Plant: Elk Rapids Portland Cement, Elk Rapids, MI

Elk Rapids Portland Cement PlantThe Elk Rapids Portland Cement Plant was located in Elk Rapids.

Photo info: A view of the railroad service to the cement plant in the early 1900's.

Elk Rapids Portland Cement Co. Organized in 1900 with capital of $400,000. Bonds issued in 1902 to improve machinery, etc., $100,000. Original actual cost of plant about $225,000, the balance of stock being issued for land or unsold and issued as bonus with bonds, which were floated at par.


The officers were mostly from the local area. The manager of the Elk Rapids Iron Company was also an officer.

Within the limits of the village of Elk Rapids the plant of the Elk Rapids Portland Cement Co. has been erected.

The company owned a frontage of 80 rods on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, Sec. 20, T. 9 N., R. 9 W., and the plant was built at the water's edge. The surroundings are far more picturesque than usually found accompanying a large industrial institution.

In a grove of pine trees the various buildings were erected, and thrusting its arm out into the waters of the bay, a distance of 1,200 feet, is a substantial pier. At the end 16 feet of water is found, which allows the largest boats on the lakes to discharge and load.

This dock is equipped with clam shell, hoisting engine, boiler, etc., and the cable dock car system for loading and conveying cargoes to and from the plant. As lake transportation is generally cheaper than rail, the company possess a decided advantage in this particular.

Tracks of the Pere Marquette also run to the mills and the company uses both methods of transportation.

Thirteen and one-half acres comprise the land owned by the company, upon which the plant has been erected. Two and one-half miles south of the plant site, in the extreme northern end of Grand Traverse county, is situated the marl lands of the company. This tract comprises 350 acres of solid marl. It was formerly a shallow lake (Petobago Lake, sometimes called Tobacco Lake, Sections 5 and 8, T. 28 N., R. 9 W.), about 20 feet above Grand Traverse Bay, but the company drained off the water and the marl, is now very easy to raise and put into the dump cars of the company.

This great body of marl averages, in depth, throughout its extent about 18 feet. Very little muck or organic matter lies on top of this marl bed and it goes to the mill in a very pure state. They have also recently bought some limestone lands.

Within a stone's throw of the plant, clay of fine quality has been discovered. Besides this clay the company own a fine bed of shale clay (Antrim shale) on the east half of Sec. 3, T. 33 N., R. 7 W., on Pine Lake in Charlevoix County, also I am told in Lake Susan, Charlevoix County, and if needed the Watervale lands, No. 23, could be acquired.

"The buildings of the company are quite extensive and are arranged with the view of economically handling the materials as they pass from one process to another. The buildings comprise, frame coal storage building with cement floors, 50x175 feet, equipped with coal crushers, two elevators, two screw conveyors, rope drives. Concrete storage and packing buildings, 98x118 feet, concrete floors and conveyors for handling the cement. The capacity of this building is about 30,000 barrels of cement.

Machine and blacksmith shop of brick, 30x50 feet; this room is very essential in a cement plant as all necessary repairs can be made in a short space of time. This shop is equipped with all of the tools and machines necessary to perform a high class of work. "The engine and grinding rooms are in one building. This is of brick, 80x160 feet, with steel trusses, iron roof and cement floors. Steam for power is generated in two Sterling water tube boilers of 500 horse power and the motive power consists of a 500 horsepower Russel engine, with rope drives, also a Westinghouse dynamo and engine for the lighting plant. These are separated from the clinker room by thick walls.

Four Griffin mills are required to grind the clinker and in this room are clinker car conveyors, cement conveyors and elevators.

The rotary building is of brick set in cement and is 80x200 feet, with steel trusses, iron roofs, and cement floors. Here are found two pug mills, four tube mills, clay grinder, six large cement vats, ten steel slurry storage tanks, 12x16 feet each, and five Bonnet steel rotary kilns, 6x60 feet, lined with fire brick for burning cement clinker. The foundations of all machinery and all ground vats are constructed of solid concrete, resting on clay strata about eight feet below the surface of the ground.

Besides these buildings there are laboratory, office, barns, boarding house and residences on the ground and owned by the company.

"To reach the marl beds the company have built a standard gauge railroad and the cars are propelled by a 35-ton locomotive. Economy in getting the raw materials to the mills has been sought and the operation expenses are very low. The road extends over the marl bed about half a mile and improved dredging apparatus is in use there.

"All of the machinery was installed with a view of increasing the plant to 10 rotaries as soon as the occasion demands. As the marl is carried to the separating machine it is weighed and then goes into the separator where all foreign matter is extracted; then the clay which has been finely pulverized is added in the quantity desired by the chemist and it goes into the pug mills and the mixing machines.

After the most thorough grinding and mixing the correction tanks are reached and here the mixture is again analyzed and corrected to the proper mixture desired to make a fine grade of cement. Through the rotaries the slurry rolls and as it leaves the far end it has been transformed into a small clinker. These clinkers are of irregular size.

By means of an automatic conveyor this clinker goes to the mill to be ground into a fine powder. Test sheets are sent out with each shipment and the party receiving them knows just what he has purchased. The corps of cement makers and chemists have been carefully selected and every process of manufacture is carefully watched. A splendid system of tests has been inaugurated and any hour of the day test sheets will show just what results are being accomplished.” [GSM]

Time Line

1901. Plant opens.

1911. Plant closes.


The following sources are utilized in this website. [SOURCE-YEAR-MMDD-PG]:

  • [AAB| = All Aboard!, by Willis Dunbar, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids ©1969.
  • [AAN] = Alpena Argus newspaper.
  • [AARQJ] = American Association of Railroads Quiz Jr. pamphlet. © 1956
  • [AATHA] = Ann Arbor Railroad Technical and Historical Association newsletter "The Double A"
  • [AB] = Information provided at Michigan History Conference from Andrew Bailey, Port Huron, MI

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