Keweenaw Microhistories

Microhistory is a historical research method that looks at the history of small--micro--things: specific communities; people or families; and even objects as a way to explore larger historical questions, such as "Why did so many people immigrate to the US at the end of the 19th century?" and "What were working conditions like in early 20th century copper mines?"

Individual life experiences--say, those of a 14 year old girl leaving Croatia in 1888 to work in her aunt's boardinghouse in Calumet, or those of a 21 year old Finnish trammer working 10-12 hour shifts in the Quincy mine in 1904--can help provide specific, relatable answers to those big questions about how people responded to political and economic turbulence, and changing expectations of workplace safety.

The Keweenaw microhistories presented here explore immigrant and migrant stories through primary sources from the 1500s through the early 20th century. These individuals’ life experiences can provide rich, diverse, and specific detail about the history of places, events, and communities. Pieced together, these details reveal a bigger, more complex picture of the Keweenaw’s past.



  • Schooner sailing in a river.

    Captain Jack Angus

    Along with piloting vessels which made Great Lakes and Keweenaw maritime history, Captain Jack also served as a lighthouse keeper.

  • Five people and a dog sitting outside on the front porch of a house.

    Daniel Dunbar Brockway

    Daniel wore many hats over the course of his lifetime.

  • NPS Keweenaw NHP Archives  Corgan--[cased tintype]--[civil war soldier]--ca. 1863

    Daniel Cash

    Pennsylvanian Daniel Cash arrived at the mouth of the Ontonagon River in 1845.

  • Grave marker for Finnegan family

    Michael Finnegan

    A well-known potato famine in Ireland gave Michael a reason to embark on an immigrant story in the late 1840s.

  • grave stone of Asa Jeffrey

    Asa Jeffrey

    Asa Jeffrey and his brothers arrived in Ontonagon from New York on Great Lakes vessels between the late 1840s and middle of the 1850s.

  • Black and white image of an older man, juxtaposed next to a newspaper article with his obituary.

    William Pettit Raley

    William Pettit Raley was born into an Ohio Quaker family in 1825.



  • An illustrated drawing of a group of buildings and roads next to a large body of water.

    William Butterfield

    William W. Butterfield came to Houghton in 1857 at the age of 33.

  • Excerpt of the 1860 U.S. Census from Ontonagon Township.

    Ellen Dickens

    Ellen, an African American born in 1815 in Kentucky, moved to Ontonagon by 1860.

  • A two-story brick building with numerous windows.

    George Duquette

    George moved to Copper Harbor in 1857, where he learned the contractor's trade before moving on to the Quincy Mine.

  • An empty parking lot next to a patch of grass and a large building.

    William Madison Hill

    William Madison Hill was an African American man from Fredericksburg, Virginia who ended his days in Ontonagon, Michigan.

  • A dilapidated wood-sided, two-story building.

    James Holman

    After working at a number of area mines, James settled in Rockland in the employ of the famed Minesota Mine.

  • A portrait photograph of a man with a long beard.

    Jay Hubbell

    Admitted to the bar in 1855, Hubbell soon found himself elected Upper Peninsula District Attorney.

  • A blueprint drawing of a machine used to apply for a patent.

    John Petermann

    John arrived in the Copper Country with his wife Elizabeth Marie and infant daughter Christina after residing for several years in New York.

  • Two buildings with white siding and red roofs surrounded by trees.

    General Daniel Pittman

    The Pittman family moved to Ontonagon in the Lake Superior Copper District, where Pittman had charge of the Douglass Houghton Mine.

  • A grave marker is surrounded by a dilapidated fence in the forest.

    William Trewartha

    William and Amelia both came to the United States as children in the 1850s, met, and married in Eagle Harbor, Michigan in 1870.



  • A close-up of the bottom of a white grave marker.

    John Chellew

    Experienced Cornish miners--and father and son--Richard and John Chellew came to the United States in the 1860s.

  • Two cast iron grave markers stand next to each other in a cemetery.

    Peter Dimmer

    After settling in Fredonia, Wisconsin, where more children were born, the Dimmers moved their household to Keweenaw County.

  • A grave marker on the ground shows a shadow made from a tree.

    Joseph Hammes

    As an adult, Joseph sought his own future in Michigan's Copper Country.

  • 1865 Michigan Public Survey Map

    Anna W. C. Jones

    Anna Ward Covington Jones maintained the Half-way house and its business licenses until her death 1880 at about 42 years of age.

  • A line of buildings in an aged downtown area.

    Peter LaChapelle

    Peter began an immigrant story at the age of 17, when he came to the Phoenix Mine in Keweenaw County, where he worked as a tailor.

  • A flat grave marker with name, birth, and death information.

    Eliza Wegelin Preiss

    August Preiss and Eliza Wegelin came to the United States from Prussia and the Kingdom of Bavaria.

  • Two small grave markers are in front of a large family grave marker labeled

    Eliza Harvey Rodi

    After several years of "adventure" on Michipicoten Island, Ontario, Eliza's husband Herman got a job at the Quincy Mine near Hancock.

