In 1837 state geologist Douglass Houghton discovered outcroppings of a variety of alabaster rock (gypsum) here, As early as 1841 William McDonald and others sought to mine the gypsum, but it was William Patrick who developed the first successful gypsum mine in 1861, followed by Benjamin Smith who opened the present quarry in 1862. By 1863, when the county population was less than 400, the open-pit mine here employed 60 people. By 1870 production had reached 23,000 tons annually. The population was about 300 by 1880, including a plaster works, two hotels and a general store.
A fire in 1891 destroyed the operation, but it was rebuilt in time to supply material for the main buildings at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. These buildings, with marble-like walls (made with a plaster-gypsum-glue mixture, the forerunner of wallboard), earned the exposition the title, "White City," and greatly expanded gypsum sales. Incorporated into the U.S. Gypsum Company in 1902, the quarry helped to make Michigan a leading producer of gypsum for over a century. By 1905 the village population had peaked at about 600, then declined to less than 400 in 1920. The P.O. operated here from 1864-1962. The quarry still exists, but the village is now a quiet hamlet. [Michigan County Atlas]