FROM PULPSTONES TO BATS
On a hill west of Empire, Ohio, overlooking the Ohio River stand many stacks of pulpstones. Some of these stones are rough cut, and some are finished and look no different than they did nearly 65 years ago, as if they are still waiting to be shipped. These silent sentinels are remnants of an unusual mining operation at the Smallwood sandstone mine in sec. 34, Knox Township, Jefferson County. The Smallwood mine was operated by the Smallwood Pulp Stone Company and now is a potential habitat for a community of bats. The Smallwood Pulp Stone Company had plants at Empire, Ohio, and Opekiska (Monongalia County), West Virginia, and was the largest producer of pulpstones in the United States in 1932.
Pulpstones were cut from sandstone strata and manually shaped into cylinders 4 to 5 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet wide (thick). They are much larger (thicker) versions of grindstones and were used for grinding wood into fine fiber for making pulp and paper. When paper began to be manufactured from wood pulp in the mid-1800's, there was a demand for stone suited to grinding wood to a pulp. The discovery of the method of mechanically grinding wood to produce pulp is credited to Charles Fennerity of Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1844. The first pulp mill using a grinding wheel was built in 1846 by H. Voelter.
Most pulpstones were imported from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, until Ohio began supplying these stones in the late 1800's. Grindstones have diameters similar to pulpstones but are typically only 8 to 12 inches wide. Grindstones originally were used for sharpening tools. During the late 1800's, Ohio's grindstones were popular in finish grinding of metals prior to polishing or painting. Ohio has supplied about 90 percent of the 4.5 million tons of grindstones consumed in the United States. Although pulpstones were produced in Ohio during the late 1800's, production data were not reported until 1903. From 1903 to 1916, Ohio supplied between 82 and 90 percent, by value, of the grindstones and pulpstones produced in the United States.
The object in grinding pulp is to free the fiber in the wood from its cementing bond of lignin. In 1904, 913,000 tons of pulp were ground for use in the production of newsprint paper alone. By 1930, 4,750,000 tons were ground by pulpstone. The standard pulpstones used in the early 1900's to grind 24-inch-wide wood were 54 inches in diameter and had a 24-inch-wide face. Such a stone would weigh about 2.5 tons and required a power supply of 350 to 450 horsepower per stone to drive. By the 1920's, the size of pulpstones had increased. To grind 48-inch-wide wood, these stones were 67 inches in diameter and had a 54-inch face. These stones weighed about 7.7 tons and required a power supply of 1400 horsepower per stone to operate. (Note: pulpstone tonnage was calculated, using the formula for the volume of a cylinder, pi x r2 x h, on the basis of 140 pounds per cubic foot of sandstone.)
Grindstones were produced in Washington County, Ohio, as early as 1819. The first government report on pulpstone production in the United States was issued in 1898, the same year the Latto quarry at Tippecanoe, Harrison County, Ohio, was re-opened by the Halderman Stone Company of Cleveland, Ohio, to produce bridge stone, building stone, grindstones, and pulpstones. The Latto quarry, developed in the Buffalo sandstone (Pennsylvanian) in sec. 21, Washington Township, Harrison County, was opened about 1889 by the Tippecanoe Stone Company and was operated by several companies until it was abandoned in 1907. In addition to these quarries and the Smallwood mine at Empire, other quarries in Ohio that produced pulpstones include:
Although Ohio was a national leader in the production of grindstones and pulpstones, it is the way the sandstone was mined at the Smallwood mine that is unusual.
Pulpstones and grindstones in Ohio generally were produced at quarries by surface mining methods. However, the pulpstones of the Smallwood Pulp Stone Company at Empire were produced by both surface and underground mining methods. The Smallwood Pulp Stone Company began surface mining sandstone at Empire about 1914, possibly as early as 1906. By 1917 the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the Smallwood Pulp Stone Company had active quarries at both Empire, Ohio, and Opekiska, West Virginia. The sandstone produced at the Empire mine is the Upper Freeport sandstone. This Pennsylvanian-age sandstone is about 70 feet thick and was deposited by rivers that meandered back and forth across the area. The sandstone lies about midway in the steep-sided hills west of Empire.
Once the overburden at the Smallwood mine was removed, a coal-fired, compressed-air channeling machine cut the sandstone into blocks 20 feet square and 10 to 12 feet thick. The channeling machine could cut a groove about 3 inches wide and 10 to 12 feet deep into the sandstone, using chisel-like teeth. Channeling machines were developed in the 1880's and replaced hand cutting of the grooves. The use of a channeling machine was common among northern Ohio sandstone quarry operators. Sandstone quarry operators in southern Ohio used machines called ditchers to cut circle-shaped grooves in sandstone. This machine, also developed in the 1880's, used a channeler or drill that revolved around a fixed, vertical post.
After the outline of the sandstone block was cut, holes were drilled at the base of the block. Explosive charges sufficient to crack the sandstone were placed in the holes and detonated. The sandstone blocks were split to desired sizes by additional drilling and blasting. The removal of sandstone created a highwall. As mining continued the highwall advanced farther into the hillside until an overburden thickness of about 60 feet was reached. At this point, the removal of overburden material was too costly and difficult, and normally the mining operation would be abandoned. However, the Smallwood Pulp Stone Company continued their operation at Empire by tunneling into the Upper Freeport sandstone and mining it underground.
Around 1920, three drift openings were made into the sandstone by Smallwood employees Charles and James Vance. These drift openings measure about 30 feet wide and 25 feet tall and extend into the hill approximately 150 feet before joining an entryway that runs parallel to the crop of the sandstone. The sandstone apparently was mined by room-and-pillar style of mining; room height was nearly equal to the full thickness of the sandstone. Steel I-beams were used to span the entryways to provide roof support in addition to the sandstone pillars. According to an inventory form on file at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio Historical Society, some of the I-beams were removed from the mine during World War II and sold as scrap iron.
