You are on page 1of 84




Stonecutter Malcolm MacDonald

at work with a pneumatic drill
around the turn of the century
Photo by O.J. Dodge

Front & back cover photographs are

courtesy of: Archives of Barre History
Aldrich Public Library
Barre, Vermont

Norman James, Executive Vice President, Barre Granite Association
Bruce Talbot, Barre Granite Association


The Clarke Communication Group
Barre, Vermont


Reynolds & Reynolds
Business Systems Division
A History of the Barre Granite Industry

Rod Clarke

Published January, 1989

Rock of Ages Corporation
Barre, Vermont
To Commemorate The Bicentennial of
The Permanent Settlement of Barre (1788-1988)
and The Centennial of
The Barre Granite Association (1889-1989)
@1989 by Rock of Ages Corporation,
all rights reserved.

Land of the mountain and the rock,

Of lofty hill and lowly glen,
Live thunderbolts thy mountains mock -
Well dost thou nurse by tempest's shock
Thy race of iron men
William G. Brown

With aching hands and bleeding feet

We dig and heap, lay stone on stone;
We bear the burde n and the heat
Of the long day, and wish ' twere done.
Not till the hours of light re turn,
All we have built do we discern.
Matthew Arnold

The history of the Barre granite industry is the history of Barre and -- in many ways
-- the history of America itself. A tale of hope and opportunity and gu t-wrenching
heartbreak; of eager immigrants chasing a dream and iron-willed men who ripped
their livelihood from deep within the earth; of exuberant pioneers and hard-nosed
businessmen, dreamers and schemers and flinty Yankee farmers.
The story began sometime shortly after the dawn of time, millions of years ago
when the earth was a lusty, bawling infant and terrible convulsions wracked the
globe to its molten core.
It is still being wri tten.
Rod Clarke
January, 1989

This book would not have been

possible without the expertise,
assistance and monumental patience of
Joelen Mulvaney and Verbe na Pastor
at the Aldrich Public Library's
Archives of Barre History.


Part 1 - The Early Years................................ l

1. In the Beginning
2. A Town is Born
3. The First Settlers
4. A New Name - A Lasting Legend
5. The First Quarryman
6. Off to a Slow Start

Part 2 -- The Boom Years............................. 21

7. Iron Rails, Iron Men

8. The Final Link
9. "Send Me Your Huddled Masses ... 11
10. An Employment Boom
11. The Technological Explosion
12. The Unions
13. The Birth of the BGA

Part 3 -- Into the 20th Century.................... 51

14. Roots of Radicalism

15. The Tumultuous Years
16. And the Rains Came
17. A Time of Change
18. The Industry Grows
19. The Past, the Present and the Future
Kurt M. Swenson
My friend, Takashi Oshio of Osaka, Japan, o nce asked me to describe the "Mother
Lode of Barre Granite." Although my family has been in the granite business for
over a century here in America, Takashi's phraseology brought in to focus for me the
explanation why so many of us in the granite business here in Barre trace our family
histories in granite back centuries, half centuries or quarter centuries instead of
years.The myths, rituals and histories of many ancient societies are painted and
etched on stone walls of caves in the black depths of the earth. These early examples
of great stone art pay tribute to bears, buffalo, fish and other living things that
provided sustenance in the form of food for those early stone artists and their
Experts far more knowledgeable than I say such stone art pays tribute to the spirit
of those animals who died to sustain the lifeofour earlya ncestors around the world.
This stone art and the rituals it portrays, the experts say, speaks to the necessity of
the regeneration of these animals to sustain and regenerate the lives of the stone
artists themselves. In those same primitive societies, women were truly revered as
the bearers, birthers and nurturers of human life. Mother Nature, Mother Earth
and Mother Lode are phrases reflective of this concept. Takashi Oshio was right to
inquire after the Mother Lode of Barre Granite. Barre's Mother Lode has been a
nurturer of hundreds of thousands of lives here in Barre. Those who work the
Mother Lode pull great blocks ofBarre granite from deep in the earth and shape her
into stone art to commemorate human life and spirit.
Without her, there would not be this histo ry of the Barre granite industry. She has
put food on our tables, shelter over our heads and provided o ther things now
considered necessary for our survival but unknown to the peo ple o f the first stone
age. If they were the clan of the cave bear, we are the clan of Barre granite.The
Mother LodeofBarre Granite has been described by experts from around the world
as the greatest concentrated deposit of high quality gray granite in the world. She
was formed millions of years ago during the Creation. Almost two centuries of
quarrying have removed less than one percent of her reserves.
She has survived the ice age, the great floods, wind, fire and all o ther na tural
calamities. She will also survive any future natural cala mity tha t may befall her. She
has survived wars, depressions and other huma n conditions. She will also survive
any future man-made catastrophe, including a direct hit by a nuclearweapon. While
the Mother Lode of Barre Granite does not and cannot regene rate herself like the
people and creatures depicted in primitive cave paintings, she has e ternal life both
inand out of the ground. Millions of granite products crafted from our Mother Lode
can be found around the world. They are, in a real sense, her offspring.
I have said on many occasions that measured by the life span of our granite, our
lives are just brief moments in history. In the pages that follow, you will read of the
people of the Barre granite industry, past and present. It is more than a century of
their history but really just a paragraph in the first chapter of the history of the
Mother Lode of Barre Granite. Perhaps 20 centuries from now, workers will be
quarrying Barre granite with great laser beams a mile below the surface of the earth
for monuments and new technological uses unknown to us today.
Or, alternatively, as a result of some calamity caused by man or nature, members
of a new clan of the cave bear may etch their art on her walls next to the drill holes
and burned channels created by the tools of our artists who removed Barre granite
duringthefewcenturies covered by this history. This new clan of the cave bear would
certainly ponder the true meaning of the primitive art we create each day in our
Barre quarries. This, then, is a very brief part of the story of the Barre Granite
Mother Lode and the lives she has touched here in Barre. Readers may also sense
that there is a much bigger untold story involving other lives she has touched.
The Barre Mother Lode is a part of the asphalt roads in Vermont on which
millions of cars travel. She is a foundation or step for homes in New England and
beyond. She is a granite facade on a 110-story office tower in Houston, Texas, and
other major commercial buildings. She is a surface plate or machine base for
equipment in many countries, assisting technological advances around the world.
She is a press roll in paper machines around the world, providing the paper for
printing to expand human knowledge. She is most importantly, however, memorials
to the lives of millions of people in North America including the rich, the famous,
the humble, the poor and the heroes of our wars. At the same time, she is a memorial
to hundreds of thousands of lives lost in Japan and other foreign lands.
She has for many years transcended the conflicts of the human condition as we
know them here on earth. She commemorates or enhances the lives of millions
around the world without regard to race, color, creed, religion, age, sex, natio nal
origin, political belief or any other factor. Everyone who is touched by her today, in
one way or another, will eventually be gone, and new generations of the clan of Barre
granite will carry on o ur traditions. Perhaps someone will write about them in
centuries to come. She will always be a part of those histories. She is the ultimate
monument to and symbol of eternal life.
In the pages that follow, you will read about rough and ready men who were
pioneers of the granite industry in America. I hope you will no t only learn about the
oldest active granite center in North America but also understand how our stone art
fits into the past and will fit into the future of what is now our global society. But
most irnportanlly, I hope you will understand why we have a very special place in our
hearts for Barre granite.

(Editor's note: Kurt M. Swenson is the President of Rock of Ages Corporatio n

ofBarre, Vt. and the John Swenson Granite Company, Inc., of Concord, N. H. The
Swenson Granite Company was founded in 1883 by Mr. Swenson's great-grandfa-
ther, an immigrant from Sweden, and purchased Rock of Ages in 1984.)


"There, the name

is Ban-e, by God r


Granite is a basic building block of the planet earth, formed in a process that began
billions of years ago as a swirling mass of gas and liquid hurtled through the cosmos
and eventually began to cool and solidify.
As it cooled, this new planet shrank, building enormous pressure at its core, and
an outer crust formed.
During these violent contractions, pent-up gases and molten rock broke free to
the surface, where they solidified to form the surface of the earth. And the rains
came, and then the Ice Sheet, eroding the higher points and filling the lower levels
with sediment.
The mountains of New England were among the first formed, born 500 million
years ago. These mountains were much, much taller then, but the ice age and the
weathering of the ages took its toll, wearing them down and exposing the rock
The granite that underlies the mountain ranges is even older than the mountains
themselves, dating back to the Algonkian Period, possibly two billion years ago.
4 Carved in Stone

Like all rocks, it is igneous in nature, created by the original molten process and
ensuing turbulent upheaval.
Nor has the process ended, for the earth is not a dead stone. More slowly than man
can measure, new mountain chains are rising and older ones are being worn away.
Rock buried deep in the earth is heated, melted, then squeezed upward toward the
surface. And new granites are formed and exposed by the steady process of erosion.
Barre granite is judged among the finest in the world. The deposit covers an area
approximately three miles long by one mile wide, laying in large sheets or layers,
which permit the extraction of massive blocks. No one knows how deep in the earth
it goes. Composed ofa little mica, plus gray feldspar and quartz-- the most resistant
of the common minerals -- it is almost as hard as the sapphire. The combination of
these three minerals, particularly feldspar, determines the distinctive gray color of
Barre granite.
Its grains are crystallized and very finely textured, indicating that the molten
substance cooled slowly in that prehistoric crucible. It is that interlocking network
of crystals that gives Barre granite its uniformly granular texture and enables it to
endure centuries of exposure to the elements without crumbling.

