Ashland Press Article in the Washburn Itemizer of October 18, 1888

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The Washburn Itemizer of October 18, 1888 carried a large article on the Prentice Brownstone Quarry which was reprinted from the Ashland Press and goes as follows:

A Big Stone Quarry,
A Great Brownstone Industry Established At Houghton Point.
What Frederick Prentice Has Accomplished During he Season.

    The following facts from The Ashland Press concerning one of Bayfield counties promising industries is worthy of re-production by all the papers on this side of the bay, consequently we give it to our readers:
    There are probably very few men that have had as eventful and busy a life as Frederick Prentice. Although now nearly sixty-five years of age, he is one of the most active, level-headed and energetic business men in the Northwest. His life has been spent in the engineering of most gigantic enterprises. When he attempts anything he puts his whole heart and soul into the work and succeeds. Mr. Prentice has been identified with Ashland ever since the city existed. Thirty-four years ago he came here and found a dense forest, hundreds of miles from civilization. With keen business fore-sight, he purchased a large tract of land in and around the present city, and has been closely identified with its interests ever since. Although he has different enterprises on his hands, the one which is now occupying the greater part of his time, is the already famous Prentice brownstone quarry, located on Houghton Point, three miles north of Washburn, on the Omaha road. Among his purchases were about 600 acres at the above location, selected especially for the inexhaustible quantities of finest quality of brownstone, he then believing he had secured most, if not all the valuable brownstone in this vicinity, and that the time would soon come when it would be shipped to New York and other eastern cities at a good profit.
    There was a great demand for this stone at this time. The "brownstone" mansions on Fifth avenue in New York city, had become famous. In fact brownstone had become famous, and popular in every city of prominence. Mr. Prentice conceived the idea of a quarry to ship stone direct to New York by vessel and laid his plans accordingly, but was frustrated by the rates which were charged at the time-but have since been reduced to a point where it can be made profitable.
    Less than eighteen months ago, Mr. Prentice began clearing and stripping for the present quarry. He has pushed the work vigorously as possible and given employment to about one hundred men, and already expended about $100,000. He has conducted the work on a thoroughly systematic plan, having spent a large sum in making test pits to locate the solid and deep strata of stone, which underlies the entire lake front owned by him, to a depth which has not been estimated. After one to four feet of earth is cleared away, a solid bed of brown stone is struck. With this made as level as a billiard table, the channelers began work. These machines are a wonderful invention and cost many thousand dollars each. Mr. Prentice now has five of tem at work and expects to add five more each succeeding season.
    The work this year has been almost exclusively in getting the quarries ready for an output next year, never equaled by any other quarry in the country. A drill will be soon put to work in each of the tree openings to a depth of over 150 feet, and a solid core of stone, four inches in diameter be taken out to determine the exact quality of the different strata. the work will be begun at once. It will demonstrate that the quarries are simply inexhaustible.
    To see the mammoth channellers at work is indeed a sight. They are set upon a track and "walk: along with three steel drills together on each side, cutting he stone with exact precision to a depth of four to six feet, making a three inch cut. Some of the channelers are four, others six feet wide and thus the solid rock is cut into huge blocks. When the stone is channeled into strips from four to six feet wide, and two to four feet thick, as may be desired, the strips are wedged up by steel wedges, driven under with sledges at different point about two feet apart. They sometimes wedge up these immense blocks fifty to sixty feet long, then they are measured into what is termed as mill blocks, from four to ten feet long as required, and the stone is so free to split that they can be broken off as square as though sawed.
    This work can be continued layer after layer, to a depth which has not yet been determined. Probably for hundreds of feet. There is but little waste. The stone which breaks into pieces is called mill stone, and always finds a ready market.
    Mr. Prentice has begun work at the extreme north end of the property, and over a mile of solid front of brownstone remains yet to be developed. All along the shore may be seen the solid promontories of brownstone-hardened by centuries of exposure, and lashed by the waves for ages past. If it were possible to use them, stone could be taken out of almost any conceivable dimension. In company with Mr. Prentice, and exploration was made all along the shore, and the measureless quantity is positively surprising. It is beyond all conception.