The Upper Freeport sandstone at the Smallwood mine was mined underground by the same channeling machines that were used to mine the sandstone at the surface. Sandstone blocks produced underground were split to size and then brought to the surface by mine car for finish work.
The first stage in finishing a pulpstone was to cut off the corners of the sandstone blocks, a process called "scabbling," using compressed-air tools to produce a stone with a cylindrical shape. Next, a square or round eyehole 4 to 5 inches in diameter was cut through the center of the stone. The eyehole allowed the stone to be placed on a shaft of a lathe. As the stone was turned on the lathe, iron rods resembling crowbars were held against the stone to machine a smooth, rounded edge.
The finished pulpstones at the Smallwood mine were taken down the steep hillside by an elaborate, gravity-type tramway. A steel cable passed around a drum at the top of the incline, a loaded car attached to one end and an empty car to the other. The empty car ascending the hill served as a counterbalance to the loaded car descending the hill. The finished pulpstones were hoisted onto railroad cars and transported to pulp mills in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada.
As the sandstone blocks were mined they were soft and contained small amounts of water, commonly called "quarry sap." The water generally drained out of the sandstone within a week or two after having been cut, but the stone remained somewhat soft. With continued exposure to air the stone hardened or seasoned, just as concrete hardens with time. This seasoning process took about a year before the stones were put into service. Freezing is harmful to fresh-cut pulpstones, therefore pulpstone operators generally worked from late spring until early fall. In describing winter shipment of pulpstones, a 1988 report by the Ohio Historical Society stated, "they [pulpstones] were packed in horse manure to keep [them] from freezing."
The Upper Freeport sandstone was mined underground at the Smallwood mine until 1932. No production was reported for this mine after 1931 and no pulpstones were produced in Ohio after 1931. The Smallwood mine remained idle from 1932 until it was abandoned in 1937. During the 1930's the pulpstone industry in Ohio and nationally was replaced by the use of artificial abrasives. Artificial pulpstones could withstand the higher stresses created by modern pulp mills better than natural pulpstones.
The Smallwood mine provided employment to about 40 men, many of whom spoke little or no English, according to Empire resident Shirley Bartles. The average annual wages earned by Ohio's sandstone quarrymen during the period from 1914 to 1931 ranged from $593.40 in 1914 to $1,335.51 in 1927. The average annual wages of sandstone quarrymen compare well with wages paid to workers producing other mineral commodities. The average annual wages in 1930 were: $973 to coal miners, $1,090 to clay miners, $1,182 to sandstone quarrymen, $1,347 to gypsum miners, and $1,400 to limestone quarrymen. Robert Mattern recalled that as a boy of 14 years old, during 1916, he worked as a general laborer in the quarry at California Hollow and earned $1.50 per day. Although mining sandstone provided a modest income, it allowed some to live in relative comfort. On his quarryman's salary Charlie Vance was able to purchase shoes and clothing for less fortunate children at Empire in addition to providing for his own four children, as his granddaughter Shirley Bartles recalled.
When the Smallwood mine was abandoned the drift openings were not sealed. When any mine is abandoned the roof integrity of the openings and entryways is not maintained and these areas are not safe to enter. As a result, abandoned mine openings such as those at the Smallwood mine become attractive nuisances. Today, abandoned mines are closed for safety reasons by federal and state governments and mining companies. Permanent sealing, however, puts at risk bats that use or may use abandoned underground mines to hibernate, to raise their young, or as a migratory rest stop between summer and winter roosts. Because of the colonial nature of bats, roosting habitats need to be large and secure enough and have a proper environment to accommodate small groups of fewer than a hundred bats up to large colonies of several hundred thousand bats. Populations of over 100,000 bats are known to live in some mines of the northeastern United States and may be discovered wherever bats live near mines cool enough for hibernation.
Bats hibernate in caves or mines that have a winter temperature of 38° to 43°F, 65 to 95 percent humidity, and safety from human disturbance. More than half of North America's bat species use abandoned mines as a refuge because their roosts in old-growth trees, old barns, and other outdoor buildings are being lost.
When the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mines and Reclamation considered sealing the Smallwood drift openings in 1988, an assessment was made of the site as a potential bat habitat. Although no bats were documented, the Smallwood mine site was determined to be an ideal habitat for the endangered Indiana brown bat as well as other native species. In 1991, a bat gate was erected over each drift opening to permit bat entry and prohibit human entry to the mine. Similar assessments have resulted in 20 bat gates having been erected between 1986 and 1994 at 12 different abandoned-underground-mine sites in Ohio, including the Smallwood mine. Additional abandoned-underground-mine sites are being considered by the Ohio Division of Mines and Reclamation as potential habitats for bats.
The following individuals provided valuable information or assistance for this article: Shirley Bartles, Helen Van Dyke, Mary Robinson, Wendell B. and Wendell A. "Wink" Reese, Sandy Day, Susan Burkett , Mr. and Mrs. Parker Burkett, Andrew Milarcik, Michael Puskarich, Robert and Carl Mattern, Steven Gordon, David Simmons, Max Luehrs, James Gue, Hal Miller, Mark Smith, Jeffrey Reichwein, and David Swanson.
Editor's note: This article is adapted from an article in the 1995 Report on Ohio mineral industries.
Bowles, Oliver, 1917, Sandstone quarrying the United States: U.S. Bureau of Mines Bulletin 124, 143 p.
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Last update January 12, 2000