Courlesy Vermont Historical Soci81y



Back in the years prior to and immediately following the American Revolution,
the tractofland that would later be known as Barre was a hilly, almost mountainous,
unfriendly, unsettled wilderness where hostile Indians, warring Redcoats and wild
animals roamed.
What level land there was lay along the valley of the stream that flowed northward,
emptying finally into the Onion (Winooski) River, while to the east and south, twin
sentinel peaks stood guard.
But Colonel William Williams probably didn' t care much about Indians, and
wasn't interested in farming when he and 64 associates petitioned the 1780 Ver-
mont Legislature for a charter for a new town. Williams, a military veteran, had
moved to Vermont in 1769 from Massachusetts, settling in Marlborough, then
relocating to Wilmington.
In March 1780, the fledgling legislature delayed action on Williams' charter
petition, and it was not until October that it was taken up and referred to the
appropriate committee. The committee, however, became mired in a sea of similar
It wasn't until Nov. 6 that the charter was finally granted. Not surprisingly, given
the name of the chief applicant, it was called Williamstown. But for whatever
reason, Williams and the pe titioners dropped that name, which was immediately
adopted by a township just to the south and its name has endured to the present.
What is now Barre was then dubbed Wildersburgh by executive order of Gov.
Thomas Chittenden and his council. But though the township charter had been
granted, title could not be taken until the sum of eight pounds and ten shillings per
share was paid to the state -- a total cost of about $1,858.33.
Despite a charter requirement for prompt settlement,.,.Wildersburgh was hardly
off and running. The grantees were apparently land speculators and probably had
never laid eyes on theirtown; they lived elsewhere in Vermontorinotherstates. The
man most familiar with the region around Wildersburgh may have bee n Ira Allen,
Ethan Alle n's brother and Vermont's first surveyor general.
Vermont was prime for speculation in those early years. Land was cheap and taxes
low; the original 13 colonies had rejected Vermont's bid for admission, therefore
Vermont was not saddled with a heavy Revolutionary War debt.
6 Carved in Stone


It isn't certain when the first full-time residents / '

settled in Wildersburgh, but when the 1790 cen-
sus was taken, 76 souls were registered in town.
Most historians believe the town was first per-
manently settled in 1788, eight years after the
charter was granted. History does reflect that in
1785, the proprietors of the land imposed a tax to
defray the cost of dividing the lots. But Tax Col-
lector John Marks apparently had trouble col-
lecting, because he advertised in two newspapers
that delinquent taxpayers would have their
shares sold at public sale in Wilmington on
March 30, 1786.
Even in colonial times, land speculators were
apparently quick to swoop down on tax sales, John Gouldsbury
since records show that much real estate changed hands in Barre in this manner in
those early years.
Had they known of the untold future riches of
granite tha t lay beneath the rocky soil, those
original landowners might not have been so
cavalier about paying their taxes.
The first known settlers in Wildersburgh were
John Gouldsbury (in later histories spelled
Goldsbury), his wife Rebecca Hastings and their
nine children, and the family of Samuel Rogers.
It is not certain which family arrived first, but
both settled in Wildersburgh in 1788.
Goulds bury died in 1828 at the age of89. Six of
his children lived to maturity and left numerous
descendants to help the new community grow
and prosper. The second pioneer, Rogers, left
less of a mark and little is known of his family.
Rebecca Hastings Gouldsbury


By the spring of 1793, Wildersburgh was a real community, not merely a la nd

holding owned by a group of absentee proprie tors.
And so, on March 11 of that year,eligible voters (adult males) o f the new northern
frontier town came together at the ho me o f Apollos Hale for a mome ntous and
historic occasion -- the formal birthing of a new township.
Not much transpired at the inaugural meeting aside from the electio n of town
officers, including Asaph Sherman as moderator. In June, a second meeting was
held to plan for construction of a road system, and to grant tax credits to those
laboring on the highways.
But on September 3, the inhabitants of Wildersburgh gathered once again and
earned a lasting place in Vermont folklore.
The somewhat cumbersome name "Wildersburgh" did not sit too well with all the
settlers (it was described as "uncouthly" and "disagreeable on account o f its length"),
and a vote was taken to change the name of the town.
But how to select a new name?
The town fathers of Wildersburgh decided to raise money by putting the honor of
naming the community up for bid. The record of that historic meeting relates the
"Voted that the man that will give the most towards building a meeting (house) in
said Town shall name the Town and the Town will petition the gen'I Assembly for
that name."
Ezekiel Wheeler topped the bids with an offer of sixty pounds "Lawful money,"
and to him went the honor of presenting Wilde rsburgh with a more pala table name.
(History relates that he never paid the "lawful money," but is silent as to whether he
ever actually built the meeting house.)
It is at this point that fact becomes fuzzy and legend takes hold.
Popular folklo re has it that the issue was settled by a bare-knuckled fistfight
between Jonathan Sherman, son of Asaph (the town moderator), and Captain
Joseph Thomson. The Shermans hailed from Barre, Massachusetts, and young
Jonathan is said to have raised his fists on behalf of his hometown, which had been
named after Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Barre, a British subject who was a sta unch
ally of the American colonists.
s Carved in Stone

Thomson was a native of Holden, Massachusetts, so if the legend is accurate and

Thomson had been a mite more handy with his fists, we might today be reading a
history of the Holden granite industry.
Be that as it may, a history of the confrontation notes that the combatants and
their respective rooting sections left the town meeting and retired to a recently
constructed barn.
After some preliminary sparring, Thomson landed "a well directed blow," knock-
ing Sherman to the floor. Seizing the adva ntage, he leaped on Sherman and began
pumelling him about the head and face.
But the more agile Sherman managed to dodge the onslaught, forcing his assailant
to skin his knuckles on the freshly cut hemlock flooring.
In the meantime, Sherman's repeated blows to Thomson's ribs had taken their
toll, and he finally pushed his oppo nent off a nd jumped exultantly to his feet,
proclaiming, "The re, the na me is Barre, by God!"
Sherman may have won the fight, but he paid a price; the town's only physician,
Dr. Robert Paddock, was summoned to remove he mlock splinters from the victor's
"back and posterior."
There is no doubt that a vote was taken at that memorable town meeting to accept
bids for the honor of naming the town. There is also no do ubt that a fight took place.
But the relationship be tween those two events is apparently lost with the years.
A petition was presented to the Ve rmont General Assembly declaring that the
name change had been legally voted by the inhabitants and on October 19, 1793,
Wildersburgh o fficially became Barre.

According to legend, Barre got its name as the result o f a fist fight
Couttasy Nalional Life Insurance Co.


It is probable that roving bands oflndians, who passed through freque ntly on the
way from Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River, were the first to utilize Barre's
abundant granite deposits, using the tough, durable stone to fas hion ax heads,
hammers and o ther implements. They may even have passed along to the settlers the
use of granite in milling corn and grain.
But for those early Barre farmers, granite outcroppings were most likely a
nuisance; just one more obstacle to be splintered loose and wrenched from their
fields. They were, after all, tillers of the soil, no t quar rymen.
The manufacture of millstones was the first practical use to which Ba rre granite
was put, and the tallest of the two rocky mo unds tha t guarded the town became
known as Millstone Hill. The second was dubbed Cobble Hill because the granite
it produced was used widely for cobble, or paving stones.
In 1824, Zadock Thompson, in his Gazetteer o f Vermo nt, wrote of granite being
wrought into millstones, "which are transported to different parts of the state and
to New York and Canada." By that time, three grist mills were operating in Barre,
two of which were described as "a mong the best in the State."
Thompson, something of a prophet, also refers to "inexhaus tible quarries of
excellent granite, which is used as building stones."
Indeed, the "Old Checkered Store," built as a tavern in 1802 by Silas Willa rd, had
Barre granite underpinnings. By the time the War o f 1812 broke o ut, the settlers
were using granite extensively in their own ho mes fo r underpinnings, fence posts,
door stones and window caps.
Enter R obert Parker.
It isn't known exactly when Parker came to town. It is recorded tha t he was a
veteran of both the Revolution, where he fo ught at Bunker Hi ll, and the War of
1812. H e wasn't listed in Barre (or Wildersburgh) o n any early census or town
meeting report, nor on an honor role of loca l volunteers in the War of 1812. So it
is safe to assume tha t he came to town some ti me after 18 12.
But if his early years remain a mystery, his impact on Barre is clear and undeniable.
For Robert Parker, by all acco unts, was the first professional qua rryma n and the
first granite manufacturer; the first to recognize the economic po tential that lay
10 Carved in Stone

One of Barre's first businesses began as a grist mill and saw mill. About 1795, i t became the Thwing
Foundry and evolved into Smith, Whitcomb & Cook in 1865, about the time this photo was taken.
Ccurtesy Atchives of Ba/Te History, Aldrich Public Ubrary

beneath the earth and the first to capita lize upon it.
Business must have been good for Pa rker, because it wasn' t long befo re he took
on a pa rt ner, Thomas Courser, and they opened wha t is believed to be Barre's very
first commercial granite quarry. It is no t known exactly when that took place, but
records show that in 1828, the Pa rker/Courser quarry furnished hammered gra nite
for the Center Lamb residence in Barre.
During the late 1820s, Parker taugh t the business to his son John a nd son-in-law
Eliphalet Hewitt. When the elder Parker died in 1834 at the age of seventy-five, the
two yo ung men took over the business.
Barre, meanwhile, grew slowly in those early years. But the re were already signs
of the granite boom tha t was stirring.
In 1834, Hewitt & Parker took o ut the first paid newspaper advertisement
extolling the virtues of Barre granite, o ffering wha t may have been the industry's
first guarantee and, in referring to "to mb sto nes," hinting a t future developme nts in
the industry.
That ad also may have been prompted in part by the threat of competition. In 1834,
Richard Flagg Abbott opened a combination granite cutting a nd blacksmith shop.
Abbott go t into the gra nite business as a result of some bad luck. In 1832, the
tavern he operated in wha t is now East Barre burned, and Abbo tt returned to his
family's farm to begin harvesting "the acres of dia monds" that lay beneath the top-
At about that same time, Pliny Wheaton a nd his so n Oren opened a quarry o n
Cobble Hill. The Whea ton operatio n got a big boost fro m the state, which con-

