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Breitung Township history is rooted in the story of Quinnesec, platted in 1876. Quinnesec's tale begins with John Lane Buell, an explorer from Indiana.


In the fall of 1871, Buell made his first trip to the Menominee Range with John Armstrong, a timber cruiser.  While camping on what became Quinnesec Avenue, Buell strolled to a nearby bluff and discovered an outcropping of iron ore, later called Quinnesec Mine and Devil's Ice Box.  After securing the title to this section of land, Buell explored the deposit of ore and by 1874 he took the first consignment of ore by sleigh and wagon to Menominee where the 53 tons were smelted by the Menominee Furnace Company and found to be of rich quality. This was the first of many mines that created the town's industry. Logging was also a mainstay, supplying timber for mining operations.


By 1876, Buell set up a portable sawmill and constructed the Pioneer School House (the precursor to the current Breitung Township School District).  He also donated land for the Catholic and Methodist churches.


In 1876, Andrew H. Surprise moved to Quinnesec and built the second building, a boarding house. The town quickly grew after the completion of the railroad by the Menominee River Railroad Company, a branch of the Chicago & Northwestern in 1877. A turntable at the end of the line in Quinnesec turned the engines around for their return trip until 1880, when the railroad pushed on to Iron Mountain.  Prior to this, a stagecoach ran to Iron Mountain and Florence, Wisconsin.


A store, hotel, and opera house soon followed and the town was on its way to being the commercial hub of the area.  The population grew to nearly 3,000 and was for a long time one of the most successful business districts in the area.  With the discovery of iron ore in Iron Mountain, the population dwindled as the business men moved closer to the new source of riches.


Major Fire


On May 18, 1906, a disastrous fire destroyed the entire business district and several homes.  The town rebuilt some of establishments, and a few homes appeared to replace those lost.


New Industry


In 1920, when the Ford Motor Company came to Kingsford, Quinnesec once again saw settlers arriving.  During 1921 and 1922, about 80 new homes were built, which doubled Quinnesec's 1920 population of 240.  However, the 1930's depression put an end to the building phase and when the Ford plant closed, many families left the area.  To the residents' surprise however, the newly vacant homes didn't remain empty for long.  Many of those residents who had left over the years, returned upon retirement.


In 1985, Breitung Township had a new industry move onto its tax rolls:  Champion International Corporation, now called Verso Paper, a pulp and paper mill which currently employs 520 people.  As a result, tax dollars were applied to the school district-a 75 square mile area that includes the City of Kingsford, the community of Quinnesec, Breitung Township, and a portion of Iron Mountain.


The district consists of three schools, all relatively new:  Kingsford High School, Kingsford Middle School, and Woodland Elementary.  The paper mill project also provided a completely new athletic complex with a stadium, football field, all-weather track, and fieldhouse.


This page last updated on 5/16/2017.
Charter Township of Breitung | Dickinson County | Michigan | 3851 Menominee Street | P.O. Box 160 |  Quinnesec, MI  49876