In the summer of 1857, Thomas C. Palmer gathered together some greyish-white rocks to surround a camp fire that he had built along the Big Blue River about 3 miles southwest of the junction of the Big and Little Blue Rivers. After the fire burned he noticed that the rocks had turned to a powder. He made some use of it in plastering a cabin.
In 1858, General Frank J. Marshall, after whom the county is named, investigated the matter. Marshall was a college graduate with knowledge of mineralology and classified the rock as gypsum. He also "burned" the gypsum and used the powder produced to plaster a house he was building in Marysville.
In the early days of mining gypsum there were 4 mines in the area. The Electric Plaster Mill was located north of Blue Rapids, west of the present mill. It was torn down in 1914. The Fowler Brothers Mine was also located north of town. The rock from this mine was brought down the river on barges to the old plaster mill at the dam. The United States Gypsum Co. operated a mine on the Little Blue River and later moved south of town. The forth mine was the Great Western Plaster Company Mine, which eventually became the Georgia-Pacific Corporation mine. The four mills produced stucco, plaster board, hollow blocks, and other items of building material and employed an average of 250 men with a monthly payroll of about $15,000. The Great Western Plaster Mill was opened in 1896. After about 7 years the American Plaster Mills bought the plant and continued to operate it for nearly 17 years, In 1920 the Beaver Products Co. of Buffalo, N.Y. purchased the mine. Certain-Teed Products purchased the mine in 1928. Presently the mine is owned and operated by the Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Atlanta, Georgia.
Last modified: March 28, 1998