tracted to pay them one hundred dollars a year for the building stone needed for the
new Statehouse being constructed in neighboring Montpelier.
Huge pillars, foundation and underpinning stones, window caps, sills, cornices
and ashler of Barre granite were hauled by teams of horses or oxen to the Capitol.
That contract is viewed today as a turning point for the ind us try; it represented the
first major building project using Barre granite, offering not only an econo mic boost
but a public relations coup as well. The Statehouse was finally completed in 1838.
Why was a new Statehouse needed? The first Capitol had been built in 1808. A
wooden, ten-sided, three story structure with wood plank seats, it was, according to
the official state history, "literally whittled out of use." Lawmakers and spectators
carved so many irreparable holes in the seats that the building was deemed
unsuitable, and the 1832 Legislature authorized construction ofa new "seat" of state
Angier "Deacon" Jackman of Corinth, in a Jetter to the Barre Times in November
1903, recalled from excerpts from his diary how he had worked on the Statehouse
project, driving teams from Barre to Montpelier as a way to earn money for a new
suit of clothing for his twenty-first birth-
Jackman's account, penned on his
ninetieth birthday, provides some rare
C11tti11g G1·anite.
first-hand insights about that short but -IJ()(XJ · -

arduous trek between Barre and HEWETT & PARKER

Montpelier. wol;LD Respectfully inform the public
"Our day's work began early in the That they continue to cut Grauite Stone
on that cxte11siva quarry, of superior Gran-
morning, our horses we re fed and har- ite, ~itnatccl about two miles south east, from
nessed ready to hitch to the sleds before !:lane lower village. Also, they cut Granite
in Marshfieln,three miles from Plainfield Vil-
breakfast. We had our breakfast regu- lage, on Ouion River. Their Granite in Marsh-
larly at 5 o'clock, then we started for the field is of a beautiful dark color ; they calcu-
late to keep Stone of all descriptions, at both
quarries, where we loaded our sleds and of their Shops hewn and rough, to supply any
returned home to dinner and fed our call at sho1·t notice, hewn in the best order;
viz: nnderpini ng ; door steps; sills; caps; pil-
horses. After dinner we started for lars and circles; window caps and sills;
Montpelier with our load of granite, hearth and stone steps ; mantletree pieces and
to111b stones ; posts, caps a nd balls; jet stone,
unloaded it and returned to Barre; when grist and oil mill stones, c ut to any pattern,
we had our supper and our horses cared at short uotice. Gentleme n wishing to pur-
chase anv of the above stone, will do well to
for it would be about 9 o'clock." call at tiieir Shops and examine their work,
Jackman described the trip from the Granite, and pl'ices, before they pur~llase
elsewhel'e. All pieces of Granite they sell
"upper village" down Sterling Hill, for clear stone, that is rusty, or will rust ;
they pledge themselves to forfeit.
which was (and is) very steep and They have on hand 275 setts of \Viu-
flanked with a deep gulch. dow Caps & Sills, 20or30Posts;10 with Caps
and Balls; 8 sett of Door Stones, from 5 to 9
".. .it was necessary in order to get f.,et long, common width ; all cut in the best
down the hill safely with our heavy load manner : all of whicb will be sold cheap for
of granite to chain or clog each runner ~Crec~ it gi\'eu if requested.
and have an extra pole to each of our ELIPHALET HEWETT
sleds, that the four horses (in the rear) Bar1·e, Feb. 16t h, 1834. 33 1 yr.
could help in holding back our heavy
12 Carved in Stone

loads, and we were very thankful whe n we were safely at the foot of the hill," he
Joseph Glidden and his son Mark also transported some of the stone, starting out
at four in the morning and returning home eighteen hours later. There were no
derricks in those days, and the granite was loaded on the sleds by means of skids and
rollers. For that eighteen hours of backbreaking labor and the perilous twenty-five
mile journey, the Gliddens were paid the sum of four dollars. Good stonecutters in
the 1830s were paid one dollar a day; a man who drove a four horse team earned only
ten dollars a month.
With the new Statehouse completed, Pliny Wheaton in 1840 built the first granite
house in Barre and furnished granite fro m his quarry for the new Congregational
Church. Four years later, Barre granite was used in the courthouse in Montpelier
and again when Barre Academy was built in 1851.
Other early entreprene urs jumped on the bandwagon that Robert Parker had
launched; Samuel and John Wilson, the Carnes brothers, Samuel Richardson,
Daniel Hewitt, Judson Parker (John Parker's nephew), Josiah Trow, John Collins,
George Mann and Ira Harrington, who in 1857 was paid two thousand dollars for
stone for the Ethan Allen monument in Burlington.
The Statehouse marked a major milesto ne for the fledgling Barre granite indus-
try; the first commercial building project to use stone quarried in Barre. And the
glorious new seat of government became known as one o f the most beautiful
buildings in all of New England. The use of Ba rre granite also proved a wise
decision. In 1858, a scant twenty yea rs after it was built, the new Statehouse was
gutted by fire. But the granite withstood the test and most of it remained in place
when the third Vermont Statehouse was built.

Some Barre granite used in the second Vermont Stateh ouse in the 1830s remain ed in u se in 1989.
Barre Granite Association Pholo

Barre's downtown business district was little more than a sleepy village awaiting its boom years, as this
1865 view of the Opera House shows.
Courtesy Vetmant Historical Society


Although the business of granite was growing, it hardly flourished. No, the com-
merce of Barre still centered on farming, milling and lumbering.
The major drawback was the lack of transportation. Cutting a block of granite
from the mountain was hard enough, since quarrying and cutting techniques were
primitive, using hand chisels, drills, blasting powder, hammers and brute force. But
moving it afterward was an even more formidable obstacle.
Chunks of granite were hauled by horses or oxen. Larger pieces were left until
winter when they could be loaded on specially built sleds and farmers could be more
readily employed to haul them.
As many as thirty draft animals were sometimes needed, and had to be gathered
from throughout Barre and even from neighboring communities. There is one
report of a massive granite block of fifty tons being moved from the "hill" to the city
on rollers at the rate of one mile a week. It is also said that it took thirty pairs of
horses and oxen to move a fifteen ton monument base fifty miles to Burlington,
where it was to honor the memory of Reverend James Marsh, the first president of
the University of Vermont.
In 1849, the new Vermont Central Railroad (now Central Vermont Railroad) was
14 Carved in Stone

extended to Northfield, the hometown of former Governor Charles Paine, leaving

both Barre and Montpelier off-track. That meant that the quarriers had two
transportation problems; getting their stone from the quarries to the shops, then
transporting it to the Northfield rail head, some ten miles to the southwest.
For a while, the lack of transportation threatened to stifle both the granite
industry and the city itself. Indeed, when Emery L. Smith, the son-in-law of
Eliphalet Hewitt (the son-in-law of Barre's first quarryman, Robert Parker) came
to Barre in 1866 after serving in the Civil War, he no ted "there were no t te n men at
work on the granite quarries."
U.S. Census records record this stagnation of the industry in Barre. In 1830, the
Census recorded 2,012 residents living in the new community. A decade later, that
had increased by o nly 114. In 1850, the population actually dipped to 1,845 and the
1860 census showed a further decline to 1,839.
When the census-takers again toured Barre in 1870, the population had risen
again, but only to 1,882 and by 1880, it crawled up to 2,060.
But life in old Wildersburgh was about to become infinitely more inte resting.
The railroad was coming to town.

&r19 Granite Assoc/anon Pharo


The Old For1< Shop Foundry, now Trow & Holden Granite Tool Co., in 1870.
Courtesy Arcmves of Bane Hislorf, Aldrich PUblic Ubra!y

Hauling granite down Main Street around 1895.

Courtesy Archives Of Barre History, Aldrich PUblic Ubra!y

The old McDonald and Cutler Quarry.
Courtesy AJchives of Barre Hlstorf, Aldrich Public Ubraty

The Webnor~ Morse stone sheds, a typical Barre granite plant around 1680.
Barre Granile AssoclaJion Pf1at:J
Barre Railroad Engine #4 transporaling granite for the Consolidated Quarry Co. (date unknown)
Ccurlesy Archives of BafTB History, Aldrich Public Ubrary

A man and his granite.

This 1895 photo shows dual tramways used to carry grout (waste granite) at the former Milne, Clari hew & Gray Quarry (now Rock of Ages Quarry).
Courtesy Ate/lives of Bane HistDr;, Aldrich Public Ubnuy
.-....· -·-·· .......... -.. .- .
-~- ~

-._.,,.{. .
-- --
.--· ~-- ~·
. ;.· ..·. ~-

Not all granite companies were large companies, as this backyard stone-cutting operation demonstrates.
Cowtesy Archives of Barre History, Aldrich Public LibraJy

Time-honored tools of the stonecutter, manufactured in the early 1900s.

Coullosy Alchi1163 of Bal18 History, Aldrich Publi c Library


"In Barre is a a superior and

inexhaustible quarry ofgranite..."


Barre granite may have been earning a reputation for its fine quality, but the
industry was doomed to stagnation as long as Barre remained isolated from the rest
of the world.
But America, in the mid 19th century, was just developing its love affair with the
railroad, and rails would soon spread across the land like iron cobwebs.
In 1823, President James Monroe commissioned Montpelier businessman Daniel
Baldwin to seek out rail and canal routes through Vermont.
In 1830, a group of Montpelier residents gathered to discuss development of a
local rail line. A month later, the Vermont Railroad Association was formed in
Montpelier, and projected a line to Burlington, linked to New York state by a ferry

Hauling granite before Barre had a railroad link was a diffic ult task,
often involving teams of 30 or 40 horses or oxen.
Courtesy Archives of Barre History, Aldrich Public Library
24 Carved in Stone

Granite for the Leland Stanford Mausoleum in California being hauled by sled down Main Street in Barre.
Cowtesy Archives of Barre History, Aldrich Public Library

across Lake Champlain and eventually to the St. Lawrence River.

