One-term Michigan state governor Chase Osborn lived up to his name in his chase to strike the mother lode. As a wandering iron prospector he found a limestone cave range in Mackinac County. Pursuing a quarry there and other business deals along the way, he founded a quarry with a brief life but a lasting history on one of Michigan’s geological wonders.
In 1898, Osborn explored a limestone range in Mackinac County. He contacted his friend William Fitch, president of the DSS&S railroad, about joining him in buying the land. They originally planned to resell the land but in 1904 they opened their own quarry, which was incorporated in 1905 as Fiborn Quarry, a portmanteau of their names.
Fiborn Quarry was accompanied by a village that had a post office and a company store with the only telephone in town. The school in Fiborn opened in 1907 and served an average of twenty students a year through the seventh grade. A lumbering operation was added to the quarry, but burned down in 1910. There was a boarding house that acted as a town hall and hosted dances and church services. The company houses had four hours of electricity in the evenings when the quarry ran, which could be used for lights but not appliances. When blasting was going on at the quarry a whistle would warn the people of Fiborn to take cover because rocks flew far enough to hit the village buildings.
Osborn ran for Michigan State Governor in 1908, the same year he and Fitch sold Fiborn to the Algoma Steel Company. Fiborn fell on hard times after the post-war recession in 1921-22, but business continued to pick up through the late twenties and the quarry made several purchases of new housing and rail cars. During this time the village grew as more miners along with their families moved to Fiborn. With the dawn of the Great Depression, however, the quarry went idle.
Fiborn was dependent on shipping by rail in a time when the cost of marine shipping was more reasonable. By 1936, Algoma Steel had found better limestone and more affordable mining operations in Rogers City, Michigan.
After briefly running in 1935, Algoma Steel shut down the Fiborn mine in January of 1936, the post office closing within the same month. Soon the village began to disappear and the boarding house burned down in 1936, the cause of which was never determined. All that remains of the quarry works are concrete remnants of the power house and sorting bins. The land was sold in 1987 to the Michigan Karst Conservancy which created the Fiborn Karst Preserve to protect the natural and historic value of the land.