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Barre, Vermont - Introduction and General Information

  • Barre, Vermont - Also see: East Barre, Vermont & South Barre, Vermont.
  • Barre, Vermont - the Vermont Granite Museum of Barre, Vermont

    (From the web site) “Located within an authentic turn-of-the-century granite manufacturing plant, the museum’s mission is to create stimulating, interactive environments for learning about the geology, technology, history, and art of Vermont’s unique granite heritage art, industry, capabilities and cultural heritage….”

    • “Celebrate Granite” – Vermont Quarry Photographs by Leslie Bartlett, Natural Stone Photography (Click on the thumbnail photos to enlarge photos.)

      You might also enjoy viewing Leslie’s Bartlett’s photographs of the Cape Ann, Massachusetts, quarries in the “Chapters on a Quarry Wall” installation at the Cape Ann Historical Museum presented on his web site. More of Leslie’s quarry photographs are available in the “Below the Keystone Bridge: Images From a Rockport Quarry.”

    • Give Me Your Hands:  The Legacy of the Barre Sculptors and Their Stone. A photographic exhibition by Leslie D. Bartlett.  October 2 - December 15, 2011, at the Michigan State University College of Law.

      Give Me Your Hands: The Legacy of the Barre Sculptors and Their Stone. A photographic exhibition by Leslie D. Bartlett. October 2 through December 15, 2011, at the Michigan State University College of LawGive Me Your Hands:  The Legacy of the Barre
      Sculptors and Their Stone

      A photographic exhibition by Leslie D. Bartlett. 
      October 2 through December 15, 2011, at the
      Michigan State University College of Law.

      “Successive waves of master stone sculptors, carvers, and quarrymen came to America during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  This photography exhibition docu-ments their lives, their craft, and the plight of some of the immigrant master stone sculptors who have labored with the granite stone from the quarries of Barre, Vermont....”

      Opening Reception, Artist Meet and Greet:  Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 5 to 6 p.m. Artist Lecture:  Thursday, October 13, 2011, 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. Michigan State University Museum Auditorium.  For more information contact:  Nicolas Mercuro, Professor of Law in Residence, MSU College of Law, 517-432-6978 or mercuro@law.msu.edu.

  • Barre, Vermont - the Barre Sculpture Studios
    • History of the Barre Sculpture Studios

      (From the web site) “Barre Sculpture Studios was established in 1985 as a sculptural service to the monument industry. We produced figurative works for monument retailers, churches and civic organizations throughout the Northeast US.”

  • Barre Downtown Historic District (Includes information on Barre granite industry.)
  • Barre Granite Association - Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce Page (Includes history of the Barre granite industry).
  • The Barre Granite Quarries (February 1894) The Manufacturer and Builder, Vol. 26, Issue 2, February 1894, pg. 39. (Article includes photograph of the “Granite quarry of C. E. Tayntor & Co., Barre, Vermont”; article in digital images viewed at American Memory, Library of Congress)
    • Barre, Washington County, Vermont- Description of Granite Quarries in the Barre Area

      “The city of Barre lies about 5 miles southeast of Montpelier…and the Barre quarries are 3 miles farther southeast, near the southeast corner of the township of Barre, and a few of them are in Williamstown, in Orange county, which adjoins Barre on the south. The city of Barre lies on Stephens Brook, a tributary of the Winooski, which empties into Lake Champlain.…”

      “Barre granite is known commercially as “dark Barre,” “medium Barre,” and “light Barre,” with some exceptional “very dark Barre” and “white Barre.”

