Good stone men knew there were many factors in locating a quarry. Just any stone wouldn’t do nor would just any place the stone was close to the surface do. Opening a quarry was an expensive operation. It required equipment, labor, transportation and then someone to buy the quarried stone.
Most quarries were usually opened on a small scale and worked by hand. The stone was sold locally and quarried as need demanded. If the stone was exceptionally fine and quarrying costs were reasonable, the stone would gain a favorable reputation. Demand would increase. The quarry would expand and improved machinery would make quarrying more profitable.
Costs of quarrying stone were determined by several factors. First was the ease with which the stone could be obtained in blocks of the size and form the market needed. Second was the price of labor. Third was the equipment used in the quarry. And fourth, the transportation costs to deliver the rough stone. All of these fixed costs were balanced against the color of the stone, its ability to take a fine finish and its reputation for durability.
Even the best quality stone could be ruined if not properly quarried, seasoned and dressed. Contractors would visit the quarries frequently to be sure that good quality stone was still available and had not been quarried out. Seasoning of the stone, particularly sandstone, was essential.
One of the main causes for the deterioration of building stone is the freezing and thawing of the water within the stone. At the water line of a building where saturation most often occurs, the
effects of freezing and thawing are most damaging. In other building locations, if the stone has not been seasoned and is then laid on edge instead of on the bed, deterioration will be commonplace.
Deterioration is evident at ground level
Stone is seasoned by the quarry water coming to the surface, evaporating and leaving behind mineral matter which frequently forms a crust on the surface of the stone. Once this crust has formed, it is quite important that it not be broken. It protects the soft rock from weather and when broken or removed will lead to rapid disintegration of the stone. The quarrier had to understand the properties of the stone in his quarry and determine the best time for cutting and dressing the stone to maximize its life. Some stone had to be cut and dressed and ready to lay before being thoroughly seasoned. It must also not have been subjected to frost before being seasoned. Quarriers would often flood their quarries during winter months to protect the exposed stone.
The ease in quarrying stone depended on the location of the stone and the amount of waste material that had to be removed. Stone nearer the surface was less expensive to remove than that which was lower in the quarry. If the overburden was too great, it could be too expensive to remove.
The stone in the Underwood Quarry west of Ballard
had almost no overburden to remove.
The means of stone removal affected the profitability as well. Hand removal was least expensive but also least efficient. Improved machinery actually lessened the cost of quarrying through less waste, better preservation of the stone and a quicker removal of the stone at a minimum cost. Machinery increased the quarriers investment but it was often offset by the lesser cost of operation. The cost of labor was a major part of quarrying expenses. Machinery decreased the number of employees and thus the wages paid out.
The location of the quarry was also a significant factor in the overall cost of the stone and the profit of the quarrier. If the market was local then teams of horses or oxen were sufficient. If the stone was to be sold on the open market, rail transportation facilities were required. Because Carthage, Missouri was located on a major rail line, Carthage stone could be marketed at a lower cost than local stone from an isolated quarry.
Quarry of Carthage Marble Corp. Carthage, Missouri
Source: Quarrying Industry of Missouri, Vol. 2, 1904.