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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: quarrying industry in Wisconsin

Definition: Local stone has been used by residents for building and construction purposes since the earliest days of settlement in Wisconsin. Little of this work was done by any sizable quarrying operations until the 1850s, however. By the 1870s and 1880s, quarrying of stone had become a major industry. The Chicago fire of 1871 and the emergence in the late 19th century of "brownstone" homes gave particular impetus to the industry's growth and by 1890, Wisconsin ranked 12th in the nation in the number of quarries. Quarry production remained strong in the early decades of the 20th century. The eventual discovery of new stone-producing areas and the rise of concrete led to a decline in the state's production of stone products by mid-century.


The main quarry types in the state are granite, sandstone, and limestone. The principle granite producing areas were in Montello, Berlin, Utley, Marquette, Red Granite, Waupaca, Wausau, and Amberg. Most Wisconsin granite was manufactured into paving blocks and curbing used for growing urban communities around the state: only a small percentage went into the construction of monuments or buildings. Montello red granite was used for the sarcophagi at Grant's Tomb in New York City. By the end of the 19th century, Amberg in Marinettte County had emerged as one of the largest producers of granite stone buildings, monuments, and paving in the upper Midwest.


Sandstone forms a considerable portion of the state's bedrock. Most of the sandstone used for building purposes was found in the central and south-central parts of the state, although the darker sandstone known as brownstone found on the shores of Lake Superior was highly sought after in the late 19th century. The arrival of railroads in the nothern counties in the 1880s helped to increase production levels, providing new access to inland markets and an all-season method of transportation. Wisconsin's Lake Superior quarries provided building materials to local communities, allowing them to compete in style and architectural character with their counterparts in the east. The light-colored sandstone of the central region of the state was used locally throughout the second half of the 19th century. Only a small percentage of this sandstone was exported because it was too weak to handle in large amounts.


Limestone was the largest type of quarried stone in Wisconsin, used as a building stone for foundations, piers and bridgework, as a crushed stone for roadwork, and as the central ingredient in the manufacture of lime for building, agricultural, or industrial purposes. Only a small amount was used as an exterior stone on buildings. Limestone production was roughly divided into three major geographical areas with its own characteristics: the high bluffs of the Mississippi and lower Wisconsin river valleys, the northeastern part of the state near the Menominee River on down to the southwestern counties, and the broad belt from northern Door County to the state line.

View pictures related to the quarrying industry at Wisconsin Historical Images.

[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resources Study Units, Wisconsin Historical Society]