      “The various shade and color designations of this granite are due in part to the different degree of kaolinization and micacization of its orthoclase feldspar, causing it to range from a translucent bluish gray to milk-white, and in part also to the varying content of black mica. Technically its colors are here defined as (1) very light gray (Wheaton quarry, abandoned), equivalent to that of North Jay, Maine; (2) light inclining to medium, slightly bluish gray (Jones light quarry), between that of North Jay and of Hallowell, Maine; (3) light medium bluish gray (Smith upper quarry), between that of Hallowell, Maine, and Concord, N. H.; (4) medium bluish gray (Duffee quarry), a trifle darker than “Concord granite”; (5) dark inclining to medium bluish gray (Bruce quarry); (6) dark bluish gray (Marr & Gordon quarry); (7) very dark bluish gray (Marr & Gordon quarry knots), equivalent to “dark Quincy.” The chief product consists of (3), (4) and (5). The dark shades occur near the Williamstown line, the light near the top of Millstone Hill on its south and southwest sides, and also about three-fifths of a mile south-southwest of the top. The cause of this distribution is not evident.”

  • Barre in The ‘Nineties,” by William Barclay, son of the first William Barclay, founder of the pioneer firm of Barclay Brothers, in Monumental News Magazine, Vol. 51, No. 12, December, 1939, pp. 548-550.

    “Editor’s Note: Knowing ‘Bill’ Barclay of today, son of the first William Barclay, founder of the Pioneer firm of Barclay Brothers, it is difficult to believe that his personal reminiscences could cover this early period, but it must be remembered that ‘Bill,’ like other sons of illustrious Barre Fathers started young. ‘Bill’ after the entrance of Barclay Brothers into the Rock of Ages Merger, served for some time in an executive capacity in the new corporation, resigning some two years ago to take over the management of Novelli & Calcagni, whose original founders, Mr. Novelli and Mr. Corti, were one time employees of ‘Bill’s’ Father. Needless to say we feel greatly indebted to ‘Bill’ for this interesting story.

    “To look fifty years ahead seems a long, long time - much more so than looking back over that same period. But such an era of progress it has been in our granite industry - from mostly hand labor to machinery and specialization. Emerging from the centuries of little or no advancement in the quarrying and cutting of granite to its present high development.

    (Photo caption, pp. 548) Barclay Brothers in 1889. The late William Barclay, Sr., in center of picture (with burnsides). Wm. Barclay, Jr., the author of this article, second row, second from right.

    “The year 1889 was the turning point in transporting rough granite from the quarries on Millstone Hill down to the manufacturing plants in Barre, descending a thousand feet in fully three miles. (Millstone Hill is so named from pioneer days when the thin outcropping ledges furnished ideal material for the grinding stones required in the numerous grist mills throughout this part of the country.)

    “In that year the Barre Railroad - then called ‘The Sky Route’ - the steepest broad gauge line east of the Rockies began its service with special heavy duty locomotives and large capacity cars.


    “Handing drilling was the order of the day. It was fascinating to watch the drilling of a large hole - one man sitting and turning the steel while two strikers stood and tellingly swung their heavy sledges - all knowing that one false blow might result in a shattered arm. The introduction of steam drilling followed by the general use of compressed air made possible the important operation known as channeling - a system of drilling a line of detached holes, then broaching (pulverizing) the connections so as to form a continuous cut or channel. Much otherwise wasteful blasting is thus eliminated and the finer grades of stock conserved.

    “The boom derricks, utilizing oxen or horses for hoisting and man power for pulling the loads around, were being supplanted by those actuated by steam - leading to our modern structures capable of lifting blocks weighing scores of tons.

    “In the late 80’s coverings were erected over some of the quarry openings during the winter months. Extended development, however, eliminated the possibility of continuing that so, for many years, they have been completely open to the elements.

    “At one time, there were over twenty-five quarrying firms - too many for successful results.


    “The horse transportation from quarries to plants was a real problem during our busiest period - in springtime when the frost (often several feet deep) was coming out and making certain portions of the ‘quarry road’ regular quagmires. Four, six and eight horse teams - about a score of them owned and operated by men who did nothing else - performed this service. Two trips daily was the usual program. During those mud times the first team to arrive at a bad section would wait until several others had assembled then all the horses would be hitched together and pull the load through. The first few loads would thus go right along - the later teams continuing to double up until all were on terra firma again. Sometimes, though, when the road seemed bottomless a heavy load would retard progress for hours.

