Stone is usually quarried in (1) Open pits or shelf quarries, (2) Underground mining, (3) Boulder quarries, and (4) Aggregate quarries.
Stone meant for use as cemetery stones, mausoleums, buildings, and bridges is considered “dimension stone,” which means the blocks of stone are cut to specific sizes or shapes.
In Oliver Bowles’ book Memorial Stones (PDF), he describes the types of granites and marbles used for memorial stones in the past and the distribution of the quarries throughout the United States up to 1955 when the book was published.
In the book, The Stone Industries by Oliver Bowles,* Bowles describes dimension stone as follows:
“Dimension Stone. – The oldest use of stone and the one that has become increasingly important through the centuries is for building purposes. At first, rough walls were built of scattered boulders, but with increasing knowledge of the use of tools stone was quarried from solid ledges. Before the age of explosives and before steam and compressed air were utilized quarrying was slow and laborious….”
“Dimension stone is used for other purposes than for building. In ancient times a pile of stones was raised as a memorial, and from this custom has developed the monument or headstone cut from suitable rock and carved with a fitting inscription. Stone blocks are also used for paving streets and roads and for the manufacture of curbing. In addition, stone has many special uses, such as for electrical switchboards and blackboards.”
The other major type of stone is aggregate. Aggregate stone isproduced by using a process which breaks or crushes the stone into various sizes for use as breakwaters, rip rap, road foundation, chicken grit, antacids, and many other uses. Many of the old dimension stone quarries are producing aggregate today rather than dimension stone.
Oliver Bowles, in his book, The Stone Industries, published in 1939, described crushed stone as follows:
“Crushed Stone. – The use of crushed or broken stone developed much later than that of dimension stone. Stone sledged by hand, usually by convict labor, was used in road construction, and this use increased rapidly. With the invention of cement and with mass production made possible through explosives, power crushers, and screens the broken-stone branch of the industry grew with phenomenal speed. In 1886 the output of crushed and broken stone was smaller than that of dimension stone, while in 1930 it was thirty times as great. Concrete aggregate, road stone, and ballast are the principal products.”
(* The Stone Industries: Dimension Stone, Crushed Stone, Geology, Technology, Distribution, Utilization, by Oliver Bowles, Supervising Engineer, Building Materials Section, United States Bureau of Mines, 2nd ed., New York & London: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1939, pp. 4)
In Oliver Bowles book, The Stone Industries, published in 1939, he describes open-pit quarrying as follows:
“Open-pit Quarrying. – Most rock products of commerce are obtained from open quarries. Material suitable for use ordinarily is found at or near the surface of the earth, and the most economical method of working is to open up a face of the rock ledge. As rock is separated by blasting or other means, an opening is gradually enlarged and deepened, its size and shape depending greatly on the rock structures. Wide, shallow openings may be made in comparatively thin flat-lying beds, such as are common in limestone districts of the Middle West. Where beds are folded and tilted at high angles, as in the Appalachian region of the Eastern States, open pits may be narrow and deep. Some open-pit slate quarries of Pennsylvania have reached depths of 500 to 700 feet because the desirable beds are relatively narrow and almost vertical. Also, where land values are high, and property lines restricted, or where a heavy overburden of soil or waste rock makes lateral extensive expensive, quarries are likely to be narrow and deep.
“There are two types of quarries, the ‘shelf’ quarry and the ‘pit’ quarry. Sometimes a ledge of serviceable rock stands above the level of the surrounding country, and by working into the hillside a quarry can be developed, with the floor little if any lower than the surrounding land surface. Such ready access and easy transportation are advantageous. Furthermore, drainage is usually automatic, and pumping expense is avoided. Excavations of the shelf-quarry type can usually be class as low-cost operations.”
“Conditions are not always so favorable; a rock deposit may not extend above the general level, and a pit must be sunk. Access is gained by ladders, stairs, or mechanical hoists, and material is transported from the quarry by inclined tracks, derricks, cableway hoists, or other means. Such pit quarries also require pumping. Though less advantageous than shelf quarries, thousands are in regular operation. When properly designed and well-equipped they may be operated at a cost which compares favorably with that at many shelf quarries.
“Underground Mining. – When quarrying of rock first was begun as an industry, excavations were made in formations readily available at the surface of the earth. Through long years of continued operation the most available outcrops were gradually worked away, and quarries reached increasing depths. Many limestone beds which provide suitable stone dip at steep angles are of limited thickness. In following these beds down the dip at steep angles and are of limited thickness. In following these beds down the dip greatly increasing depths of overburden are encountered. Consequently, in many localities mounting difficulties in the way of open-pit quarrying, with rising costs, have induced operators to change their systems of excavating and to develop underground mining methods. Many limestone and marble, and a few granite and slate deposits, are successfully mined underground. selective mining can best be accomplished by the underground method, for drifts and tunnels may be confined to serviceable rock, waste and overburden being left undisturbed. As workmen are not exposed to the weather, working conditions are also more favorable.”
(* The Stone Industries: Dimension Stone, Crushed Stone, Geology, Technology, Distribution, Utilization, by Oliver Bowles, Supervising Engineer, Building Materials Section, United States Bureau of Mines, 2nd ed., New York & London: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1939, pp. 17-18. This book is available for reading on the Internet Archive web site.)
The next photographs are of open pit or shelf quarries.
The first two photographs below are of the Bell Marble Works quarry located at Columbia in Tuolumne County. You can still see the horizontal ledge marks and the vertical drill marks left on the rock in the quarry left by the equipment as it cut out the stone. Even today, you can still see parts of the drill marks on old stone buildings and some cemetery monuments. (The Bell Marble Works quarry is on the grounds of the Marble Quarry RV Park, and it is open to the public today in case you’d like to visit it.) (There is a photo tour of this trip available on our web site at: “Photographic Tour of the Bell Marble Quarry.”)
This photograph is of the older, lower granite quarry at Raymond in Madera County. It is now owned by the Cold Spring Granite Co. of Cold Spring, Minnesota, which owns many quarries across the United States today.
I spoke with a salesman at the Cache Creek Monument Company in Woodland, and he recommended the “Sierra White” granite from the Raymond quarries and the Georgia Granite for use in the Winters Cemetery because of the high mineral content of the water used to water the lawn at the Winters Cemetery.
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Vermont Marble Co. owned and operated many marble and granite quarries throughout the United States even as far north as Alaska. The quarry in the postcard photograph shown below was owned by the Vermont Marble Company.
Another type of quarry is the boulder quarry from where blocks of stone are cut from boulders.
This second photograph below shows where they quarried a boulder that was located near the Bell Marble Works quarry in Columbia, Tuolumne County.
The majority of quarries operating today are aggregate quarries. Below are some photographs of aggregate quarries.