KINGSFORD, Mich. (WJMN) – In 1923, the Village of Kingsford was formed, named after Edward G. Kingsford, the first plant manager of Ford in the area and guiding a community to form and become its own.
“Streets and gutters and water and sewer,” said Roger Scott, Kingsford historian. “They had the Ford Park, the Ford Hospital, the Ford Commerce area right down the street. And then, they had an airport here too.”
Scott has a wealth of knowledge on the town built by Ford.
“About 1920, Henry Ford was looking for a place to start a new saw mill and part plant and he had a relative named Edward G. Kingsford that was already operating in the Upper Peninsula so they settled on putting the plant, and in that time it was just Iron Mountain,” said Scott. “By about 1922, they’re up in production and found out with all of the, I think there was 460,000 acres of hard woods that they were going to make parts out of it. So that went well. They needed more and more power. They eventually built the Ford Dam just to provide hydro-electric power to run the plant. They branched out in using raw materials from the saw mill to make various products or organic products and one principle thing was charcoal which would just be super heated wood. They used the technique of grinding the wood up and then compressing it into little pillows and use that as the fuel. They were making Ford Charcoal Briquettes.”
Then, the Great Depression came and then the war, which meant a glider contract for the area.
“Which was pretty astounding at the number of gliders they kicked out of the Ford plant for use over in Normandy,” said Scott. “In 1951, in December there was very little use to no use for wood in automobiles. Even the station wagons had simulated wood on them. So at that point, Kingsford closed the plant. Then a company formed, Kingsford Charcoal, or Kingsford Chemical Company actually continued making the charcoal and some of the various by products. They stayed here until 1960/61 and then they moved the plant down to Kentucky.”
Now those businesses are moved out and 100 years later they are being used for other business enterprises. As we come on 100 years of this town being established, Scott loves sharing history about it so other know the story behind Kingsford.
“Well, the part that I get a kick out of is when you ask somebody who is grilling out and I say, ‘You know why that is called Kingsford?’ They have no idea,” said Scott. “I volunteer at the museum in town and so I get to talk to these people from all over the country and say well if you want to know how Kingsford Charcoal got its name, it’s from right here. Starting with Ford Plant.