About 1904 the Cherokee County building stone quarrying was noted to be found in quantities that suggested a successful industry in that area. At that time sandstone quarries were noted near Columbus, and further stone quarrying in the future was foreseen to become one of the chief industries for the area.
The Eastern one-third of Kansas is the most important area to produce stone processed as crushed stone. Limestone, dolomite, and quartz of Cretaceous age account the stone quarried by a few of the crushed rock operations in central Kansas. In northwestern Kansas small operations use the stone of "Ogallala of Tertiary Age.Major uses include construction applications and cement production. In 1998, over 350 quarries produced 22.6 million metric tons of crushed rock valued at $102 million."
In the past the stone used in Kansas. dimension stone industry originated from all over the state. Stone from the Lower Permian Age limestones is actively quarried in recent years, and quarries produce these limestones in Chase, Cowley, Pottawatomie, Shawnee, and Wabaunsee counties in eastern Kansas. Pennsylvanian limestones in Leavenworth and Johnson counties and sandstone from Bourbon County account for small amounts of the building stone produced from these areas.
“Building Stone: Many of the limestone horizons in the Kansas Coal Measures produce excellent building stone and the broad prairies are dotted here and there with scores of stone quarries, some of which already have reached a considerable magnitude of production. The sandstone beds here and there interbedded with the shales likewise produce good flagging stones for making walks and for other constructional purposes. Should the time ever come when a larger amount of high grade building stone is required, either limestone or sandstone, the Coal Measures of Kansas may be called upon to increase the present production many hundred fold.”
“Building Stone: The Permian affords some of the best building stone in the state, principally limestone. Here and there throughout the entire area from the north side of the state to the south good building stone is available.”
“…the Benton complex of limestones and shales, aggregating a thickness of about 400 feet. It is composed almost entirely of alternating beds of soft, light colored limestone and darkly colored, sometimes almost greenish shales, which in other places are practically black…They lend themselves readily to quarry purposes and may be broken readily into long slender pieces suitable for fence-posts, for which they are used to a great extent throughout the entire Benton area of the state. In fact, one riding east or west across the state on any of the trans-state railroads north of the Arkansas river can recognize when he is in the Benton area by the limestone fence-posts so readily seen from the car window. This fence-post zone is from 30 to 40 miles wide and practically outlines the area throughout which the Benton formation covers the surface of the ground. The stone is so soft it can be cut with a carpenter's saw and shaped at pleasure. Upon exposure to the atmosphere it dries and hardens so that it becomes quite serviceable for structural poses, and many pretentious buildings are built of it.”
Limestone "post-rock" fence posts are characteristic of North Central Kansas. Post-rock has also been used as a dimension stone in construction, and at least one post-rock quarrying firm is still in business.
"These industrious pioneers discovered a layer of rock, located only a few feet below the soil surface, that could be used to make permanent, weather resistant, beautiful buildings. This rock layer is known as limestone and due to the geological formation is just the right thickness (8 to 12 inches) for building stones and posts. When limestone is first exposed it is soft and chalky, making it easier to drill and dress (form). However, once the stone has been exposed to air, the edges become hard making it an exceptional building material for the plains pioneer. At first, limestone blocks were just used to form the walls of dugouts. As the pioneers recognized the structural potential of limestone, more permanent all-stone buildings were constructed. Limestone blocks quickly became a common building material throughout north central Kansas. Stone blocks were used to build schools, churches, homes, bridges, posts, decorative stone, window trims, steps, hitching posts, troughs (feed and water), tombstones, and walkways."
"Early limestone quarrying was done at the edges of ravines or outcroppings where the limestone layer was exposed by erosion of the surrounding soil. At first, pioneers "sledged" out building rocks and dressed (formed and sized) each block with stone hammers. "Sledging" describes the use of hand drills and hammers to make a straight line of holes along the exposed layer. Once the holes were drilled pinch bars were used to pry the blocks loose. Smaller drills and hammers were then used to size and shape each block for building."
"Pioneer innovation quickly changed the method of quarrying with the invention of specialized tools. Now blocks and posts were quarried using hand-operated drills to place holes into the limestone strata 8 inches apart. Then feathers and wedges were placed in each hole and pounded until the rock split into desired lengths. Some historical sources report that stone blocks could be quarried in the winter by filling the drill holes with water, as the water froze it would expand and split the rock. In the late 1800's, Sanky, a local blacksmith invented a machine that used a Maytag engine. This machine operated like a sewing machine, when the drill operator stepped on a low handle, the engine would power the drill."