Despite the good intentions and the ambitious planning, progress was slow in
bringing rail service to central Vermont. The Vermont Central Railroad was
chartered in 1835, only to lapse when not enough stock was sold. The Vermont
Central was resurrected again in 1843, this time successfully, and two years later,
ground was broken in Windsor for a rail line to Burlington.
Plans also called for a rail line between White River Junction and St. Albans,
eventually linking Montreal and Boston. The route would follow the Winooski
River, the only reasonable east-west access through the Green Mountain range.
But a dispute arose over whether the line should track the Dog River through
Northfield or pass through the Williamstown Gulf, which would include Barre.
Barre, ever mindful of the importance of a transportation link, argued aggressively
for the latter. The Barre route was more level, shorter, straighter and more densely
populated, and would yield more business, advocates said. They pointed to the
thriving flour mill and foundry in Barre (later to become Smith, Whitcomb &
Cook), and to the vast potential that lay beneath the surface of the earth.
"In Barre is a superior and inexhaustible quarry of granite, ofwhich the Statehouse
is constructed," a Barre study committee reported. "Granite is a rare article in
Vermont. More than 600 tons of this stone are now carried to Burlington."
Those arguments proved no match for politics, however, much to the dismay of

Barre a nd its fledgling granite industry. Charles Paine, who had been governor from
1841-43, was preside nt of the Vermont Central. He also owned a prosperous
woolen mill and hotel in Northfield. Paine used his considerable influence to get
the railroad routed through Northfield, rather than Barre. When the line from
Windsor to Burlington was completed in 1846, Montpelier was left a t the end of a
mile-and-a-ha lf spur and Barre had no rai l access whatsoever.
When the fi rst trai n rolled into the state capital on J uly 4, 1849, loaded with ten
flat car loads of flour, it received a hearty welcome.
It would be 1875 -- twenty-six years later -- before Barre could finally unleash its
gra nite industry. Adding insult to injury, a new line between We lls River and
Montpelier was comple ted in 1873, leaving Barre isola ted between two railroads
with no ne of its own.
But construction of the We lls River line fi nally fo rced Vermo nt Central officials
to realize wha t they might have lost in by-passing Barre. In 1871,a charter was finally
issued to build a railroad line into Barre, where residents responded promptly by
bonding money for the project. In the fall o f 1874, newspaper ads appeared fo r 300
constructio n worke rs and ground was broke n in November for a depot. The actual
laying o f track didn't begin until the following spring, but the work we nt qu ickly, and
the last spike was driven o n June 29, 1875.
Six days la ter Barre stepped boldly into the future as four coaches and a smoking
car ro lled into town to the cheers of an estimated six thousand people.
No longer were the gra nite quarrymen a nd manufacturers cut off from the
markets of the world.

Barre before the turn of the century looked more like a western movie set than a community about to
undergo a population and econ omic explosion.

Courtesy Vermont Historical Society

26 Carved in Stone

Granite blocks are lifted fro m horse-drawn wagon to railroad car about 1895.

Couttesy Vermont Historical Society

The Barre Railroad provided the final link between Barre's granite quarries
and the markets of the world.

Barre Granite Association Photo



But the granite indus try still faced a formidable obstacle. It was one thing to be
able to ship granite aro und the wo rld; it was quite a nother just to get it off Millstone
Hill and down to the depot -- to endure that per ilous tre k from quarry to town.
None theless, using horses, oxen and iron wills, the granite men hauled their loads
down the mountain with increasing frequency. In 1880, 518 freight cars left Barre,
277 of them laden with granite. In 1882, the line carried 12,700 tons of fre ight; the
following year that increased to 16,400. Presumably, most- of the outgoing loads
were Barre granite.
It is somewhat ironic that it took the scrappy new Montpelier and Wells River
Rail road to provide the final rail link to the quarries. The Vermont Central made
a ha lf-hearted attempt at building a spur up Mills tone Hill, partially acquiring a
right-of-way, but never following through. Recognizing the potential, the Montpe-
lier and Wells River Railroad offered to build a spur be tween the main line and
Millstone Hill if Barre residents would purchase $40,000 worth of railroad stock.
The subscription offer was quickly filled, and planni ng began in the spring of 1888.
It was not a project for the faint of heart. The "Barre Quarries Spur" would run just
fo ur miles, but Millstone Hill stood more than one thousand feet above the town.
Conven tional tractio n ra il lines were not considered feasible on such grades; a cog
railway was thought to be favorable. But tractio n was chosen.
The track crawled up the west side of the hill, traversing the grade with switch-
backs (doubling back on itself). The steepest part of the route -- 470 feet to the mile
-- made the new Barre Quarries Spur the steepest traction railroad east of the
Total cost of the branch line was about $250,000, including rolling stock. Gro und
was broke n on July 4, 1888, and the firs t tra ins moved up the hill less tha n five
months later.
To be sure, granite was the major commodity hauled on the Barre Spur in the
waning days of the 19th century. But surprisingly, a flourishing traffic in passengers
evolved as well. Tourists and sightseers used the "Sky Route" regularly. Later, as
villages grew around the quarries, a regular passenger trade evolved. Since the
ra ilroad had numerous branches to individua l quarries, it offered residents with
28 Carved in Stone

almost dooryard rail service, including the popular Saturday night run fro m
Millstone Hill to town.
Things didn't always run smoothly o n that old Sky R o ute, however. In 1893, for
example, the "Mountain King," loaded with granite blocks and paving stones, lost
its brakesand raced o ut-of-control down the last part of the mountain. Theengineer
and firemen tried valiantly to halt the racing runaway, but finally were forced to bail
o ut safely at the last minute. The freight veered through an open switch at the
bo ttom of the hill and o nto a side track, where it sla mmed into a switching engine,
stacking up freight cars and granite like children's toys discarded the day after
There were, miraculo usly, no serio us injuries or loss of life. But a 12-year old boy
who was hitching a ride to town on the trai n go t more ofa trip than he bargained for.
"I have had a heavenly ride," he was quoted in a local newspaper.

The wreck of the Mountain King in 1893.

Barre Granite Association Pholo


The coming of the railroad triggered an explosion of growth in the granite industry
andin Barre. The lureofsteadyworkand decent wages on "the Hill" drew thousands,
from other states, from Canada and from overseas.
In the decade between 1880 and 1890, Barre tripled its population. Over the dozen
years spanning 1881 and 1893, 625 houses were built in town. Mo re than one
hundred were constructed in 1891 alone. The town grew so fast, in fact, that
government couldn't keep pace, and in 1895, Barre City and Barre Town were
divided into separate entities.
Still the population explosion continued. In 1880, Barre had 2,060 residents. By
1890, that had swelled to 6,790. And in 1900, the town and city combined were home
to 11,754 people -- yet another near-doubling in population!
It is not hard to understand why the explosion occurred. Jobs -- good jobs -- were

The crew at the Smith, Whitcomb & Cook Foundry in Barre around 1900.
Courtesy Atchives of Barre History, Aldrich Public Library
30 Carved in Stone

The first wave o f immigrants to come to Barre incl uded the Scots,
many o f wh om retained their native customs.

Courtesy Archives of Barre History, Aldrich Public Ubrary

The Scots were followed to Barre by Italian stonecutters.

Coultesy Archives of Barre History, Aldrich Public Ubrary


Swedish stonecutters take time out to pose for a photo.

The three men in the middle are brothers John, Aron and Peter Johnson.

Couttasy Archives of Batre History, Aldrich Public Ubrary

Barre granite quarry workers.

Barre Granite Associadon PholD
32 Carved in Stone

plentiful. Now that the railroad was in town, granite firms sprung up like wildflow-
ers, and many of them are still in operation a century later.
Among the first to flock to Barre to work in the granite quarries and sheds were
hundreds of Scots, many from the granite region near Aberdeen, attracted by the
promise of better wages and a better life in the New World. Many quarrying
operations in Aberdeen had been closed because of economic conditions. Young
John Duffus and James Marr were said to be the first Scottish immigrants, and as
word of the boom spread, they were soon joined by othe rs, including Willia m
Barclay and George Milne, who built legacies that e ndure to the present day.
Those early Scots were, by all accounts, typically hardwo rking and frugal. But they
were also filled with fun and a sense of adventure. They we re also extremely close-
knit, not only working together, but assembling in social ga therings and tending
each other in time of tragedy or need.
The first wave of Scots was followed by a large influx of Italian immigrants, many
of them young stone sculptors who le ft the ir wives and families in the old country
and came to America in search of for tune. As they waited to be processed at Ellis
Island, many harbored dreams of saving their money,some day to re turn to Italy. But
more often than not, they discarded tha t idea and sent for their families to join them.
Those who were not married ofte n sent to Italy for brides, and many a young Italian
woman jo urneyed to Vermont to join a husband-to-be she had never me t except
through a long distance courtship by mail.
Like most of the immigrants, these Italians settled in Barre's North E nd where -
like the Scots - they developed close-knit socia l and fa milia l ties. Neighborhooding
by choice, they had their own markets and merchants and even published their own
The Chioldi brothers, Antonio and Medardo, immigrated from Italy and opened
a manufacturing firm in Montpelier aro und the turn o f the centu ry before moving
to Barre. Almost a century later, the Chio ldi Gra nite Corp., fittingly, produced the
striking gra nite statue of an Italian-American stonecutter tha t immediate ly became
a Barre landmark.
Other immigrant groups that came to Barre included Scandinavians, Spanish,
English, Irish, Greeks and French-Canadians.
Despite the massive influx from overseas, Barre-- like mos t other towns--wa not
a true melting pot then; the immigrants generally lived in the North End, where few
owned property, while the native born popula tion stuck LO the more prosperous
south end of town and tended to domina te the business and professional com mu-
nities. Almos t a ll of the foreign-born wo rkers were e mployed in the granite
industry, while o nly 28 percent of the natives worked there.