    “There was little difficulty during the other seasons and it is astonishing the mammoth blocks of granite which were thus conveyed - bases ten feet square; die blocks six feet cube; shafts over thirty feet long and mausoleum roofstones of forty tons or more. And while winter transportation on sleds was easier, in some respects, it required the utmost skill and a thorough understanding of horseflesh to negotiate the steep road with its sharp curves. And that, in spite of the ‘clog’ chains placed under the runners on the more dangerous places - for they (chains) would sometimes break and over the bank the whole business would go. Oft-times special spans of horses would be hitched behind the load to hold back on the steeper pitches.

    (Photo caption, pp. 549) The Leland Stanford Roof Stone from the Wetmore & Morse Quarry on Main street, Barre, Vermont, in 1888.

    “I can not recall a serious accident to either driver or horses in any of those spills - which were comparatively rare when considering the volume of material conveyed.

    “In recent years, automotive trucks have been competing vigorously with the railroad in transporting rough granite from the ‘hill’ (as the quarries are locally termed) to the manufacturing plants.


    “Fifty years ago most of the manufacturers - their employees too - were young men. Mere boys from a modern standard. Practical, skilled workmen they were but lacking in business training. To offset that they - partly through competitive necessity and partly through natural energy and ambition - worked physically during the day and did their office work in the evenings.

    “The office was sometimes a partitioned half of the blacksmith shop; sometimes a dusty loft in the end of the plant; occasionally those duties were done at home. Where there were two partners one usually worked at the ‘banker’ while the other did the ‘bossing’ - which included serving as head lumper.

    “When better quarters were being gradually introduced and office help employed, there were dubious head-shakings and grave misgivings about such ‘extravagance.’

    “The curved type plant, with boom derrick in the center of its circular yard, was the most common. The majority of those derricks, as well as the travelling cranes (out-of-doors) at the few straight-type plants, were hand operated. The first travelling crane here was imported from Scotland about 1884 and was equipped with chains - anchor chain style. Wire cables - a later innovation - were installed years afterwards.

    (Photo caption, pp. 549) Marr & Gordon, Barre Vermont, in 1884. This was the first overhead crane. (Hand operated.)

    “It was during the early nineties that this class of machinery was changed from hand operation and horse sweeps to power drive. And it was during that same decade that the straight type of granite plant with its monitor roof came into existence.

    “We were not entirely without machinery in 1889 as cutting and polishing lathes, a MacDonald surfacer and the regular polishing machines were all in operation - as well as the first gang saw.

    “The lathes were turning out columns, urns, vases, etc. The MacDonald surfacer was a ponderous machine best adapted for spires, large bases and roof stones - taking them from the rough and producing a hammered finish. Its set-up was two rotating vertical shafts with a four-armed spider on the bottom of each to which were attached bevel-edged discs set at a cutting angle.

    “Foot power grindstones were in general use and wood burning stoves were the principal sources of winter heating - the first arrival in the morning, lighting them.

    “Pneumatic machinery was introduced in 1892 on a monthly rental basis. When possible to purchase them later the hand tools cost $200.00 each and the surfacing machines $3500.00. Truly high prices from a modern viewpoint but the improvement over hand work justified it. The carving and lettering tools were first operated with forty pounds of air pressure and the surfacers with sixty to seventy pounds.

    “The edging or honing saw made its appearance about 1912 although it may have been used earlier in the building centers. This machine is of great value in the safe and economical production of certain classes of work including rabbets and mouldings.

    “Very few large saws were installed until 1910. They are of the gang, circle and oscillating types and all used chilled shot as a cutting agent. The gang saws have greatly increased during the last decade. This equipment conserves the consumption of rough stock and does much of the work previously done by the surfacing machines.

    “The sand blast, although operated in Scotland many years before being displaced by the pneumatic tools, was first used in Barre in 1915. It brought about an entirely new simplified method of carving and lettering - and is still being improved upon.

    “The ‘ten-hour day’ was supplanted by one of nine hours in 1890 and eight hours in 1900.

