On the site of what is now the Saginaw Bay Marina and along Riverside Drive sat the Pigeon River Salt and Iron Works which was built in 1873. The investors were S. O. Edison, uncle of Thomas Edison, Sanford, and Francis Crawford. The furnace was moved there from Black River, (now Lorain), Ohio. The iron ore was mined from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and shipped from Marquette and Escanaba. The blast furnace had a capacity of producing 30 tons of pig iron daily. The brick chimney must have been an impressive slight over the harbor basin and Pigeon River at 45 feet high with a 9 ½ foot base it was the tallest structure in town.
The father of a future president, William McKinley Sr. also invested in the operation and according to local lore acted has superintendent of the operations until his retirement in 1876. McKinley was notable for being a pioneer of the iron industry in eastern Ohio. The iron works were run about a year, and then due to the Long Depression (1873-1879), depressed iron prices and high fuel prices the operation ceased. The furnace stood vacant and idle for years. The red brick kiln was torn down and each brick was cleaned for reuse. Today some of these bricks can be seen in several buildings in Caseville. The Blue Water Inn is one of the most notable businesses where the original chimney bricks were used.
As an early founder of Caseville, Francis Crawford was one of the wealthiest men in the Upper Thumb. In 1856 he built a large Italianate mansion on the top of the bluff overlooking the harbor and town. Francis Crawford died in 1885 and the mansion was turned into the DeFord Hotel. The 150 ton house was moved in 2001 next to St Roch Catholic Church, refurbished, and now used as a funeral home.