Celebrating a special anniversary

HOUGHTON – Hancock residents and officials are a few months into the celebration of the city’s 150th anniversary, and a sesquicentennial gala dinner Friday formalized the observation of the milestone.

About 300 people attending the event at the Michigan Technological University Memorial Union Building ballroom heard from current city officials, and learned about the process to recognize the anniversary and see some of the people involved with the celebration.

Mayor William Laitila gave opening remarks and introduced the current city council members.

Laitila said there still will be more events in the city recognizing the sesquicentennial.

“Each month, there will be an activity of some sort,” he said.

An official publication was created for the anniversary containing stories about people who either had impact on the city or who were from Hancock, but made a mark somewhere else in the United States.

“The sesquicentennial book is the frosting on the cake,” he said.

City Manager Glenn Anderson said the process to develop the sesquicentennial celebration began more than a year ago.

“It’s been about a 15- month adventure,” he said.

Anderson introduced eight past mayors of the city who were at the dinner.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, were present to give brief comments, also.

Casperson said when former State Rep. Mike Lahti was in office, the two of them would work together to make certain the needs of the Upper Peninsula were considered in the legislature.

“The Upper Peninsula is truly someplace special,” he said.

Acknowledging the need for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Hancock, Casperson said it’s important to remember the past.

“Those who know history will rule the future,” he said. “The Upper Peninsula has a unique history.”

Dianda said he was impressed with the attendance for the dinner.

“It’s great to see this room with all this passion,” he said.

All U.P. legislators are working to represent the Upper Peninsula in Lansing, Dianda said.

“We have one point, and that’s to take care of the U.P.,” he said.

Congressman Dan Benishek was unable to attend the dinner, but a representative of his read a letter with comments about the anniversary and celebration.

Erik Nordberg, archivist at Michigan Technological University, who was involved with the process to create the publication, spoke about commemorations and the historical record.

Nordberg said people have their own interpretations of various events, but they don’t become history until they’re written down.

“Historians take that material and turn it into stories,” he said.

However, Nordberg said what is written down isn’t everything that occurs, and that’s a challenge for historians.

“History is just a small remnant of what happens,” he said. “There’s so much that’s left over.”

People often pick certain anniversaries to celebrate, such as the 25th, 50th or 150th, Nordberg said, but other things happen without fixed points.

“Some important dates don’t have particular dates,” he said. “It happens slowly over time.”

Nordberg said the creation of the sesquicentennial publication will be important for helping people of the future understand how Hancock came to be what it is.

“It was really a good choice to remember people,” he said.

John Haeussler, who is a Hancock City Council member and chair of the Sesquicentennial Committee, introduced the committee members and the various people who wrote articles for the book.

Haeussler said the committee members are pleased with the finished version of the book.

“We’re very proud of the unique development of the book,” he said.

The book was conceived, written, designed and printed by members of the Hancock community.

“It’s truly a community project,” he said.

Many sources were used for the book, and some of them live outside Hancock and Michigan, but they were impressed with the idea of the book, Haeussler said.

“Enthusiasm for the book extended well beyond our country,” he said. “The response has been universally positive.”

When talking with some of the sources for the book, Haeussler said some of them said, “What a great idea.”

“Everyone of us has some interest in history,” he said.

The evening ended with descriptions of some of the articles in the book by committee members Haeussler and Charles Eshbach, and contributor Corbin Eddy.