For these young, hopeful immigrants, life in the granite industry was a wondrous
opportunity. Nevertheless, it was hard, often dangerous labor and life was difficult.
The first step in "opening up" a quarry was the detonation of several explosions at
different locations to determine the quality of the stone. Then the topsoil was
stripped away. At first, the crank that turned the drill as the first step in quarrying
the granite was operated by one or two men; later, horses were used, attached to a
long "sweep" and walking in an endless circle.
Once the appropriate holes were drilled, they were stuffed with explosives and
detonated. The block of granite was thus separated from the ledge and lifted from

Moving a massive granite block at the Wells-Lamson quarry in Barre required some ingenious techniques.

BarTB Gr.mite Associatx>n Pholo

34 Carved in Stone

Before power tools came

into use, wedges were set
by hand, then driven into
the granite with sledge
hammers until the block
Cowtesy Vermont Historical Society

the quarry by a boom derrick powered by horses or oxen.

But blasting was held to a minimum (and eventually abandoned allogethcr), since
it tended to shatter the valuable blocks of granite. Often the holes were po unded
into the granite by men as ha rd as the stone they quarried. In his 1895 book, Labor
and Life at the Barre Granite Quarries, George Ellsworth Hooker provides some
rare insights about back-breaking life on the Hill, including a recollection of two
men swinging sledge hammers while a third sat on the ground, turning the drill, ever
aware that a missed blow could mean a smashed arm.
"Were he to count, the observer would be surprised a t the rapidity with which
blows rain down upon the drills," H ooke r wrote. "The heavy eight-pound sledge,
swung with both hands while a third man holds the drill falls about forty times a
minute, and the three-and-a-half pound hammer, swung with one hand while the
drill is held with the other, averages double that rate.
"Shifting drills, driving wedges, hitching chains, vary the exercise, but the physica l
expenditure of energy in the nine hour day is heavy."
A blacksmith stood by his anvil at the quarry, sharpe ning tools for teams of ten to
twenty workers.
Cutting and finishing, whe n it was not done o utdoors, was conducted in sheds,
built in a semi-circle around the quarry. All sheds were served by a single cen tral
derrick boom. The boom, however, could only drop the blocks in front of the shed,
where they had to be rolled by hand inside -- a task of nasty proportions when it

Granite plants in early Barre.

Barre Granite Association Pholo

36 Carved in Stone

A view of the round stone sheds in about 1890.

Courtesy Alcfives of Barre Hisloly, Aldrich Public Library

involved a large block. The practice of "shedding in" was la rgely discarded by 1890
with the advent of the travelling crane tha t made it much easie r to transport huge
blocks of stone.
In 1888, McDonald & Buchan installed the firs t overhead travelling power crane
in the area, a device that rolled up and down the yard on rails set on high trestles.
The crane was designed and built by the Lane Manufact uring Co. of Montpelier,
heralding the advent of a new local support industry that flourishes today -- the
development and manufacture of tools designed to meet specific granite industry
Electricity became available in the region by 1885, making possible the advent of
power cut ting and polishing lathes and surfacing eq ui pme n t, as well as the first band
saw for cutting stone. Polishing machines of the era were known as "Jenny Linds"
or "Verticles." Pne umatic tools were introduced in the 1890s.
Several compa nies that had their genesis during tha t era remain in operation
today, including the North Barre Grani te Co., G iudici Bros. (now the Houle-
Giudici Granite Co.) and the Peerless Gra nite Co.
The average qua rry worker before the turn of the century earned be tween $1.70
and $2 a day. Hooker relates how visiting quarry wo rkers from Maine noted a
marked contrast between the relatively slow and easy pace wi th which they worked
at home and the more fevered pitch in Barre. The difference was even more
pronounced when compared with work habits back in the o ld country.
According to Hooker, the Scots said "the men here wo rk ha rder, receive higher
wages, spend more money and are no happier." He added, however, that the Barre
workman appa rently had "more freedom with his employer," meaning he was more
likely to receive a sympathetic ear if a complaint regarding his work were lodged.

In the 1890s, Barre's granite industry received a big boost with an order for ten
million paving stones for the city of Troy, New York.
Paving stone cutters were a breed unto themselves, more transient than most
granite workers, forced to roam from Maine to Georgia in search of contracts. They
were paid by piecework and generally earned more than the average, but much of
the extra money was eaten up by their forced travels.
Hooker writes that the paving stonecutter at work was fascinating to watch. "After
the stock has been reduced by ordinary methods to blocks of small dimensions, say
from one to three feet, the paving cutter takes his heavy hamme r and, using the
sharp edge, checks a line across one face of such a block, then turning it over and
striking with the face of the sledge, he delivers two or three heavy blows directly on
the opposite side, as a result of which the stone cracks open with as clean faces as
one would get in splitting a piece of pine.
"Having thus reduced his material to small oblong blocks, he seats himself and
taking one of these in his left hand and his long six pound concave hammer in his
right he rapidly cleaves off the bulges a nd evens up the edge of each face until the
block is symmetrical and correct in dimensions."
Imagine, then, the labor involved in filling the contract that the Empire Granite
Co. secured to pave the streets of Troy, New York, with ten million blocks, each cut
by hand to exacting specifications!

The tools of the paving stone cutter.

Courtesy Archives of Barre History, Aldrich Public Library

38 Carved in Stone

By the 1890s, about 40 quarries operated in Barre, and the chief products were
mo numents and memorials. The marketplace had recognized the remarkable
quality, consistency and durability of Barre Gray.
"Its distinctive feature is evenness of texture," Hooker wrote. "Shafts forty or fifty
feet long are absolutely free, over the entire length, from spot or cloud."
The industry developed its own jargon. "Buttermilk" was a hidde n bed of good
quality granite, a "chopper" was an early steam power chanellerwith two sets of drills
on one side and "plug and feather" meant two one-half pound wedges driven apart
by a tapered plug to split the granite blocks in the quarries.
In 1880, 95 percentofBarre's population was native born and the granite industry
was a small-scale local industry employing abo ut one hundred. By 1910, 38 percent
of the residents were foreign-born and well over three tho usand people worked in
the granite industry, which by then dominated the community's economy.
Many of the worke rs, particularly the unma rried ones, lived in boarding houses,
and the community was alive wi th the mingling of foreign languages, diverse
cultures a nd the raw sweat of working men. But the unprecedented population
growth also created problems; housing was scarce, sanitation faci lities inadequa te.
E thnic social clubs and fraternal organizations sprung up across the city, provid-
ing the working population with some degree of order, stability a nd fellowship in a
strange and changing land.
On the job, the summertime workday began a t 6:30 a.m. and averaged nine hou rs
in length, with no day off on Saturday. A t noon, the shriek of the various quarries'
whistles set off a scramble as the workmen broke for lunch. According to Hooker,
the contents ofa typical lunch pail included two thick slices of buttered bread, a slab
of meat or cheese, a couple of eggs, a doughnut and piece of cake, two cookies, two
pieces of pie and two cups of tea or coffee.


Barre's granite industry may have rece ived the boost it needed with the coming of
the railroad in 1875, but it was the advent of new labor-saving technologies that
propelled it headlong into the twentieth century, with vetera n quarryman, innova-
tor and entrepreneur E.L. Smith leading the way.
After fighting in the Civil War, Emery Smith, a native of Northfie ld , married the
daughterofoldtimequarry owner Eliphalet Hewitt a nd went to work fo r his father-
in-law, then bought and operated a successio n of quarries. He late r became the first
mayor of Barre City.
Smith was a doer a nd a visio nary and a n innovator to boot. He was the first Barre

Tripod steam drill set up at what is believed to be the E.L Smith Quarry about 1895.
Courmsy Archives of Barre HislDry, Aldrich Public Library
40 Carved in Stone

quarry operator to install a permanent derrick, anchoring his apparatus to trees and
stones on Cobble Hill as early as 1871.
Smith's first permanent derrick was primitive by modern standards. Obtained
from an abandoned slate quarry, it had a capacity of two-and-a-half tons and was
driven by real horse power. Later, he devised a vastly improved model which
employed a gearing system that doubled the capacity.
It was also Smith who first used electric ba tteries to detonate explosive charges.
In 1883, the Smith quarry pioneered the first steam drill. In addition, the pneumatic
plug drill was adopted for use a t his quarry, which also was the first to use
compressed air for drilling.
Smith was also something of a prophet. "I consider this (granite) business
established on a sound basis, which I think will increase in time to be one of the
largest industries in Vermont," he is quoted in 1881 by Hemenway's Historical
Magazine. "Barre granite is second to none, and when once introduced will
recommend itself."
With a ra il link to the outside world and new technologies relieving the back-
breaking inefficiency of quarry work, Barre quickly leapfrogged its way to become
the Granite Center of the World.
The numbers tell the story.
According to U.S. Census records, Vermont in 1870 listed 29companies engaged
in the production of granite and marble, wi th capita l inves tments of just $113,800,
650 employees and a n annual payroll of just over $322,000. To tal production was
valued a t $960,984.
Massachusetts led the region with 49 companies, $993,500 in capital investments,
1,365 workers, an $820,000 payroll and total production in excess of $2.1 million.
But by 1910, Vermont's capital investments soared to over $12 million, and the
state almost matched or exceeded Massachusetts in all categories.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that in 1880, Barre 's dozen quarries pro-
duced granite valued at $59,675. In 1902, 68 quarries turned out stone wo rth more
than $1.5 million.
As the indus uy grew, however, so did the to ll from the occupatio nal disease
silicosis, caused by breathing large qua nti ties of free silica contained in granite dust.
It is somewhat ironic that the very technology that spawned the boom also claimed
scores of lives. The dust produced as the result of hand-cutting gra nite from the
earth and shaping it into building material or mo numents was minimal. But when
pneumatic drills and power cutting and shaping tools came into use in the early
1900s, the potential risk of "White Lung Disease," from which tuberculosis often
developed as a complication, rose dramatically.
The problem was compounded by a harsh northern climate tha t ke pt windows and
doors in the sheds closed in wintertime. Suctio n devices were installed in some
plants aro und 1915, but they were not particularly effective.
Fred Healy and George Morris are credited as being the "pioneers" in finally
conquering silicosis in Barre.
Healy joined the Canton Granite Co. in 1917 and was apparen tly among the first
to recognize granite dust as the cause of silicosis. He set up experime nta l appara tus

