Houghton County, Michigan

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Houghton County
Houghton County Courthouse 2.jpg
Houghton County Courthouse
Houghton County, Michigan logo.png
Map of Michigan highlighting Houghton County.svg
Location within the U.S. state of Michigan
Michigan in United States.svg
Michigan's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 46°59′N88°39′W / 46.98°N 88.65°W / 46.98; -88.65
CountryFlag of the United States.svg United States
StateFlag of Michigan.svg  Michigan
Founded1843 (set off)
1845 (boundaries described)
1846 (organized)
1848 (re-organized) [1]
Named for Douglass Houghton
Seat Houghton
Largest cityHoughton
  Total1,502 sq mi (3,890 km2)
  Land1,009 sq mi (2,610 km2)
  Water492 sq mi (1,270 km2)  33%%
  Density36/sq mi (14/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
  Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 1st
Old specimen of native copper from Houghton County. Houghton County hosted a major copper-mining industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Copper-24624.jpg
Old specimen of native copper from Houghton County. Houghton County hosted a major copper-mining industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Houghton County is a county in the Upper Peninsula in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the population was 36,628. [2] The county seat and largest city is Houghton. [3] [4] Both the county and the city were named for Michigan State geologist and Detroit Mayor Douglass Houghton. [5] [3]


Houghton County is part of the Houghton Micropolitan Statistical Area, which also includes Keweenaw County, and was part of Copper Country during the mining boom of the latter half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century.


Quincy Street in Hancock, Michigan Quincy Street Hancock Michigan 2020-1438.jpg
Quincy Street in Hancock, Michigan

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has an area of 1,502 square miles (3,890 km2), of which 1,009 square miles (2,610 km2) is land and 492 square miles (1,270 km2) (33%) is water. [6]

The Portage Lift Bridge crosses Portage Lake, connecting Hancock and Houghton, Michigan, by crossing over Portage Lake, which is part of the river and canal system that spans the peninsula. The Portage Lift Bridge is the world's heaviest and widest double-decked vertical lift bridge. Its center span "lifts" to provide 100 feet (30 m) of clearance for ships. Since rail traffic was discontinued in the Keweenaw, the lower deck accommodates snowmobile traffic in the winter. This is the only land-based link between the Keweenaw Peninsula's north and south sections, making it crucial to local transportation. [7]

Major highways


Adjacent counties

National protected areas


Houghton County
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: [8]


Historical population
1850 708
1860 9,2341,204.2%
1870 13,87950.3%
1880 22,47361.9%
1890 35,38957.5%
1900 66,06386.7%
1910 88,09833.4%
1920 71,930−18.4%
1930 52,851−26.5%
1940 47,631−9.9%
1950 39,771−16.5%
1960 35,654−10.4%
1970 34,652−2.8%
1980 37,8729.3%
1990 35,446−6.4%
2000 36,0161.6%
2010 36,6281.7%
2018 (est.)36,219 [9] −1.1%
US Decennial Census [10]
1790-1960 [11] 1900-1990 [12]
1990-2000 [13] 2010-2018 [2]

The 2010 United States Census [14] indicates Houghton County had a population of 36,628. This is an increase of 612 people from 2000, a growth of 1.7%. In 2010 there were 14,232 households and 8,093 families in the county. The population density was 36 people per square mile (14/km2). There were 18,635 housing units at an average density of 18 per square mile (7/km2). 94.5% of the population were White, 2.9% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 0.5% Black or African American, 0.2% of some other race and 1.3% of two or more races. 1.1% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). 32.5% were of Finnish, 14.0% German, 9.4% French, 6.2% English and 5.1% Irish ancestry. [15]

There were 14,232 households, out of which 23.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.1% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 3.01. [14]

The county population contained 20.6% under the age of 18, 20.6% from 18 to 24, 20.3% from 25 to 44, 23.6% from 45 to 64, and 15% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.1 years. The population was 45.9% female and 54.1% male.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,625, and the median income for a family was $48,506. The per capita income for the county was $18,556. About 12.6% of families and 22.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.7% of people under the age of 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over.


