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October 6, 2011

Couple aim to preserve history of 19th century quarry

(Continued)

WILLSBORO — A separate bookshelf filled with Methodist tomes and hymnals indicates the religious fervency of the Clarks.

"I know Solomon and Rhoda from reading their diaries," Darcey said. "They were very well educated, though mostly self-taught, and were passionate readers.

"They climbed Whiteface and also traveled to the Centennial celebration in Philadelphia, and the Chicago Exposition."

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Scragwood is the piano, which was purchased around 1870 for $30. Not only is it an impressive centerpiece, but there is thorough documentation on the instrument itself, including where it was manufactured and how it was shipped.

coveted limestone

As Bruce explained during a walk through the quarry site, the blue limestone found here was harder and had fewer fissures than most limestones, which allowed for 5-foot-thick seams. It is also structurally sound for underwater applications and thus was utilized that way before the advent of concrete.

The quarry was started in 1823 by Solomon, who could speak French. He hired locals as well as skilled stone cutters from Montreal. The quarry supplied the so-called blue limestone for several renowned structures, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York State Capitol building. Locally, the stone was used in building the Valcour Lighthouse in the Town of Peru and Fort Montgomery near Rouses Point.

$1 A DAY

In 1868, as many as five companies worked at the quarry at the same time, with about 300 employees. A small village was constructed to provide living quarters for the families.

Workers were generally paid $1 a day, usually in credit at the company store.

Solomon's brother, Lewis, was an engineer and naval architect who built Monitor-class boats. Before steamships became more prevalent, boats and barges were constructed on Willsboro Point, loaded and sent on a one-time journey to New York City. After they were unloaded, they were sold.

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