Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company

Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company (a.k.a. "Michigan Limestone") operates the world's largest limestone quarry, which is located near Rogers City, Michigan. It was formed and organized in 1910; however, production did not begin until 1912. Ownership of the quarry has changed a number of times in recent years, but it is still one of the country's largest producers of limestone.

Michigan Limestone
IndustryManufacturing, Mining
HeadquartersRogers City, Michigan, USA
Key people
Board of Directors
ProductsChemicals, Mineral Products, and other Specialized Products and Services
Number of employees
160 (2008)

The limestone it uses is found in deposits underground in the northeastern part of Northern Michigan near Alpena and south of Rogers City along the shore of Lake Huron. The raw material is essential in a variety of industries. The major uses are for various aggregates, road-base stone cement, manufacture flux for iron and steel production, railroad ballast, mine dusting, and lime manufacture for agricultural applications.


Carl Bradley and William White
First steam shovel and steam locomotive
Trains, Crusher, Screen House,
and Powerhouse 5-8-1914
Main offices 1910 to 1926 (burned down)
Opening of 42-inch crusher 5-7-1912

The mining engineer and geologist Henry H. Hindshaw of New York City started the analysis to established the commercial value of limestone in Northern Lower Michigan in January 1909.[1][2] He looked over and evaluated certain properties in the northeastern part of Michigan between the small lumbering community of Rogers City and the nearby open pit mine of Crawford's Quarry. Hindshaw in February first drilled samples for the Solvay Process Company of Syracuse, New York.[3] The limestone samples were analyzed and found of commercial quality, so the company took an option to purchase all the surrounding land by the Lake Huron shore south of Rogers City. Hindshaw then returned to New York City and got in contact with William F. White of the White Investing Company. The investor showed an interest in commercial development of the limestone.[4]

Limestone is a raw material essential in industry.[5] Major uses are for various aggregates, road-base stone cement, manufacture flux for iron and steel production, railroad ballast, mine dusting, and lime manufacture.[6] Hindshaw determined the value due to the unusually high grade and purity of the limestone deposit underground in the northeastern region of Lower Michigan along the shore of Lake Huron, near Alpena and south of Rogers City.[7] The quality and size of the limestone deposit at Rogers City, and the availability of easy water transportation, led to the development of the quarry and a port.[8][9] Both quarry and port are named Calcite, after the principal ingredient of limestone.[10]


Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company was created in 1910 by White and a few of his investor capitalist colleagues who purchased a 5,000-acre (20,000,000 m2) parcel of land of prime limestone deposits from the Rogers City Land Company.[11][3] It was the lumber industry that had brought the first settlers to the northern area of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan around the time of the Civil War. The first pioneer settlers arrived in the Rogers City vicinity in 1869 and they started the Rogers-Molitor Lumber Company.[12] The lumber industry was the backbone of the economy in Rogers City and Presque Isle County until the second decade of the 20th century. By that time, most of the forests had been cut down and the major lumber companies were moving their camps to fresh forests in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and into the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Around this time Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company began construction of facilities for mining limestone.[11]

White, whose residence was in New York City, served as president of Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company when he filed Articles of Association in the Presque Isle County Clerk's office at Rogers City making the company official on May 26, 1910.[13] The Calcite port and quarry plant started operations in June 1910 and maintained offices in New York City and Rogers City. Hindshaw was the first general manager and was paid $3,500 per year.[14] He was replaced in October by Joseph Jenkins of Alpena, Michigan, who was paid $3,000 a year.[14] Carl D. Bradley of Chicago replaced Jenkins on October 12, 1911.[15]

Bradley managed construction of the limestone processing factory, which included a powerhouse, stone crusher, screen-house, conveyor power distribution system, a harbor with loading slip, ship loader, repair shop, and executive office building. Steam shovels were purchased for use in mining, and steam locomotives and dump cars were used to move the stone from the quarry to the crusher. A steam locomotive was purchased to haul the limestone from the quarry.[16]

There was a 14-mile (23 km) spur track built by the company that led into the Calcite operations from the Detroit & Mackinac Railroad main line just west of Posen, Michigan.[14] Production at the quarry began in early 1912 and the first cargoes of stone were shipped by steamer freighters in June of that year.[4][7][17] The company received orders for limestone that far exceeded the most optimistic expectations.[11]