In 1843, the Upper Peninsula was divided into Mackinac, Chippewa, Marquette, Schoolcraft, Delta, and Ontonagon Counties. [16] In 1845, Houghton County boundaries were defined, with areas partitioned from Marquette and Ontonagon Counties. The new county was named after Douglass Houghton, the new state's first State Geologist, who extensively explored the Upper Peninsula's mineralogy. [16] [17] The original boundaries of Houghton County included the future Keweenaw and Baraga Counties. [18] In 1846, the county was organized into three townships: Eagle Harbor, Houghton, and L'Anse. [18] Keweenaw County was set off from Houghton County in 1861 and Baraga County was set off in 1875. [19]

Houghton County's history is heavily marked by immigration. At one of the peaks of its population, the 1910 census had 40.6% of its population of 88,098 as foreign-born, with 89.3% of the population being either foreign-born or having at one or both of their parents as foreign-born. 70.6% of all voters were foreign-born, and only 5.1% of voters were native-born with native parents. This amalgam of immigrants from dozens of countries created a unique culture, especially once population growth stopped, and the county shrank in population to its current numbers. Heavily representative among many ethnicities were the Finnish. The 1910 census listed 13.1% of the residents being Finnish-born (out of the 32.3% total of the residents listed as foreign-born). The 2010 census lists almost the same proportion (32.5%) of the population as having Finnish ancestors. [20]

Amid the Great Depression of the 1930s, a sharp increase in unemployment among workers in the mining and timber industries caused a pivot to potato production. For a brief time in the 1930s and 1940s, the region became a major exporter of potatoes within the United States. [21]

In June 2018, a major flash flood caused sinkholes and washouts in the towns of Chassell, Houghton, Ripley, Lake Linden, and Hubbell. [22]


Houghton County voters tend to favor Republican Party nominees. Since 1884, the Republican Party has been selected in 76% (26 of 34) of national elections.

Presidential election results
Presidential election results [23]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2020 56.0%10,37841.8% 7,7502.2% 405
2016 53.8%8,47538.2% 6,0188.1% 1,268
2012 53.4%8,19644.3% 6,8012.4% 364
2008 50.7%8,10146.8% 7,4762.5% 395
2004 56.1%8,88942.5% 6,7311.5% 231
2000 55.5%7,89540.0% 5,6884.5% 633
1996 43.5% 5,94143.6%5,95713.0% 1,773
1992 36.7% 5,57543.2%6,55820.0% 3,040
1988 51.8%7,09847.5% 6,5100.6% 86
1984 57.1%8,65242.5% 6,4340.4% 55
1980 47.9%7,92641.5% 6,85810.6% 1,750
1976 51.6%8,04947.1% 7,3521.3% 199
1972 58.1%9,05341.1% 6,4020.9% 135
1968 46.9% 6,63949.4%6,9883.6% 516
1964 34.0% 5,02466.0%9,7610.0% 6
1960 49.1% 7,76750.7%8,0210.2% 34
1956 58.3%9,62041.6% 6,8660.2% 25
1952 59.6%10,56340.0% 7,1000.4% 70
1948 54.6%9,54139.6% 6,9255.8% 1,005
1944 47.4% 9,11052.3%10,0660.3% 62
1940 50.3%11,03049.3% 10,8150.4% 81
1936 44.1% 9,34554.9%11,6421.0% 219
1932 59.2%12,30837.7% 7,8383.1% 634
1928 62.3%11,24036.4% 6,5731.3% 229
1924 83.0%13,8336.3% 1,04510.7% 1,784
1920 80.2%14,93816.6% 3,0883.2% 599
1916 60.2%8,01334.7% 4,6155.2% 688
1912 29.2% 3,57119.5% 2,38551.3%6,282
1908 73.0%9,35218.9% 2,4248.0% 1,028
1904 78.4%8,85713.0% 1,4718.6% 965
1900 73.4%8,01922.2% 2,4224.5% 486
1896 71.9%6,14123.4% 1,9964.8% 410
1892 45.8%3,31636.0% 2,60718.1% 1,311
1888 51.1%3,01245.8% 2,6963.1% 184
1884 57.9%2,38341.2% 1,6941.0% 39

The county government operates the jail, maintains rural roads, operates the major local courts, records deeds, mortgages, and vital records, administers public health regulations, and participates with the state in the provision of social services. The county board of commissioners controls the budget and has limited authority to make laws or ordinances. In Michigan, most local government functions—police and fire, building and zoning, tax assessment, street maintenance, etc.—are the responsibility of individual cities and townships.

