Hancock was founded by the Quincy Mining Company in 1859, soon after
copper mining started in the Quincy Lode on the hill overlooking Hancock. Downtown Quincy
Street, between Reservation and Montezuma Streets, the commercial spine of early Hancock,
is listed on the National Register of
In 1869, a fire destroyed about 75 percent of Hancock's mostly wooden buildings. The
village recovered and grew with the prosperity and fortunes of the Quincy Mining Company.
Ships of sail and steam regularly docked along the Hancock shore. By 1873, the Mineral
Range Railroad provided passenger and freight service between Hancock and Calumet.
Electricity was available by the 1890s. In 1902, the Houghton County Traction Company
operated a trolley system on Quincy Street, offering transportation to nearby towns for 5
cents a ride. Between 1900 and 1910, concrete replaced the city's wood and dirt sidewalks.
Many of the buildings constructed after the 1869 fire display architecturally
interesting facades and ornamentation. Some were constructed of Jacobsville sandstone,
quarried twenty miles to the east of Hancock. This distinguished reddish stone was
frequently used in the 19th century because of its uniform color, ease of carving, and
adaptability to many styles.
The Hancock story is also a history of immigrants seeking a better life, including
English (Cornish), French Canadian, Irish, Swedish, Norwegian, German, Italian, and
Finnish. In 1870, 57% of the Houghton County population was foreign-born. By 1910, they
represented 84% of the copper mine work force and 34% of the general population. For most
immigrants, the better life was a hard life working in the mines with 6-day weeks, 10-hour
shifts, and dirty, dangerous working conditions. Pay was low in comparison to that of
miners in the western states, with virtually no chance for advancement. Between 1905 and
1911, an average of 61 deaths per year occurred in the mines.
Hancock's 1890 population of 1,772 rose to 8,981 in 1910 at the peak of mining
activity. With the cessation of the local copper industry, the population declined but is
stable today at about 4,500.