  • A woman looks at a camera to pose for a photograph while holding a bowl up.

    Mary Chase Perry Stratton

    Mary Chase Perry was born in Hancock in 1867, where her childhood home still stands.

  • Two grave markers are surrounded by a short masonry fence in a cemetery.

    David Williams

    David worked at a Baltimore copper smelter in 1850, where he may have first learned about opportunities in the Copper Country.



  • A small, dense town sits on the shores of a peninsula and the sea.

    Jennie Penberthy Hanschka

    Arriving ca. 1875, the Penberthys sought work in Keweenaw County, where they were enumerated in Sherman Township in 1880.

  • An old grave marker with an unreadable engraving lays in the grass.

    Sophia Peterson Larson

    A Keweenaw romance began when Danish immigrants Sophia Peterson and Hans Larson met and married in Calumet in about 1873.

  • An excerpt from the 1920 U.S. Census for Calumet Township, Michigan.

    Ida Niemala Limatta

    News of Michigan's employment opportunities brought Ida Niemala Limatta's family across the Atlantic to Calumet, Michigan in 1873.

  • A church and storefront with a unpaved street in front.

    Sivert Olson

    Sivert Olson was born in Norway in 1850 and left as a young man in 1873 to begin an immigrant story in the Copper Country.

  • A two-story house with a connected two-car garage sit in front of a street.

    Simon Tobianski

    Simon and Teckla Tobianski began an immigrant story around 1875 when they left Posen, in a section of the Kingdom of Prussia.



  • A photograph of a woman from the neck up.

    Cora Reynolds Anderson

    Born in L’Anse, Michigan, in 1882, Cora Reynolds Anderson was the first woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives.

  • A women poses for a photograph holding an American flag that is draped around her body.

    Anna Klobuchar Clemenc

    "Big Annie" led a fight for social justice that was ahead of her time.

  • A tall three-story building with a windowed storefront on the first level.

    Mary Campbell McLean

    By 1890, Mary Campbell McLean and her husband Charles were living in Calumet with their family.

  • A collection of family heirlooms from the Studer family.

    Anselm Studer

    This is an immigrant story about a young man who left his hometown in the Alps for the copper-filled hills of the Keweenaw.

  • The death notice that was published for Adeline Trottier Toutant after her death.

    Adeline Trottier Toutant

    The Toutants immigrated to Lake Linden in 1887, 19 years after the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company had relocated its stamp mills there.

  • A collection of different sized grave markers in a cemetery.

    Edward Wenberg

    Edward worked as a blacksmith and machinist for the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company until his retirement.



  • A grave marker.

    Charles Cullnan

    Charles moved the family to Dollar Bay around the time of his wife's death.

  • A background building has a waterfall in the foreground.

    Gustaf Maatta

    Finnish immigrants Gustaf and Briita Maatta came to Eagle River with their family ca. 1890.

  • A grave marker that reads

    Mary Metesh Plutt

    Mary Metesh and her husband finally settled on a farm in Bootjack near Lake Linden; by 1910 they were the parents of eight children.

  • A tall grave marker is flanked by two smaller markers.

    Sebastian Vidosh

    The Vidosh family began an immigrant story when Slovenian-born Sebastian and Margareta (Bukovec) Vidosh moved to the Copper Country.

  • A grave marker.

    Steven Yoo

    Steven Yoo moved to Calumet with his wife, where he began working as a laborer for the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company.



  • A collection of grave markers in a cemetery.

    Dusala Bandettini Barsotti

    The founder of a longstanding Calumet business, Dusala Bandettini was born in Italy in 1861.

  • A building is situated on a street corner intersection, with a horse drawn carriage out front.

    James Franklin

    When it achieved statehood in 1837, Michigan enacted a state law that made it a felony for different "races" to marry.

  • Dr. Alfhild Heideman's Gravestone

    Dr. Alfhild Heideman

    Dr. Alfhild Heideman lived an amazing life and left a distinct mark in local history and on the landscape.

  • A group of people standing and sitting who are posing for a photograph.

    Helmi Jokelainen

    Helmi Jokelainen was born in Kemi, Finland about 1887.

  • Two grave markers surrounded by orange leaves on the ground.

    John Kohtala

    John Emil Kohtala came with his mother and sister from Vaasa, Finland to join father Victor in 1906.

  • Nancy Harkness Love

    Nancy Harkness Love

    Nancy blazed a trail as she was the first to fly many high performance combat aircraft.

  • Joan Newton Cuneo Sickman in her car

    Joan Newton Cuneo Sickman

    What did the 1908 Glidden Tour for auto racing and 1930s Ontonagon have in common? Joan Newton Cuneo Sickman.

  • 1930 census record

    Ransom Taylor

    Ransom Josiah Taylor was born in Indiana and named for his grandfather and uncle, veterans of the War of 1812 and Civil War.


Last updated: January 21, 2023

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