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Encyclopedia of Baldwin Wallace University History: Other - Q

An Index of Historical Content and Their Sources


Citation: "The Big Quarry," The Baldwin (Berea, OH) Feb. 1895.

To some persons our quarries, though perhaps interesting, may not he particularly beautiful; hut to one who loves the town from long association, they have many points of beauty, and I shall take no greater subject than that which is familiarly called the Big Quarry, to distinguish it from the smaller one near it. It is situated behind the Berea Bank.

When I was a child of nine or ten that quarry was a scene of busy activity. Early on summer mornings streams of laboring men with dinner pails in their hands made their way to this, the scene of their day's labor, the place where they earned their bread, in truth, by the sweat of their brows.

Engraving of Berea's quarries as they appeared in the late nineteenth century, as pictured in the Cleveland Press, March 14, 1894. Source: Numbered Boxes, Box 55, Lyceum Village German Wallace College.

Click on the image to enlarge.

At that time my home was on the south side of town and we children invariably chose to make our way through this interesting, though forbidden country, rather than save shoes and clothing by taking a longer, though safer, route. At my earliest recollection of the place it was already quarried to a great depth, and .extended, as some of you who have been here a year or two will remember, to the very foundations of the Bank building, and along the road on that side to within a few feet ·of the road on the west side. There at the bottom of the stone shore, white in the sun, noisy trenching machines worked away with untiring zeal, busy little drills tapped holes into the hard stone, and, to my childish mind, most interesting of all , a small hand-car stood, at noon and night as we came from school, on a track laid from the north to the south side of the quarry. Here I have spent many blissful moments with other children, both girls and boys, pushing the car up the slight incline and jumping on to ride to the other end of the track.

So much for the quarry in those happy days. Gradually the water came, first a little pool, then it rose higher and higher, until at last the workmen gathered up their tools and left the water to fill to the brim this basin they had made in the earth, until that place formerly so full of busy sounds was nothing but a quiet, blue body of water, glimmering in the sunlight.

Two years ago you would have seen a deep basin walled up with stone on one side, where once, the wall giving way, cast no small part of the public highway into the quiet depth of the water; and on the west side that common blessing of us ,all, the "Hog's Back," by which we learn, in winter, to appreciate the buildings and trees which elsewhere break the winter's blast, and in summer, to be grateful for the cool shade of the fine old maples which are the glory of our town.

In those days had you chosen a quiet moonlighted summer evening to view the beauties of, this scene from the bridge, you would have agreed with me that it is a beautiful spot. You would have seen the dark waters lying as smooth and quiet as a mirror, reflecting the light of moon and stars and the dark line of green shrubs and grasses on the further bank. To the right as you stood facing the scene, the busy saw-mill, working almost silently under the power of electricity, the one brilliantly lighted part of the scene; contrasting with it, to the left a glimpse of Bridge street, deeply shaded by its beautiful trees, and in this deep gloom, one tiny shining star of light, the cheerful lamp-light from the pretty, little brick house on the corner.

Were you careworn and harassed by many cares a glimpse of this quiet scene could not fail to bring a measure of peaceful rest to your weary soul.

Man tears up the earth, dig down into it and leaves an ugly blot, but God sends the water to cover part, and the ·green shrubs and grasses to grow over the rest, and it is all beautiful again.

Man twists and tears and blots his immortal soul, but when he turns it over to God, He sends the waters of salvation and the fruitful trees of righteousness and turns the wilderness into an Eden.

Since that time a large part of our pretty little lake has been filled in, making some parts of our landscape not quite so pretty, but it still has its beauties.

From this same part of our town, I could paint to your minds many other pretty bits from memory's picture gallery.

With limited time and space I can only mention the times when kindly winter spreads a pure, white cover over the unsightly clay banks, and the frost-king turns the water into firm, smooth ice. Then its surface is often crowded with merry skaters, in the afternoon when the pale winter sun looks down upon the scene, and in the evening when it is lit up by the dancing light of a huge bon-fire on the bank, from which some frolicsome boy snatches a blazing brand and dashes swiftly away over the ice, leaving a long line of sparks behind him, and to your ears through the clear air might come the click of bright steel runners mingled with the sound of merry laughter.

This is but one of the beautiful spots, and that perhaps the most unpromising at first thought, as a bit of beauty, and I assure you that if you but use ·your eyes with care, you will find many others and perhaps when you leave us, your mind may still retain pleasant pictures of the home of your alma mater.

Anna M. Nokes

Citation: "Glories of Other Years Mellow Quarries, Unopened This Year," The Berea Enterprise (Berea, OH) March 31, 1936.

A Building of Beautiful Design to be Erected by Mr. and Mrs. John Baldwin, Jr., in Memory of Their Deceased Daughter. 

For the first time in their 90 years of existence, the Berea quarries remain closed when spring comes around. And they may be closed for some time.

Is the glory of the activities which have carved out 150 acres of stone, over? Present officials of the company say not.

Time was, in the hey-day of its activity, when the stone business was the industry that put Berea on the map, built its college, and made the name known the world over. At the height of activities over 700 men were occupied at one time. Of the 3000 population of Berea in 1884, according to Howe's History, three-fourths got their living directly or indirectly from the quarries. From nine to twelve thousand cars were annually loaded with stone taken from the quarries, which placed in a continuous line would make a train 50 miles long.