    “During these many years - and previously - the term ‘butty’ has been common in our industry. Could it have been the forerunner of the World War’s ‘buddy’?


    “The polishing machines in 1889 were known as Verticles and Jenny Linds. The former, a straight shaft operated by belting and gears aloft with the polishing wheels attached at the bottom. The Jenny Lind was of the gate type with wooden arms. The “beds” were small - often individual stones. The grinding was light as all work then, aside from the very few sawed stones, were either pean-hammered or four-cut. The beds were single so each polisher helped to turn his own. The double beds developed during the ‘Gay Nineties.”

    “Scotch shot, Naxos and Chester emery and rope-filled buffers with ‘putty powder’ were the polishing materials. A wheel of thirty inches diameter was considered a large one. Carborundum was introduced about 1895 but it was only in recent years that the present method of grading the abrasives came into general use. Roughly speaking, polishing consists of three stages - ironing, emerying and buffing.


    “One of my first duties as a boy five decades ago was ‘marking the boxes’ - painting the customers’ (sic) name and destination on the boxed stones. That brought a familiarity with freight cars - for most of the plants were located on railroad sidings and did their own loading - often after regular working hours. Very little teaming to the depot - and no pool cars.

    “The ordinary freight cars then - mostly boxes - were of 24,000 lbs. capacity. Some were 30,000 while the rare ones of 40,000 were inspected with interest.

    “The new Barre Railroad had a few of 50,000 which were reserved for heavy stones. They were quite a curiosity.

    The Barre Granite Association

    “The Granite Manufacturers Association - as called then and for long thereafter - was organized April 6, 1889; so is also celebrating its semi-centennial.

    “At a meeting held May 6 th of that year, in the Odd Fellows Hall at Barre with fourteen members present, the annual dues were set at $4.00 and the following committee was appointed ‘to try and get all the Barre manufacturers to join the Association.’ - Alex Buchan, Steve Forsyth, Alex Milne, John Sullivan and H. K. Bush.

    “There was apparently no definitely established apprenticeship term for granite cutting as at subsequent meetings the question was vigorously debated - whether two or three years.

    “A committee composed of William Barclay (father of the writer of this article), John McDonald, Sidney Wells, H. K. Bush and James Ingram finally recommended three years at $0.75 a day for the first year, $1.25 for the second, and $1.75 for the third (and those were ten-hour days). That report was adopted September 27 th and the following month a committee from the Union - George Troup, Joseph Pierce and George Mitchell - met in joint conference and confirmed the regular.

    “The officers for that first year of 1889 were: President, Alex Gordon; Vice-president, H. K. Bush; Secretary, Wm. Barclay; Treasurer, Thomas Williams; Board of Managers, E. L. Smith, Sidney Wells, James Ingram and John Sullivan.

    “The Association has steadily continued its valuable services - from a secretary doing the duties at home to the present organization which occupies a suite of rooms and is ‘manned’ by an efficient staff.

    (Photo caption, pp. 550) Beck and Beck at the turn of the century. Extreme right, the late Lothar C. Beck. Boys on stone are sons of Lothar, Wendlin Beck, lower, Charles Beck, above, present proprietors.


    “Climatic conditions made necessary closed doors and windows in our heated plants several month of the year. So the advent of pneumatic tools brought a dust hazard. Suction equipment for the surfacing machines was installed in 1915. Continuous experimentation has since finally resulted in the perfection of dust removal machinery for the hand tools. Those important improvements, coupled with the absolutely dustless portions of granite cutting now being done by the various types of edgers, saws and steeling machines, have solved the dust problem in the Barre district - making granite cutting a healthy occupation.

    The Melting Pot

    “Five decades ago, Scottish immigration here was well under way. The Italian Colony was just beginning. The third large wave of foreign-born people - the French Canadians - did not really commence until after a score of years later. Of those three, the Italian was probably the greatest. The Spanish, starting early this century, would probably come fourth but we must not forget the Scandinavian, Swiss, Austrian, English, Irish and others scattered throughout this epoch. Those different nationalities - and others not directly connected with the granite industry - have all blended and worked together harmoniously in our community. As an illustration of that - bringing in, of course, the second and third generation - one of our recent football teams represented nine different nationalities.


