New State Historical Marker for Douglass Houghton
A State of Michigan Historical Marker honoring Douglass Houghton was dedicated Saturday, Sept. 10 in a morning ceremony led by the Keweenaw County Historical Society in Eagle River. Among the approximately 70 attendees were several descendants of Douglass Houghton. The marker was proposed by the Michigan Basin Geological Society centered in Lansing. Ted Bornhorst, executive director of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, and Larry Molloy, president of the Keweenaw County Historical Society, led a geological and historical field trip for the Michigan Basin Geological Society all day Friday and Saturday afternoon to the Keweenaw Peninsula for a group of 30 geologists and guests. As part the guided field trip, the group visited the museum on Friday evening where a life sized oil painting of Douglass Houghton is on exhibit. The painting was done in the 1870's by Bradish and a duplicate was purchased by the Michigan House of Representatives in 1879. Mineral specimens collected by Douglass Houghton are on exhibit at the museum. These specimens are part of the University of Michigan mineral collection co-owned by the museum under the Michigan Mineral Alliance.
Douglass Houghton was Michigan's first state geologist and his report to the Michigan legislature in 1841 led to the first mining rush (1843-1844) in North America to the Keweenaw Peninsula in search of riches from mining copper. Houghton was born in Troy, New York on Sept. 21, 1809 and graduated with a BA degree from Rensselaer Scientific School (now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) in 1829. He moved to the Michigan Territory in 1830 to give public lectures on natural history in Detroit. He became the surgeon and botanist for Henry Rowe's expedition to discover the source of the Mississippi River. He practiced medicine from 1832 to 1836 in Detroit.
Michigan became a state in 1837 and soon after Houghton became the first state geologist with the principal task of leading the Geological Survey of Michigan. He was a nationally-recognized modern professional geologist and was a founding member of what is today the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Houghton was mayor of Detroit from 1843 to 1844 and was being nominated for Governor at the time of his early demise. On Oct. 13, 1845, Houghton, at the age of 36, and two men drowned in a Lake Superior storm near Eagle River. Houghton County, the City of Houghton, Michigan Tech's Douglass Houghton Hall, Houghton Lake (the largest inland lake in Michigan) and others are named after Douglass Houghton.