Last year, just before the mills closed, half the crew, or 150 men, were working, and one of the two mills and half the quarry were busy.

The famous Berea grit is far from exhausted. The rock found here is unique, as far as is known. Its grain runs the long way of the block, making it easy to work, but durable. Other quarries ~how too much variation, making this best for flagging and stone curbing.

Local products were much in demand for road work before concrete came into general use for roads. Sandstone was then used for culverts. It is the belief of officials that in the near future a use will be found for stone in building.

Berea homes rest on a foundation of sandstone about 65 feet thick, tests have shown, the grayish- white stone lying in layers of varying thickness of from six inches to ten feet. There is no surface rock, except where watercourses have worn away the drift clay and shale found everywhere in northern Ohio.

If business conditions improve, it may be found profitable to extend quarry holdings, but this is not so at present. Quarries at West View, Olmsted, Columbia, Lake Abram and Amherst have plenty of stone, but inferior to the Berea product.

Before the invention of the "Baldwin Blower", hundreds of men contracted and died of what was called "grindstone consumption", the lungs after death being found filled with the fine, flourlike dust with which the air was impregnated. Of late years the disease is unknown.

One of the quarries in either Berea or Amherst, Ohio belonging to the Cleveland Stone Company. The treacherous work conditions can be gleaned from presence of enormous stone blocks and towering machinery. Source: Source: Page 236, 1914 Grindstone.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Henry Howe, compiler of Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio, comments upon the disease: "We visited the quarries and watched the interesting process of turning out grindstones. In conversation with one of the workmen he complained to us with a sigh, as though it was hard work to breathe, of the continuous oppressive feeling he had at his chest from the fine powder which was steadily accumulating and filling hi, lungs, and there was no remedy. It was a horrible necessity, working for bread while every hour of industry was but the taking in of more dust for a suffocating death."

Except for the first few years of operation, steam power has been the mainstay, about 20 gang saws being kept at work in season night and day. Pumps were in constant use to keep water out of the quarries. Latterly, motor, have been in general use.

Older residents can recall many of the names made famous by the work here: Wallace, Stearns, Whitney, Stone, Hames, Nichols, McDermott- co-owners with Berea Stone Co. before the Cleveland Stone Co. took over the quarries in July, 1886. For the first three years, McDermott, Stearns and Nichols were the three general superintendents here.

It was not so many years ago that two locomotives were kept continually busy hauling out finished stone. The stories of strikes of the workers, and the philanthropic activities of the owners, are an integral part of the early history.

The Cleveland Quarries Co. now has two sawmills here, a finishing and dressing mill, and the factory. Their product, go all over the world, Amsterdam and Soviet Russia being two good foreign markets. When the mills were running full blast, over 65,000 cubic feet of dressed stone were shipped out of here each month, mostly to Ft. Wayne, Ind., Toledo, Detroit, Marion, and Scottsdale and Warren, Pa. Cleveland is the best market.

The company, besides its local quarries, owns stone in West View, Olmsted Falls, along the Ohio river, Port Austin, Mich., and at Amherst.

Berea grit built Garfield's Monument and the old Superior viaduct, the latter using over 2,000,000 cubic feet of stone. Cleveland Stone products have built such structures as Masonic Temple and Central high school, Cleveland; the Parliament buildings at Ottawa; University building, Toronto; Palmer House, Chicago; Michigan state capitol, Lansing; Chamber of Commerce building, Milwaukee; government court house and post office at Columbus.

The hordes of laborers who flocked the streets after the blowing of the whistle, are gone. Still in the minds of many are the ravages of grit consumption, which killed many workers, and gained mention in historical works.

One of the burr stones, or the lathes first used by John Baldwin in the turning out of grindstones, is being salvaged from its long rest in the mud of Rocky River, and will be erected to the memory of those pioneers who recognized the value of the stone that nature had given Berea. Dr. Dayton T. Gould will furnish a suitable plate and inscription for the stone.

The story of the discovery of the stone by " Grandpa" Baldwin, Connecticut Yankee and early settler, is a part of the history of the city. It was in June, 1842, that the Seminary, backed by Baldwin and others, went bankrupt, and Baldwin assumed the responsibilities. His flour and lathe mills, on the river west of town, would not have paid the debts.

Baldwin, a devout Methodist, set aside an hour each day to pray for guidance. One day, the story goes, as he was returning from the hemlock tree under which he prayed, he found a piece of curious rock which he discovered would put a sharp edge on his knife. Before night he had made the first Berea grit grindstone.

A short time later Baldwin was making $20 a day. It was not long before he invented a model of a lathe to turn out stones, and after sending away for the machinery, he brought the lathe by ox team to the mill on Rocky River. Here the "Institution Lathe" was begun and John Baldwin turned out the first lathe-ground grindstone in history.

Baldwin never saw the real grit that became world famous; the discovery of this came later, after the softer rock had all been turned into grindstones. The present rock is full of shale and hard heads; the quarries ceased over 20 years ago to turn out grindstones.