172 records found

1888 Bohemian Schoolhouse (Historic Marker)
Abert, George 1817 - 1890
Ameche, Don 1908 - 1993
Bacon, Edward Payson 1834 - 1916
ballast (railroads)
bank (railroads)
Barron, Henry Danforth 1833 - 1882
Bashford, Coles 1816 - 1878
Bay View Rolling Mill (Historic Marker Erected 198
Belgian Settlement in Wisconsin (Historic Marker E
Bluffton, Marquette Co.
bobber (railroads)
boiler (railroads)
boxcar (railroads)
brakeman (railroads)
branch line (railroads)
Brandemuehl, David A. 1931
Breske, Roger M. 1938
broad gauge (railroads)
Brookfield [brief history]
Browne, Edward L. 1830 - 1925
Buffalo City [brief history]
Burnham, George 1816 - 1889
Burnham, Jonathan Levi 1818 - 1891
caboose (railroads)
cant (railroads)
Carhart, John W. 1834 - 1914
Carpenter, Matthew Hale [B. "Carpenter","Decatur M
Civil War: 29th Infantry
Civil War: 43rd Infantry
Civil War: home front
Colby, Gardner 1810 - 1879
Commons, John Rogers 1862 - 1945
conductor (railroads)
Cooper, Henry Allen 1850 - 1931
coupler (railroads)
Crocker, Hans 1815 - 1889
Cross, James B. 1819 - 1876
crummy (railroads)
Davidson, James Henry 1858 - 1918
De Pere [brief history]
dead man's handle (railroads)
Dheinsville Settlement (Historic Marker Erected 19
Doty, James Duane 1799 - 1865
Edgerton, Benjamin Hyde 1811 - 1886
Eldred, Anson 1820 - 1895
Esch, John Jacob 1861 - 1941
express train (railroads)
facing (railroads)
fettle, fettling (railroads)
firebox (railroads)
fireman (railroads)
First Rural Zoning Ordinance (Historic Marker Erec
flatcar (railroads)
floods in Wisconsin
flying junction (railroads)
Fond du Lac [brief history]
Foster, Nathaniel Caldwell 1834 - 1923
four-foot (railroads)
gandy dancer (railroads)
Garland, Hamlin 1860 - 1940
gauge (railroads)
gondola (railroads)
Good Roads Movement
grab bar (railroads)
Granger Movement
Green Bay [brief history]
Guppey, Gen. Joshua J. (1820-1893)
hack (railroads)
Hasenohrl, Donald W. 1935
Hatton, William H. 1856 - 1937
Hayward [brief history]
Highway Marking (Historic Marker Erected 1956)
Hirst, Arthur Roscoe 1881 - 1932
Hoard, William Dempster 1836 - 1918
hogger (railroads)
Holmes, Frederick Lionel 1883 - 1946
Holton, Edward Dwight 1815 - 1892
hotels in Wisconsin
island platform (railroads)
Janesville, Rock Co.
Jefferson, Jefferson Co.
Johnstown Center, Rock Co.
Jones, Burr W. 1846 - 1935
junction (railroads)
Juneau, Solomon 1793 - 1856
Keep, Albert 1826 - 1907
Kenosha [brief history]
Keyes, Elisha Williams 1828 - 1910
Kilbourn, Byron 1801 - 1870
Kincaid, Lloyd H. 1925
Kneeland, Moses 1809 - 1864
La Crosse [brief history]
La Follette, Robert Marion Sr. 1855 - 1925
Lasee, Alan J. 1937
Lawe, George William 1810 - 1895
Lawler, John 1832 - 1891
level junction (railroads)
Lime industry in Wisconsin
local train (railroads)
long lots
Ludington, Harrison 1812 - 1891
Mack, John Givan Davis 1867 - 1924
Madison, Dane Co.
mainline (railroads)
Manitowoc, Manitowoc Co.
Mapes, David Parshall 1798 - 1890
Marin, Paul, 1692-1753
Mcdougal, Milton 1917
meat packing industry
Miller, Roswell 1843 - 1913
Mohrsville [origin of place name]
narrow gauge (railroads)
North Freedom [origin of place name]
Omro, Winnebago Co.
pantograph (railroads)
per diem (railroads)
Pewaukee [brief history]
Philipp, Emanuel Lorenz 1861 - 1925
piston (railroads)
Plache, Kimberly M. 1961
plank road
Potter Law (1874)
Price, William Thompson 1824 - 1886
Putnam, Henry Cleveland 1832 - 1912
quarrying industry in Wisconsin
Racine [brief history]
Racine, Racine Co.
railroads in Wisconsin
Reed, George 1807 - 1883
Rest Areas on the I-Roads (Historic Marker Erected
Ringling [Rungeling], Albert 1852 - 1916
Road gang (logging)
road monkey (logging)
roads in Wisconsin (early)
roads in Wisconsin (modern)
rolling stock (railroads)
Rustic Road (Historic Marker Erected 1976)
Sanders, Col. Horace T. (1820-1865)
Shaw, Daniel 1813 - 1881
Sheboygan, Sheboygan Co.
shoofly (railroads)
siding (railroads)
six-foot (railroads)
standard gauge (railroads)
Stevens Point [brief history]
Stone, Jeff 1961
swamper (logging)
switchman (railroads)
Taylor, William Robert 1820 - 1909
Teasdale, Howard (1855 - 1936)
ten-foot (railroads)
The "Dinky" (Historic Marker Erected 1989)
The Point of Beginning (Historic Marker Erected 19
The Saukville Trails (Historic Marker Erected 1998
The Upper Mississippi (Historic Marker Erected 198
Thompsonville, Racine Co.
through platform (railroads)
timeline of Wisconsin history, 1900 -1999
Tittemore, James Nelson 1864 - 1949
trainman (railroads)
turntable (railroads)
Van Hise Rock (Historic Marker Erected 1997)
Vanderperren, Cletus 1912
Village of Cooksville (Historic Marker Erected 199
Washburn, Gov. Cadwallader Colden (1818-1882)
Watertown, Jefferson Co.
Wauwatosa, Milwaukee Co.
way car (railroads)
wheat cultivation
WPA (in Wisconsin)
yard (railroads)

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