's Hotel, on Sheldon street. The amount of money expended annually since the organization of the lodge will average about $250. It is now out of debt, and otherwise in a healthy condition.


The literary element of Houghton a few years since organized a society by means of which the intellect and culture of its members might receive greater development. It has a reading room, maintains lectures and other literary advantages.

Its officers for 1882 are: President, A. T. Reese; Vice President, H. M. Slauson; Secretary, W. D. Calvery; Treasurer, H. W. Jones; Librarian, F. A. Douglass.


Those first pioneers of Houghton who had cast their lot upon the banks of Portage Lake, where the village now stands, had no mail facilities nearer than Portage Entry, fourteen miles away, toward the lower extremity of Keweenaw Bay, southeastward. The first post office in this part of the county was established at Portage Entry, October 10, 1851, which was then only a small hamlet of some half dozen houses and about twenty-five persons, Indians included. Until the establishment of the post office at that point, and thus named, Portage Entry was unknown, except to the immediate residents thereat. It was called Portage Entry because it was the point where Portage Lake is entered through Portage River, which connects it and Lake Superior. Ransom Shelden was the first Postmaster at the Entry, who then had a small store there, and thus remained until its discontinuance, August 8, 1853. May 22, 1852, the present post office was established at Houghton, with William W. Henderson as its first Postmaster. He was succeeded, May 31, 1854, by James R. Shaler, and, May 22, 1856, Shaler was succeeded by Richard Edwards, and Edwards was succeeded by Columbus C. Douglas, November 12, the same year, by President Buchanan, and was the last Democratic Postmaster of Houghton. The office was kept in the store of R. Shelden & Co. (C. C. Douglas being the "Co."), under both Edwards and Douglas. Mr. Douglass was succeeded by Edward F. Douglass (a cousin), August 27, 1861, he being the first Republican Postmaster. March 17, 1865, the office was changed from a commission to a salaried one, with Edward F. Douglass continued by re-appointment, who held the office until August 24, 1866, when William H. Streeter was appointed, and continued until June 8, 1872, when Edward F. Douglass was again appointed, and held the office until his death, July 9, 1873, when his son, and then Deputy, Frank A. Douglass, was appointed, and has continued up to the present time, under two re-appointments.

The receipts of this office for the quarter ending June 30, 1882, were $1,131.53, and the Postmaster's salary for that quarter was $400—$1,600 per annum, which has just been increased to $1,700. The patronage of this office extends some fourteen miles east and south, and twenty-four miles westward. It is kept in connection with the express office, of which Mr. Douglas is agent.


In Houghton there are three hotels, which are mainly devoted to the entertainment of the traveling public. Of these, the Douglass House is the leading one. In 1860, the need of larger and better accommodations for the public benefit was manifest, and, September 13, that year, a stock company was organized, with the sum of $9,500 subscribed toward the project, and the present large and commodious frame structure was erected. It is three stories high, with ample verandas along the front of each story, and extending from Shelden street back to the alley. It stands back from and high above the street. Soon after it was built, the company surrendered all claims upon the property to private hands. It is well patronized by health and pleasure tourists during the warm season of summer.

The Butterfield House is less pretentious in size and arrangements; nevertheless, is well kept. It stands back farther up the slope from the lake than its more pretentious neighbor, the Douglass.

Next is Miller's Hotel, located in the western part of town, on Shelden street. This is a frame structure, forty-five feet front by 100 feet deep, five stories high, and built in 1863. The front part occupies the site of a log house, built in 1854 by William Young and Jacob Young, for a boarding house. This hotel cost some $15,000, and is still kept by the proprietor, William Miller.


For the wise purpose of collecting and preserving in an authentic manner whatever may exist of record, in tradition,

or shown in objects, relating to the history of the county from its remotest period to the present, the Houghton County Historical Society and Mining Institute was organized at the time and for the purposes shown in the following articles of association:

ARTICLE 1. The following-named persons, residing at the places set opposite to their names respectively, have associated themselves in pursuance of the provisions of Act No. 356 of the laws of the State of Michigan, approved March 21, 1865, entitled "An act to authorize the formation of corporations for literary and scientific purposes."

ART. 2. The name of which corporation shall be "THE HOUGHTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY AND MINING INSTITUTE." The office of such corporation for the transaction of business shall he located at the village of Houghton, in the county of Houghton. State of Michigan. The period for which the same is incorporated shall be thirty years.

