This is the first of two columns on the history of the Long Cove quarry, covering the time frame up to 1900. Most of the information comes from local newspapers, labor union reports, census records and the books On Solid Granite by Margaret Graham Neeson and Tombstones and Paving Blocks by Roger L Grindle.
Long Cove quarry saw its beginning in 1875. James M Smith, Joseph Hume and William Birss were partners in the foundation of the Long Cove Granite Co. In an 1877 newspaper article it was reported that the quarry had shipped 38 tons of granite and employed from 60 to 100 men. In late 1879 the company got the contract for the completion of the government building in Albany, N.Y., and work was expected to last a year. Earlier granite supplied for this building came from Spruce Head.
In the 1880 census of St George there were some quarry workers in the Smalleytown area–just north of Long Cove–and although most of them were local families, there were some from Canada and a few from England and Scotland. A boarding house for workers doesn’t appear in the 1880 census, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. In June 1880 a local branch of the Granite Cutters International Union was created at Long Cove and while work continued on the Albany contract, the paving cutters at Long Cove were responsible for cutting 500,000 blocks in 1880.
The cutting for the Albany contract was completed by the fall of 1881 and it was reported that some of the men then left “for other parts.” Those remaining were out of work for about a month and had started back to work when things went bad. The local newspaper reported in October 1881 that the company had been attached by creditors. A list of property at the time of the Sheriff’s sale in March 1882 reveals the extent of operations: 3 derricks; a carpenter’s shop; crowbars, hammers and sledges; six horses; two cows; a complete blacksmithy; 300 drills; 70 kits of stone cutting tools; several carts and wagons, including two stone wagons; and various blasting equipment. The sale also included a boarding house and a store with its contents–which included food, kerosene, chimney lamps, gun powder, 22 bottles of bay rum, 23 bottles of cologne and 12 bottles of hair oil.
The Booth Brothers Company bought the quarry and equipment at the Sheriff’s sale in 1882 for about $2,100. Things at the Long Cove quarry during the 1880s could be described as uneventful, but turned around in 1888 with what was described as a “good busy summer.” The 1880s finished on a mixed note with workers moving on as soon as they completed their jobs, but the company also started the construction of a railway from the quarry to the wharf. This created optimism for the workers for the coming year.
Overall, the 1890s proved difficult for the granite industry. There was the labor strike known as “The Great Lockout of 1892” and at a national level there was the “Panic of 1893,” which resulted in an economic depression that lasted from 1893 to 1897. The Spanish-American War also had its effect on operations in 1898. The local union representative reported that everything was at a standstill and was likely to remain so “until we know the issue of the war just begun.”
The early 1890s started off quite well for Long Cove, though. Booth Brothers was awarded a contract in 1891 to build the first five stories of a $1.5 million block in Philadelphia. To prepare for the work, the company purchased a new 36-ton capacity derrick. It was reported in 1892 that there were 140 granite cutters, paving cutters and quarrymen busy at Long Cove. A new steam car also arrived. Then things went downhill. Besides the problems that occurred during the Great Lockout, Booth Brothers had a fire in the engine house and polishing mill at Long Cove, and a schooner loaded with 21,000 paving blocks from Eagle Quarry sank in Wheeler’s Bay.
A change in technology in the granite industry occurred at Long Cove in 1895–the “Big Blast.” The large wall of the quarry was drilled into from several angles and over 500 kegs of powder were placed in the holes. With one single blast about 300,000 tons of granite was loosened. Booth Brothers now had a good supply of granite for new contracts. This approach was something new to the granite industry and proved so successful that other quarries began using the same technique.
—John M. Falla (Falla is a historian of local history who grew up in St. George and until recently served as the town’s manager.)
The Penobscot Marine Museum’s photography collection consists of more than140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit www.Penobscot Marine Museum.org today.
PHOTO, top: PMM Bottom, John Falla