Most of the stone mined at the Rogers City quarry was shipped on lake freighters to steel mills located along the lower Great Lakes at places like Detroit, Cleveland, Gary, and South Chicago. For most of the plant's history, its biggest customer was United States Steel (also known as U.S. Steel.), the world's largest producer of steel products. Eventually, additional markets were found for the limestone in the agricultural, construction, chemical, and cement industries. The Rogers City area continued to develop and grow as the Calcite plant facilities grew. Within 20 years, the quarry at Rogers was the world's largest producer of limestone.[18]

U.S. SteelEdit

United States Steel Corporation was the first customer of the company. White and his partners were in contact with potential major consumers of limestone even before the company was officially formed. They were in negotiations with several steel companies and other companies that used quantities of limestone and concluded that if they built a massive quarry that they would have potential consumers immediately. US Steel signed a contract within months of when the company was officially formed and a year before limestone was actually produced. Iroquois Iron Company of Chicago signed a contract with Michigan Limestone for the purchase of 50,000 tons of limestone.[19] The limestone company was created, at least in part, with the idea that there was a waiting market for their product.[20] US Steel later purchased a controlling interest in Michigan Limestone in 1920 when the company was producing 1,000 tons of crushed limestone a day.[21]

Bradley was promoted from general manager to president of Michigan Limestone. He also served as president of Michigan Limestone's fleet of self-unloading ships used to deliver the stone. Those ships were operated as the Bradley Transportation Company.[22] Michigan Limestone and Bradley Transportation came under the full ownership of U.S. Steel upon Bradley's death in 1928.[23] At that time U.S. Steel purchased all of the stock of both Michigan Limestone and the associated shipping concern, Bradley Transportation, and made both these companies subsidiaries of U.S. Steel.[24] The company became a division in 1951 when the operations at Rogers City became U.S. Steel's "Northern District", since the main offices were moved to Detroit. The operation is still a major employer in northern Michigan. Its ownership has changed several times in recent years.[7]


The calcite limestone produced at Michigan Limestone is the white calcium carbonate chemical. It is low in iron, alumina, sulphur, carbonate phosphorus, silica, magnesium and titanium. Steel mills added limestone to molten iron in the blast furnaces. It is used to carry away impurities in the process of making steel.[25] The material is also in widespread use in making cement. The limestone when burned at a temperature up to 2300 degrees Fahrenheit (999 degrees Celcius) produces just pure lime, which is used in everything from making paints, varnishes, sugar, glass, baking powder and ammonia. Lime is also used in making chemicals such as soda ash, caustic soda, bleaching powders, and water softening salt. Limestone was used to fill the caissons that support the Mackinac Bridge.[4]

Pulverized limestone is used to restore lime that is needed to make plants grow. Continuous cultivation depletes lime out of the soil, making it acidic. Crops will not grow very well in that type of soil. Pulverized limestone is used to restore lime in the soil so crops grow properly.[4] This type of soil conditioner is known as agricultural lime. Where soils are acidic crushed limestone can improve the crop yield. It does this by making the soil balanced and thereby allowing the plants to absorb more nutrients from the soil like they should through their roots. While lime is not a fertilizer itself, it can be used in combination with fertilizers.[26][27] Agricultural lime can also be beneficial to soils where the land is used in raising farm animals like cows and goats. Bone growth is key to an animal's development and bones are composed primarily of calcium. Young calf get their needed calcium through milk, which has calcium as one of its major components so dairymen frequently apply agricultural lime to their fields because it increases milk production.[28]

SS Calcite launch - March 30, 1912
SS Bradley self-unloading in operation.
Rogerys City limestone quarry

Self-unloading ships of the companyEdit

Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company built three ships between 1912 and 1917. They were named SS Calcite,[29] SS W.F. White[30] and the SS Carl D. Bradley (in 1927, this ship would be renamed John G. Munson, and a new SS Carl D. Bradley would be built). These ships were revolutionary in their own right. They represented the latest technology in "self-unloading" ships, then simply called "unloading ships".[25]

In 1912, the company built its first steamship, SS Calcite. It was considerably larger than the first modern self-unloader ever built on the Great Lakes, which was the SS Wyandotte built in 1908.[31] The Calcite was used to haul limestone from the company's quarry at Rogers City to Buffalo and Fairport, New York.[32] The steamships W.F. White and Carl D. Bradley followed over the next few years.[33] All the steamships' hulls were painted grey to minimize the appearance of the limestone dust that accumulated during loading and unloading.[25]