    “As boy and man, this half century of contact with one of the oldest* of all industries has been a period of never failing interest; the development from hand to machine production; the transition from a ten-hour to a eight-hour work day - from 59 to a 40 hour week; granite cutters’ wages increased from 29 ½ cents hourly ‘average’ to the present 1.06 ¼ hourly minimum.

    “Last but most important is our sound health basis - in the establishment of which both employer and employee have cooperated so harmoniously.

    “This article would not be complete without the extension of congratulations to the Monumental News in its arrival - through periods of stress and strain - at its Fiftieth Anniversary.

    William Barclay

    (* “In support of my statement that this is ‘one of the oldest of all industries’ we must remember prehistoric man with his stone implements, hammers, arrow and spear heads living in stone-hewn caves - centuries before the Metal Age. And doesn’t the Good Book tell of that basis of Law and Order - the Ten Commandments being engraved on tablets of stone - All done by men of our craft - stone cutters. (Latter Spiritual?)”)

  • Barre, Vermont - Excursion to Barre, Vermont, by the Michigan Marble and Granite Dealers’ Association. (The following information is from The Monumental News, 1895, Vol. 7, No. 8, Chicago, Illinois, pp. 506-507.)

    “The subject talked of most at present is the excursion of the Michigan Marble and Granite dealers’ Association, and their other western neighbors who are expected in Barre on August 22 nd. It is needless to write that their arrival will be anxiously awaited by all interested in the granite business here, and that everything possible will be done to make the two days which are to be spent in our city pleasant and profitable to all concerned.

    “Among the many things which will be enjoyed, will be a trip to the summit of our great granite mountain, over the famous ‘Skye Route’ Barre Rail Road, which is considered a marvelous product of engineering skill, and was built expressly to transport the granite from the various quarries to the shops in our city and other parts of the country. The highest point reached is 1025 feet above the starting point. Those who appreciate the beauties of nature will at intervals along the route view scenes which will lead them to admit that our Green Mountain state has been fitly called the Switzerland of America. But, of course, the feature of the trip will be the inspection of our quarries which have, in a comparatively few years, transformed almost worthless cow pastures into mines of wealth, and a quiet little New England village into a thriving, hustling, bustling city. They will see acres of the most beautiful granite in existence, lying in sheets from which any sizes of stone can be readily quarried which derrick can lift or cars carry and in sufficient quantities to supply the demands of the trade for generations to come. They will see our light quarries from which is taken the granite which is used for hammered work particularly, and the dark quarries, from which comes the granite which is so beautiful in color and susceptible of the highest polish imaginable.

    “They will observe that our quarry owners are, as a rule, up to date; and have adopted means and machinery for the quarrying and handling of granite which cannot be surpassed anywhere in the United States.

    “Our quarriers realize more fully each year that times have changed, and the importance of getting out work and turning their money before early manhood is overtaken by old age. Great strides have been made in the last five or six years in the improvements mentioned; but we believe that in the not distant future inventive genius will devise many things which will far surpass those in use at the present time.

    “An inspection of our manufacturing plants in the city will, we think, reveal to our visitors that the same principles have been adopted and put in practice there as in the quarries, in the employment of machinery for shaping, cutting, carving and polishing the rough blocks of granite into the various forms called for in monumental art. We believe we are safe in writing that there is no place in the country where so many substantially built and convenient shops can be found as in Barre. Everything will, we are assured, convince our visiting friends that our quarriers and manufacturers have full faith in the enterprise they are engaged in, and that their ambition is to furnish their customers with the best granite and best work in the market.” E. M. T.

