Scattered throughout the state, quarry mines are a reminder of a bygone but important Ohio industry.
Dotting the ridges of Washington County, remnants of the abandoned mining industry have often blossomed into beautiful recreation areas.
What once were deep scars left in the earth have been transformed with the help of time and sometimes a human touch, into picturesque ponds and rock formations.
Washington County Career Center instructor Jason Lipot uses a brick and a string recently to measure the depth of a quarry pond behind the career center. The pond is just a short five-minute hike from the trail head behind WCCC.
"These quarry mines are part of Washington County's cultural history," said Marietta resident Terry Schafer, a retired instructor at the Washington County Career Center.
At the turn of the 20th century, the large sandstone formations were bustling centers of activity, and at one point, Ohio produced 90 percent of the nation's grindstones. At that time, Washington County's sandstone formations made it a mecca for large quarry mining companies, such as the Cleveland Stone Company.
"There were customers that liked our stone better than what was in Cleveland. They did not have the amount of clay in it that was needed when you sharpened steel," explained Brad Bond, local author and quarry researcher.
If you go
What: Washington County Career Center quarry pond.
Where: The Career Center is located at 21740 State Route 676. Behind the school, a map at the trail head highlights many of the trails, including the trail leading to the quarry pond.
Because hunting is prohibited on school property, wildlife is abundant in the area.
Fishing is allowed with an Ohio fishing license, but no fish are believed to be in the quarry pond.
Points of interest
Places to see grindstones used in architecture and infrastructure:
The wall of the Marietta College boathouse, along Gilman Avenue, Marietta.
The Ohio River side of I-77 on Pike Street, Marietta.
As foundation for the now relocated U.S. Post Office in Constitution.
Protecting against landslips along Murdoch Avenue, Parkersburg.
Now that the quarry industry has subsided, many of the deeply dug mines have filled with rain and run off over the years, and they have blossomed into ideal destinations for hikers, history buffs and maybe even a few fishermen.
Much like the case with the current oil and gas boom, quarry companies leased the land on which they quarried from private citizens. Therefore, most Washington County quarries are literally in someone's backyard, said Bond.
But at least one local quarry is publicly accessible and offers a serene spot to begin learning about the sometimes forgotten industry. At the trail head behind the Washington County Career Center on Ohio 676, a map points out the way. Just a five minute walk will lead explorers to the ravine where piles of left behind grindstones encircle a small quarry, now filled with water and dotted with colorful, changing fall leaves.
Recently, Jason Lipot, Landscape & Turf Management instructor at the career center, took his class of seniors to see the quarry pond for the first time, and to attempt to measure its depth.
"What are all these things?" asked senior Caileigh Mosa as she and her classmates climbed over dozens of grindstones.
Now obsolete for a couple of generations, the history of quarry mining has faded from the public consciousness. Many young people today have no idea that the industry existed, let alone the scope of it, said Bond.
Literally hundreds of small quarries were thought to have existed in Washington County and Bond has visited dozens of them. Some quarries might have only produced a few cut-outs before a company decided the site was not worth the effort. Others sites produced thousands of stones and left massive dents in the landscape, he said.
The quarry behind the career center was likely somewhere in between.
From a large round grindstone steadily anchored out in the pond, Lipot tied a brick to a string and threw it into the center of the pond. His class estimated its depth at 12 to 15 feet.
The murky water might not be an ideal place to go swimming, but surrounded on all sides by dense forest and the massive grindstones, it would be an ideal spot for a recreation area, said Lipot.
"It would just be a matter of someone having the time to find some grant money," he said.
Even without manmade structures surrounding the pond, the gigantic stones offer a nice spot to sit and relax. Most of the stones are laid flat against the ground and several. About five to six feet in diameter, the stones provide cozy little surfaces for picnics or bird watching.
The mines themselves are not the only indication of their historic significance. Sandstone mined from local quarries is evident throughout the county.
"We also cut a lot of sandstone for early barns, bridges and buildings. You can see a lot of that sandstone if you look at the (Washington County) courthouse or some of the older curbs in Marietta," said Schafer.
The large stones are often called barn stones because they were used as foundational supports for barns, said Schafer. Many of them are still visible under barns around the county, he said.
Several round grindstones form part of the wall for the Marietta College boathouse. Driving down Gilman Avenue, the outlines of the stones are clearly visible from the street, said Bond.
Additionally, the giant round stones can be found protecting the Ohio foundation of I-77 from flood damage, he said.
Seeking out these grindstones and the quarries from which they came can be quite an adventure, one which Bond has pursued for decades and even written a book about. Interested quarry seekers can find his book, "Grindstone Country," at the Washington County Public Library. However, many of the quarries mapped in the book are on private property and would require getting the owner's permission before visiting, said Bond.
But with the quarry behind the career center open to the public and the grindstones featured in local architecture all readily viewable, there are plenty of options for those interesting in learning more about the area's "quarried" past.