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Industries of Manistee County

The City of Manistee and surrounding areas were built up thanks to the industrial boom at the turn of the 20th Century. Many of the historic sites that are outlined in this booklet showcase their stamp on the area with fine homes, commercial structures and landmarks.

This is a brief overview of the industrial history of the area. To learn more, we encourage you to visit the Manistee County Historical Museum on River Street, in Downtown Manistee. There you can browse through thousands of photos and over 150 years of industrial heritage.

We also encourage you to walk the 1.75 mile Riverwalk, where informational plaques outline the history of our industrial boom along the Big Manistee River.

TOP INDUSTRIES OF THE AREA – Early 1900s

  1. Sand: With sand dunes encompassing a good portion of the city landscape, corporations such as Sand Products mined sand from numerous places around Manistee with the highest percentage mined from the north side of the city.
  2. Salt: After salt was discovered in the late 1870s, many of the owners of the sawmills drilled for salt under their various properties and found it, thus adding the manufacturing of salt to their already prosperous sawmills.
  3. Sawmills: The primary industrial concern of the Manistee area was logging. Over an 80-year period most of the sawmills within the city were gathered around Manistee Lake.
  4. Foundries: Along with lumber and salt, Manistee was home to a number of foundries such as the Manistee Iron Works, which produced hardware for the mills, and later the the Manistee Drop Forge tool and die factory.
  5. Paper: By the mid-to-late 1910s, after many of the sawmills were ceasing operations, a group of investors was integral in starting the Filer Fibre Chemical, the precursor to today’s Packaging Corporation of America (PCA).
  6. Garment: With the sawmill industry all but done by the mid- to-late 1910s, other industries such as the garment industry employed hundreds of people during that time. Many different businesses popped up such as the Cooper Underwear Factory, Marshall Fields, the Goshen Shirt Factory, and most later, Glen of Michigan.
  7. Boats: In 1929, the Century Boat Company commenced the manufacturing of boats in Manistee inside a factory originally located on the northside of the river channel. For over 50 years boat manufacturing continued in Manistee employing hundreds in the process.

Explore more history

To find out more information about the histories of Manistee County’s industries, we have compiled a complete list of all the available and active museums and historical societies in the region. It is at these museums that you should be able to find out more about various factories and manfacturers that played such vital roles within our communties. Download a complete .pdf guide here.