Hancock, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula
The boys and families in ‘Where Soldiers Come From’ are from the town of Hancock (pop. 4,600) on the northernmost tip of the Upper Peninsula. The town receives 200 inches of snow each year, more than any part of the United States east of the Mississippi River.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the northern of the two major land masses that make up the state of Michigan. A unique and rich tapestry of dense forests, rugged waterways and small towns, the U.P. (as the area is commonly called) contains almost one quarter of the land area of Michigan but just 3 percent of its total population. It is bordered by the Lower Peninsula, Wisconsin, Ontario and Lake Superior. Residents of the U.P. are frequently called “Yoopers” (from “U.P.-ers”) and have a strong regional identity.
The boys and families in Where Soldiers Come From are from the town of Hancock on the northernmost tip of the U.P., while filmmaker Heather Courtney hails from Houghton, a town next to Hancock. Due to Hancock’s proximity to the Great Lakes, the average amount of snowfall in the town is 200 inches a year, more than any part of the United States east of the Mississippi River.
With a population of just over 4,600, Hancock sits on the north shore of the Portage Canal, some 10 miles from Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world, and just 45 miles from the northernmost tip of Michigan. Hancock was founded by the Quincy Mining Company in 1859, during the area’s copper mining boom. The site of brass foundries and mining machinery factories, the town was once best known for the Quincy Mine. By 2000, however, there were no longer any copper mines in operation and only two iron mines are still in production today. Though the unemployment rate in the area was 11.8 percent in April 2011 (slightly above Michigan’s 11 percent), the U.P. has seen an increase in jobs in tourism, which has since become the region’s primary industry.
Hancock and the surrounding area (called “copper country” because of the history of copper mining) have a strong Finnish heritage, demonstrated in part by local Finlandia University and the many homes with their own saunas.
Photo caption: Childhood friends. Credit: Heather Courtney