Known as both Mass and Mass City, this little village in Ontonagon County is shaped like a pistol when viewed by satellite.

The name came from the ‘mass’ quantities of copper that was discovered in 1848 by a man who escaped slavery. After settling in this Upper Peninsula area after escaping from slave owners in Missouri, Noel Johnson happened to come across rich copper deposits. In 1855, the Mass Mining Company was formed and Johnson made a good profit by selling his found copper to the company. The combination of copper produced by other mines in the area was the basis for the company name ‘Mass’ which in turn became the name of the village.

Now, as for Noel Johnson:
According to the UP Matters web page, Johnson was "in service" to William Pemberton in Missouri when he and another slave, Thomas Smith, escaped in the mid-1840s to find freedom. Johnson stopped in Marshall, Michigan, and in 1846 he, his wife Mary Ann and baby son were taken to the Upper Peninsula. Once Johnson made his way to the Ontonagon territory, he began prospecting. During his searches, he found a vein of copper in the area now known as Mass City.

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In 1851, wanting to buy land, Johnson was told he had to be legally emancipated before he could buy property… do so, he would have to confront the estate of his former owner. With the assistance of a couple of Quakers and $250 later, Johnson’s freedom was bought and finalized.

Sadly, just two years later in 1853, Noel Johnson passed away from pulmonary tuberculosis. He continues to be credited and honored as founder of the Mass Mine and patriarch of Mass City.

The original site of Mass City was abandoned in 1899 when Abram and Nellie Mathews platted a new village about a mile and a half east. Given a post office that same year, this new village used the same name: ‘Mass’ and alternately ‘Mass City’.

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