    The work at the quarry is at present under the supervision of Supt. Bailey, one of the oldest and most experienced quarrymen in the west, having spent his life in famous quarries in Vermont and also in Kentucky. He has a present a force of one hundred men and the amount of work which has been accomplished is wonderful. Huge mountains containing over 60,000 tons of millstone, stand ready for shipment as rapidly as cars can be secured. Over one hundred and fifty thousand tons of "ton stone" has also been taken out and is ready for use. A small quantity of variegated stone has also been secured. This stone is much sought after by those, who fancy handsome solid brownstone fronts, with variegated trimmings. Over a mile of side tracks have been laid b the Omaha, in and around the quarry. Large orders have already been filed for the coming year.
    The boiler houses, which have just been completed, are immense. the engines do all the hoisting, with the mammoth inch steel ropes and towering derricks, and also do the pumping, furnishing water for the channelers and keeping the quarries free. To hear the rattle of the busy channelers, the creaking of the derricks, the puffing and snorting of a dozen engines, and the bustle of a hundred men, busy at their respective posts is a sight little dreamed of by one who passed the quarry last year, at this time. It is now a veritable bee-hive of industry while then, it was a dense wilderness. All this great work has been accomplished by the tireless, undaunted energy of Mr. Prentice. As the past year has been spent in improving the ground and the quarries, the output this season will not equal one third of the capacity. Bt Mr. Prentice has been particularly careful to prove the property beyond any doubt in both quantity and quality before expending so many thousand dollars. In another year he will have a large dock, which will enable him to supply the eastern markets direct by the water route. This can be accomplished with a handsome profit, which will enable the company to supply Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and New York at much less rates than can be done by rail, even at towns near by-New York probably being the largest brownstone consuming city in the world; in fact it has been but a few years since the western towns began using brownstone, its increase has been something fabulous. As the wealth of our western cities increase the ladies feel that they must live in brownstone houses like their wealthy sisters in eastern towns, and when one sets the pattern and builds of brownstone hundreds of others feel they must have the same as no other stone compares in beauty and durability with the Lake Superior brownstone.
    The quarries are supplied with a complete system of water works, with underground mains. A large and commodious and comfortable boarding house has been built, and a private office is now in the course of erection. the rounds are being arranged, so that it will not only be convenient for the purpose for which it is designed, but will also be a beautiful spot and will become a great resort for the thousands of sight-seers, who come here during the summer. Every detail of the work, is personally supervised by Mr. Prentice and performed in such a precise and particular manner, that it is indicative of permanency.
    The visitor is instantly struck with the vastness and richness of the deposit. You see the work of the glaciers and the different geological formations of centuries. A peculiar feature in relation to brownstone, is that it immediately begins to harden after it is exposed to the air, and although comparatively soft when first taken out, it becomes so hardened in a short time, that a hard blow with a pick, scarcely mars it and the hardness continues to increase with age. There is now about sixty acres of the property cleared for quarry purposes, and it is the intention to double the capacity each year, and the time is not far distant, when it will become one of the most noted quarries of the kind in the world. One is truck with the idea that its richness far exceeds even that of a rich coal or iron mine. It costs less by far to get out a ton of stone than a tone of ore and the value of the stone is much greater on board he cars. This is an astonishing fact that is not generally known. The market for stone is steadier and the demand is rapidly increasing. Although very little effort has been made to sell the product as the quarry has hardly been developed, a large number of orders have poured in, which call for more than can be supplied this year. The new city hall being built in Cincinnati is considered by far the finest edifice of the kind in America, and it will be built entirely of Prentice brownstone. The stone alone will cost over $60,000 and the magnificent structure will stand as a noble monument to the fame of the Prentice Brownstone quarry. It is certainly an auspicious beginning. As yet the industry is virtually in its infancy and it will be but a very short time until it will take a high rank with lumber, coal and ore. It adds another evidence of the wonderful and marvelous resources of the "New Wisconsin," which was only known a few years ago, as a wild and barren wilderness-in which nothing could exist except muskrats and Indians. Time and the advances of civilization have changed all.

Note: The machine for cutting rock has been spelled both channeller and channeler. I can find neither in the dictionary but channeller seems to be the prominent spelling however I believe channeler is correct. The channeler was a steam locomotive that ran on tracks or steel wheels and used a large drill that cut channels in the rock. The quarries also used gadding machines, another steam powered machine running on tracks which drilled under the cut blocks of stone and enabled the blocks to be released from the bed of stone. The blocks were then hoisted out of the quarry where they were cut to size and either sent as cut or had a finished face put on them. Some stone was also turned on lathes for pillars and the like.

Copyright 2008 Kurt Larson--Last updated April 10, 2008