and tried to convince the manufacturers to follow suit. But the device had to be worn
by each worker, and the hood and hose involved were so heavy and cumbersome that
most workme n simply refused to wear them.
Morris, who worked under Healy, agreed to use the device, paving the way for
more advanced suction and ventilation equipme nt.
Death from silicosis was so widespread that Saturday night benefits were com-
monplace, and a sana to rium was built in Barre. The beautiful Hope Ceme tery in
Barreis dotted with granite memorials to silicosis victims, many of them carved with
loving care by co-worke rs or rela tives.
The breakth rough came in 1937, when $300,000 worth of ventilating equipme nt
was installed in eighty plants, making dust control practically universal and elimi-
nating the silicosis problem.

A worker at the Lillie Granite Co. in Montpelier operates what was then the largest polishing machine in the
world. The polisher was manufactured in AuUand, Vermont

Bane Granite Assocla5on Pholo

42 Carved in Stone


The early 1900s marked a period of labor and politi cal unres t, not only for Barre's
granite industry, but in developing nations around the world.
In 1877, the Granite Cutters International Association had been formed in Maine
to fight fo r better wages and working conditions. With th e Scots taking the lead,
Barre workers formed their own local in 1886, which soon became the largest
branch of all. Somewhat surprisingly, the first union organizing attempts met with
little opposition from the owners.
T he uni on's first request was to shorten the 10-hour workday on Saturday, wi th
no decrease in pay. The granite manufacturers replied pro mptly; "In looking at the
matter as a demand for an increase in pay (which it practically is) the manufacturers
decided almost unanimously that they could not afford to grant it in any form. "
Quitting work at four in the afternoon was deemed "impracticable" because loads

Quarry workers take a photo break.

Courlasy Atch/ves ol Barre Hlslory, Aldrich Public Ubrary

Inside an old stone shed.

Barre Granite Associatio n Photo

of sto ne came in after that hour and had to be unloaded.

T he companies agreed to halt the workday at 5 p.m. on Saturdays. But they added,
"... we respectfully decline to pay for the time not actually spent." In addition, the
manufacturers said they would make up the lost hour by commencing work five
minutes earlier each morning and noon time.
It may not have been what they wanted, but the new unio n thanked the bosses for
their "prompt and courteous" response, which they published in the newspaper. It
isn't known how the issue was finally resolved. The Barre E nterprise no ted on April
19, 1887, "the issue of quitting work at five o'clock on Saturday afternoon has not
been settled. Some of the men want to work ten hours a day, while another portion
think nine hours is sufficient"
By 1890, virtually all segments of the granite industry were unio nized. That same
year, a union request for a nine hour work day was rebuffed, leading to a three day
walkout-- apparen tly the first Management dismissed some strikers and replaced
them \V.ith non-union help. The dispute was eventually settled and the companies
agreed to rehire the strikers.
But the seeds for future l abor discord were planted in 1892 when a threa tened
manufacturers' lockout triggered a strike by someone thousand workers that lasted
five months.
44 Carved in Stone


On April 6, 1889, representatives from fourteen granite firms met at the Odd
Fellows Hall to begin planning for a display at the World's Columbian Exposition
in Chicago in 1893. T hose delegates quickly recognized that they had many other
common and ongoing concerns and interests than the fair, however, and out of that
meeting was born the Barre Granite Manufacturers Association. With Alexander
Gordon installed as the first president and William Barclay as secretary, the
organization, later renamed the Barre Granite Association, began.
William Barclay (the son of the first secretary) wrote in a trade publication in 1939
that dues were set at $4 for the first yea r and the first order of business was creation
of a membership committee.
Some of the charter member-companies are still in opera tion, including Beck &
Beck, Inc., and the Chioldi Granite Corp.

A six-horse team hauls a sled loaded with a 12-ton granite block at the Barclay Brothers plant in 1904. (Inset
shows founder William Barclay, first secretary of the Barre Granite Association.)

Bal18 Granite Association Pholos


This monument to Scottish poet Robert Burns is considered one of the finest examples of
granite craftsmanship in the world. It was carved at the Barc lay Brothers plant.
Barre Granffa Association Photo
46 Carved in Stone


Barre Granite Association PfloV

Barre Granite Association Ptdo



Barre Granite Association Photo

Stone ...

Barre Granite Association PholD

Courtesy Archives of Barre History, Aldrich Public Ubrary

48 Carved in Stone

The Veterans Memorial in downtown Barre.

/Jl.H lf'f M l't.V /:\. lfi ~·..

l)lfjf)L~w~v~''1 ·,7:.:
M A/fll l hg,(\Jg~~Tlf~· l'H')
. llURN 1:-f; lllHJ ./\R.Y 17. l'tZ A
.J U Dt!£
ftt\S1'6RN 01s1·1t11-·1
.JAN lo J')Z3 - . J AN. I. t'J"£'J
P1n::s101NC J UDt:t-,
J.l\C K SON c.;ouN·r-v
JAN. I. 19 27 - JAN. I, t•J CJ S
JAN . 3 . fCJ3~ - J AN. 18. l')45
JAN . 20. 1945 - /\PR., 12.. 1 94~
APR . 12. 1945 - JAN. 20. 19 53

It is said that a bit of Barre is in every town and city in the

country. Many famous Americans have been memorialized
with Barre granite.

Barre artistry in granite.

Barre GranilB Association Photo

20th Century

"No one has yet found the bottom

of a good Barre granite quarry."


It isn't surprising that Barre --with its colorful mix of nationalities and difficult
living a nd working conditions -- proved to be ferti le ground for the roots of
Indeed, many of the immigrants brought with them from their homeland the
seeds for social change. For
Europe of that era was a hot-
bed of conflicting personalities,
political philosophies, move-
me nts and union activism.
Into this setting stepped
Carlo Abate.
Born in Milan, Italy, in l&rl,
Abate began work in a stone
carver's studio at age 12 and
quickly became an apprentice,
do ing rough stonework, clean-
ing the studio and beginning to
learn the art of hand carving.
Abate's education was
forged not only in the carver's
studio, however; he also learned
important lessons from Italy's
political turmoil. Already a tal-
e nted artist and on his way to
recognition as a master, he
Noted sculptor Carlo Abate.
opened his own studio in Mi-
Courlasy Archives of Barre HlstOty, Aldrich Publi c LlbraJy
lan and won several prizes and
Then tragedy struck. Abate lost three of his five children and his wife to an
epidemic. After two years in seclusion with his two surviving youngs ters, Abate
immigrated to the United States in 1896, settling in the growing granite region
around Quincy, Massachusetts.
54 Carved in Stone

In 1899, he moved to Barre into a boarding ho use on Blackwell Street and

established his own anarchist weekly newspa per, Cron aca Sovversiva -- the Subver-
sive Chronicle.
Abate opened a drawing school for youngsters, subsidized by the Barre Granite
Ma nufacturers Association. He charged rates low enough so even the children of
poor families could a ttend, and the school was popular among parents anxious to
find a way to help their children qualify for higher payingjobs in the gra nite industry.
Like U.S. commerce in general, the Barre gra nite industry was going through
wrenching growing pains around the turn of the century.
There were few laws in those days protecting workers from exploitation or
dangerous working conditions, and the granite companies -- like most America n
industry-- groped to strike a balance between safe, happy workers and the bottom
Hooker reports several fatal accidents and near misses, and he quotes one
superintendent as saying he avoided accidents by refusing to hire careless workers.
"If I saw a man go under tha t stone," the boss said, po inting to a block suspended
fro m a derrick, "I would discharge him."
Working in the qua rries was tough, dangerous wo rk, to be sure; a report to the
Vermont Commissione r of Industries listed 32 fatal accidents between 1914 and
1926, a majority involving the quarries rather than the sheds. "The greatest danger
seems to be from being struck or crushed by the stone, a nd in a few cases, by the
explosion," the report said.
But the same could be said for most wo rk in that post-industrial revolution
period. In 1911, for instance, 145 worke rs were killed in a fire at the Triangle
Shirtwaist Co. in New York City.

Social and athletic clubs were a vital part of the social life
of the Italian immigrants who worked in Barre's granite industry.
Courtesy Atchives of Barre History, Ndrich Public Library


Across the country, the years leading up to and followi ng Wo rld War I were filled
with union activism, strikes, lockouts, general labor discord. In Barre, a bitter
granite strike in 1922 prompted some companies ro import large numbers of
French-Canadian workers from Quebec to keep the quarries and sheds running.
That introduced a second major wave of immigrants, o ne tha t caused deep resent-
ment between the old time Italians and the newcomers. A 1933 walkout brought
four companies of Vermont National Guardsmen to Barre, escorting strikebreak-
ers to and from work with fixed bayonets.
In all, there were a dozen s trikes between 1890 and 1933. With that unde rcurrent
of unionists, socialists, pacifists and ana rchists, Barre gained a reputation as an

Installing granite paving blocks on Barre's Main Street about 1900.