The design of these early self-unloaders was pretty much the same as today. The idea is that the "cargo hold" is built with its sides sloping toward the center of the ship along the keel. Where the two sides come together, a series of steel gates can be opened. This allows the material to drop onto a conveyor belt running the length of the ship beneath the "cargo hold." The conveyor belt carries the material up to an exchanger, where it is transferred to a second belt which runs up to the main deck, then through a long boom on deck. The unloading swing boom hangs over the ship's side to discharge the material load onto the waiting customer's dock. The advantage of self-unloaders is that they can deliver the limestone material directly to a customer's dock without requiring expensive shore side unloading rigs.[34]

As business grew over the years, the company built several more of these self-unloaders. These ships were operate under the name Bradley Transportation Company after 1920 and were known as the Bradley boats or the Bradley fleet.[25] There are self-unloaders today that carry limestone from the Calcite plant through the Port of Calcite to industrial ports all around the Great Lakes.[7] The SS Carl D. Bradley was lost in a storm in November 1958 while returning from delivering a load of limestone; 33 of the 35 crewmembers died, most of whom lived in or around the small town of Rogers City. No larger loss of lives has occurred in the lake freighter fleet since the Bradley's sinking.[35]

Michigan historical markerEdit

There is a Michigan State Historic Site historical marker at a viewing point over Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company facilities that reads:

Limestone is a mineral raw material essential in making steel, chemicals, and cement. Henry H. Hindshaw, a geologist, established in 1908-09 the commercial value of this area's limestone for industry. The high purity of this deposit and nearby water transportation led to the development here of a port and quarry. Both are named Calcite, after the principal ingredient of the stone. The Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company, founded in 1910, began operation in 1912. Purchased by Carl D. Bradley and the United States Steel Corporation in 1920, the company came under the ownership of U.S. Steel upon Bradley's death in 1928. In 1951 the company became a division of the corporation. Self-unloaders of the division's Bradley Transportation Line carry limestone from this, the world's largest limestone quarry, to industrial ports all around the Great Lakes.[7]


  1. ^ Parker, Doris (July 10, 2012). "The Calcite Quarry". Cheboygannews.com. Cheboygan Daily Tribune. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  2. ^ Schumacher 2010, p. 81.
  3. ^ a b Micketti 2012, p. 22.
  4. ^ a b c d Micketti 1995, p. 4.
  5. ^ "Building for Michigan's tomorrow". Detroit Free Press. Detroit, Michigan. August 18, 1956. p. 25. Retrieved October 5, 2021 – via Newspapers.com  .
  6. ^ US Bureau of Mines 1976, p. 759.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Michigan Markers". Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  8. ^ American Institute of Mining 1960, p. 167.
  9. ^ Ashlee 2005, p. 379.
  10. ^ "See Historic Port, Fall Colors at Rogers City". The Herald-Palladium. Saint Joseph, Michigan. October 25, 1978. p. 30. Retrieved October 5, 2021 – via Newspapers.com  .
  11. ^ a b c Thompson 2013, p. 14.
  12. ^ Clements 1990, p. 390.
  13. ^ Micketti 2012, p. 23.
  14. ^ a b c Micketti 2012, p. 25.
  15. ^ Micketti 2012, p. 35.
  16. ^ Micketti 2012, p. 27.
  17. ^ Traveling Through Time: A Guide to Michigan's Historical Markers
  18. ^ Allen 1917, p. 137.
  19. ^ Micketti 2012, p. 33.
  20. ^ Micketti 2012, p. 28.
  21. ^ "Rogers City to honor its Industry". Detroit Free Press. Detroit, Michigan. July 29, 1962. p. 19 – via newspapers.com  .
  22. ^ Micketti 1995, p. 9.
  23. ^ Micketti 1995, p. 13.
  24. ^ Presque Isle County Historical Museum of Rogers City, Michigan
  25. ^ a b c d Rogers City’s Bradley Boats
  26. ^ "Calcium Carbonate - Agriculture Markets". congcal.com/markets/agriculture/. Congcal. October 6, 2021.
  27. ^ "Guide to Applying Lime to Your Lawn Correctly". thegreenpinky.com. TheGreenPinky. October 6, 2021.
  28. ^ United States Department of Agriculture 1960, pp. 112–118.
  29. ^ Great Lakes Vessels Online Index - SS Calcite
  30. ^ Great Lakes Vessels Online Index - SS W.F. White
  31. ^ Historical Collections of the Great Lakes - SS Wyandotte
  32. ^ Micketti 1995, p. 7.
  33. ^ Micketti 1995, pp. 8–9.
  34. ^ Miller 1999, p. 116.
  35. ^ Kantar 2006, pp. 69–79.


Coordinates: 45°23′28″N 83°47′15″W / 45.3910°N 83.7874°W / 45.3910; -83.7874