Plant: Newaygo Portland Cement, Newaygo, MI

Newaygo Portland Cement Co. (Gibraltar Brand.) was organized in 1899 with $2 million in capital. plant operations started June 5, 1901. The officers of the company were mostly from out of state.

The Newaygo Portland Cement Company's plant is located at Newaygo, on the banks of the Muskegon river, thirty-six miles north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is one of the finest designed and equipped plants in the State of Michigan. The plant is electrically operated, the power being furnished by two 500 H. P. 3-phase generators, driven by eight Lombard water wheels acting under a 15-foot head.

The water is furnished by the Muskegon river. The slurry is agitated and handled entirely by compressed air. The efficiency of this system cannot be overestimated. The centrifugal pumps usually in use are very expensive to maintain as they wear out very rapidly. The absence of line shafting is noticeable, each machine being equipped with an individual motor, in some cases two, which enables the mill to continue in service in case of break down of one of the motors. The automatic system for controlling the compressed air is admirable.

The marl is found in a series of lakes owned by the company in Newaygo county and about five miles from the plant, known as Little Marl, Great Marl, Pickerel, Kimball, Fremont and Hess lakes. Clay is found on the company's property along the Muskegon river opposite the plant; the following is a representative analysis of this clay:*

The cement produced by this plant is first-class in every particular, and the machinery is the best of its kind. The following is a brief description of the plant: The mill is on the line of the Pere Marquette railroad over which road for a mile and one-quarter the marl is hauled to the mill; the remaining three and one-half miles is over the cement company's siding.

A dredge is used in excavating the marl. The marl is dumped into a bin. There is also storage provided, under the trestle (400 feet long), to supply the mill during the winter months. From the bin the marl flows through a gate in the bottom, operated by a slide valve, into a machine called a separator, which drives the marl out through a perforated head in the machine, separating from the marl all foreign matter, such as sticks, stones, etc. Water is introduced at this point in quantity (about 55%) sufficient to reduce it to a slurry.

The pure marl flows through a pipe into pump (2) which pumps it by compressed air into three storage tanks (3) connected together by pipe. These tanks hold about 90 cubic yards each. From these tanks the chemist takes his samples for analysis, to determine the proportion of clay to be added. From the tanks the material, now in form of slurry, flows by gravity in a pump marked (4) which pumps it into two measuring tanks (5), these being used alternately.

The clay is brought from storage and fed into a pair of rolls, then into a pug mill where water is added and it is reduced to a thin slurry. From this mill it passes into two Gates' tube mills in which it is made impalpably fine. This in turn is forced or pumped by air into a measuring tank. The marl and clay are fed separately from the bottom of the measuring bins into a measuring hopper.

From this hopper it is pumped into three 90 cubic yard tanks. The number of hoppers of marl and clay pumped into each of these tanks will depend on the composition of the marl. When the tank is full it is thoroughly agitated by air. The chemist then takes another sample. These are called correction tanks. Should the composition not be correct clay or marl is added until the desired mixture is obtained.

From these tanks the slurry or syrupy mixture of clay and marl flows by gravity into a pump which forces it into the automatic feeders into the three tube mills, in which the material is reduced to an impalpably fine state. The tube mills discharge it into a trough running to a pump, which forces it into the 90 cubic yard tanks back of the kilns; there being a tank for each kiln.

All tanks are continuously agitated by means of compressed air. From the tanks it is pumped into automatic feeders from which it is fed into the rotary kilns, in which it is clinkered and is discharged into the McCasslin conveyor which forms a continuous belt around all the rotary kilns passing in a trench underneath, then up a tower at the side of the building, overhead through the ventilator or louvre of the building and down the opposite side, where it is discharged into a cooling tower, and delivered by this tower onto a conveyor belt, which takes it to the dry grinding building and delivers it to elevator.

It is then elevated and deposited on conveyor belt which in turn delivers it to clinker storage bins, there being one for each Griffin mill. From these bins it is fed by gravity into the Griffin mills and pulverized to an impalpable powder; flowing from them by gravity again into a screw conveyor by which it is delivered to elevator, and delivered by this elevator to either screw conveyor or belt conveyor, either one being in reserve in case of a break down.

These conveyors take the finished cement and deposit it again into a screw conveyor which carries it overhead, through the cement warehouse, emptying it into any bin desired. When the cement is shipped, it is drawn from the bottom of any one of these bins into screw conveyor of which there are two, one on either side of the alleyway, conveyed by the screw conveyor to a second screw conveyor, which delivers it into the packing bins in the packing house, where it is either barreled or sacked by machinery, and if cars are not at hand to take it to market, it is piled in the warehouse adjoining the packing house.

The coal is either shoveled direct from a car standing on the trestle onto the conveyor belt, or is wheeled from storage under the trestle and dumped onto this same belt, which carries it to a coal cracker. From there it is elevated into a Cummer dryer, passes from the Cummer dryer into a second elevator, which carries it up and dumps into small bins over Griffin mills, where it is pulverized and then passed by a screw conveyor into elevator, which elevates it into screw conveyor, by which it is carried and deposited in coal storage bins.

From there it is fed into the rotaries by a blast of air from fan, driven by motor. These rotaries are all driven by motor of which there is a duplicate kept in reserve. In the coal grinding building the machinery is driven by motor, belted to a jack shaft, which drives both the Griffin mills. Each of the Griffin mills in the dry grinding building is driven by a separate motor, as in each of the tube mills in the wet grinding building. The agitators of each set of tanks are also driven by separate motors.

The plant has been in continuous service for over one year during which time it has proved to be one of the most successful and economical in the State. [GSM]

Discovery of Marl in Michigan

The story of the discovery of the deposits of marl is as follows:** "A year ago Charles E. Greening, of the firm of Greening Bros., extensive nurserymen at Monroe, was on a business trip through the northern part of the lower peninsula. On May 23 he delivered an address at Newaygo, and the day following joined a fishing party at Pickerel Lake, near that village. While sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree, Mr. Greening observed that the roots of the tree were covered with a white substance resembling snow. His curiosity prompted him to taste it and he detected in it a strong flavor of lime. He sent a sample to the Agricultural College for analysis, but never heard from it. "A few months later Mr. Greening met Prof. Fred H. Borradaile, State analyst, and gave him a sample for analysis. When the latter reported he startled Mr. Greening by urging him to go to Newaygo at once and buy up all the land containing the deposit that he could get his hands on, explaining that the substance was a most valuable specimen of marl. "Mr. Greening hastened to Newaygo and immediately purchased about 1,000 acres of land surrounding four little lakes, the shores and bottoms of which contain unlimited deposits of marl which is said to be of a finer quality than any heretofore discovered in this country, the analysis showing 96 per cent of carbonate of lime, with little or no trace of iron. Within a short distance of the marl beds there is to be had an abundance of clay, which is an essential in the manufacture of cement. Numerous other deposits of marl at Pine Lake, Fremont Lake, etc., exist not far off, elsewhere referred to. [GSM]


Time Line

1899. The company is organized.

1901. Plant begins operation.

1924. September. Company merges with Medusa Portland Cement Company.


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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