History of Gouverneur Querry Industries , NY


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The town of Gouverneur is blest with many natural resources, and one which stands near the head of the long list is variously known to the outside trade as " Gouverneur," "St. Lawrence," and "Whitney marble."

This beautiful stone, though so recently utilized, has already gained an almost nation-wide reputation both for monumental and building purposes. It is a very hard and heavy marble, of close and even texture, and susceptible of a high polish. It has a rich, dark-blue color, is finely mottled, and by reason of its marked crystalline structure presents, when finished as a building material, an unusually clean and sparkling appearance. Both as rough ashier and when polished this marble is known as "live stone," in contradistinction to most of the dark American marbles which are generally of a dull or dead color. Its close texture prevents the absorption of moisture and thus protects it from disintegration from the effects of frost. The absence of an appreciable amount of iron guards against the appearance of rust; because of its peculiar structure it does not absorb dirt or become streaked or stained, and each recurring rain washes it fresh and clean.

Having successfully stood the severe and searching tests that all building material must undergo before acceptance by the United States authorities, this marble now stands on an enviable equality with granite and the various other durable stones used in the construction of Government works or in the erection of public buildings.

A chemical analysis shows its composition to be:

Carbonate of Lime


Carbonate of Magnesia


Oxide of Iron and Aluminum a mere trace.




Water and loss




Its resistance to pressure or crushing strength is 12,692 pounds per square inch; its weight is 169.99 pounds per cubic foot.

This truly valuable marble, although existing in almost unlimited quantities and cropping out in innumerable places in this vicinity, was utilized only for ordinary rough wall purposes until the year 1825, when Jasper C. Clark, of Hailesboro, town of Fowler, extemporized a small mill at that place for sawing this material, which was then known as "gray lime-stone." This mill stood on "Mill Creek," near the spot occupied by the Agalite Fiber Company's first talc mill in Hailesboro. Mr. Clark was succeeded by Addison Giles in the marble-sawing business.

This industry continued in a small way for several years, but lacking a demand which warranted its continuance, was abandoned in the year 1837. Numerous headstones there sawed are still standing in the cemeteries of this vicinity. Their almost perfect state of preservation are enduring monuments not only to the virtues of the dead whose resting places they mark, but also to the excellent qualities of the marble, which seems to defy the "ruthless tooth of time." Water tables, window-sills and caps, mantels, fire jambs, and other articles which the times demanded, were also sawed and placed upon the market. The old Spencer House, erected in 1825, was trimmed with this marble. The late Isaac Starbuck's residence, the old Eager House, and the Gouverneur Seminary still show samples of this marble which was sawed in Hailesboro

About the year 1838, Hermon Rice, of Wegatchie, town of Rossie, constructed a mill for sawing this marble at that village. His mill stood on the bank of the Oswegatchie River, on the spot now vacant, between the woolen and saw mills. The stone for sawing was quarried on what is flow the Elias Teal and Titus Downey farms, near Wegatchie village. This business was continued with small success and in a desultory manner for about ten years, when it was abandoned. Although over fifty years have elapsed since the business was given up there are many grave stones still standing in the Wegatchie and neighboring cemeteries, besides pieces of sawed marble in some of the older dwellings of that town, which testify to the prior existence of that dead industry.

Early in the year the firm of "Whitneys (D. J. and T. J.) & Honeycomb" (John S.) was formed in Gouverneur for the purpose of doing the mason work for the erection of the present Main street bridge across the Oswegatchie River in Gouverneur village. In searching for suitable stone for piers and abutments, they found on what was then known as the J. C. Barney dwelling-house lot on Somerville street, near the village, marble in layers of convenient thickness for quarrying. This marble was cap rock of a light color. The company readily procured a sufficient quantity for their purpose. This was practically the initial step toward the revival of the marble industry, which had been abandoned many years before.

Outside of the bridge contract D. J. & T. J. Whitney had contracts for building work in 1876, among which was the marble trimmings for the Presbyterian church at Canton, N. V., the quarried marble in the rough being purchased by them of the firm of "Whitneys and Honeycomb."

This firm was dissolved in 1877, the Whitneys continuing the quarry in connection with their monumental marble business. The same year they furnished marble trimmings for the County Clerk's office in Canton and dressed and furnished the marble for the fronts of the Draper and Van Namee blocks, now standing on Main street in Gouverneur.

Up to this time the only marble ever quarried or sawed in this vicinity had been the cap rock, or light colored variety. In December, 1877, the Whitneys quarried a few blocks of the dark colored variety on the" Barney lot," the opening being made on the south side of the Somerville road, nearly opposite the northeasterly end of the present St. Lawrence Marble Company's mill. In 1878 the first dark colored Gouverneur marble monument was finished by the Whitney Brothers and was subsequently erected on the Joseph E. McAllaster lot in the River Side Cemetery, Gouverneur.