  • Barre, Vermont – the Barre Granite Industry – “The Granite Industry,” by W. F. Scott, Barre, VT., in Inter-State Journal, Vol. 5, Nos. 4-5, July-Aug., 1902, White River Junction, VT. (in PDF format)

    “The Granite Industry,” by W. F. Scott, Barre, VT., in Inter-State Journal, Vol. 5, Nos. 4-5, July-Aug., 1902. (in PDF format) "The Granite Industry," by W. F. Scott, Barre, Vermont, in "Inter-State Journal, July-Aug. 1902.
    A Quarry Train on the Hill, Barre, Vermont A Quarry Train on the Hill, Barre, Vermont, ca 1902
    A Granite Quarry, Barre, Vermont A Granite Quarry, Barre, Vermont, ca 1902
    Old way of drawing granite by wagon and horses, Barre, Vermont Old way of drawing granite by wagon and horses, Barre, Vermont, ca 1902
    Interior of Barclay Bros.’ granite shop, the largest in the world, Barre, Vermont Interior of Barclay Bros.’ granite shop, the largest in the world, Barre, Vermont, ca 1902
    Interior of Jones Brothers’ polishing shed, Barre, Vermont Interior of Jones Brothers’ polishing shed, Barre, Vermont, ca 1902

    Barclay Brothers' granite shop, the largest in the world, ca 1902

  • Barre, Washington County, Vermont - “The Granite Industry of Vermont - Part I. The Barre Quarries,” pp. 894-901, in The Monumental News Magazine, Vol. XX, No. 12, December 1909. The article includes the following maps: (1) Map of Vermont Showing Granite Centers and Prospects, (2) Map of Quarries About Millstone Hill in Barre and Williamstown, VT.
    • Two other sections of this article cover the Vermont granite quarries outside of Barre, Vermont:
      • The Granite Industry of Vermont - Part II. Quarries Outside of Barre,” pp. 29-33, in The Monumental News Magazine, Vol. XXI, No. 1, January, 1910.
      • The Granite Industry of Vermont - Part III. Economic and Geological Facts About Vermont Granite, pp. 125-127, in The Monumental News Magazine, Vol. XXII, No. 2, February, 1910.
  • Barre, Vermont – “Barre Granite Quarries, Barre, Vermont,” Dorothy A. Richter, Hager-Richter Geoscience, Inc., New Hampshire.  (Subjects relating to the Barre granite quarries included in this document are:  Location, Significance, Regional Setting, Barre Area, Contacts of the Pluton, Composition, Internal Fabrics, Structure, Economic Geology, and References Cited.)

  • Barre, Vermont – Granite Stone Quarry, Barre, Vermont, Photograph, by George Edward Anderson, 1908, presented in the A History and Record on Plates of Glass:  Photographs of Latter-day Saint Historic Sites collection, on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints web site.

  • Barre, Vermont - “Horses, Oxen and Granite,” (in Barre, Vermont), (online article) by Paul Wood, January 7, 2008, in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus.

    The time period covered in this article is during the early 1800s.

    Key words in article: Adamant Quarries, Montpelier, Vermont; block and tackle; boom derrick; clog chains; John Crouse of Syracuse, New York; Fayette Cutler, Barre, Vermont; double runner sleds; freight Tariffs; Joseph Glidden, Mark Glidden;granite quarries; granite sheds; horse sweep; Jones Brothers, Vermont; “New Hampshire Horses,” railroads; ramp, rollers; single-drum winch; skids; spur track; St. John the Devine Cathedral, New York City; Stanford Mausoleum; wagon pulled by horses and oxen teams, wagons.

  • Barre, Vermont – The Quarrymen of Vermont - Take granite out of Barre, and it would be like taking the Capitol out of Montpelier in the Library of Congress – American Memories. (photographs and history) (Scroll down to this article.)
  • Milk, Granite, and Small-Town Railroading - “This site has been created to promote the exchange of historical data, photographs, and memories related to the Montpelier & Wells River Railroad and the Barre & Chelsea Railroad.”
  • Barre, Vermont - A Tale of Two Cemeteries - Elmwood And Hope Cemetery – The Showcases of the Barre, Vermont, Granite Industry, by Sally Cary, Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Barre, Vermont.

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