Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part 7 - Renaissance

At the very time in 1893 that the defaulted fortunes of Jonas French and the Cape Ann Granite Company resulted in the acquisition of his Bay View enterprise by the Rockport Granite Company, rumors flew that Colonel French had secured title to the former Bay State Granite Company. It was understood that he intended to build a mile-long railroad from its principal quarry (now Bianchini's) in Lanesville over the ox track to the wharves at Pigeon Cove. 1 Before long the Gloucester Daily times exulted that he owned "the best piece of quarry land on the Cape." 2

A new corporation 3
Subscribers to out-of-town newspapers might have discerned that the Colonel was re-launched from the State of Maine. His new holdings included red granite quarries in Jonesport. Somehow he had drawn together founding assets of $100,000.

Re-orientation of the Cape Ann Granite Company 4
Bay View, Gloucester 1869-1893
Pigeon Cove, Rockport 1894-1902
In repositioning from Bay View to Pigeon Cove the Cape Ann Granite Company traced an arc almost completely across the hinterlands of Halibut Point, first from the western, then the eastern flank of Lanesville.

Initially the new Company took its products by cart down to Lanes Cove for shipment. Perhaps it hadn't yet won privileges to stockpile stone on the wharf while awaiting a vessel. One day before Christmas 1894 the men loaded 45,000 paving blocks onto the schooner Emma C. Cotton in 7½ hours, claiming "the quickest time on record where the entire freight has  been set in by [horse-drawn] teams." 5

Main Street, Pigeon Cove - Cape Ann Tool Company on right 6
Meanwhile crews began setting tracks down the long incline from upper Lanesville to Pigeon Cove. J. M. Gamboa's barber shop was moved to make way for the railroad. Col. French negotiated agreements to cross Granite Street to reach the wharf. A large portion of the stock of the Pigeon Cove Harbor Company had come with his quarry purchase. "Big times in Pigeon Cove in the sweet-by-and-by," chimed the Times reporter. 7

Locomotive Nella delivered to the Rockport depot, April 1895 8
Col. French named the new locomotive for his wife Nella. From the Rockport train depot it had to reach Pigeon Cove in a leap-frogging advance of rail segments up Granite Street. Four years later an easier transport was on hand when the engine set out for repairs in Portland Maine. A switch joined the company's track to that of the new electric railway enabled Nella to be taken over the trolley line at 2:00 Sunday morning and put in tow of the freight to Beverly. 9

Nella at work for the Cape Ann Granite Company 10
  It is said by those who are supposed to be good judges that the Cape Ann Granite Company's granite quarries at Lanesville are the best on the Cape. Last Wednesday, under the direction of foreman Thomas A, Erwin, a blast was made, six holes nineteen feet deep having been made, which were loaded and fired by a battery. The result of the blast was a large pieced of granite, 130 feet long, 30 feet wide and 30 feet deep, which would weigh 10,636 tons. 11

Railroad terminus at Pigeon Cove Harbor 12
In September 1897 the Company completed its first contract for putting 240,000 tons of stone on the Sandy Bay Breakwater. It commissioned a new steam lighter, the Jonas H. French.

The steam lighter Jonas H. French 13
Col. French adroitly navigated the public-private facets of commercial success. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Sandy Bay Breakwater, an immense Federally-funded project, he toured dignitaries to the offshore project aboard the Jonas H. French and joined Massachusetts Senators Hoar and Lodge in a speechmaking banquet at the Turks Head Inn. 14

Mrs. Nella French hosted at her home a meeting of nearly one hundred women to organize a Ladies Aid Association for Addison Gilbert Hospital. She was elected president pro tem "with the grace for which this lady is noted." 15

Headline of a Letter to the Editor, 1898 16

At the end of the century Col. French was facing evolving challenges in technology and labor. Along with other local industry leaders he hosted Mr. Stanford, engineer in charge of building the Charlestown naval dry dock, in an effort to convince the government to choose granite over concrete as a superior but more expensive material. 17 

On the labor front, emotions were running high during the quarrymen's strike for a nine-hour work day. When the Rockport Granite Company was slow to implement the settlement terms in June 1899 a bomb exploded on its tracks at Granite Pier. Col. French had come to terms with his workers and kept his crews employed. The newspaper mused that "the Rockport Granite Company has the cow by the horns, the Pigeon Hill Company by the tail, while the Cape Ann Granite Company is quietly getting the milk." 18
Portrait of Jonas H. French 19
The Gloucester Daily Times carried effusive details about the wedding of Stella Evans French to sugar magnate Charles Alphonzo Farwell of New Orleans. The bride was the widow of the late Harry G. French, the only son of Colonel Jonas French. The marriage took place at his home in Bay View, sumptuously decorated with ferns, lilies and roses. "Aside from the bride and groom the two persons who attracted the greatest attention were Col. French, tall, dignified and military in his bearing, and his gracious wife." 

My fellow readers must be tantalized by the note that "Mrs. Albert Baldwin, Jr., of New Orleans, becomingly gowned in white silk, lace yoke and chiffon garniture, carrying a bouquet of red roses, attended the bride as matron of honor." 

Following the wedding Col. and Mrs. French took the afternoon train to spend a week at their Boston residence, leaving the bride and groom to honeymoon at Rocklawn.
Catalog of the estate sale of Col. French's library 19
By 1902 the Cape Ann Granite Company had fallen victim to financial trouble and was sold at auction. Colonel French died of apoplexy a few months later, his passing noted in The New York Times. General Butler's children were startled to discover that Mrs. French promptly sold Rocklawn to the Archdiocese of Boston and that Archbishop O'Connell  was their new neighbor. Upon his elevation in the Church hierarchy it became known as The Cardinal's. 20 

For a murky few years the assets of the Cape Ann Granite Company came unsuccessfully under operation of the New England Granite Company controlled by a Boston financier from Jonas French's circles. The Rockport Granite Company eventually acquired everything. In 1911 Nella went by barge to the Folly Cove Pier for locomotive service bringing blocks down to the pier from the Babson Farm Quarry at Halibut Point, to cap the Sandy Bay Breakwater. 

The granite quarries and the granite industry each entwined aspects of brutality, beauty, and aggrandizement. They incorporated modern human themes of dominion over the land and of advancing a better life. Talents, desires, and limits to power shaped the physical and social landscape. Every block of stone bore the marks of aspirations.
1. Gloucester Daily Times (GDT ), September 9, 1893.
2. GDT January 16, 1894.
3. Boston Journal, February 7, 1894.
4. Drawing adapted from "Cape Ann Quarries" map by Barbara Erkkila, Hammers on Stone, 1980.
5. GDT December 26, 1894.
6. Postcard view courtesy of Robert Ambrogi, Vintage Rockport.
7. GDT October 26, 1894.
8. Photograph courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Association.
9. GDT April 10, 1899.
10. Moulton stereograph, courtesy of the Cape Ann Museum.
11. GDT March 12, 1898.
12. Postcard view courtesy of Robert Ambrogi, Vintage Rockport.
13. Photo from Barbara Erkkila, Hammers on Stone, 1980.
14. GDT August 25, 1897.
15. GDT October 14, 1898.
16. GDT October 24, 1898.
17. GDT September 17, 1898.
18. GDT June 13, 1899.
19. Portrait printed in the catalogue, from the Cornell University Library.
20. GDT September 12, 1900.
21. Harriet Robey, Bay View, 1979.

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