Lois Borland Collection Aberdeen Quarry Records
Collection 1, Series 2. 2 document cases (.75 linear ft.) Finding Aid Prepared By Abraham Clinger February 2005
Lois Borland (1877-1967) came to the Colorado State Normal School, Gunnison, Colorado in 1914 as the school’s first English professor. She retired in 1942 from Western State College of Colorado after a long career that included many interests. In addition to literature, she developed an interest in local history and was probably the first person in the area to appreciate the value of saving and preserving historical documents. She also was involved in dramatic productions at the college.
The Aberdeen Quarry is located six miles west of Gunnison on South Beaver Creek. It was in full operation from August 1, 1889 until April of 1892. A special type of granite was quarried from Aberdeen, know for its unique hardness and smooth features. F. G. Zugelder took the first sample of granite in the spring of 1888 and, along with L. F. Zugelder, W. R. Walter, and T. U. Walter, set the location for the quarry in April 16, 1889. In early February of 1889 William Geddes, future contractor in operation of the quarry, visited the potential site.1
After some debate regarding the use of sandstone for the capitol building in Denver, it was decided to search Colorado for an alternative material. Governor Job A. Cooper selected a special commission for the job; Otto Mears and John L. Routt were among the commissions members. In May of 1889, the Governor visited Gunnison during a tour of quarries in the area. One month after the visit to Gunnison, the South Beaver Creek granite was selected for use in the construction of the capitol building. The decision to use granite rather than sandstone in the construction of the capitol building is thought to have increased the overall cost by more than $400,000.2
The Denver and Rio Grande began construction of a branch to the quarry in June with more than 150 men on the job; all of this was at the expense of the D&RG. Before constructed commenced, a right of way had to be opened through several local ranches. This was accomplished with little trouble, and the project was set to be finished by the end of July.3
The operations of the quarry were underway by the beginning of August and the quarry was named Aberdeen after another quarry in Scotland. The first load of granite was shipped to Denver on August 14. From that point on, between fifty and sixty men worked the quarry shipping twenty carloads every week to keep one hundred fifty stonecutters busy in Denver. Some of the slabs required for the capitol building weighed as much as fifteen tons. The quarry quickly began to materialize as buildings were put up and menial matters were sorted out. The Gunnison days were long and cold as men worked ten hours every day of the week. When workers were refused fewer working hours they began looking for a way to organize.4
The quarry organized a branch of the Quarrymen’s National Union of America (Q.N.U.) in April 4, 1891.5 This just less than one year after the Quarrymen’s National Union was created in Barre, Vermont.6 The Quarrymen’s National Union was based in Quincy Massachusetts, and by 1891 had more than sixty branches in many areas of the U.S. Aberdeen and Park Siding were the only branches in Colorado.7 Three members of the Q.N.U. arrived in Aberdeen in March of 1891; Peter Olsen was among these and latter became the local Secretary at Aberdeen. They quickly persuaded the workers of Aberdeen to see the benefits of unionization.8
On April 4, 1891 the quarrymen of Aberdeen organized Branch no. 46 of the Q.N.U. Alex McDonald was named President and William Thompson was named Secretary. More than twenty of the thirty six men at Aberdeen in April joined that night. Many others joined before the quarry was closed. During their second meeting, May 9, 1891, workers voted unanimously to insist on shorter hours with equal pay. They were supported by another branch of the Q.N.U. in Park Siding, Colorado as well as by John J. Byron, National Union Secretary in Quincy, Massachusetts. After demands were not met, the quarrymen began a strike on June 1. An attempt was made to the fill the positions with non-union labor. After a short period of time, managers realized that the scab labor would be insufficient and met the demands of the union.9
Although demands were met, Aberdeen did not last much longer and really only survived to finish supplying granite for the capitol building. The number of employees was up to about sixty by December 1891 but began to fall from there. April 1, 1892 was the last meeting of Branch no. 46 of the Q.N.U. Only seventeen employees remained by this time and even fewer would endure through the end of the capitol project in June.10 The quarry was open on a limited basis for some time after this.11
This collection was preserved through the efforts of Wallace Moore and Dr. Lois Borland. Wallace Moore was the last Secretary of the Q.N.U. at Aberdeen.12 He was also one of only five Gunnison citizens to be employed at the quarry during this time as well as one of the few employees to stay until work was finished for the capitol building.13 He passed the collection to Dr. Lois Borland, previous professor of English at Western State College and notable author of local history. Dr. Lois Borland is responsible for donating this collection, as part of a larger collection, to Leslie Savage Library.
1Lois Borland and Wallace Moore, “Quarrying the Granite for the State Capitol,” The Colorado Magazine 24 (1947): 49, 58.,
6Rex C. Myers, “No One Stayed,” The Mining History Journal 9 (2002): 57.
7Monthly Membership Report; Quarrymen’s National Union of the United States of America; Branch 446, Aberdeen, Colorado, Aberdeen Quarry Collection, Folder 16, Western State College Archives, Gunnison Colorado.
11Ann D. Zugelder, “Slow-Down at Aberdeen Quarry,” in The Aberdeen Quarry, Edited by Ann D. Zugelder. Gunnison, Colorado, 1.
