Greene County has a considerable amount of limestone beneath the soil. It has been said that some of the best limestone comes from this area.
Quarries have been in existence in various parts of the county for many years. Some have been useful in providing gravel for roads and driveways, some provide sand for making cement and limestone is often used in farming.
In addition to these uses, some of the quarries yielded large rocks which are suitable for building purposes.
One such quarry was located on Stone Road on the McDonald farm. This particular site proved to be the best for a large stone which was used as a part of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.
When plans were made to honor our first president with a monument, each state was invited to provide a stone to be used in the structure. Quarries from all over the state sent in samples of their products with the hope that one of them would be selected to provide the Ohio stone.
Much to the delight of the residents of Greene County the selected stone was quarried on the McDonald farm. Great care was taken to select the finest piece. It was carefully removed from the quarry and transported by train to the building site.
The 555-foot tall monument is by law, the tallest structure in Washington DC. It opened for public viewing in 1888. The exterior is made from white marble from Maryland and Massachusetts.
Work on the monument was halted for a few years, due to lack of funding, but then the stone from Ohio was placed inside the monument along commemorative stones. It is a thrill to proceed to the top of the monument and look out over the city, especially with the knowledge that Greene County contributed the stone sent from Ohio. If you care to visit the quarry site, an historic marker was erected on Stone Road and is easily read.
One former quarry site was utilized after the 1974 tornado to place the debris of the city. Load after load of building materials and other remnants of the devastation were placed at the site near Fairborn. At the time, it was a place where many loads could be placed and then covered. The area is now well-landscaped, but I sometimes wonder if some archaeologist will dig there in some far distant time and speculate about the people who presumably lived there not knowing the history.
In recent years, one of the larger continuing quarries is Phillips Companies, celebrating 75 years in business. This business began with the original founder, Frank G. Phillips who was born on the family farm in 1900. The usual farm chores awaited him as he was growing up, and included the use of gravel for various farm projects, making him familiar with the industry.
One of his first jobs was to deliver milk to a large number of customers. In 1923, he married Grace and then decided to go into business for himself.
Folks were still trying to recover from the depression and there were several government projects created to ensure that folks could find work. WPA programs were made available, many of which entailed building projects and paving roads.
Frank realized that gravel for those projects would be needed and so he acquired a truck to haul gravel. One of the projects he was associated with was building Huffman Dam. Unfortunately, even though this was government work, he was not paid properly and so lost his trucks and therefore his business,
Not one to be idle, he went back to delivering milk and then secured a position at the Frigidaire Manufacturing Plant to feed his growing family.
Putting food on the table and enjoying the work you are doing sometimes aren’t the same things. He had really enjoyed the gravel business and so he purchased the Bell Sand and Gravel Company on Linden Avenue, the present location of the Walnut Grove Country Cub.
Initially, the operation was small with only one truck and a wooden bin. When excavating with a crane, the gravel was placed into the wooden bin. Then the gravel is loaded from the bin into the back of the truck for hauling.
Loading gravel in this manner was not terribly efficient since the crane was not accurate, but it was surely better than shoveling the gravel into the truck by hand.
The operation continued at this site for eight or ten years, then another opportunity presented itself so he purchased the property at Grange Hall and Shakertown Roads. In addition to that site, he mined from other locations as well to better serve the customers.
When U. S. Highway 35 was being constructed in 1955, he saw an opportunity to expand the business and purchased about 50 acres adjacent to the highway. When the construction on the highway was ended, there was a pit complete with a pond remaining which proved to be an ideal location for the business.
In time his sons, Don, Dick and Ed joined the firm and continued their father’s dream. From the desire of one man to own his own business, a large corporation continues to serve the community.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly columnist.