ART. 3. The object and business of such corporation are to discover, procure and preserve, whatever may relate to general history, but more especially to the natural, literary and ecclesiastical history of the counties, towns and villages, mines and mining companies on and contiguous to Lake Superior.

Witness our hands this 29th day of March, A. D. 1866, at the village of Houghton, Houghton Co., Mich.



F. J. MASTEN, Franklin Township.
M. D. SENTER, Franklin.

ART. 4. The following named persons shall be the officers and Directors of this Society until the annual meeting in January, 1867, or until others are chosen in their places.

HON. J. H. FORSTER, President.
R. SHELDEN, First Vice President.
A. S. HEATON, Second Vice President.
T. U. PLANNER, Corresponding Secretary.
JAMES N. WRIGHT, Recording Secretary.
J. CHASSEL, Treasurer and Librarian,
Secretary of the Board of Directors.

Executive Committee.
JAMES B. Ross,


This society has its rooms over the post office on Shelden street, and is largely indebted to Mr. John Chassel, a gentleman of scholarly attainments and, for several years from its organization, Cashier of the First National Bank, and the Treasurer and Librarian of this society since its organization, for the interesting works and objects collected, lustrative of the history of the county and surrounding Lake Superior region, from the period of the ancient dwellers, whether Mound-Builders or miners, people of a pre-historic civilization, or the uncivilized Indian.


Among the important commercial institutions of Houghton is that of the First National Bank, which was organized in May, 1865, with a capital of $160,000, and established in its own building, now occupied by it. Ransom Shelden was its first President, and John Chassel its first Cashier, and a board of nine Directors. It was largely through Mr. Chassel's influence that the capital was raised. Prior to 1879, the bank met with reverses, which proved disastrous to the stockholders, but not to its patrons. During the latter year, it was re-organized, with a reduced capital of $100,000, and a new board of management. Its present officers are: Z. W. Wright, President; James B. Sturgis, Cashier (both of whom still continue in the same position); Z. W. Wright, J. B. Sturgis, R. R. Goodell, James H. Seager and D. E. Washburn, Directors. The bank is now a flourishing institution.

The mercantile interest of Houghton is mainly confined to the large and well-ordered establishments of J. Hoar & Brother (R. M. Hoar), L. Hennes and Pope & Sheppard, the latter successors to Harris & Sheppard, who carry a general stock. Of these firms, J. Hoar & Brother, and L. Hennes & Co. and Pope & Sheppard have large warehouses on the dock, the former of whom handle all the Houghton freight from Buffalo and Chicago. There are two drug stores, conducted by Dr. Charles Hafenreffer and Samuel Herbert. There are also jewelry stores, groceries, and an exceedingly healthy number of small boarding houses and saloons.

The professions are represented—the law, by J. H. Chandler, C. B. Grand, J. E. Finnegan, T. H. Brady and T. L. Chadbourne. Physic is represented by Drs. A. Overfield, Charles Hafenreffer, David and Jones.


The manufacturing enterprises of Houghton add materially to its growth and prosperity. There are several industries of this character, such as the Lake Superior Native Copper Works, which are the outgrowth of the Houghton Copper Works Company, which was organized in the spring of 1871, and the works completed and in operation in December following. The first officers of the company were: Ransom Shelden, President; Graham Pope, Secretary, Treasurer and Manager; and Rees James, Superintendent. After a year and a half, Mr. Shelden was succeeded by J. A. Hubbell. The works were run two years and a half, producing two and a half tons of manufactured copper a day, when, in 1874, they were closed for want of capital. In 1879, they were sold by the Directors of the old company to T. W. Edwards. The present company was organized in 1880, under the name of the Lake Superior Native Copper Works, and commenced operations in September of that year. Their machinery is of the best construction, run by a 500-horse power engine. Their new furnace has a capacity for smelting ten tons of mineral a day, and their rollers are of the most improved pattern. They are now working forty men, and turning out 3,000 pounds of manufactured copper daily, in the form of braziers and sheathing copper, pressed bottoms, oval and regular flats, circles of all sizes, locomotive copper, etc. The raw material costs about 20 cents per pound, averaging about $750 per day. For working this, the company get $200 per ton, or about $300 a day gross earnings. Their precincts are readily marketed, principally in the East and South. The stock is divided into 20,000 shares, at $25 each.