Scope and Content Note
The Aberdeen Quarry records consist of one linear foot and date from March 1891 – March 1947. The bulk of the collection is made up of records from the short life of the union and a few articles, both newspaper and academic, pertaining to Aberdeen Quarry. Among the union files are financial records, bylaws and minutes for meetings, applications for membership, a contract closing a strike and correspondence. The focus of these records seems to be on the strike that occurred on June 1, 1891. The articles, notable “Quarrying the Granite for the State Capitol” by Lois Borland, provide a useful and comprehensive history of the quarry operations. This collection would be most useful to those who are interested in western mining operations, Colorado history, or labor history in general. The personal correspondence provides an interesting glimpse into labor and unions of the time.
|Finding Aid and Articles||
Meyers, Rex C. “No One Stayed: Quarrying Granit in Aberdeen,Colorado, 1889-1892.” The Mining History Journal 9: 54-64 (2002).
Meyers, Rex C. “Railroads, Stone Quarries, and the Colorado State Capitol.” Journal of the West 39 (2): 37-45 (Spring 2000).
Quarrying the Granite for the State Capitol by Wallace Moore as told to Lois Borland. (Unpublished manuscript).
Papers Relating to Aberdeen, where the Granite for the State Capitol was Quarried, 1889-1892, presented by Wallace Moore, Gunnison, Colo.
Zugelder. Ann D. The Aberdeen Quarry: A Compilation of Articles with Original Text. Gunnison, Colorado, 1989.
|Red Ledger||Bylaws and minutes for branch no. 46, Aberdeen Colorado, of the Quarryman’s National Union. [The last pages of the ledger contain the beginnings of a history of Aberdeen Quarry by an unknown author.]|
|Black Ledger||“Instructions to Financial Secretaries,” [possibly concerning charges and payments of union dues as well as notes pertaining to “Traveling Cards” and organizational service.] The ledger also contains the “Withdrawal Card” and “Contribution Card” of Wallace Moore, as well as other loose documents|
|Brown Ledger||“Day Book” financial records dating from August, 1882 – July 1883, [possibly from a company store]|
|Folder 1||Packet of “Constitution of the Quarrymen’s National Union of the United States of America, organized Aug. 11, 1890.”|
|Folder 2||Packet of “Traveling Cards of the Union”, most of which are from Park Siding, CO or Amberg, WI and dating from 1891.|
|Folder 3||Packet of “Withdrawal Cards of the Union”, branch No. 41 of Park Siding, CO. Some of these are completed, from August and July of 1891, others are only signed, and the rest are blank.|
|Folder 4||Packet of “Contribution Cards of the Union”, all of these are blank.|
|Folder 5||Packet of “Applications for Membership” branch No. 46, Quarrymen’s National Union. Some of these are completed, from the year 1891, and others are blank.|
|Folder 6||Three issues Quarrymen’s Journal, published Quincy, Mass. Vol. I, No. 12, December, 1891; Vol. II, No. 2, February, 1892; Vol. II No. 3, March, 1892.|
|Folder 7||One issue of Colorado A.O.U.W. [Ancient Order of United Workmen] Record, Published Denver, CO. Vol. XVI, No. 9, September 01, 1902.|
|Folder 8||Newspaper clippings pertaining to the history of Aberdeen Quarry, a later possible revitalization of the quarry, and other topics not related to the quarry. There is one article pertaining to this collection. [Articles clipped by Wallace Moore].|
|Folder 9||Agreement between Quarrymen’s National Union, Branch No. 46 at Aberdeen, and Geddes and Seerie, contractors, dated June 8, 1891. [The agreement closed a strike for a nine-hour workday and freedom from Sunday work, necessary overtime was to be at regular rates.]|
|Folder 10||Article written by Lois Borland for the Colorado Historical Magazine concerning the activities and history of Aberdeen quarry, with several drafts.|
|Folder 11/12||Correspondence of the Secretary of the Quarrymen’s Union at Aberdeen, Peter Olsen, Branch No. 46. Letters are from John J. Byron, National Union Secretary (N.U.S.). [The correspondence for the month of June, 1891, deals with a strike that was settled in that same month. The resolution can be found in Folder 9. The correspondence after this time and ending in March, 1892 pertains to regular business.]|
|Folder 13||Correspondence of the Secretary of the Quarrymen’s Union at Aberdeen, Peter Olsen, Branch No. 46. [The two letters are concerning the above mentioned strike.]|
|Folder 14||Article written by J. Fred. Hunter for United States Geological Survey Bulletin 540 Washington: GPO, 1914 “Structural Materials, ECT: The Aberdeen Granite Quarry Near Gunnison, Colorado.” This article is a scientific study of the granite and quarry conditions.|
|Folder 15||Financial Report of N.U.S. September 1891.|
|Folder 16||Monthly Membership Report. September, 1891.|
|Folder 17||Stone Industry, General Conference Announcement, signed by James Grant, President, and Patrick Spelman, Secretary. Dated February 25, 1892 and regarding internal conflict as well as conflict with employers.|
|Folder 18||“Rules To Be Observed by Recording Secretaries of Branches.” Signed by J.J. Byron, N.U.S.|
|Folder 19||Financial record (on lined paper) for the union dated Nov, 1891 – Jan. 1892.|
|Folder 20||Correspondence of the Secretary of the Quarrymen’s Union at Aberdeen, William Thompson, Branch No. 46. Letters are from N.U.S. headquarters, Quarrymen’s National Union of America Branch No. 42 (Park Siding, CO), and a sister union of granite cutters in Denver, CO. [All of this correspondence is concerning a possible strike over the length of the workday and Sunday work. This is resolved in a document contained in Folder 9.]|
|Folder 21||Quarry Steward’s Book [possibly used for minor book keeping.]|