Marinette County WIGenWeb - Centennial History - Pioneer Industry

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Pioneer Industry Built Our Economic Basis

In 1867, Goddard, White and W.A. Ellis opened a factory on Joe Bart (now Stephenson) Island for the manufacture of sash, doors, and blinds; and for planing and moulding. This plant burned in 1870, was rebuilt, and burned again in 1875. In 1879, James Tweedie build a new factory on the same site, which operated until the late 1880s. Tweedie was Marinette County's first Coroner.

D. Clint Prescott, Trumbell, and Curver built a machine shop for repair and manufacture of sawmill and mining machinery on Joe Bart Island in 1867. During the fire that destroyed the Goddard, White and Ellis planing mill, in 1870, Prescott's plant was also destroyed. The company moved to new quarters on Main Street, and the name was changed to Marinette Iron Works. The Prescotts developed the steam-feed and set works, which revolutionized the sawing of lumber. They also manufactured car wheels and pumping machinery for the copper and iron mines in northern Michigan. In the early 1890s they moved their plant to Duluth, but a few years later, they returned and built another large plant in Menominee.

The first flour mill north of Oconto was built by McGinty, Whale and McGloin in 1879. This water-powered mill had a capacity of 100 barrels of flour per day. During World War I, the large flour mill corporations invaded the territory of the small mill operators, and by 1923 the Marinette Flour Mill, which had been one of Marinette's most prosperous industries, was forced to close. The brand name, "Wis-ko-ta" is still remembered by older residents.

In 1880, the Marinette Paper Company began the gradual turning of the local economy to paper manufacture. Many changes have taken place in the industry over the years, and the company changed hands several times. The Victory Bag and Paper Company, known as the Marinette Paper Company's converter plant, was started in 1918 and operated until 1930, when it was changed to tissue and towel conversion by the Continental Paper and Bag Company. It is now owned by Scott Paper Company, one of the two largest employers in Marinette County.

The Menekaunee Planing Mill was started by Jacob Lindem in 1882. He was soon joined by Sofus Miller, who bought out Lindem in 1907, and the name was changed to Miller Sash and Door, as it remains today.

The M&M Box Company was built by John B. Nadeau (father of Dr. A.T. Nadeau) for Cook and Rathborne of Chicago. Incorporated by Hastings, McNeil and Nichols in 1890, the factory was sold to the Peninsular Box and Lumber Company of Menominee in 1916. In 1927, it was purchased by the Coffey brothers, and is today under the management of the Coffey family.

In the county, another industry became prominent during the latter part of the 19th century: the granite quarries developed by William Amberg. Many fine public buildings erected around the turn of the century in the large cities of the U.S. were built from granite taken from the quarries near Athelstane and Amberg. Most of these quarries were closed when Amberg withdrew from the quarrying business in 1902, beset by labor problems and aware that cement was beginning to replace stone in the building and street-paving industries.

A non-lumber industry which was not successful in Marinette was the A.W. Stevens Company of Auburn, New York, manufacturers of farm machinery. In 1896, Marinette businessmen learned that this company was seeking anew location closer to it growing markets in the central states. After months of negotiation, it was decided that the company would locate here if Marinette citizens would subscribe $300,000 of stock. This was accomplished, and the plant was built on Pierce Avenue, and began operations in 1898. However, output exceeded demand, for the country was not yet recovered from a depression. The plant and grounds were sold to the Kreiter Piano Company, but after several years, this company also discontinued business here, and the property was eventually taken over by the county for non-payment of taxes.

A non-lumber industry which became highly successful, in spite of an inauspicious beginning, is a chemical industry. The Lignum Chemical Company, a Canadian firm experimenting in the manufacture of a stock food from sawdust, built a plant here, but was not successful in its attempts at this conversion. When the plant was offered at sheriff's sale, it was purchased by Francis Hood, who had been its manager, and Gould Watson, its salesman. Hood had become interested in the manufacture of liquid sulfur dioxide. In 1919, H.C. Higley joined the company as chief chemist, to work on the production of very pure and dry sulphur dioxide, for use in electric refrigeration. The Ansul Company derives its name from this product, anhydrous sulphur dioxide, and is today one of the largest employers in Marinette County.

Scott Paper Company, with nationally distributed convenience paper products, has increased employment and production steadily. Marinette Marine Corporation, builders of small to medium sized naval ships, has earned one of the finest reputations for quality of any shipbuilder, and Ansul Chemical Company, with diversified fire fighting equipment, have been the backbone of the economy in the city of Marinette, adding to the major contributions of Rodman Industry, Safeguard, and Kargaard. Combined, these operations have given not only the city, but the entire area a well balanced economy.

In recent years, diversification of industry has occurred both in Marinette and throughout the county. Major employers are engaged in shipbuilding; farm machinery, electrical equipment and non-electrical machinery manufacture; as well as the making of wood products, and the manufacture of chemicals. A more recent "industry," recreation, is coming into its own as the county becomes known for its fine recreational areas, and the rivers that once teemed with logs, now carry sports enthusiasts.

(Marinette County Centennial 1879-1979, p. 11)

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