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Wedron Silica celebrates its centennial year.

Since that first load of sand left Wedron, IL, 100 years ago, the 20th century dawned and is about to recede into our past, but sand laid down eons ago is still being mined and shipped from this little town, located on what was once the shoreline of a vast ancient sea. History has recorded monumental events in those 100 years-the great industrial revolution, two world wars, a devastating economic depression, space travel and sand is still mined and shipped from Wedron.

That first small sand mining venture has grown over the years to become a nationally-known leader in sand technology, Wedron Silica Co,

Gone though is the little narrow gage steam railroad that carried away overburden that hid deep oceans of gleaming white sand; so are the three huge, 450-ton capacity round silos that were local landmarks for years. They were replaced by a new loading system that no longer required them. Gone, too, are the old drying ovens and the hand-stitched burlap sandbags used for so many years to carry sand from the old shipping barn to distant plants. A bit of Wedron Americana is also disappearing as the century ends. The World War II Wedron housing, built to shelter defense workers at the silica plant, are being torn down in what used to be Whiskey Hollow and Boogerville.

Wedron SilicaCo is 100 years old, yet it seems as timeless as the sands it depends upon-the fabled St. Peter's deposit, one of the largest such geological sites in the world. Tom Burke works there now and so does Michelle Woodward, Daryl Hoyt, Bob Groves and Mark Varland. Ernie Leslie, Harold Mumper and Russ Knudson are among the retired, but they still come back to visit because you don't forget the good years, especially in Wedron where working at the 'sand works' is a family affair.

Begun as the Garden City Sand Co in 1890, it was sold to the Wedron White Sand Co in 1894. Back then, the company bought additional sand from Keen Kleener Mfg of Ottawa) to make abrasives and toothpaste cleansers. During World War I, Chicago Brick Co bought the company, installed a grinding mill and Wedron soon became the largest U.S. producer of silica flour, a ground form of silica sand then used in delicate cleansers and fine polishes. In the early '80s, this process was discontinued by Wedron in favor of the production of whole grain sands.

Already a leader in the mining and processing of industrial sand and a charter member of the National Industrial Sand Assn, the company gained a national reputation during World War II as a major supplier of sand and sand technology to foundries and arsenals across the country. In the intervening years, it has been part of Del Monte Properties and for a year a division of Twentieth Century Fox. Martin Marietta acquired the company in 1983. In 1984 the Best Sand Co and the Wedron management group combined to buy out Martin Marietta, eventually folding the assets of the new company into Fairmount Minerals Ltd.

Wedron has committed sand reserves which will last well into the 22nd century, assuring its position as a premium supplier of top grade foundry sand, and helping to contribute to sand developments and new sand casting technologies.
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Author:Bex, Tom
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:company profile
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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