Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Granite Industry, Part 3 of 6 - Growing Pains

Out in the north villages of Gloucester and Rockport the nineteenth century granite industry began to offer an alternative livelihood to fishing and subsistence farming. There was money to be made from a possibly unlimited resource beneath their feet, in a trade less vulnerable to the vagaries of nature on land and sea.
Economic opportunity set up rewards and conflicts as it does everywhere. Initiatives had to be accommodated as varying interests jostled and evolved. Quality-of-life standards shifted, grew and submerged with the changes. Immigration inserted a wild card into conservative values. It was a turbulent century for concepts of proprietorship and individual rights. The seeds of regulation in a laissez-faire environment grew even in village life. Newspapers reported on virtues, conundrums, and offenses to good order.

It is the custom of Messrs. Clapp & Ballou's quarries at Pigeon Cove, to hoist from the pits by attaching the fall to cattle and driving across the main road....On Thursday afternoon as Mr. H. H. Tarr was driving past at a somewhat brisk trot, the rope suddenly descended in front of him and but for his presence of mind in instantly throwing it over his head, serious consequences would have resulted. I wish to call the attention of the proper authorities to this dangerous practice, and would suggest that the fall be rove through a snatch block and the cattle driven parallel with the street instead of across.

Cape Ann Advertiser, June 24, 1870

Lanesville quarrymen
Annisquam Historical Society photo
As an example of the complex relationship of hopes and hurdles for an industry nested within a village we can compare three newspaper articles in the Cape Ann Evening Breeze from the year 1885.

The pleasant days which we have had of late have caused things to look more stirring at the pits and wharves, and the merry sound of the hammer is heard all about us. In a few weeks the scale of summer prices will be fixed, new men will be employed to swell the force, and the old hands will change from one quarry to another. May the season develop a better industrial status than we had last summer.
February 26

The industrial situation does not appear very favorable at the present time. The granite companies offer only $1.60 a hundred for New York blocks this season. Last year the price was $2.20 to $2.25. The quarrymen are also offered less than last year. At present it is not possible to tell whether the men will accept these terms....While the companies declare large dividends, there is no reason why the men should not receive fair pay.

April 3
A blast at Canney's quarry threw good sized fragments over the village, though precautions were taken by means of cord wood and other materials placed above the powder. A stone weighing eleven pounds struck the roof of John Witham's house on Powsil Hill, estimated to be about a thousand feet distant from the quarry.
December 31

Oxen carting stone 1
As the granite business grew into robust commerce both the entrepreneurs and the community had to adjust to new patterns and investments, relinquishing familiar ways.
Presumably at least one hundred horses now between Mount Locust and the Rockport Line, and not one pair of oxen, "so that in these days we do not hear, haw Buck, back Star, gee Lion. He has in days gone by when Stimson and Eames carried on the stone business in Lanesville, the only horse they used was the little trotter which took them from over the road to and from their houses in Rockport."
Gloucester Daily Times, March 1, 1892

Babson Farm Quarry, Halibut Point
Sandy Bay Historical Society photo
Allured by the utility of money on the imagination and on personal advancement, the nineteenth century social fabric moved from an artisan toward a corporate economy. Centralized capital both produced and required vast accomplishments and population densities. It softened nature's harshness but introduced some of its own in the vicissitudes of the competitive marketplace. The century left an appalling narrative of injury and disease among granite workers. Concepts of corporate and social welfare roles slowly emerged mostly through the force of organized labor. Government began taking on a greater mediating influence as the world evolved from the simpler times of the Founding Fathers.

Quarry at Pigeon Cove 1
Industrial-scale quarrying tore open the land. It conflicted with the tranquility not only of traditional life but with the increasingly desirable coastal residences. Pigeon Cove's Village Improvement Society requested residents who were able to "purchase a piece of land for a public park, as woodlands are fast disappearing to the granite industry." 2 In Bay View descendants of the original granite aristocracy successfully sought relief through the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from the infernal noise of the successor company's surfacing machines. 3

Teaming with ox-drawn carts wore heavily on local roads as the granite moved down toward shipping ports. In 1892 Andrews Street at the head of Lanes Cove was stabilized with paving stones to absorb this traffic. Further uphill conditions on Washington Street continued to deteriorate, drawing comment around town and the wit of the press.
City Treasurer Dolliver was out on his bicycle Tuesday, and he had a good chance to see and realize the bad condition of our street between the Congregational meeting house and the post office, for when riding over that road he was thrown off, but received no injury.... Probably Mr. Dolliver would vote to have the street paved. If any of the members of the city government have any doubts about the need of paving the street they should take a ride over the road on a bicycle. 4
By the end of the year municipal funds had been found to pave this section too.

Further into the uplands a petition was circulated asking the County Commissioners to improve High Street, which bore considerable traffic from the Lanesville quarries. Work got under way in 1898 to widen and redirect the street, aggrieving two substantial abutters, Miss Alla F. Young and Mrs. Georgianna Blaisdell. Their attorney protested that "Miss Young's barn, which answered her every purpose, would have to be moved and considerable expense would be involved. The best portion of her land will be taken by the proposed plan, not enough being left for house lots." Miss Young was compelled to give way to progress, compensated by the construction of a new barn across the new street. William R. Cheves supplied road materials free to the City from his High Street quarry. 5

And so the various sectors attempted to accommodate and mitigate the industry that might bring prosperity and modern improvements to the North Cape.

1. Photographs collected in "Pictures from the Past" by the Lanesville Community Center.
2. Gloucester Daily Times, April 16, 1894.
3. Edith A. Stevens et al. vs. Rockport Granite Company, 1911 and 1914.
4. Gloucester Daily Times, August 8, 1894.
5. Gloucester Daily Times, October 13, 1890; March 3, May 9, and June 25, 1898.

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