THE HAMMOND MUSEUM
STONE QUARRIES ONCE DOTTED HAMMOND
From an article written by William C. Pike and printed in the Watertown Daily Times on August 29, 1923.
ago, just before the turn of the century more than 600 men toiled and
sweated along the sandstone ledges below and to the east of South Hammond
in company settlements of shanties, bunkhouses, stores, saloons and
bakeries, the 600 cut, carried, hauled and stacked paving blocks and
curbstones for the cities of the east coast.
huge “crow bars” amid the rolling dust clouds and obstinate braying of
the quarrymen, as they were called by villagers, piled tons of pink,
yellow and red blocks into sugar-like loads for shipment.
eastern streets of Syracuse, Utica, even mid-western Chicago were improved
with South Hammond sandstone modern paving of the time and industrial
backbone of regular frontier style boom town.
of anything but peace and tranquility, the quarry Saloon was the site of
frequent and well attended brawls with traditional broken chairs, bottles,
windows and clients.
fact legend has it that a quarry superintendent took up a hasty lodgings
in the cemetery after picking a fight with a stout and stout-hearted woman
who also happened to be a fair shot.
understandably shocked by such indelicacies, promptly jailed the earnest
woman. She then languished in Hammond’s “Crow Bar Hotel” for well
over a year until it was proved beyond a doubt that she had acted in good
faith and self defense. Thereby her honest intentions were manifest and
her re-admittance to respectable society assured.
course, at that time unions were unheard of and workers relied heavily if
not totally, on the quarry operators for clothing and shelter.
spurs supplied these essentials in return for powdery sandstone which they
carried away. There were three principal quarries in the area - all
working into the South Hammond ledges. Two were actually in the community
itself with spurs leading into them from the main railroad tracks and the
third quarry closer to the neighboring village of Hammond.
were employed largely and worked under a “padrone” system directed by
“Mike” Nicolette. South Hammond sandstone employers were the Edgar
& Phillips Co. and the W.M. Lugdon Co.
John Finnegan, the third quarry owner, conducted operations near
a number of years car loadings ran into the hundreds but when asphalt
started to take precedence as a paving material the blooming sandstone
business began to wilt.
which came to be one supplier of asphalt for smoother, if less picturesque
highways, beckoned-perhaps as the ‘land of golden promise’ for many of
the consequently unemployed.
last the three quarries were closed completely and pine trees, bushes and
tall grass filled the once bustling work site. Delving deeper into South
Hammond history, long before the sandstone industry suffered its demise at
the hands of asphalt enthusiasts, local mills kept residents busy and
impressed travelers as symptoms of promise and growth.
fact, prior to the railroad’s advent, South Hammond’s Kings Tavern
sheltered and entertained stage coach passengers on their way to and from
Hammond’s heydey population which included the quarry workers probably
numbered close to a 1,000. but motorists passing through the small hamlet
today would not likely guess that here was once a bustling and crowded
quarries hidden from view below the ledge that marks the beginning of
Black Creek Valley still manifest the aura of intense physical labor which
the white pines and scrub bushes have taken over nevertheless. Hammond
residents who even vaguely recall the tumultuous ‘quarry days’ are few
and woodchucks, squirrels or chipmunks have become the only permanent
dwellers at the site of a once thriving north country industry.