Thursday, July 24, 2008

"A Worthless Piece of Land"

"In 1872, a farmer named John Gilmer purchased several thousand acres of farm and woodland covering what is now part of Mount Airy, NC and the Flat Rock Community. After discovering that the tract contained 40 acres of bare rock, a furious Mr. Gilmer demanded that he be reimbursed for the 'useless' portion of his land. Thus, the world's finest natural quarry 'changed hands for nothing'" (NC Granite Corp. publication).

Additional land was purchased around the original 40 acres, and in 1889 quarrying in the world's largest open face granite quarry began. An open face quarry is defined as open and fairly level onto which one could walk or drive, making access to the stone much easier and more affordable than pit quarries located below the surface. As we looked into the quarry from about 400' above the floor, we could see the easy access to the walls of granite.

Looking at the entire range of activity being carried out by workers and machines in the quarry was like looking into a child's sandbox filled with trucks, cranes, and other machines. The white crane just to the right of the center in the photograph to the left was dropping a large ball on large chunks of granite to break them into smaller pieces for crushing.

The machine in the photo to the right would crush the resulting pieces into products ranging from rocks the size of those used for landscaping to tiny stones for walkways or borders.

The photo below provides a picture of the stages in the quarry's operation from the mining (through the use of gunpowder) of the large slabs to the area (near the upper half of the photo) where the granite slabs are stacked to the transportation of the slabs to construction sites. A truck carrying two slabs is carrying a full load.

We later learned that the granite deposit being mined at this time is approximately one mile long and one-third mile wide. The company reports that geological mapping shows the total mass to be approximately 7 miles by 4 miles and 6,000 to 8,000 feet deep! Quarrying has been in full operation since 1889 and can continue for approximately 500 more years without exhausting the supply. Talk about job security.

As you would expect, many of the buildings in Mount Airy have been constructed with granite. The post office, a memorial to all local people killed in all wars, and almost all the churches in Mount Airy have used granite. The Presbyterian church shown on the right was unique in that the random placement of the rocks represented a variation from the typical row upon row of rectangular blocks.

We found these granite seats and checkerboard tables outside of the entrance to the display of Andy Griffith memorabilia.

Oops. In yesterday's entry I completely forgot to mention the delightful cookbook that Joyce Fulk gave us. It has recipes collected by the Siloam Baptist Church Young Women on Missions Group. It has an original recipe that Don Fulk submitted for Cherry Coconut Cake and several of Joyce's, including Chiffon Cheese Cake--both of which we look forward to trying.

No comments: