History of West Virginia Mineral Industries - Sandstone

Dividing Line

Glass Sand

In order to be used for high-grade glass manufacturing, sandstone must have at least 98 percent silica. West Virginia is fortunate to have a sandstone of this high quality, the Oriskany sandstone. This sandstone forms the summit of Warm Springs Ridge in Morgan County. The Hancock White Sand Company first quarried this ridge during the Civil War, and by approximately 1906 there were 7 quarries located along the ridge, all extracting Oriskany sandstone. Also quarried in Morgan County is the Tuscarora sandstone, another excellent glass sand. In 1904, the Great Cacapon Silica Sand Company opened a quarry in this sandstone, on the west slope of Cacapon Mountain, just west of Berkeley Springs.

In 1929, the Pennsylvania Glass Sand Corporation took over Oriskany sandstone quarry operations along Warm Springs Ridge, and is today the only major glass sand company in operation in West Virginia. Presently, this company is the largest melting sand producer in the world, with the Berkeley Springs operation alone producing about 1.5 million tons per year. Greer Industries, Inc. produces limestone sand for the glass industry at their Greer Lime Company facility in Riverton, West Virginia.

Access to suitable sand and inexpensive fuel (natural gas) have made West Virginia one of the leading glass manufacturing states. In 1813, Isaac Duval built the first West Virginia glass plant at Wellsburg, where he manufactured flint glass and colored glassware. Wheeling soon took the lead in glass production, making window glass, glass bottles, pitchers, wine glasses, and tumblers. By 1830 Wheeling had five glass factories and two glass-cutting establishments, employing 193 people. Morgantown, as well as other West Virginia towns, has also become known for its fine glassware. West Virginia's Oriskany sandstone has been used not only in West Virginia but all over the eastern U. S. for the manufacture of the highest grade of glassware.

Dimension Stone

sandstone quarry Dimension stone is stone sold in blocks or slabs, and is used in building. It must be workable, uniform in texture and grain size, and attractive in appearance. The early West Virginia settlers had plenty of lumber, and did not feel the need for stone. However, after the Civil War the centers of population grew rapidly and the use of native stone also grew. The sandstone was used for buildings, bridges, paving and curbing, and stone walls. By the early 1900s there were as many as 60 dimension stone quarries in West Virginia, primarily in the western part of the State. Although the use of building stone decreased with the development of new building materials, in recent years it has once again gained popularity.

Abrasive Stone

Abrasive sandstone was used in making grindstones and pulpstones. The grindstone was then used for sharpening tools and instruments, and the pulpstone for crushing wood into fiber at pulp mills. The Marietta sandstone, outcropping along the Ohio River, is especially good as abrasive stone and has been the second most important grindstone horizon in the U.S. Around 1900 there were quite a few grindstone quarries, primarily in the Parkersburg area. But demand decreased, and by 1957 only one grindstone quarry (Constitution Stone Company, Jackson County) and one pulpstone quarry (Smallwood and Low Sandstone Company, Monongalia County) were still in operation. Today there are no active abrasive stone quarries in the State, as native stone has been replaced by new materials.

(adapted from an article by Jane R. Eggleston, updated September 1996)

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