In the fall of 1878 the Whitney Brothers dissolved and the business was continued by Daniel J. Whitney, and he in. 1879. sold and shipped small quantities of the dark colored, and unfinished marble to dealers in several different States and Canada. In the latter part of this year he shipped several carloads of rough blocks to marble- sawing mills in Southerland Falls, Vt., and Cleveland, Ohio, where they were prepared and sold to the trade for monumental purposes. In the spring of 1880 the demand for this marble was largely in excess of Mr. Whitney's limited financial ability to produce. By reason of legal complications between Mr. Barney and the Barney heirs, Mr. Whitney abandoned his quarry and moving his tools and machinery directly across the road to the Preston farm he opened what is now the famous St. Lawrence Marble Company's quarry. At this time Joseph E. McAllaster of Gouverneur, who, having become financially and otherwise interested in the enterprise, secured a lease of the about nine acre triangular piece of the J. B. Preston farm, which comes to a point at the intersection of the R., W. and O. railroad with the Somerville road, and July 1, 1880, under the name of the

Whitney Granite and Gouverneur Marble Company," the marble business was begun on a scale more commensurate with the importance of this very promising industry. In the fall of this year the system of quarrying by cutting channels with hand drills was introduced. This method proved too slow for practical purposes and in March, 1882, a diamond-drill channeling machine, run by steam, was put in operation. A little later a large derrick was erected and steam pumps were intro duced to clear the quarry of water. Thus equipped, the getting out of large blocks was vigorously pushed, and as fast as raised, were shipped by rail to Lyman Strong & Son, Cleveland, Ohio, where they were sawed, finished and sold to the trade. D. J. Whitney was interested in and continued as superintendent of this quarry and business until it changed hands.

After extended negotiations, this plant was sold to capitalists of New York city, and in May, 1884, the "St. Lawrence Marble Company" was organized with a capital stock of $250,000. The officers are: John Benham, president and treasurer; J. W. Griswold, first vice-president; M. M. Belding, jr., second vice-president; John R. Emery. secretary; and T. J. Whitney, superintendent. The present 16-gang mill was erected and sawing began the following November. The mill is one story high, 82x221 feet in size, and stands half a mile southwest of the corporate limits of Gouverneur village. The mill, which is substantially built, is equipped with rubbing beds, turning lathes and every other labor-saving appliance. A branch of the R., W. and O. railroad runs into their stock yard alongside a wharf of the right height for convenience in loading cars. The motive power, which is steam, is generated by a battery of four boilers and runs a 150 horse-power Watertown steam engine, which drives the almost endless machinery of mill, quarry, pumps and derricks. An artesian well, 450 feet deep, furnishes abundant water for all desired purposes.

Quarry No. 1, which has a surface opening of 110x200 feet, has reached a depth of 95 feet, and yet huge blocks weighing 20 tons are readily raised to the surface by their mighty derricks. The stock list of this and all other companies here includes building stone in all forms, rough, dressed, turned and polished, as well as monumental material.

The first rough, broken ashier of a dark color, was used by J. T. Reynolds in 1884 for the front of the four-story Reynolds Block, on Main street, Gouverneur.

Gougerneur Marble Company.- The present officers are: Daniel Peck, president; A. Z. Turnbull, vice-president; Lewis Eckman, treasurer; and George P. Ormiston, secretary. The capital stock is $75,000.

In November, 1881, the following citizens of Gouverneur, locally named "the Twelve Apostles," viz.: S. B. Van Duzee, John S. Honeycomb, John W. Tracy, Daniel Peck, Henry E. Gates. George P. Ormiston, Abel Godard, T. J. Whitney, Austin Meyeur, Fred Haile, E. H. Neary and Lewis Eckrnan, purchased thirty acres of land of William McKean, near the southwest limits of Gouverneur village, and January 3, 1882 organized the "Whitney Marble Company" with a capital stock of $750,000, A quarry was at once opened, a four gang mill erected and equipped, and sawing begun the following fall. The business prospered until May 3. 1884, when the mill and machinery were wrecked by the explosion of a boiler, which killed the following persons: Joseph Oliver and Oliver Dashneau, boiler makers of Watertown, N. Y. (who were making repairs); W. Frank Newcomb, Eli Jackson, W. T. Miller and Charles Murray, employees. The company's loss was $20,000. The mill was at once rebuilt and business was continued until 1888, when, owing to financial complications, the company was placed in the hands of D. G. Wood, as receiver, who continued operations until the following fall, when matters were adjusted and the company was reorganized August 23, 1888, as the "Gouverneur Marble Company"

April, 1889, D. J. Whitney became general manager, business pros pered and the mill was enlarged to a capacity of nine gangs of saws, a rubbing bed was added and now the plant is complete and first-class in every particular. The regular force employed is fifty men, and the annual output of stock is about 50,000 cubic feet. The quarry is L shaped, being 100 x 100 feet and 100 x 60 feet.

