The Quincy Mining Company was a major copper producer in the Copper Country of Michigan. Overall, production and dividends was exceeded only by the Calumet and Hecla, and Copper Range Companies. The Quincy earned the name “Old Reliable” because of its consistent payment of dividends year after year between 1861 and 1920. The mine was situated at the crest of Quincy Hill above Portage Lake and overlooking the bridge between Houghton and Hancock. The location of the mine has placed it in the backdrop of many early photos of Houghton, Hancock and Portage Lake. Today, the mine is part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. Some of the facilities have been restored and the mine is a significant tourist attraction.
The Early Years:
The Quincy Mining Company was incorporated in 1848 it was one of the early mines on the amigdoloid lodes. The earliest Michigan copper mining was on fissure veins which crossed the lode deposits on a more or less perpendicular orientation. Two other mining companies are associated with the Quincy. The Pewabic mine abutted the Quincy to the north, and beyond the Pewabic was the Franklin. All mined the Pewabic Lode.
The Quincy, Pewabic and Franklin all were successful. All constructed stamp mills on Portage Lake; the stamp mills were linked to the mines by surface tramways. All paid dividends. However, of the three, the Quincy was the most productive and successful. The Quincy purchased the Pewabic in 1891 and the Franklin in 1908. One of the shafts of the Pewabic became the well-known #6 Shaft of the Quincy. The Quincy also added the holding the Mesnard and Pontiac companies. The Quincy #8 Shaft was on the Mesnard lands.
In the 1890 and early 1900’s there was more expansion and capital improvement. Two modern stamp mills were constructed on Torch Lake at the town of Mason. A smelter was constructed on the shore of Portage Lake at the town of Ripley. The mine and mills were linked by the six mile long narrow (3’) gauge railroad, the Quincy and Torch Lake RR. At the period of peak production, the Quincy operated six shafts which were numbered in an irregular manner south to north: #7, #4, #2, #6, #8, and #9. Most of the shop facilities were located between the #2 and #6 shafts.
The Peak Years:
Peak production and profits came in the early 1900’s. These years were followed by more high production and profits during WWI. It was during this period that a hoisting plant for the #2 shaft was constructed. The #2 hoist, Hoist house and shaft house are the center pieces of the National Park Service museum. Peak production (11,259 tons of copper) occurred in 1910. In that year, the company employed over 2,000 people. Peak dividends were $1,980,000 paid out in 1917.
Decline and Final Years:
The 1920’s were difficult for the Quincy. First, overproduction during WWI resulted in low copper prices and the shutdown for many of the U.S. copper producers. Dividends stopped in 1920. During the 1920’s there was a series of mining problems. The great depression (1929) resulted in the shutdown of the mine in 1931. The mine reopened in 1937 at a reduced scale; only the #6 and #8 shafts were operated. It produced up to the end of World War II and closed permanently when war time price supports for copper ended. During the war the Quincy constructed a reclamation plant to reprocess tailings from the mills at Mason. This plant operated until the tailings were exhausted in 1967. The reclamation plant was successful and dividends resumed in 1948. In the 1970’s the Homstake Mining Company conducted some exploration on the lands of Calumet and Hecla, and the Quincy.
After the 1945 shutdown, everything remained in place where it suffered the effects of weathering, vandalism and fires. In the late 1960’s the Quincy Hoist Association was established to save and restore the #2 hoist and hoist house. Today, Quincy Mine is part of the National Park Service system. Today it is possible to visit the hoist house and see the largest steam hoist in the world, go into the #2 shaft house and view the top of a 9,200 foot #2 deep shaft. Go underground at the hillside adit and see stopes and mining machinery. The adit is reached by cog wheel tram that runs from the #2 hoist house down Quincy Hill to the adit. It offers visitors a fine view of the Portage Lake lift bridge and the City of Houghton.
This article uses information from the book Old Reliable – an Illustrated History of the Quincy Mining Company (1982 , Four Corner Press), Wikipedia, and the Quincy Mine Hoist Association website: quincymine.com