Plate I from Slate in the United States, 1914,
Maine Quarrying 1880 - 1890. ( Map sent to us by David Gunning 11/13/02.)
(From Vinalhaven sheet of Topographical Atlas of the United States, U. S. Geol. Survey.) Fig. 25 (From The Granites of Maine, Bulletin 313, 1907.)
Map of slate region in Maine. From post-route map. The chief quarrying centers are shown by crossed hammers. (Photograph from Slate in the United States, Bulletin 536, 1914.)
(Reduced from Deer Isle Shett, Topographic Atlas U. S., U. S. Geol. Survey.) (From The Granites of Maine, Bulletin 313, 1907, Figure 15.)
"A song of epic proportions, Steve wrote it to tell the story of the Maine granite trade which flourished from the period following the Civil War up to the 1920s. The granite was cut from the quarries of Vinalhaven, Stonington and Hurricane Island, transported on the great horse-drawn 'Galamanders' down to the docks and loaded aboard leaky old schooners spending their last days being torn apart by these extra heavy cargoes. The stone is a paen to the hardworking men and women who labored and sacrificed to build the great buildings and monuments that still survive today. The Washington Monument, Suffolk County Courthouse, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are but three examples of buildings constructed of Maine granite. Much of the statuary on the buildings was carved on Hurricane by immigrant Italian artisans."
This article presents the history of the Brownville area slate quarries and workers. The photographs presented in this article include: Highland Quarry, Brownville; Group of quarry workmen at Crocker Quarry; Track lift at Crocker Slate Quarry, 1872; Adams H. Merrill, quarry owner; and Crew at Merrill Quarry waiting to be lowered into the pit.
One of the early residents of Brownville, Moses Greenleaf, wrote a book entitled Statistics of Maine, which was amended in 1929 entitled, The Survey of Maine. Many of the early trained stone workers originated from near "Bethesda and Bangor in northern Wales." Many had worked in the Penrhyn Quarry there. Another group of stone workers were Swedish, and they came from New Sweden to work in the Brownville quarries.
One of the Brownville slate quarries mentioned in this article is today located near Sparrow House, and the author notes that the Crocker Quarry is down the road the Sparrow house. The Crocker Quarry was "one of the largest pits in the area." The quarry was operated by the Bangor and Pisctaquis Slate Company for about 20 years during the time it was actively quarried. The Crocker Quarry was abandoned in 1912. Today the quarry is not noticeable from the road as it is surrounded by birch and poplar trees.
The Merrill Slate Quarry was owned by Adams H. Merrill, and the story of Mr. Merril is presented in this article. The quarry was abandoned in 1914. The Merrill Quarry was reportedly at least 225 feet deep and is located across the river from the Crocker Quarry, although another person reported the depth to be closer to 300 feet deep. Today the quarry is not nearly as deep as rock and trash partially fill the old quarry hole. This article goes on to provide a "first hand lesson from Hugh Thomas on how a slate vein was 'farmed.'" Mr. Thomas used the Merrill Quarry to describe the process to the author.
Another area slate quarry described in the article is the Highland Quarry, which is located east of the Crocker Quarry. The Highland Quarry produced large pieces of slate. Today this quarry is mostly filled with water ".to within several feet of the birches that curve out over the pit." Further west is the Barnard Slate Quarry. The author indicates that the last attempt to start up this quarry occurred in 1952.
"(Scotsman Ambrose) Hamilton built a log house on the north end, fathered 12 children and became grandfather to 71. Hamiltons built and made famous the Chebeague stone fleet. By the 1850s, over thirty Hamilton stone sloops, the Mack trucks of their time, were hauling heavy loads of granite from Maine quarries to be made into some of the greatest buildings of their time. One Chebeague stone sloop, the Addie Snow, is believed to have sent the 291-foot passenger ship Portland to the bottom in the great storm of 1898, one of the worst tragedies at sea. The theory is that the Portland, in zero visibility, heavy seas and a howling gale, collided with the granite-laden Addie Snow, caved in from the impact, and sank with the loss of 175 lives.
"Exactly how or where the Portland was lost had been a mystery for half a century. Then in November 1944, a scalloper out of Rockland was dragging off Cape Cod and brought up the Portland's bell in her net. With the ship's bell as evidence of exactly where the Portland sank, Edward Rowe Snow, who has written fine books on New England's coast, sent down divers to find out if any more of the Portland lay on the bottom. The divers found the bow of the Addie Snow embedded in the side of the Portland, indicating a terrible collision and immediate sinking. All lives on both ships were lost. In another tragedy in the winter sea, ocean spray froze on the masts and decks of a Chegeague stone sloop outside of Boston Harbor. Tons of ice weighed her down till she became helpless in the breaking, freezing seas. Capt. John Ross and his two sons, John and Walter were found aboard, frozen to death, encased in ice on the rigging."
"Cargoes of all kinds were carried on coasters."
