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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
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
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
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.
Centennial 1879-1979, p. 11)
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