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From Quarry to Cemetery Monuments

California Quarries that Supplied Stone for Yolo County, the Sacramento Area, & the San Francisco Bay Area (Continued)


Indian Diggings Marble Quarry, El Dorado County, California

Another California stone widely used in northern California cemeteries is Indian Diggings marble, a white, heavily veined marble quarried by Israel Luce for use at the Andrew Aitken/Israel Luce monument shop in Sacramento. This stone can be found throughout cemeteries in central California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The following information is taken from a photocopy of a California State Agricultural Society book, page 314, date possibly 1864. This article was submitted to me in 1998 by Leeanna Rossi, author of Headstones of the Gold Rush Era: Sculpting Masterpieces in Marble, Golden Notes, vol. 43, number 3, Fall 1997. If you would like to learn more about Israel Luce, you can go to the “Israel Luce” part of the “Historical Stone Cutters, Stone Carvers, & Monument Dealers” section of this web site.

“Sacramento, January 2d, 1866.

“Mr. I. N. Hoag, Secretary of the State Agricultural Society:

“Sir:-In compliance with your request, I give you some information in regard to our marble quarries. The quarries from which we procure the marble known as ‘Indian Diggings marble,’ are located in El Dorado County, about three miles from the line that divides El Dorado from Amador County, twenty-five miles east of south from Placerville, thirty-two miles east of Latrobe, and sixty-two miles from Sacramento City. A branch of the new Amador road from Virginia City, Silver Mountain, etc., leads within one half mile of the quarries.

“These quarries were first seen by me in the winter of eighteen hundred and fifty-three and four; at that time there was nothing to attract attention to them except the quality of the marble, which was as fine as the best Italian.

“In the winter of eighteen hundred and fifty-six and seven, the solid ledges were uncovered by hydraulic mining, from which we have been taking marble since the summer following, from eighteen hundred and fifty-seven to eighteen hundred and sixty-one. We quarried only for monumental work. In eighteen hundred and sixty-one we erected a steam mill, with three gangs of saws, by which we have been able to supply the increasing demand for this material.

“The marble is more easily worked, more free from iron, flint, or other outside matter, and as it is as susceptible of as high a polish as the best Italian, there is no reason why it should not, in a few years, supersede the use of imported marble altogether. For general purposes, there is no marble in the United States that can compete with it; and, as you are well aware, we have exhibited it at all the State fairs since eighteen hundred and fifty-eight, in competition with foreign or domestic production. And we have the proud satisfaction of knowing that California has carried off the palm in marble, as she has in everything else in which she has come in competition with other parts of the world.

“In view of the above facts, it seems that this part of the production of the State has been almost entirely overlooked, and has not received the fostering care and encouragement from your society or the State Government that its importance demands. Knowing the deep interest that you take in developing all the resources of the State, I have placed the above at your disposal, hoping that it may assist you in your good work.

“I remain, respectfully, Your obedient servant, ISRAEL LUCE.”

The first photograph below on the left is a 1947 photograph of the marble/limestone deposit located at Indian Diggings from “Limestone in California,” by Clarence A. Logan, California Journal of Mines and Geology, Vol. 43, No. 3, July 1947. This quarry was located southeast of Placerville in El Dorado County. The photograph in the center and to the right are photographs of cemetery stones located in the Indian Diggings Cemetery made of the Indian Diggings marble.

Indian Diggings Marble / Limestone Deposit located southeast of Placerville in El Dorado County, California (circa 1947)

Indian Diggings Marble / Limestone Deposit located southeast of Placerville in El Dorado County, California (circa 1947)

Cemetery monument in the Indian Diggings Cemetery constructed of Indian Diggings marble, El Dorado County, California

Cemetery monument in the Indian Diggings Cemetery constructed of Indian Diggings marble, El Dorado County, California

Cemetery monument in the Indian Diggings Cemetery constructed of Indian Diggings marble, El Dorado County, California

Cemetery stones in the Indian Diggings Cemetery constructed of Indian Diggings marble quarried nearby. The cemetery is located near Omo Ranch

The Indian Diggings marble was discovered by Israel Luce about 1853 / 1854, and the quarry began operation in the summer of 1858. According to records, the Indian Diggings marble quarry was reported to be the first marble quarry to be opened in California. Israel Luce and his partner, Andrew Aitken, operated a monument shop across the street from the old Sacramento City Cemetery in Sacramento for a number of years. They used the white, heavily veined Indian Diggings marble for their monuments and bases and sold it to other stone carvers and monument companies.

Pat and I accompanied the El Dorado Mineral and Rock Society to try and find the Indian Diggings marble quarry a few years ago. We believe this pile of waste marble and limestone is located near the location of the quarry although we weren’t able to locate the actual quarry site. (There is a photo tour of this trip on our web site if you are interested which I’ve included in the Reference/Resource list in the handout.)

Waste pile of marble and limestone, Indian Diggings, El Dorado, California

Waste pile of marble and limestone, Indian Diggings, El Dorado, California

Marble rock with fresh piece removed, El Dorado, California

Marble rock with fresh piece removed

Freshly-cut piece of Indian Diggings marble located near the original quarry site, El Dorado, California

Freshly-cut piece of Indian Diggings marble located near the original quarry site

Because the Indian Diggings marble is heavily veined with gray or blue, many times the Vermont or Italian Carrara marble was used for the body of the cemetery stone, and the Indian Diggings marble was used for the base(s). Today many of the old cemetery stones carved from Indian Diggings marble show a lot of deterioration.


Inyo Dolomite (Marble) Quarry, Inyo County, California

The following quotation is from The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, Bulletin No. 38, 1906.

“Inyo Marble Company; M. J. McDonald, Mills Building, San Francisco, president. The quarries are situated at the base of the Inyo range, between Keeler and Lone Pine. They are scattered along the base of the range for several miles, but the point at which most of the work has been done is about 5 miles north of Keeler. The marble from these quarries is a dolomite, is generally fine-grained and quite hard, takes a good polish, and is a durable and handsome stone…A little south of the original quarry face a bed of fancy and variegated marble was opened. It is mottled (white, yellow, gray, and black), and is penetrated by beautiful dendritic markings of manganese. The white quarries furnish any desired size of blocks; pieces of from 15 to 18 tons weight have been obtained. There is a quarry of beautiful yellow marble about half a mile north of the main workings. A deposit of black marble is utilized for floor tilings. The company ships the rough-dressed marble to its mills on the Truckee River, 18 miles west of Reno, where it is sawed and dressed ready for shipment. This company furnished the stone for the Mills Building, both inside and out, and many other buildings in San Francisco.”
Marble quarry of the Inyo Marble Company, north of Keeler, Inyo County, California (circa 1915)

Marble quarry of the Inyo Marble Company, north of Keeler, Inyo County, California (from Report XV of the State Mineralogist, Mines and Mineral Resources of Portions of California, Chapters of State Mineralogist's Report Biennial Period 1915-1916, pp. 112)

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