These works are situated on the south shore of Portage Lake, in the extreme eastern part of the village, and occupy

commodious frame buildings, but which will soon need enlargement. The present rolling facilities consist of three rollers, through which the heated copper bars or blocks pass until they are reduced to the required thinness and perfection for the various uses for which it is designed. The process of "tinning" one side of the copper sheets is performed here with genuine perfection. The works are under the immediate management of Rees James, Superintendent. The present officers are: Edward Ryan, President; T. W. Edwards, Vice President; Richard Uren, Secretary and Treasurer. The Eureka Iron Works are owned by Stephen E. Cleaves & Son. In 1879, Mr. Cleaves purchased the Bark Extract building in West Houghton and converted it into a foundry and machine shop, which he is working, with a force of thirty men, to a prosperous extent.

The A. Haas Brewery was established in Houghton in 1859, by Adam Haas, deceased, in a log building at the corner of Shelden and Dodge streets, with a capacity of 500 barrels per year. It was afterward improved by a frame structure, and in 1875, the present stone building was erected, with a capacity of 6,000 barrels per year, giving employment to fourteen men. In 1879, the company purchased another brewery in Houghton, of a capacity of 1,000 barrels, but at present it is held in reserve, being only used as a residence, storage, and pop and beer bottling establishment. The company are now Eva, Adolph and Joseph Haas.

The Union Brewery, in Adams Township, at the west of Houghton Village, is the oldest brewery in the copper region. It was established in 1857; was afterward purchased by Philip Scheurmann, and reconstructed in 1870. It has a capacity of 5,000 barrels per year.

The Houghton Brewery and Bottling Works, located on Dodge street, are owned by Frank Hann, making about five hundred barrels of beer annually. which is all put up for sale in bottles.

Houghton Cigar Factory was established by August Dallmeyer in 1861. Employ eight hands, and manufacture annually 360,000 cigars, which are sold on the Upper Peninsula.

The Houghton Lime-Kiln, at the south end of the lake bridge, between Shelden and Portage Lake, has an improved draw kiln, with a capacity of fifty barrels every twenty-four hours, and is making about fourteen hundred barrels a month, from the Kelley Island limestone. They are valued at $5,000. Mr. M. Van Orden, proprietor; L. C. Lyon, Superintendent.

A wagon, sleigh and general blacksmith shop was established by Brown & Mette on—street in February, 1881. They have had a business the first year of $8,000. It is a well-appointed establishment.

Jost Junker's wagon repairing and blacksmith shop, at the corner of Shelden and Pewabic streets, has been in operation about nineteen years.

Vivian & Prince started a safety fuse factory in East Houghton in 1867, and have been very successful in the business.

Houghton Candle Factory, established by P. R. Gottstein in 1865, has turned out 300 tons of mining candles per year.

An important means of commercial intercourse is the telegraph and telephone. The central office of the Detroit Telephone and Telegraph Construction Company is located at Houghton, and was established in July, 1882, at the Western Union Telegraph office. The company have about one hundred subscribers or patrons in Houghton, Hancock, Calumet and Lake Linden. Mr. James R. Dee, the Manager of the Western Union Telegraph office at Houghton, is the agent of the telephone line throughout the copper district. He also has charge of the Mineral Range Telegraph Line, and is also agent of the General Government's Signal Service at the display station in Houghton.

R. R. Goodell, of Houghton, represents the St. Mary's Canal and Mineral Land Company, which is the successor of the old original Sault Ste. Marie Canal Company, which sold and divided the pine lands remaining unsold, and thereupon organized the present stock company in 1860. The holders of stock in the old company took stock in the new one pro rata. The old company originally held 180,000 acres of pine and mineral lands. The present company now own about 127,000 acres of agricultural and mineral land, which they hold, the former from $10 to $12, and the latter from $100 to $200, per acre.

A list of the present village administration closes the sketch of Houghton. The following are its present officers: President, William Harris; Recorder, William Hitchings; Treasurer, A. Krellwitz; Assessors, G. Hartman, M. Spring; Attorney, T. W. Brady; Marshal, R. McDonald; Trustees, T. W. Edwards, A. Dallmeyer, Josiah Paull, Joseph Croze, J. Hennes and William Miller.

The current expenditures of the village for the past fiscal year—1881-82—were $3,500, divided into the general, highway and fire funds.

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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