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California Stone Industry up through 1890

Excerpts from

The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft
Volume 24, History of California, Volume 7: 1860-1890
Published in 1890, pp. 663-664.


“...Lithographic stone was found on the Merced river in Mariposa county in 1867; and at other points porcelain clay, soapstone, slate, sandstone,30 marble,31 onyx,32 granite,33 and fire-proof stone....”

Footnotes to pages 663 and 664:

30 It was for some time believed that building stone was not abundant in Cal., but a better knowledge of this class of resources reveals an ever-increasing list of valuable material. On Angel island there is a freestone quarry of fine color, homogeneous, and easily worked, which belongs to the govt. At Haywards (sic), in Alameda co., is another quarry, of which the Bank of Cal. and Young Men’s Christian Association buildings are constructed. These quarries were the earliest in use. Stone quarries are found at Knight’s Ferry, in Stanislaus, and near Placerville, in El Dorado counties. In 1873, an immense sandstone deposit was discovered near San Diego.”

31 The first marble worked in the state was by E. R. Roberts of Stockton, who established a marble yard at Columbia, in Tuolumne co., in 1857. A block of this stone was taken out and dressed for the Washington monument in that year. The material for Broderick’s monument came from Columbia. These works, probably on account of the cost of transportation at that period, were closed; but there was a rediscovery of marble in the same locality in 1865, and again in 1868. At Iowa Hill, Placer Co., a quarry of finely variegated marble was discovered in 1855, and the same year a vein of gray marble in Sierra co.; also about the same time near Suisun bay, Calaveras, Yuba, El Dorado, Amador, Monterey, Los Angeles, and Tulare counties all have their marble beds.”

32 Onyx in bowlders was found first near Suisun bay, where it was worked out, and later in San Luis Obispo, where it is more abundant. J. F. Kessler & Co. of S. F. own the mine, which is in a slate formation. At a still later period the quarrying of onyx has been carried on in Solano co., five miles north of Fairfield.”

33 The granite quarries of Cal. are several, but that of Sac. co. was the oldest. It was opened in 1853 by G. Griffith, who furnished this material for the fortifications at Alcatraz and Fort Point, and for important buildings of the period. In 1864, Griffith located the Penryn quarry, situated three miles from Auburn in Placer co. The quality of this granite is equal, if not superior, to any in the world, being free from iron, and never changing color. There are polishing works in connection with this quarry, at which a solid block of 10 tons can be polished with ease. There are three varieties in this place, blue or dark, white, and black. The granite quarries at Folsom were opened in 1856-7, and worked by convicts of the branch state prison. Santa Cruz, Yuba, and Monterey counties (sic). The miners of Tuolumne co. sent a block of granite as their contribution to the Washington monument. In 1864 the legislature agreed with the Central Pacific R. R. to grant a certain subsidy, one of the conditions being a deed of a tract of granite land in Placer co., but the state never derived any benefit from the acquisition. There are quarries of building stone in Solano co., of slate in Calaveras and San Luis Obispo, and of fire-proof stone in Tehama and Sierra counties.”


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