"Stone droghers hauled large pieces of granite that neither smelled good nor bad. But unlike the lumber load it was not very buoyant. Early on sloops hauled stone, using a boom stepped off the mast just above the deck for loading. Most of these were out of Chebeague Island in Casco Bay. In later years schooners were refitted and rerigged for hauling stone.
"A lot of smaller boats on the Boston run, like the schooner Annie and Reuben, were loaded just shy of the sinking point. John Leavitt wrote, 'I have seen the Annie and Reuben with something over 200 tons of stone aboard, lying at Crotch Island wharf with the water flowing through the scuppers to the height of an inch or more on the main hatch coaming. This in a flat calm.' A rugged schooner and good sailer, 'winged out before the wind she was almost impossible to catch.' It was said that between Deer Isle and Boston there wasn't a harbor where she wasn't known. During World War II she was sold to go south to the Cuban sugar trade, but she got ashore on a New Jersey beach and never got off.
"Stories of stone freighters sinking are common enough. Spitting out caulking in a blow, springing a plank or pumps that cannot quite keep up with the leaks are among the causes. In the calm waters near Hall's Quarry toward Somesville, on the westerly side of Somes Sound, Mt. Desert, vessels loaded granite for New York. Not far off the wharf the schooner Delhi, deep loaded with granite, suddenly opened up and sank in minutes with her topmasts disappearing far below the surface.
"Limers carried a cargo with its own peculiar hazards. Being over loaded went with the territory for coasters. Carrying lime made water in the hold more of a threat. Lime for mortar was shipped from Rockland and Thomaston, Maine in large casks. If the casks of lime got at all wet it would create a smoldering fire in the hold. It was a fire difficult to extinguish and the cause of more than a few coasters burning to the waterline. Dousing it with water was out. Smothering the blaze was the only option.
"An example of the problem can be seen in the 1890's case of the Herman F. Kimball, built at East Boothbay in 1888 by George M. Hodgdon. Off the coast of Kittery, bound to the westward, it was discovered that her cargo of lime was afire. The skipper headed for Kittery, the nearest port and anchored behind the breakwater off Fort McClary. The crew opened a cask of lime to make plaster for sealing any cracks that might let air in below deck. A sail was used to make a tent over the boom and the men settled in to wait for the fire to be extinguished. After a few weeks a cautious look below found the fire still smoldering. Not until three months later was the fire found to be extinguished. There was considerable damage, but she was rebuilt and sailed again.
"The manufacturing of lime required great quantities of wood to fire the lime kilns. The lime was used to make mortar for laying bricks. The firewood was hauled by coasters to Rockland and Thomaston from ports along the coast. In 1900 the Rockland-Rockport Lime Co. had 150 schooners, half of them sailed to New York and Boston with lime. The rest hauled fire wood to fed the kilns. By 1915 they had only four schooners. Firewood and pulpwood remained a cargo coastwise. To pick up a load schooners sailed to a tidewater area on a tide. As the tide dropped the schooner sat in the mud while cords of wood were piled high on deck. Long experience brought the knowledge of the maximum load that would allow the vessel to float free. Some of the more extraordinary photos are of schooners loaded 8'-10' above the deck with a cargo of fire or pulp wood."
"Areally, granite is perhaps the most abundant rock in Maine. Slates, schists, sandstones, and limestones of various types occur in the different sections of the State, but the mountains and hills of the interior and the islands and headlands of the coast for the most part all exhibit slopes and cliffs of massive granite.
"The areal distribution of the granite is somewhat irregular.Three general granite regions may be distinguished for convenience of description-that of the western tier of counties, that of the eastern part of the State, and the Mount Katahdin area, in the north-central part of the State. In addition to these larger regions there should also be mentioned three small areas in Lincoln, Kennebec, and Somerset counties, which are intermediate in position between the three main regions."
Map Showing the Distribution of Granite and
Related Rocks in Maine - 1922.
(From The Commercial Granites of New England, pg. 206 - 581K)
Distribution of Granite Quarries:
"The (above) map.shows the location of the principal quarries and groups of quarries and prospects, which include 115 separate openings.A number of unimportant paving-block and under-pinning quarries have been overlooked or intentionally omitted. A typical one-man paving-block quarry which from its changing location is called in Maine 'a motion".."
Quarries of Granite Proper:
"With the exception of the important quarries at Hallowell, Kennebec County, and North Jay, Franklin County, and the minor ones at Fryeburg and Bryan Pond. Oxford County, Pownal, Cumberland County, Norridgewock and Hartland, Somerset County, Oak Hill and Lincolnville, Waldo County, and Dedham, Hancock County, all the granite quarries of Maine and along the seaboard, either on islands or on bays or navigable rivers, or within 4 miles of them. The inland quarries are all on railroads or within a short distance of them. The distance to rail from a few quarries is 3 miles, for one 5 miles, but as the product of these quarries is used entirely for monumental work the cartage is a matter of less moment. The Maine granite industry may be said to have its center in Penobscot and Bluehill bays and the island about them. A line drawn from Clark Island, south of Rockland, north-northeast to Frankfort, thence about east to Franklin, in Hancock County, thence southwestward through Bar Harbor, and thence around the islands southwestward back to Clark Island, would embrace an area of about 1,200 square miles, which would include the bulk of the granite industry."