The Davidson Marble company was organized July 25, 1890, with Alexander Davidson, president; John A. Davidson, treasurer; Charles Stedman, secretary; A. C. Davis, superintendent of mill; and Erwin B. Hurlbut, superintendent of quarry. Capital stock, $300,000.

In 1888 Messrs Davidson & Son of Chicago, who are very extensive producers and manufacturers of, and dealers in, marble, having quarries and mills in several States of the Union, purchased of J. B. Preston, ten acres of land lying southwest of the St. Lawrence Marble Company's property, and at once opened a quarry under the supervision of E. B. Hurlbut. This quarry, which is known as No. 1, was successfully worked until July, 1893, when a superior quality of marble was uncovered on the Milton Barney farm, during the grading of the Gouverneur and Oswegatchie Railroad. This deposit being convenient to the railroad, the company secured land, transferred their quarry machinery to, and opened quarry No. 2, from which they are taking material for sawing.

The leading members of this company, believing that water power was preferable to steam, and a suitable building site and water power having been tendered them on satisfactory terms on the Black River, near the R., W. and 0 Railroad, just east of the city of Watertown, N.Y. a splendid 18 gang mill, with two rubbing beds, turning lathes and other finishing works were erected there in 1889 and 1890.

This company advertises its product as "New York marble."

Empire State Marble Company.- The deposit from which this company takes its material is located on the Charles Overacker farm, a little over a mile southwest of Gouverneur village. In 1890 John W. Tracy of Gouvernenr discovered an excellent quality of marble, which crops out as a ledge, and after securing the right to prospect and an option for purchase, induced capitalists to join him in the marble business. The above named company was organized early in 1891, land was purchased, a quarry opened and a fine four-gang mill was erected the same year. The company officers are: John R. Wood, president; Gilbert Mollison, secretary; James Dowdle, treasurer; and J. M. Esser, superintendent. The directors are J. R. Wood of Appleton, Wis., G. Mollison and J. Dowdie of Oswego, N. Y., and J. W. Tracy of Gouverneur. A spur from the R., W. and O. Railroad runs to the mill.

The company employs twenty-five men and is doing a prosperous business.

Northern New York Marble Company.- The late D. G. Wood of Gouverneur was the active agent in organizing this company in January, 1891. The officers are ; Samuel H. Beach, president and treasurer; and Samuel F. Bagg, vice-president (both of Watertown, N. Y.); and John Webb, jr., of Gouverneur, secretary.

A model eight gang mill, equipped with rubbing bed, turning lathes and all modern conveniences was erected and put in operation the same year. The quarry and mill are located west of and adjoining the Empire State Marble Company's property on a plot of seventeen acres of land from the William Kitts farm. The company's works are connected with the R, W. and O. Railroad by a side track. This company employs a force of forty men under the superintendence of Peter Finegan, and is doing successful business.

Red Granite.- Red granite, of a superior quality, crops out at Hailesboro, town of Fowler, and Natural Dam, in Gouverneur. Nothing has been done towards working the Hailesboro deposit. This granite shows, on the surface, on a rocky ridge running nearly east and west near Natural Dam on a farm of the late Edwin G. Dodge, of Gouverneur. Several years ago specimen pieces were taken out and polished by W. H. Andrews, of Gouverneur, and are now in his collection of polished specimens.

At the time of the erection of the beautiful city hail and opera house in Ogdensburg, Mr. Dodge had two suitable blocks of this granite quarried and donated them to that city. They were turned and polished and now are the column parts of the two main supports for the central portion of the front of said opera house.

Although the material for these columns was taken out from the surface of the ledge, their extreme hardness, beauty of color, and susceptibility to a high polish demonstrate the value of the material and warrants the general belief that a granite equal to the famous red Scotch variety here awaits development, and will amply reward the enterprise which results in opening up its buried treasures.

Serpentine Marble.- Serpentine marbles in endless quantities are known to exist in Gouverneur. It crops out in all directions, and is encountered very frequently where excavations are made in Gouverneur village; and, being of fine texture, bearing many shades of color from a rich verde antique green, through various shades of yellow, red and pink, down to a pure white, it is sure, at no distant day, to attract sufficient attention to insure its development as a new source of wealth for this locality.

Porphyry.- Among the many splendid mineralogical specimens of polished stone which has given Mr. Andrews's collection a nation-wide reputation, a piece of polished porphyry from a large rock, found in the village of Gouverneur, holds a position of high honor.

Both talc and marble, which are now most eagerly .sought as sure sources of wealth, were but recently cursed as a nuisance by the farmer, whose plough they impeded.

But, under the mystic touch of the magic wand of capitalistic enterprise, present rnutterings of disapproval will be changed to peans of praise, when the owning of a ledge of porphyry, like the discovery of a talc deposit to-day, is equal to the finding of an ample fortune.

Also See

* Gouverneur Talc
* Religious Societies

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