Couttesy Atchlves of Barre HistOTy, Aldrich Public LibTafY

56 Carved in Stone

Italian families in Barre took in children of striking textile workers from Lawrence, Mass. in February 1912.
This photo was taken in front of the Socialist Hall, reportedly to assure the parents of their safety.
Courtesy Atchives of Barra Hislol)', Aldrich Public Library

activist hotbed, playing host to such "radicals"as Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas,
Mothe r Jones, "Big Bill" Hayward and Samuel Gompers. Anarchist leader Emma
Goldman, an early feminist, spoke in Barre severa l times. But one scheduled lecture
was blocked by police after a gro up of citizens reportedly asked the mayor to
In 1911, textile workers, organized by the radical lntcrnational Workers of the
World (IWW or "Wobblies"), walked off their jobs in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Barre's working-class community rose in support. Children of the Massachusetts
strikers were sent to Barre to live with the families of granite workers until the
dispute was settled. A Socialist, Robert Gordon, was even elected mayor of Barre
in 1912.
But a ltho ugh the Barre gra nite community,
particularly the Ita lians, were considered "radi-
cal" by early 20th century standards, they did not
espouse viole nce and were not wild-eyed bomb-
th rowers.
'They did not want to overthrow government,"
according to C.O. Gra nai. Rather, they wanted
"bread, butter, a decent home and proper educa-
tion fo r their children."
Granai, who died in 1988, himself was a text-
book example of the Italian wave of immigrant
Emblem on Socialist Block.

success stories. One of 18children, he lived with his family in the teeming tenements
of New York before seeking a better life in Vermont. The family settled in Barre,
and by 1912 -- at age 15 -- he was a stonecutter for the Jones Brothers Co. Later, he
became a prominen t attorney, mayor of Barre and state legislator.
It was reported that the strike of 1922 was not caused by agitators. The causes
apparently went deeper. Industry was slowly emerging from the long working day
and men wanted more time with their families. No longer content with the bare
necessities of life, they also wanted more money. But mostly, they wanted the
elimination of dust.
A host of publications sprung up in the Italian community, some radical, some
mild. "II Buffone" (The Buffoon) was satiric in nature, while "Lo Scalpellino" (The
Stonecutter) was anarchistic.
In 1907, Louis Galleani was arrested in Barre and charged with inciting a riot
during a silk mill strike in New Jersey five years earlier. In Barre, hundreds of his
countrymen cheered Galleani and protested his arrest.
On a Saturday night in O ctober of 1903, the seething cauld ron of political and
social activism boiled
over. A Socialist fro m
New York named Ser-
rati, who had been criti-
cal of the anarchists, was
scheduled to speak at the
Socialist Block, built in
Barre by volunteers
about 1890. He arrived
la te, and the audience
- socialist a nd anarchist
alike- began hooting and
yelling. A nasty mob
mentality took hold,
tempers flared, men
As he was being

Stone carver Elia Corti was slain during a scuffle

between Socialists and Anarchists.
This monument was carved by grieving relatives.

Barre Granite Association Pholos

58 Carved in Stone

ejected fro m the hall, Alex Garetto pulled a pistol and fired twice into the crowd.
Elia Corti, a noted stone carver for Barclay Bros., who fo ur years earlier had carved
the panels for the pedestal o f the magnificent Robert Burns memorial, fell mo rtally
During his trial, Garetto claimed his life had been threatened and said he fired
in self-defense. But he was convicted a nd sent to the state prison a t Windsor. After
serving a twelve year sentence, he was released and returned to Italy.
Corti's likeness, carved in Barre granite by his grieving brother William and
bro ther-in-law Jo hn Comi, stands vigil today at H ope Cemetery.
In 1952, another bitter strike rocked the industry, one having severe ramifica-
tions for the compa nies; during the six months the Barre workers walked the picket
lines, granite companies from Georgia and elsewhere made deep inroads in Barre's
midwestern markets.
But as happened throughout most American commerce, Barre's granite indus-
try and its unions eventually reached a truce. Reason prevails where militancy o nce
"I think, overall, management and the unions get alo ng fairly well," the business
manager for the Barre Granite Cutters Association said in a 1988 newspa per
interview. "We have negotiations and we agree to things a nd that's the way it goes."
In the same article, the president of the Rock of Ages Corporation agreed: "My
overall opinion, speaking industry-wide, is that there has been good cooperation
between labor and management."

Former President Teddy Roosevelt spoke in Barre on Aug. 31, 1912, three years after he left office.
He delivered his speech from in front of what is now the Barre Granite Association office.
Courtesy A/chives of Barre HislDry, Ndrich Public Libtaty

Vermont Lieutenant Governor S. Hollister Jackson drowned here during the Flood of '27.
Courlesy kchives of 8amJ HislOly, Aldrich Public Library


In November o f 1927, union and management, granite cutter and banker all put
aside their differences and faced a common enemy -- unspeakable tragedy.
It had rai ned heavily in Ve rmont tha t summer,and the grou nd was soaked to the
limit. Two days of to rrential ra in sent rivers and streams raging over their banks in
an orgy of destruction as Ve rmonters watched with horror and disbelie f.
Vermont Lieutenant Governor S. Ho llister Jackson left his o ffice at the Sta te-
house in Montpelier and drove home to Barre. But he was blocked by a raging
current a short distance from his home, so he abando ned his car to the rising water
and began wading to his house. Suddenly, be fo re the horrified eyes o f his neighbors,
he slipped and was swept away by normally tranquil Potas h Brook. His body was
la ter fo und about a mile away.
When the rain finally stopped a nd the water receded, 84 people were dead across
the state, most of them along the Winooski River valley. Entire villages were
obliterated and damage was estimated a t more than $28 million, at pre-Depression
prices. In Barre, seven died and damage exceeded $1.2 million.
60 Carved in Stone

"Although the flooded area was at its worst in the valleys of the Winooski and
White Rivers, the Ba rre granite industry itself escaped practically intact," the Rock
of Ages Magazine related. "It is true tha t in a few instances manu factu ring plants
were submerged. Others, ifleft unto uched, were temporarily isolated by the rush of
"Yet the structural damage was next to negligible and had the elements been
equally sparing of the ra ilroads and the sources of water supply, scarcely a week
would have elapsed ere the granite industry of Vermont, with its vital bearing upon
the prosperity of the state, would have been ready fo r resumption." Despite that
somewhat cheery view, the fact remains that the Flood of '27 virtually shut down the
Barre granite industry fo r about fo ur months.

Raging flood waters ripped the Tucker residence in Barre off its foundation and sent it fl oating down the river.

Ccurtesy Archives of Barre Hislofy, Aldrich Public Ubrary



In the early 1900s, the Barre granite industry remained decentralized and
diverse, comprised of dozens of firms -- some large, ma ny small.
A U.S. Geological Survey map from 1905 lists no fewer than fo rty-two operat-
ing quarries in Barre, owned by about two dozen firms. One of the la rgest operations
was Barclay Bros., founded in 1887 by William Barclay and William Littlejohn.
Barclay is said to have been a farm servant and plo ughman in Scotla nd, until he
reached manhood a nd served an a pprenticeship with a granite cutter in his native
shire. In 1875, he immi-
grated to Quebec, only to
return to Scotland a year
later. In 1880, Barclay
resettled in the granite
cente r a t Quincy, Massa-
chusetts. He made peri-
odic pilgrimages back to
Scotland before finally
settling in Barre in 1886.
He was the first secretary
of the Barre Granite
Manufacture rs Associa-
tion and served three terms
as Barre's mayor.
In 1930, Barclay Bros.
and nine other firms were
assimilated into the Rock
of Ages Corporation, a
consolidation that changed
forever the face of the Barre
granite industry.
It all began with George
Barron Milne, born in
H. W. Varnum, Rock of Ages co-founder.
62 Carved in Stone

A berdeen, Scotland, in 1857 and an apprentice granite cutter at the age of seven-
teen. Swept up by the immigrant wave, he settled in Barre in 1883and two years later
formed a manufacturing partnership known as Milne and Wyllie, which acquired a
quarry in G raniteville. Eventually, M ilne became the sole owner and began looking
for a new partner. H e chose James Boutwell, a native o f M ontpelier and a railroad
engineer by trade who had saved enough money to purchase a granite company.
The third piece of the puzzle fell into place in 1905 when H arvey Varnum,
ano ther native Vermonter and engineer , teamed up with Milne and Boutwell. At
first, the Boutwell, Milne and V arnum Corporation concentrated on quar rying and
selling their stone to local manufacturers. But they quickly recognized the need fo r
diversifica tion and built a large, modern plant near their quarries.
Milne, Boutwell and Varnum were no t pleased wi th the way granite was being
marketed, so in 1914 they turned to a B urlington advertising agency for help. The
agency developed the name "R ock of Ages" fo r a trademark. T he three partners
wer e initially skeptical, fearing repercussions i f they used the name of a religious
hymn to sell a commercial product. But they put their concerns aside and the most
fa mous name in the industry was adopted for their quarry in G raniteville.
In 1930, Rock o f A ges acquired ten Barre granite manufacturing companies, in-
cludingsomeof the oldes t names in the industry, and marched double time into the
highly competi tive manufacturin g and wholesa le marketplace.
T hat S6 million merger consolidated under one corporate roo f fully one-third
o f all the granite manufactured in Barre. "At the office of the R ock o f Ages
Corporation it was said that the prime purpose of the consolida tion is to attai n
uniformity of finish on at least a third o f the granite produced in Barre and to
es tablish a stabilized price on that third which is sold as R ock of A ges," T he Monu-
ment and Cemetery R eview, a trade publication, reported.

Splitting a granite block was gruelling work.