The Houghton County Courthouse "..stood high upon the bluff on Houghton Village facing North and pleasantly overlooking Portage Lake.",[ citation needed ] and has been inducted in the US Registry of Historic Districts and Buildings of the Upper Peninsula. Construction began in spring 1886. The building had its first addition to the north wing, the addition of a larger jail wing, in 1910, and that was the only renovation until the jail wing was condemned in 1961. A new jail was built in its present location, adjacent to the original. According to the Mining Gazette, "The materials used with the exception of the facing brick are the product of the Upper Peninsula" (July 25, 1886, p. 3). Kathryn Eckert, in her Buildings of Michigan, wrote:

"The courthouse is composed of the original structure, a rectangular block from which project central pavilions with parapeted dormers, a four-story tower, and north and west wing additions. The curbed mansard roof, the grouping of windows beneath red sandstone lintels connected by bands that encircle the structure, and the decorative entablature unite the composition. Porches supported with posts and Gothic-arch brackets...The interior is richly finished with wood; red, rich brown, and light yellowish brown floor tiles; ornamental plaster; and oak staircase; and stone fireplaces." (p. 464)

The building section that was once the jail wing is now used for office space.

Elected officials

(information as of Sept 2018) [24]


U.S. Census data map showing local municipal boundaries within Houghton County. Shaded areas represent incorporated cities. Houghton County, MI census map.png
U.S. Census data map showing local municipal boundaries within Houghton County. Shaded areas represent incorporated cities.



Charter townships

Civil townships

Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities

See also

Related Research Articles

Upper Peninsula of Michigan Northern major peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan

The Upper Peninsulaof Michigan – also known as Upper Michigan or colloquially the U.P. – is the northern and more elevated of the two major landmasses that make up the U.S. state of Michigan; it is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Straits of Mackinac. It is bounded primarily by Lake Superior to the north, separated from the Canadian province of Ontario at the east end by the St. Marys River, and flanked by Lake Huron and Lake Michigan along much of its south. Although the peninsula extends as a geographic feature into the state of Wisconsin, the state boundary follows the Montreal and Menominee rivers and a line connecting them.

Houghton, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Houghton is the largest city and county seat of Houghton County in the U.S. state of Michigan. Located on the Keweenaw Peninsula, Houghton is the largest city in the Copper Country region. It is the fifth largest city in the Upper Peninsula, with a population of 7,708 at the 2010 census. Houghton is the principal city of the Houghton micropolitan area, which includes all of Houghton and Keweenaw County.

Copper Island Northern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, United States

Copper Island is a local name given to the northern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula, separated from the rest of the Keweenaw Peninsula by Portage Lake and the Keweenaw Waterway.

Hancock, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Hancock is a city in Houghton County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located across the Keweenaw Waterway from the city of Houghton on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The population was 4,634 at the 2010 census. The city has been consistently ranked as the third-snowiest city in the United States by The Weather Channel.

Ontonagon County, Michigan U.S. county in Michigan

Ontonagon County is a county in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the population was 6,780, making it Michigan's third-least populous county. The county seat is Ontonagon. The county was set off in 1843, and organized in 1848. Its territory had been organized as part of Chippewa and Mackinac counties. With increasing population in the area, more counties were organized. After Ontonagon was organized, it was split to create Gogebic County. It is also the westernmost U.S. county that uses the Eastern Time Zone.

Keweenaw County, Michigan U.S. county in Michigan

Keweenaw County is a county in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan, the state's northernmost county. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 2,156, making it Michigan's least populous county. It is also the state's largest county by total area, when the waters of Lake Superior are included in the total. The county seat is Eagle River.

Baraga County, Michigan U.S. county in Michigan

Baraga County is a county in the Upper Peninsula in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the population was 8,860. The county seat is L'Anse. The county is named after Bishop Frederic Baraga, a Catholic missionary who ministered to the Ojibwa Indians in the Michigan Territory.

Calumet, Michigan Village in Michigan, United States

Calumet is a village in Calumet Township, Houghton County, in the U.S. state of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, that was once at the center of the mining industry of the Upper Peninsula. Also known as Red Jacket, the village includes the Calumet Downtown Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The village may itself be included within the Calumet Historic District, a larger area which is NRHP-listed and which is a National Historic Landmark District. It is bordered on the north by Calumet Township, on the south by the unincorporated towns of Newtown and Blue Jacket, on the east by Blue Jacket and Calumet Township, and on the west by Yellow Jacket and Calumet Township. The population was 726 at the 2010 census. Calumet's nickname is Copper Town U.S.A.

LAnse Township, Michigan Civil township in Michigan, United States

L'Anse Township is a civil township of Baraga County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the township population was 3,843. Mount Arvon and Mount Curwood, the highest and second highest points in Michigan, are located in the township.

Calumet Charter Township, Michigan Charter township in Michigan, United States

Calumet Charter Township is a charter township of Houghton County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 6,489 at the 2010 census, down from 6,997 at the 2000 census. Even with a decreasing population, the township remains the largest township by population in Houghton County.

