Quincy Mine is a notable landmark, towering above Hancock, Michigan. “Old Reliable” was the most successful 1840-era mine. While the mine’s primary operations spanned 1846 to 1945, much of the original equipment, buildings, and workings remain today. The Quincy Mine Companies’ workings were so extensive that today the historic workings, such as the Quincy Mining Company Stamp Mills, Quincy Dredge No. 2, and Quincy Smelter, are preserved along with the Quincy Mining Company Historic District.
History of the Quincy Mine
The curious origin of the Quincy Mine comes from a clerical mistake during the mining rush of the 1840s. The same tract of land was acquired by both the Northwest Mining Company and the Portage Mining Company. To resolve the conflict, the two companies merged in 1846 and formally established the Quincy Mine.
In the early days of the mine, large pure masses of copper were extracted from the ground in an approach called fissure mining. However, this targeted method of extraction could be costly and take anywhere from days to months to extract.
With the 1856 discovery of the Pewabic amygdaloid lode crossing through the Quincy property, the Quincy Mine became the first in Michigan to adopt amygdaloid mining. This process allowed much lower quality ore to be extracted and transported to be more affordably processed. The transition made the Quincy Mine a much more reliable producer and profitable for 53 consecutive years. Indeed, from 1863 through 1867, it was the most productive copper mine in the United States.
The need to maintain a regular supply of copper ore and keep up with modern advances in technology kept the Quincy Mine in a state of flux. The company expanded its operations by purchasing neighboring claims—including the Pewabic mine in 1891, the Mesnard and the Pontiac in 1897, and the Franklin mine in 1908. In 1918, the Quincy Mining Company built the Quincy Number 2 Hoist House and the world’s largest steam-driven mine hoist for $370,000. The hoist could lift 10 tons of ore at 36.4 miles per hour and allowed the company to extend the No. 2 Shaft 92 levels below the surface. While the hoist significantly improved the mine’s efficiency, it was only in operation for 11 years.
Along with the mine’s extensive workings, the Quincy Mining Company also got into the housing game—providing lodging from tents to three-story homes over the history of the mine. With such a relatively remote location, the company used high-quality housing to attract and keep desirable workers.
Despite the investments in land, equipment, and manpower, low copper prices led the Quincy Mining Company to cease operations in 1931. WWII led the mine to temporarily reopen thanks to increased demand for copper with the war effort. But with the conclusion of the war, the mining operations similarly ceased.
By the conclusion of production in 1945, the Quincy Number 2 shaft had reached 9,260 feet* in length, making it the world’s longest mine shaft at the time.
Visiting the Quincy Mine
Today, visitors can explore the Quincy Mine property, learn from the museum, and tour the mine during the summer. The museum is housed in the No. 2 Hoist Building, hosting artifacts, interpretive displays, and models of the Quincy Mine and surrounding workings. Next door is the world’s largest steam-powered hoist engine, the Nordberg Steam Hoist in the 1918 5-story hoist building. From there, visitors can take a tram ride to explore the inner workings of the Quincy mine.
While the mine works below the seventh level have flooded, visitors can tour level seven by tractor-pulled wagon. The experience can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day.
*the shaft was dug at a 55-degree angle, so it was 6,200 feet deep.