Submitted by Elizabeth Clark
13 May 1999
Marion Ray Poland
McKee button factory
This story was told to me by my father, Charles Marion CLARK. Charles Marion is the son of Charles Ernest CLARK b:Feb. 10, 1897 d: Aug. 1960 and Edith Ellen POLAND b: Sept. 23, 1916 d: Sept 26, 1981. Edith Ellen Poland CLARK is the daughter of Marion Ray POLAND b: Oct 7, 1896 Joy, Mercer Co. Illinois d: Feb. 1974 and Alice Lorane AGY b:July 11, 1896 Millersburg, Illinois d:Jan. 1966. Marion and Alice's children were Edith Ellen POLAND, her twin Ethal May who died at birth, Hazel POLAND PENN and Anna May POLAND CHAPMAN.
Marion and his wife, Alice, worked at the McKee button factory that was located in Keithsburg, Mercer Co. Illinois. The factory was located on the main street of Keithsburg next to a lumber company that was close to the Mississippi River. The two companies occupied the entire block. The main division of the McKee button factory was located in Muscatine, Iowa. The Keithsburg factory would have shells transported to their division by rail road cars. Marion was in maintenance and Alice would sort the shell by thickness and cut the shells manually by a saw the would come down and cut the shell.
When the Keithsburg division shut down, it moved back to the main factory in Muscatine, Iowa. Marion and Alice stayed with the company and traveled to Muscatine to work, where Marion was still in the maintenance department. The McKee button factory gave Marion the project to invent a button machine. While working on the project Marion was still in the maintenance department. Marion was then taken out of maintenance to develop the button machine full time. The button machine when finished, automatically sorted the shells by thickness, cut, polished, punched the button holes and then would sew the button on a shirt. It is reported that Marion had the button machine running so fast that the assembly line workers, including Alice, couldn't keep up with the machine. Alice yelled at Marion to make the machine run slower, stating "Marion, this machine is just to fast, you have to slow it down!". Marion slowed the machine down so the assembly line workers could keep up with the machine. Marion's job was then to maintain and operate the machine. Marion worked at the McKee factory until he had a stroke.
Charles Marion, Marion's grandson, remembers his mother Edith Ellen having several tin powder boxes that were full with the McKee buttons. Both daughter-in-laws of Edith Ellen, Shirley BACHUS CLARK, Charles Marion's wife and Judith BROWN CLARK, Gerald Roger's wife, were given a tin box full of buttons. Shirley CLARK stated that she didn't have to buy buttons for a long time.