I would like to share with you the American Slate Story in a series of monthly articles. Lets start by going back to the early days of slate in the United States.
“Once upon a time" in a far away land called Vermont, one of the first states in Early America, a retired army officer, by the name of Colonel Alonson Allen was wandering about on his farm land in the small rural community of Fair Haven, Vermont, we will call the year some time in the early 1800’s. The Colonel, it is rumored, enjoyed a quiet walk with his jug of rum, and may in fact have a been a bit borracho, when he stumbled over an outcropping of stone. Landing on his face and smashing his beloved jug his first reaction was a cry of mierda and an attempt to throw a piece of the offending rock as far a possible. Upon closer inspection – this was an interesting piece of stone- and it brought back memories of his childhood days at school when he would write on a similar stone AHA- slate!
Returning home (and sleeping it off) the Colonel decided to begin producing slates for school children to write upon commercially, and by the middle of the 1840's he was the largest slate manufacturer in America. The advent of producing slates for roofs soon followed and by the end of the decade this was the focus of his production.
Soon immigrating Welshmen were drawn to this district by rumors of significant slate deposits, (or the availability of large quantities of rum, one can never be sure) among those the infamous “Slate Baron” the notably John Humphrey. Mr. Humphrey soon incorporated The Eagle Slate Company in 1853 and by the end of the decade the quarry pit was in excess of 150 feet deep and had numerous “tunnels” extending from the pit floor a distance of 500 feet and more into the adjacent mountains. About a mile south of the Eagle quarry was discovered an excellent source of purple slate in abundant quantity, this was first quarried by another Welshman William L. Farnum. To the north of the Eagle another industrious immigrant from Wales, the ole Sod, Griffin Hughes while prospecting in about 1860 opened a small pit that is now know as the “Evergreen Quarry” producing an unfading green slate of superior quality in very significant amounts. In some parts of the country the name “evergreen” became synonymous with slate.
Fueled by rum and the never ending quest for riches, here was the beginning of large scale production and the origin of what was to become the Vermont Slate Industry.
Next month more Welsh, some Irish (you know there will be a bit of the whiskey there) and Lord Penrhyn – how they all helped make the Vermont Slate Industry.