Associations and Clubs

Residents of Houghton found many outlets for social interaction, including membership in a wide variety of clubs and organizations. Some enjoyed the community of large extended families, while others sought the camaraderie of those with shared interests. For instance, village businessmen formed The Houghton Club for "the dissemination of useful knowledge and the accumulation of a library." They constructed an impressive clubhouse in 1910, which -- in addition to a library -- included a dining room, parlor, billiard hall, card rooms, and overnight guest accommodations.

Across the street, local Freemasons also constructed their own significant edifice in 1910. Encompassing several traditions, the Masonic orders were committed to the intellectual improvement of their members, a sense of "moral correctitude," and charitable activity. Houghton’s Masonic Temple was purposely designed for ground-floor retail and second-floor office rental spaces to generate income to support the building. The top floors contained banquet rooms and the lodge hall, site of the secret rites and ceremonies of these fraternal orders. Some Freemason symbols, such as the stone mason’s level, square and plumb, are worked into the stonework of the Masonic Temple building.

Other residents found familiar ground through church and ethnic groups. Immigrants in particular enjoyed the security of gathering with people familiar with their own traditions. Some nationalities were associated with specific faiths, so church organizations became gathering spots for particular ethnic groups. For instance, the Knights of Columbus in Houghton, affiliated with the St. Ignatius Catholic Church, drew German, Irish and French immigrants, while local Lutheran churches attracted many Scandinavians.

The encouragement of high moral character was evident in many organizations, religious and secular. For many men, membership in a local fraternal order provided a legitimate alternative to drinking and gambling. The dangers of alcohol were specifically targeted by number of local societies. For instance, Kupari Alueen Raittius Liitto, the local chapter of the Finnish National Brothers Temperance Association of North America, was organized to "promote the cause of temperance and take part in politics for the furtherance of the temperance cause." The work of such groups encouraged ratification of the eighteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol from 1919 to 1933.

Ethnic clubs and societies also provided a cultural and support link to the old country. Meetings of the Germania Society, for instance, were conducted in German and prospective members were required to speak the language. Ethnic clubs maintained other cultural traditions and customs of constituents’ homelands, such as songs, dances and foods. Many associations were involved in charitable activities, particularly the provision of money to those remaining in Europe who were unable to make the journey to North America.

Other organizations were designed as beneficial or insurance fraternities. For example, the Societe St. Jean Baptist de Houghton, a French-Canadian association, was begun "for the purpose of aiding its members in case of accident, sickness, mental and physical incapacity, and to provide for their necessities and for burial when deceased." For individuals traveling from distant homelands, these organizations provided an important extended family. Some groups formed insurance societies as few employers provided life or health insurance. Members of aid societies paid initiation fees and monthly dues in return for monetary benefits when they were sick or unable to work. Most of these insurance fraternities also paid a death benefit to the families of deceased members.

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Knights of Columbus members at a parade in Calumet