The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter I
Natural Resources in the State

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



From the point to which we have now come, the autumn of 1916, it may be well to glance at the natural resources of the state, its industrial and commercial interests, it development of land and water transportation, its progress in education, and its social elements.

Above the rocks of the Michigan peninsula lies one of the most fertile soils of the Union. It has furnished the backbone of industry in Michigan; as many persons are engaged in agriculture as in all other industries combined. The climate also is favorable for the growing of all crops profitable in any part of the United States, except cotton, sugar cane and rice. Wheat and corn have always been staple and reliable crops., but a striking characteristic of Michigan's agricultural products is their great variety. The latest to be cultivated extensively is the sugar beet.

In the earlier days of the lower peninsula, one of the most prominent industries was lumbering. Practically the whole of the peninsula was covered with dense forest. The removal of the forest went hand in hand with the advance of agriculture. Great quantities of pine wee taken from the Saginaw country, beginning in earnest about 1860. It was estimated that in 1872 two and half billion feet of pine lumber was sawed there by fifteen hundred saw-mills, employing twenty thousand persons and representing a capital of twenty-five million dollars. The entire amount cut in the state in 1883 was estimated at four billion feet. the industry still thrives on a large scale in the upper peninsula.

The lumber industry naturally gave rise to the manufacture of furniture. Grand Rapids and Detroit became world-renowned centers of furniture making. The manufacture of agricultural implements was a natural accompaniment of the clearing of the forests and the growth of agriculture. The same is true of the manufacture of vehicles. In Detroit, Flint and Lansing the manufacture of automobiles has grown to large proportions. Detroit, among other cities, is also the home of a large industry in stoves, ranges and furnaces and all varieties of heating devices. Other large Detroit industries are the manufacture of cigars and tobacco goods, boots and shoes, and drugs. Chemical laboratories have been an important item in the aggregate industries of the state. The cities along the shores of the Great Lakes have engaged largely in the fresh water fisheries, the most productive in the United States. Labor conditions in all these industries have been excellent in Michigan, evidence for which is the attitude of organized labor and the absence of any strikes of consequence in any of them. The farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant and the laborers have recognized that labor disturbances are wasteful for all concerned and, by mutual concessions, all difference have been harmonized in the interest of the general progress.

The first minerals mined in Michigan were copper and iron. Actual operations in copper mining were begun in 1842, in the vicinity of Keweenaw Point, by Boston capitalists. In 1866 the discovery of the Calumet and Hecla conglomerate lode marked a new era in copper mining. Until the development of copper mining in the Rocky Mountain states in the early eighties, the Michigan mines produced almost the whole domestic supply and nearly twenty per cent of the world's supply. In the production of iron, Michigan leads all the states, her principal iron districts being the Marquette, Menominee and Gogebic ranges in the Lake Superior region. The first ore was taken out in 1854 from Marquette district.

In 1835 coal mining in Michigan began at Jackson; but the extensive operations have been since 1860. Michigan coal has not be able to compete in price with the coal from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. About 1860 began the development of the salt industry. It has been mainly confined to the Saginaw country. Michigan is still a leading state in the production of salt. Another important mineral industry is the manufacture of Portland cement. It began in 1872, when a plant was built near Kalamazoo. Upwards of a million barrels are now produced annually. The manufacture of land fertilizers from the gypsum deposits has become an important industry in several localities. The largest gypsum mills are at Grand Rapids, where the first was built in 1841. Clay for brick making has furnished material for about three hundred brick kilns in the state. Building materials abound in the fins sandstones, slates and other stones. Grindstone quarries have been opened in Huron county, and graphite mines have been worked to some extent in Baraga county in the upper peninsula.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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