History of Granite Manufacturing in Barre, Vermont

Smith & Kimball Quarry

Paper of E. L. Smith, Dealer in Barre Granite

In regard to the statement of the “quarries ” of Barre, I cannot give a very definite one in regard to any but of the one in which I am interested. This one, known as the Smith & Kimball Quarry, is located upon the farm formerly owned by the late Edward J. Parker, consists of nearly 3 acres, and has not been fully developed as yet. It was opened in the summer of 1879, by E. J. Parker, but not worked to any extent until the spring of 1880, since which there has been taken away from the quarry not far from 20,000 feet of working stock. We claim that this granite is equal to any for monumental and polished work, and so far has been quite easy to quarry, laying in large sheets of more than ordinary thickness, being covered with soil to the depth of 4 feet in many places, and the top sheets are found to be nearly as good and clean as those underneath, which is not often the case.

We have made no public monuments, nor furnished stock for any public buildings. We ship stock in the rough to quite an extent to Burlington, Vt., Albany, N. Y., Danville, Pa., and numerous other points; am now furnishing granite for a bank building, to be erected in Danville, Pa., to the amount of 1500 cubic feet; have a contract to furnish the stock for a large monument to be erected in Boston, Mass., which will take nearly 1000 cubic feet. One piece alone is to be 9½ ft. square and 2 ft. thick; will weigh nearly 20 tons. If we had facilities for handling and drawing, we could quarry a block of any desired size. We employ now upon an average about 15 quarrymen, and the number of cutters in the employ of Mr. S. Kimball, (works are located at Montpelier, Vermont), and Smith & Wells Barre, Vermont., must number at least 30. We make any kind of work to be made in granite, from rough underpinning to a nice polished monument; value of stock taken from quarry at least $10,000; amount of finished work made during year ending June 1st, 1881, by E. L. Smith & Smith & Wells (Mr. Wells became a partner in March, 1881), about $12,000.

I consider this (granite) business established upon a sound basis, which I think will increase in time to be one of the largest industries of our State. Barre granite is second to none, and when once introduced will recommend itself.

There are at present 8 quarries opened, which are worked to quite an extent in town, namely: “Cobble Hill,” owned by E. L. Smith & P. C. Wheaton, now worked by P. C. Wheaton. This is of a rather light gray, and is probably the best place in Vermont to quarry stone for under-pinning, being quite rifty, so that it can readily be split in pieces 8 in. thick, 2 ft. wide and 20 ft. long. It is strong, and is of the very best material for building work, curbing, etc., which can be found.

“Harrington Quarry, owned and worked by Ira P. Harrington, who has long been in the granite business, upon which he is now doing quite an amount of work in filling orders for rough stock. From these two quarries came the stock for the State House. They have been opened, I should judge, some 50 or 60 years. Mr. E. Hewett formerly worked the Cobble Hill Quarry, and upon the State House being rebuilt, he quarried quite an amount of blocks, to replace those injured by fire. It was near here that Charles Keith lost his life, while assisting in drawing one of those large blocks of granite up hill where they had to use ropes and blocks, a block giving away, and crushing him so that he died soon after. This is, so far as I know, the only fatal accident which has taken place in the town in connection with granite working, but numerous have been the narrow escapes from a fatal one by premature explosion of blasts, falling of derricks, etc. These two are the only old quarries of note in town, and while they have been worked long, yet consisting as they do of large extent, there is no exhaustion of material, but on the contrary, plenty of it and easy of access.

The Carnes Quarry, at East Barre, is worked by William Carnes, who has a shop, and finishes up his stock neatly.

The Eastman Quarry has been opened some 4 or 5 years, and while it has not been worked to a large extent, it is good stock, and may prove to be one of the best in town.

Levi Keith has a quarry opened which is called fair stock, not developed to any great extent.

Bigelow Quarry, upon the farm of John Bigelow, was opened about 6 years ago, and is now worked by John Collins. There is a chance for quite an extensive quarry, and it may prove to be one of the principal quarries in town, though the grain is not quite so fine and dark as some.

“Mann Quarry,” owned and worked by Geo. Mann, has been opened some 3 years, is of the best grain and color, but as yet the stock has been rather hard to quarry to advantage, the sheets not laying so free and even as in some of the other quarries.

The quarry of Messrs. Wetmore & Morse is one of the best, if not the best in town and has been worked nearly 20 years; was formerly worked by J. E. Parker, and has been owned and worked by Wetmore & Morse about 4 years. This is good stock, and lays in large sheets, and of late has been more extensively worked than any quarry in town. I estimate that they must have taken from this quarry during the 4 years at least 45,000 ft. of working stock and to appearance there is none the less remaining.

E. L. Smith
Barre, June 27, 1881.

Statement of W. G. Parker‘s Quarry and Works, opened Oct. 29, 1880, began carrying on granite business Nov. 1, 1873; workmen employed from three to six; has shipped granite monuments to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York and Massachusetts; also in Vermont; amount of exports varying from $1,000 to $2,000.

The First Granite Shop in Barre

Barre Vermont stone cutters 1902
Barre Vermont stone cutters in 1902

Papers from Chas. A. Smith

J. S. Collins came to Barre in 1872, and opened a shop for the working of granite at the south end of the village, where he has since continued the business. This was the first shop of the kind opened in the village, and Mr. C. was the pioneer of the business of working granite for monumental purposes here. He at present employs five cutters at his shop and three men on the quarry, which he opened in 1876, and which is known as the Bigelow Quarry. Though the business done by Mr. Collins is less than that of some of his competitors in town, yet the excellence of the work which he was the first to send out drew attention to the value of Barre granite for monumental uses, and led to the development of the business, and as a skillful master workman, he has taught the trade to a large number, who as proprietors, or as workmen, ply the trade in other shops.

Wetmore & Morse are the largest dealers in granite in town; their shops, situated on the west of the R. R. near the depot, are arranged in a semi-circle on either side of the branch track of the R. R. with a derrick so located as to raise and move stones to and from the cars and to any part of their yards. They commenced business in 1877, in a small shed near their present location, and for a time employed but one workman beside Mr. Morse. In 1880, they employed for a time 85 workmen. They have turned out handsome specimens of monumental work. The largest job upon which they have been employed was the cutting for the Bowman Mausoleum at Cuttingsville — the receipts for this job being between fifteen and sixteen thousand dollars. They own and work the quarry known as the J. E. Parker Quarry, and on this employ from ten to twenty men.


Article is based largely on the The Vermont historical gazetteer : a magazine embracing a history of each town, civil, ecclesiastical, biographical and military.
Additions, corrections, changes, and design have been made to the original source to produce this article. Those additions and changes are © 2020 by Vermont Genealogy.

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