BafTfl Granite Association Pharo


Over the years, new companies continued to open, new owners bought old
companies, companies went out of business and companies consolidated. All the
wh ile, the industry grew and prospered with the mix of old and new.
The.operative word is continuity; many of the granite companies that evolved
have remained in the same families for three or four generations.
Grearson & Lane Co., Inc., a major monumental turning works, was founded in
1894and continued under its third generation ofGrearson family ownership almost
a century later.
Beck & Beck, Inc. is one of the oldest family owned and operated granite

After the block was split free from its bed, it was lifted from the quarry with massive steel cables.
Bane GranitB Association Pho«>
64 Carved in Stone

manufacturers in the nation, founded in 1896 by Lothar Beck and his cousin John.
Lothar Beck immigrated to Barre in 1890 and spent six years learning the art of
stonecutting before going into business for himself. Later John's brother Werner
j oined the firm. In 1989, with the company's centennial nearing, Beck & Beck was
still operated by the same family.
And if one is looking for an
archetypical rags-to-riches success
story, he need look no further than
Buttura &Sons. Like so many of his
countrymen, Giovanni Buttura
pursued his dream of a better life
from his home in Carrara, Italy, to
Barre in the early 1900s. Working
as a stonecutter, he saved enough
money by 1915 to buy a $300 Ford
automobile, one of the first in Barre.
H e sold the car three years later
at a one hundred dollar profi t and
invested the windfall to j oin a gran-
ite company partnership. A decade
later, G iovanni Buttura fulfilled his
~· ' ·...
" v "·· ~ -
lifelong dream and opened his own
I company. His four sons later joined
him in the business. Jn 1989, i t was
operated by the immigrant stone-
The Wetmore-Morse Quarry in 1941. cutter's grandsons.
Coorlesy Archives of Barra History, Aldrich Public Library

large diamond-tipped circular saws cut through granite blocks in a traction of the time it used to take.
Barra GIB/lite Association Pt>Olo

By 1989, the Anderson-Frib-

erg Co. was under its third gen-
eration of family management.
It was founded in 1910 as the
Scandia Granite Co., a name
reflecting the fact that the found-
ers, Anthony Friberg and Arthur
Anderson, were natives of
Gladsax, Sweden, who came to
America around the turn of the
century. S.L. Garand & Co.,
founded in 1914 by Simeon
Garand, also remained in fam-
ily hands almost three-quarters
of a century later.
The Desilets Granite Co.
opened its doors for business in
Montpelier in 1923. In 1925,
the Montpelier Granite Works,
which wo uld later manufacture Even with great technological advancements. Barre's granite
industry still depends on dedicated, hard-working people.
a striking memorial for jazz BarreGraniteAssociationPholo

legend Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, was founded. And even as the bottom was
dropping out of the stock marke t in 1929, the C.R. Davidson Company, Inc., was
setting up shop in South
Ryegate. It was followed by
the Adams Granite Co.,
founded in 1934, and Lawson
G ranite a year later. Family
Memorials, Inc., went into
business in 1938 and La Cross
Memorials, Inc., got its start in
1939. All survived the Depres-
sion and the war years and pros-
pered into the 1980s.
Eve n as late as the 1950s,
there were still more than 100
granite firms in the area, but
consolidation was the wave of
the future. Smaller companies
eithe r closed or were bought
out by larger ones.
Not all of the old firms are
in business today. But many
Sandblast operator details a memorial.
Barre Granite Association Pholo
66 Carved in Stone

fo rmer manufacturing companies played vita l roles in the Barre granite industry
over the years, a nd in most cases, their machinery, plants or quarries were bought
out by granite manufacturers still operating in the 1980s.
Some of the cornerstones of the Barre granite industry included the J .O .
Bilodeau Co., Bonazzi & Bonazzi, Brusa Brothers, Cerasoli & Cerasoli, Comolli &
Co., Cook, Wa tkins&Patch Co., theEverlastingMemorial Works, J ohnson & Gus-
tafson, theJurras Granite Co., Langdon Granite Co., Marr & Gordon Granite Co.,
theSanguine tti Granite Co., the South Barre Gra nite Co. and the Yalz Granite Co.
The trend toward consolidation, meanwhile, did not deter hopeful entrepre-
neurs from starting o ut in business, often by acquiring the assets of other granite
companies. New firms continued to spring up, including the R ouleau Granite
Co.(1942), Rivard Granite Co. (1946), Colo mbo Granite Co. (1949), Maurice Me-
moria ls, Inc. (1952), the Cetrangolo Finishing Works (1954), Pepin Granite Co.
(1954), Riverton Memorials, Inc. (1963) and Granite Importe rs, Inc. (1971).
Some combine the old with the new. On a bitter cold winter evening in early
1988, a raging fire roared through the manufacturing plan ts of Nativi & Son, a half-
cen turyold Barre firm. When the owner chose no t to rebuild, the office manager for
Nativi and an independe nt monument salesman stepped in to purchase the assets
a nd keep the tradition a live under the name Gra ni te Industries of Vermont.
And some combine the o ld with the old. In the 1940s and '50s, Rock of Ages
bought the Pirie Quarry (opened 1882), the E.L. Smith Quarry (1881) and the
Wetmore-Morse Quarry (1877). It is perhaps a las ting trib ute to the innovative
granitemanE.L. Smit h that his quarry ranked as the highest producerof dimension
granite in the nation during the 1980s, more than a centu ry after he opened it.
In 1907 the Jones Brothers Company, one of the o ldest continuously operating

Many of the immigrants who contributed to Barre's granite industry are memorialized in Hope Cemetery,
considered one of the most beautiful in the country.
Barre Grams Association Pholo

America's veterans have been honored in world famous Barre

granite in communities across the country.
Barre Granite Association Photo

granite operations in the United States, bought the Wells-Lamson Company

(founded in 1883). Wells-Lamson's assets included the so-called Wells-Lamson
Quarry, the first granite quarry in Barre, opened by Robert Parker.
Maurice Kelley, who started out as a monument salesman in Barre shortly after
World War I, bought majority control of the Jones Brothers Company in 1963 when
he was 69 years old. H e went on to become the true "elder statesman" of the Barre
granite industry.
In 1986, Kelley-- then 92 -- sold the Wells-Lamson Company to R ock of Ages.
This brought the Barre granite quarries full cycle, since Rock of Ages then owned
all five operating quarries in Barre, including the one R obert Parker opened after
the War of 1812.
But these five quarries produced more granite in a year than all 68 tha t were in
operation in Barre in 1902 -- a striking tribute to techno logy. Where as many as
1,500 men may have worked in the quarries at the turn of the century, about 150
worked there in 1986. The same phenomenon has occurred in the plants. M odern
equipment has eliminated most of the back-breaking work and greatly increased
safety. Wages at the turn of the century were about $15 for a fifty-four to sixty hour
week. Wages and benefits in 1988 averaged about $560 for a 40 hour work week.
From mechanical derricks in 1871 and the railroads in 1875, technological ad-
vancemen t has always played a vital role for the people of the Barre granite industry.
68 Carved in Stone


Challenges in many forms have been confronted and resolved by an industry that
has known i ts share of ups and downs. Competition from non-union states (Barre
is the only place in the country where the granite industry is fully unionized),
competition from abroad and social trends continually impact upon Barre's mar-
kets. As a result, Barre granite firms con tinually seek to maintain a competitive
W here once pneumatic drills revo lutionized the industry, computer-driven
saws can cut through stone at the rate of a foot an hour. Radio controlled equipment
sends out beeps if something goes awry and superheated pinpoints of flame cut
easily through quarry stone that
once resisted strong men armed
wi th steel pins and sledge
hammers. Two-hundred ton
cranes hoist huge blocks of
granite instead of small blocks
hoisted by men and teams of
horses. Automation accom-
plishes in hours what raw
manpower used to take weeks.
In the quarries, steel cable
encrusted wi th industrial dia-
monds are fitted through holes
drilled in the granite by auto-
mated machines, then are set
spinning by diesel engines to
saw th e blocks loose from the
beds in which they have lain
since the dawn of time.
Computers play a vital role in today's Barre granite industry.
Master designers create me-
Barra Granite Association PholD morials with computers, then

send their drawings across the country via telefax machines.

As always, Barre's granite people are ingenious and self-sufficient. More often
than not, when new equipment or technology is needed, it is developed and built
nearby, and when a mammoth granite moving or shaping machine breaks, it is fixed
at home. In fact, an entire sub-industry has developed to support the granite
The Barre granite industry has not simply survived, it has earned a prominent
status in the dimension stone business. In terms of dollar value, the U.S. Bureau of
Mines ranked Vermont's stone industry first in the United States in sales of
dimension stone in 1987. Rock of Ages Corporation was rated the nation's largest
dimension granite quarrier.
Scores of companies, ranging from multi-million dollaroperations to small two-
man operations, employed some 1,500 people and did more than $80 million in
sales in 1988. The companies that comprise the industry reflect a marriage ofspace-
age technology and century-and-a-half-old traditions, of new ideas and an old-
world commitment to quality.
The efforts of thousands of people -- from the early quarrymen to the immi-
grants to the 20th century e ntrepreneurs -- have not been wasted; they have built a
strong and important legacy for the future.
Back in 1905, a Boston investment broker, the W.A. Manning Co., offered its
clients stock in a firm it had acquired, the Barre Granite & Quarry Co.
"We do not hesitate ... to recommend this security to our clients as gilt-edge, con-
servative and unusually productive of earnings," Manning boasted in a prospectus.
"No one has yet found the bottom of a good Barre granite quarry."
That is still true. It is likely that no one ever will.

This sculpture, a tribute to the

many Italian immigrants who con-
tributed so much to Barre's granite
industry, stands in the city's North
End, where many of them lived.

Related Interests