Houghton County, which is comprised of 1,044
square miles, is named after Douglas
Houghton, Michigan's first State Geologist.
In that capacity, Houghton conducted a
survey of the Keweenaw Peninsula in 1840 and
his resulting report of 1841, which
discussed the area's rich deposits of copper
ore, helped trigger the first great mining
boom in American history.
On March 9, 1843, the Michigan Legislature
divided the Upper Peninsula into six
counties, Michimackinac, Chippewa,
Schoolcraft, Ontonagon, Delta and Marquette.
On March 19, 1845, Houghton County was
established from parts of Marquette,
Schoolcraft and Ontonagon Counties and
originally included what are now Keweenaw
and Baraga Counties. Baraga County was set
off from Houghton County in 1875.
Eagle River, located in what is now Keweenaw
County, was the first County seat and
remained so until 1861 when Keweenaw County
was set off from Houghton County. At that
time the County seat was established in the
Village of Houghton and in 1862 structures
were built to house a Courthouse, Jail and
To reflect the area's increasing prosperity,
Houghton County hired architect J.B. Sweatt
to design the current County Courthouse. The
cornerstone for the new structure was laid
on July 24, 1886 and on July 28, 1887, the
Courthouse was dedicated. On May 12, 1975,
the Courthouse was added to the National
Register of Historic Structures.
The Michigan Constitution at the time of
Houghton County's establishment provided
that the supervisors of the County's
townships constitute the County's Board of
Commissioners. This practice was followed
until 1967 after which county commissioners
were elected directly.
The aforementioned mining boom led to
Michigan becoming the largest producer of
copper in the nation. In 1874, Michigan
produced 88% of the nation's copper, while
the mines of Houghton County produced 79% of
The increasing mining operations led to a
demand for workers and resulted in the
continuing growth of Houghton County which
reached a peak population of 88,098
residents in 1910. Those residents comprised
one of the most ethnically diverse
communities in the United States as the
Federal Census of 1870 noted that 57% of the
County's residents were foreign born, the
third highest rate in the Country. At that
time, fewer than 5% of the County's
residents had American born parents. In
1900, Houghton County had the largest
Chinese, Italian, Finnish, Slovenian and
Croatian communities in Michigan.
While the mines have long since closed,
Houghton County remains prosperous as a
destination location for outdoor enthusiasts
due to its over 50 miles of Lake Superior
shoreline, 923 miles of rivers and streams
and over 20,000 acres of lakes and ponds.
Michigan Technological University, one of
the preeminent engineering universities in
the Country, draws over 7,000 students from
throughout the Country and the world.