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Roots Revealed Blog

Quarries of Grit

Posted: 5/7/2014
Posted By: Foster Brown

Learning the history of the Western Reserve has been fascinating to me. The struggles the early settlers endured and the spirit of entrepreneurship they possessed still amaze me. As I explore the history of Cleveland Metroparks, their stories began to surface and I became more intrigued about their lives and their connection to the natural resources.

I guess it is true what they say, the geology of an area truly determined the vocation of the generations before us.  The natural resources dictated where people settled and how they literally carved out a living. Northeast Ohio was and is one of the most heavily endowed areas of the nation when it comes to its diversity of natural resources.

Moving to Ohio nearly eighteen years ago, I didn’t know what awaited me. I was astonished to find how many industries were born out of what was grown, drilled or dug out of the ground. Bog iron, clay, coal, grain, gravel, limestone, lumber, oil, salt, sandstone and shale provided industries that most early residents found themselves engaged in.

However, it is one in particular that drew me in right away. Sandstone quarrying seemed to pop up everywhere I turned when digging for information about Cleveland Metroparks history. My first discovery was in South Chagrin Reservation at Quarry Rock Picnic Area, where a small quarry business was operated in a small village called Griffithsburg (today Bentleyville/Chagrin Falls). Searching around the area with a friend I found remnants of drilled stone markings, derrick bolts and plates, rails of the narrow gauge railroad and discarded cut stones from a finishing mill.

Berea Quarries circa 1880s - Courtesy of Berea Historical Society

Berea Quarry in 1890s - sketch found in 1890 catalog - Cleveland Stone Company

I then discovered that one of the biggest sandstone quarries in Northeast Ohio is now part of Cleveland Metroparks Mill Stream Run Reservation. Baldwin and Wallace Lakes are a remnant of this booming industry. They were old quarries that later filled in with water. Today Baldwin Lake is nearly filled in with sedimentation, but Wallace Lake still serves as a popular recreational site. Now called Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, this educational institution was literally built out of the sandstone that came from James Wallace and John Baldwin’s quarries. Take a drive around the town of Berea and you will get a clear indication that the sandstone industry was king from 1840s through the 1930s. Berea was known as the Grindstone Capital of the World, where its's claimed that 93% of all grindstone in 1890s were produced from the Berea quarries.

Present day sign at Wallace Lake - Mill Stream Run Reservation.

An earlier blog mentioned the Bluestone quarries that were located in Euclid Creek Reservation and other nearby neighborhoods.

Bluestone Quarries

Another area of sandstone quarrying that is visible from a car is in Bedford Reservation. Just west of Tinker’s Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook along the Gorge Parkway are great chunks of sandstone that have been uplifted from below and discarded. It is told that a few families quarried this rock as a small business in the mid to late 1800s.  Smaller quarries are found hidden in the woods north of where Egbert Road and Dunham Road converge. There is no doubt that the landowners or small business adventurers extracted large quantities of stone from this Walton Hills area.

Discarded grist mill  found in abandoned quarry on old Wagar Property - Bedford Reservation

Gigantic discarded pieces  of sandstone on slope heading down to Tinker's Creek - Bedford Reservation

Bradley Woods Reservation was also a site where sandstone was extracted and used for nearby building projects. Cleveland Stone Company, the leading sandstone quarry company in Northeast Ohio, eventually owned most of the industry in the late 1880s through the 1920s. They owned these quarries in Bradley Woods Reservation and the ones in Mill Stream Run Reservation. Take a hike through the reservation and you can spot the depressions and old quarry sites.

These quarries, no matter how large or small, supplied blocks for foundations, building stone, curbing, grindstones, flagging, stones for sharpening scythes and axes to homes and businesses in Northeast Ohio and all over the world. A catalog from 1890 revealed how extensive the sandstone quarry business was and how many items were made from this amazing grit.

Taken from 1890 Cleveland Stone Company catalog.

Grindstone selections from 1890 catalog - Clevleand Stone Company.

Towns such as South Amherst, Independence and Peninsula were birthed out of the sandstone. The Ohio and Erie Canal benefited greatly from this quarried stone as they fashioned each lock, especially in the northern sections.

Cleveland Stone Company shipping dock on the Cuyahoga River/Lake Erie - 1890.

I could have certainly gone deeper into each of these quarries and someday I may with other blogs. The hard life these workers endured to quarry and finish the stone into useable products is remarkable. This also deserves in-depth coverage into their daily grind in the grit. I welcome your insights.  

I am certain there are dozens more quarries in the Western Reserve and on Cleveland Metroparks land that I am unaware of. If you are familiar with any others, please let me know.

Want to know more? Read my blog Bluestone: A Touchstone to the Past.


5/10/2014 10:26:06 PM by Kathy
Great article. Thanks!
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