On This Date in History: Ground Broken for Superior Cement Plant in July 1906
Let’s travel back in time to visit the once bustling village of Superior, Ohio. The tiny community straddled the Elizabeth-Decatur township lines and began as Center Furnace in the 1830s. On March 6, 1907, a post office was established with the name Superior, named for the cement plant under construction nearby. The post office was nestled inside the company store which was destroyed by fire in 1927, and replaced by a stucco covered building that would later serve Marquette and Lone Star employees. That building was razed in 2000 but the thick-walled cellar originally constructed in the 1800s still stands today.
Across the road that would later become State Route 522, parallel to the 40-foot furnace stack, was a spur of the DT&I Railroad. A few of the wooden trestles are still there today. By 1919, most of the buildings attached to the furnace were dismantled to make room for additional railroad tracks.
Next to the company store stood a boardinghouse which originally served as the furnace manager’s home, and consisted of ten rooms, a veranda, pantry and long dining table to accommodate guests, most of which worked at the plant. In 1908, a Methodist church was dedicated near the store, followed by a Catholic church in 1912. Baptist services were conducted in the old “little red schoolhouse” at the mouth of Bear Run Hollow. A new two-room block school was built beyond the furnace. Next to the school were rows of houses spanning both sides of the road, along with a cemetery on the hill. Rent for a two-story home in Superior in the 1940s was $12 if it had a bathroom and $9 if it did not. South of the furnace stood the Honeymoon Hotel, later the site of Schwerman Trucking, and more houses curving around into Hanning Hollow.
Amid the July heat, ground was broken for the sprawling cement factory, which officially opened on October 28, 1907, and employed 300 people. The land surrounding the plant was rich in the raw materials needed to produce about 2,400 barrels, or 450 tons daily, of high-quality Portland cement.
The company initially continued operation of Center Furnace, but after a couple of years deemed it too small to keep up with demand and too expensive to renovate.
In 1953, Superior Cement was acquired by the Marquette Cement Manufacturing Company, which quickly replaced the old plant with a modernized factory capable of producing about 1400 tons per day. Soon after, residents began to move out of Superior because plans to strip mine the hills behind the houses endangered the safety of the residents.
The last train came through Superior in 1982, and a few years later the plant permanently shut down following a strike.
Now, nothing remains of Superior except for a few house foundations and scattered furnace stones, but the memories live on in those who grew up there and were kind enough to pass them along to the next generation.
Nicole Cox is a trustee at the Lawrence County Museum & Historical Society and owner of LawrenceCountyOhio.com