Hometown industry throughout Monroe’s history
Compiled BY Marge Mcbee
THE PAPER INDUSTRY IN MONROE
Consolidated Paper Company
It’s important to remember some of the influential businesses of Monroe County’s past. These manufacturers made products that helped solidify the fabric of our community and our county’s livelihood. Although no longer operating, these companies remain in our memories.
The huge paper company had three plants in Monroe at one time—north and south plants separated by the River Raisin and one on S. Roessler St. The sprawling complexes once employed 1,600 people making paper products for world markets. The westside plant closed in 1965, the northside plant in 1975 and the southside in 1978.
The River Raisin Paper Company
The River Raisin Paper Co. was founded in June 1910 by G. H. Wood, who was president and general manager. The company fabricated paperboard into boxes and was located on E. Elm Ave. It employed thousands of Monroe residents over the years. River Raisin merged in 1960, with Union Bag-Camp Corp. It became known as Union Camp. In 1981, the corrugated plant at E. Elm Ave. was shut down. In 1986, Union Camp was purchased by Jefferson Smurfit Corp. and Monroe Paper Co. taking the Monroe Paper name. The remaining plant took the Jefferson Smurfit name. In 1995, the plants closed.
Other paper companies in Monroe existed at the time, including Time Container and Ace Paper Co.
THE FLORAL CITY
Ilgenfritz Nurseries Inc.
Ilgenfritz Nurseries Inc., an institution for 135 years in Monroe, was founded by Israel Epley Ingenfritz. In 1848, he purchased a half-interest in the nursery of Eliab Reynolds on land adjoining St. Mary Catholic Church. Eventually he became the sole owner of the nursery. The first nursery was devoted to orchard fruits and then expanded into ornamental trees and flowers. Ilgenfritz Nurseries closed in 1982.
The Greening Nurseries
John Greening worked for a local nursery, and in 1857, launched his own nursery, River Raisin Valley Nurseries. His son Charles Greening was born a year later. In 1883 Charles and his brother George convinced their father to give them 30 acres and a horse to start their own nursery. In 1901, the brothers formed the Greening Brothers Nursery Co. At one time 1,700 acres were cultivated and flourished in Monroe County much along the LaPlaisance Corridor.
Newton Steel Company
When Newton Steel of Youngstown, Ohio purchased land from the Monroe Piers Land Co. on Jan. 17, 1929, The Evening News hailed it as “an outstanding development in Monroe’s history.” At the mouth of the River Raisin on the north side, the mill was meant to produce high-grade sheet steel with an initial employment of 1,000.
Re-establishing the River Raisin channel “as a commercial Lake port of importance” was part of the plan. This was when the city extended Elm Ave. east along the old Monroe Piers Line. The property changed hands numerous times with various industries conducted on that site.
Republic Steel followed Newton Steel Co. at the E. Elm site. The company produced sheet steel until it closed in 1943.
Monroe Steel Castings Co.
Monroe Steel Castings was founded in 1912 to do custom foundry work on W. Front St. The firm made mostly railroad products until the 1920s. The company expanded in the late 1930s when the automobile industry brought new demands for steel parts. The mill closed in 1982.
Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA)
ALCOA began production in 1943 on the old Newton Steel site. In its two years of operation ALCOA produced 447,835 aluminum cylinder heads for the military. With the surrender of Japan, the materials from this plant were no longer needed and the plant closed in 1945.
Paragon Aluminum Corp.
Production began in September of 1946. Paragon made 60 types of permanent mold castings, which were largely made on order for other manufacturing companies. The company was experimental in finding new uses for aluminum. The company became a subsidiary of Dura Corp. in 1956 and in 1965 the plant was moved to Dura Company plant in Adrian.
Kelsey Hayes Wheel Co.
Kelsey Hayes purchased the ALCOA plant on E. Elm in 1947. In July of 1947, it is reported that Kelsey Hayes produced 300 wheels per hour with three lines in production, with 64 lines in plans. In October 1947, workers voted to strike, but union and wages problems persisted. In December of 1949 the company announced that operations were to cease by April 1 and that the plant had been sold to Ford Motor Company.
Ford Motor Co.
Ford became the fifth industry to occupy the plant at E. Elm Ave. Ford started production in 1950. The plant employed 1,500 people and produced wheels and bumpers. Fifty years later, in 2000, the plant then known as Visteon employed 2,200 workers. It was the largest employer and biggest taxpayer in the city of Monroe at the time. By 2008 the plant at E. Elm was phased out as operations moved to other auto parts plants.
Floral City Furniture Co. and La-Z-Boy Chair Co.
Today, the company known as La-Z-Boy Incorporated houses its world headquarters on Stewart Rd. in Monroe. At one time, the chairs invented here by Edward Knabusch and Edwin Shoemaker in 1928 were also manufactured here in Monroe at the plant on N. Telegraph Rd.
Monroe Marble and Granite Works
Founded in September of 1875 by Leonard Eichbauer the business cut cemetery monuments on site at 221 E. First St. An office and salesroom were opened at 110 S. Monroe St. in 1936. The company was purchased by an Adrian business in 1965.
Monroe Auto Equipment
Now known as a division of Tenneco Automotive Operating Company Inc., the company had its beginning in 1916 when August F. Meyer hit on the concept of pumping profit from flat tires. With aid from the Chamber of Commerce with two acres of land and a cash bonus of $500, the Brisk Blast Manufacturing Company was born. The fledgling Monroe company started producing tire pumps in 1918. A local Dodge dealer named Charles S. McIntyre teamed up with Mr. Meyer as partner and vice president. The firm continued to grow and diversify and Brisk Blast became Monroe Auto Equipment Manufacturing Company. In 1926 the Monroe Shock Eliminator was born. In 1977 the company was acquired by Tenneco Inc. In the 1990s the company had grown to 7,000 employees in offices and plants in 14 countries.
Weis Manufacturing Company
Established in Monroe in 1905 by six Weis brothers, the company flourished by making more than 2,000 products for use in offices throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In July of 1963, Weis ended production, and except for the buildings and physical site, sold its assets to Globe Wernicke Industries, Inc. of Toledo.
The Monroe Woolen Mills
The mill was one of Monroe’s oldest industries. Beginning in 1818 on the south side of the River Raisin, it was a saw mill owned by Wolcott Lawrence and partners. In two years it added a grist mill and in the 1850s John and Thomas Norman switched the saw mill to a woolen mill that produced cloth, flannels, blankets and yarns, as well as flour. The mill had several owners and in 1973 the mill was destroyed by a fire.
The Wilder Strong Co.
Wilder Strong Co. once stored at the corner of Kentucky and First Sts. in Monroe in 1926. The company, which came to the area in 1881, was founded by J.K. Wilder and manufactured farm implements, water weight lawn rollers, handling equipment and gray iron castings.
Around the turn of the century the Francisco/Flint Canning Factory operated in Newport. The factory canned tomatoes. Francisco and Flint were the last names of the owners. Various canning operations came and went in the early part of the last century in and around Monroe County.