Torch Lake Township, Houghton County, Michigan Civil township in Michigan, United States

Torch Lake Township is a civil township of Houghton County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the population of the township was 1,880. The township was established in 1886 and is one of the largest townships in Houghton County by area. It is surrounded by the Torch Lake, the Portage Lake, and Lake Superior. As well as a large number of unincorporated communities, the township also includes a portion of the Baraga State Forest which lies along the shores of Keweenaw Bay. The township borders Schoolcraft Township to the north, Osceola Township to the northwest, and Chassell Township to the southwest. The community of Hubbell serves as the major population center of the township, as well as hosting the Township Hall itself. The mostly uninhabited 91-acre Rabbit Island, located offshore in Lake Superior, is a part of the township.

Keweenaw Peninsula Northernmost part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, United States

The Keweenaw Peninsula is the northernmost part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It projects into Lake Superior and was the site of the first copper boom in the United States, leading to its moniker of "Copper Country." As of the 2000 census, its population was roughly 43,200. Its major industries are now logging and tourism, as well as jobs related to Michigan Technological University and Finlandia University.

Copper Country

The Copper Country is an area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the United States, including Keweenaw County, Michigan, Houghton, Baraga and Ontonagon counties as well as part of Marquette County. The area is so named as copper mining was prevalent there from 1845 until the late 1960s, with one mine continuing through 1995. In its heyday in the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, the area was the world's greatest producer of copper.

Keweenaw National Historical Park U.S. national park in Michigan

Keweenaw National Historical Park is a unit of the U.S. National Park Service. Established in 1992, the park celebrates the life and history of the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. As of 2009, it is a partly privatized park made up of two primary units, the Calumet Unit and the Quincy Unit, and 21 cooperating "Heritage Sites" located on federal, state, and privately owned land in and around the Keweenaw Peninsula. The National Park Service owns approximately 1,700 acres (690 ha) in the Calumet and Quincy Units. Units are located in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon counties.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Houghton County, Michigan

This is a list of the National Register of Historic Places listings in Houghton County, Michigan.

Chassell, Michigan Unincorporated community in Michigan, United States

Chassell is an unincorporated community in Chassell Township of Houghton County in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located on Pike Bay at the south end of Portage Lake 47°01′42″N88°31′30″W and is the largest community in the township.

Copper mining in Michigan

Copper mining in Michigan became an important industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Its rise marked the start of copper mining as a major industry in the United States.

Houghton micropolitan area, Michigan

The Houghton Micropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by the United States Census Bureau, is an area consisting of two counties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, anchored by the city of Houghton.

US Highway 41 (US 41) is a part of the United States Numbered Highway System that runs from Miami, Florida, to the Upper Peninsula of the US state of Michigan. In Michigan, it is a state trunkline highway that enters the state via the Interstate Bridge between Marinette, Wisconsin, and Menominee, Michigan. The 278.769 miles (448.635 km) of US 41 that lie within Michigan serve as a major conduit. Most of the highway is listed on the National Highway System. Various sections are rural two-lane highway, urbanized four-lane divided expressway and the Copper Country Trail National Scenic Byway. The northernmost community along the highway is Copper Harbor at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The trunkline ends at a cul-de-sac east of Fort Wilkins State Park after serving the Central Upper Peninsula and Copper Country regions of Michigan.


  1. "Bibliography on Houghton County". Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University . Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  2. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  3. 1 2 Monette, Clarence J. (1975). Some Copper Country Names And Places. Lake Linden, Michigan. ISBN   0-942363-04-3.
  4. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  5. "Encyclopedia of Detroit". Detroit Historical Society. 2020.
  6. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". US Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
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  8. "NASA Earth Observations Data Set Index". NASA. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  9. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates" . Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  10. "US Decennial Census". US Census Bureau. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  11. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  12. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". US Census Bureau. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  13. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). US Census Bureau. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  14. 1 2 "U.S. Census website" . Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  15. Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). "U.S. Census website".
  16. 1 2 Sawyer, p. 466
  17. "Houghton County Bibliography" (PDF). Library of Michigan.
  18. 1 2 Sawyer, p. 467
  19. Sawyer, p. 468
  20. "US Decennial Census". US Census Bureau. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  21. "Houghton County Potato Farming – Michigan Tech Archives Blog". April 4, 2012. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  22. Powell, Mariah (June 17, 2018). "Floods Devastate Houghton Business District". Upper Michigan's Source. Negaunee MI: WLUC-TV.
  23. Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections".
  24. "Houghton County Directory" . Retrieved September 12, 2018.

Coordinates: 46°59′N88°39′W / 46.98°N 88.65°W / 46.98; -88.65