Quarries of "Black Granite"
"Of the total number of quarries, 18 are of 'black granite,' although a few obscure ones may have been overlooked. Their location is shown by a separate symbol on the (above) map. They are in York, Lincoln, Waldo, Penobscot, and Washington counties. Of these only the Addison (Washington County), Vinalhaven (Knox County), and Round Pond (Lincoln County) quarries are at tidewater, but as the 'black granites' are used only in small quantities for expensive work the cost of transportation is a minor consideration."
“President: Henry Murray, Boston, Massachusetts. Vice-Presidents: W. S. White, Rockland, Me.; Thos. Nawn, Concord, N. H.; Chas. H. More, Barre, Vt.; A. T. Farnum, Providence, R. I., Wm. Booth, New London, Conn.; C. B. Canfield, New York City. Treasurer: Isaac F. Woodbury, Boston, Secretary: J. W. Frost, Boston.”
"Granite quarrying began in the early-1800s, and was the leading mineral industry in Maine until probably the 1920s. Surprisingly (the reason is the ease of maritime shipping) a major market for Maine granite in the early-1800s was the West Indies. The industry peaked in 1901 when 152 quarries employed at least 3500 workers. At least one quarry was in operation in 1996.
"Dimension limestone and crushed limestone for lime production has been produced in the Thomaston area since the early-1800s. In 1836, half the limestone quarried was calcined for agricultural lime. The only cement plant in New England is at Thomaston. In 1945, in terms of the value of the production, the Dragon cement plant represented about half the mineral industry of Maine.
"Small quantities of roofing slate (near Brownsville), and serpentine (verde antique) dimension stone (at Deer Island) were quarried as early as the early-1800s. Beginning in the 1920s, Monson slate was particularly used for making switching boards and for other electrical equipment. Other uses such as pool table tops and roofing tiles continued. Apparently, slate quarrying ceased in about 1990."
"Maine granite comes in many colors and textures, with each quarry yielding its own variety of stone. Activity and competition in the granite industry were highest in the late 1800's, reaching a peak in 1901. Many large public buildings such as libraries, post offices, customs houses, and museums built at that time in the eastern U.S., including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago are made of Maine granite. Although they are almost all inactive, the old quarries still dot the landscape, mainly in the coastal region from Penobscot Bay to Washington County."
A coarse-grained variety of granite called granite pegmatite (or "pegmatite") was quarried in the Mt. Apatite quarries.
Groups of people from many countries, including the English, French Canadian, Irish, Finish, and Italians, emigrated to the Maine Mountain Heritage area. The Finnish people generally settled in the Norway/South Paris area. Some of these people worked in the slate quarries, and the Italians are known to have worked in "number of stone construction projects, notably the creation of the waterworks which drove the mills in Rumford."
"The large percentage of blacks in Williamsburg, northwest of Bangor, was because General Oliver O. Howard of Leeds and head of the Freedman's Bureau after the Civil War had sent a colony of former slaves up to work at the slate quarries."
Part I. Vol. 59, No. 2, June 2006. (“Introduction: This article, the first in a series of four on granite working, deals with granite as a material, an industry, and a product and begins the description of the granite quarrying process.”)
Part II. Vol. 59, No. 3, September 2006. (“Introduction: This article, the second in a series of four on granite working, completes the description of the quarrying process....”)
Part III. Vol. 59, No. 4, December 2006. (“Granite Finishing: A small number of basic finished dimension stones made up the great majority of granite shed production. For gravestones and private....”)
Part IV. Vol. 60, No. 1, March 2007. (“This article is the last in a series of four on the tools and machinery of granite working....”)
Vinalhaven and the adjacent islands have been known collectively as the Fox Islands, and their granite as "Fox Island Granite." The granite industry of these islands is distributed over an area about 5 miles from east to west by 4 miles from north to south..Some of them are near the center of Vinalhaven Island. The Palmer quarry is on the west shore; the Black and Webster quarries are on the east shore; the Sands, Harbor, and Armbrust quarries are on the south shore, near Vinalhaven village; and the Pequoit and Duschane Hill quarries lie east of the village near the east shore. There are some minor quarries ('motions') on Barton, Cundell, and Green Islands, and a large quarry on Hurricane Island."
Map showing location of quarries on Vinalhaven and adjacent islands,
known collectively as "Fox Islands," Maine.
(From Vinalhaven topographic map, U. S. Geol. Survey/
from The Commercial Granites of New England, Figure 58, pg. 242.)