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The City of Hancock, Michigan is in the Upper Peninsula, across the Keweenaw Waterway from Houghton on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Part natural and part artificial, the Keweenaw Waterway separates most of the peninsula from the mainland, forming what is known locally as Copper Island. Hancock and the northeastern part of the peninsula were isolated by dredging in 1859 and the construction of a ship canal connecting Portage Lake, on the east portion of the peninsula, to Lake Superior on the west.

Hancock is connected to Houghton, to the south, by the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, which crosses the Portage Canal. US-41 crosses this bridge, terminating just east of Copper Harbor at the far eastern tip of the peninsula.

Houghton is the only incorporated city within eighty miles of Hancock, but there are six incorporated villages within fifteen miles, all on the north side of the bridge. These are South Range, Calumet, Laurium, Lake Linden, Copper City, and South Range. The unincorporated communities of Franklin Mine and Ripley are adjacent to Hancock.

Founded by a mining company, the economy of the city and surrounding region was dependent on copper mining for more than eighty years. Since the mines have closed, tourism and outdoor recreation have become the dominant industries.

The Ojibwe people mined copper in the area that was to become Hancock long before the European-Americans discovered but since they left no written history, we don't have the stories of their time on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The recorded story of Hancock began in 1847 and 1848 when a group of prospectors discovered a sequence of prehistoric Ojibwe copper mining pits on a hillside that was later named Quincy Hill. This discovery prompted the formation of the Quincy Mining Company in 1848. These prospectors were not the first European-Americans in the area, however. Perhaps the first building in the area was a log cabin built by Christopher Columbus Douglass, who had come in 1852.

Engaged as an agent for the Quincy Mining Company, Samuel W. Hill recognized the need for a village to support the needs of the mining operations. It was he who oversaw the layout of the town's first seven streets, three running north-south, and four running east-west. He was also instrumental in dredging the Portage River to open Portage Lake to shipping.

The town was platted in 1859 and, presumably, named for John Hancock of signature fame. In the early years of the town, the waterway was the primary mode of transportation, as the first bridge connecting Hancock to Houghton, its southern neighbor, wasn't fully operational until 1876. By then, the shipping land had been extended to Lake Superior on both sides, isolating Hancock and the rest of Copper Island. In 1886, a second level was added to the bridge to accommodate rail traffic.

Like much of the Upper Peninsula, Hancock's early residents were primarily new immigrants, in this case from Prussia, Ireland, and Cornwall, England. It was the Cornish who brought pasties to the UP. Germans, Austrians, and French Canadians were also part of the community and, before long, they were joined by Finns, Scandinavians, and Italians.

On January 10, 1860, a post office was established in the new community, with Lewis F. Leopold as postmaster. On March 10, 1863, the community was incorporated as a village. On March 9, 1903, Hancock became a city, the first in Copper Country.

The city's population peaked in 1910, at 8,981. Except for 1980 and 2010, when there were slight increases, its population has declined each decade since. After a few stops and restarts, the Quincy Mine suspended its underground operations for good in 1945. After 1930, the city has maintained a relatively stable population, as the decreases have also been slight.

In 1980, the East Hancock Neighborhood Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several of the residences in this section of the city were designed by prominent architects and designed in Queen Anne, Stick Shingle, Neo-Classical, Renaissance Revival, and Bungaloid styles, and a stone staircase descending from Cooper Avenue to Front Street was created by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program created by President Roosevelt in 1935.

The Quincy Street Historic District is comprised of the city's downtown district. The Keweenaw National Historical Park is adjacent to Hancock on the east, and portions of the park are included in the city limits.

Hancock is home to Finlandia University, which was founded as Suomi College in 1896 by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and is currently a Lutheran university, and the only private university in the UP.

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