From Crops to Stone: The Story of The Franklin Quarry

It was 1940 and a man named James Buckley was watching a culvert being built on Rawson Avenue when he noticed a lot of rocks close to the surface of the land. He then decided to buy several hundred acres of land in the area in speculation of finding a valuable quarry. By 1941 he had opened that quarry, located behind the William Folack farm on 68th St., south of Rawson Ave. Buckley paid Folack a percentage of every yard of gravel removed, but later after a dispute, Folack turned over the operation to Dale Dawson and Elmer Garrity who renamed it Franklin Stone.

Over the years the quarry has grown to about 240 acres with another 80 acres of land surrounding it. Farms that once belonged to the Folack, Kelm, Chezik, Martin, Salchow and Barg families, to name a few, were purchased for the expansion.

With a center depth of 180 feet, the quarry runs 240 feet along Rawson Ave. on its northern border, 51st St. on the east, Drexel Ave. on the south and 68th St. to the west. Along that western border there exists a green space, an area between the walls of the quarry and the residential properties along S. 68th St. The Root River also runs along that western border and it is that river that accepts the excess groundwater that is pumped out of the quarry daily.

Today the quarry is owned by both Payne & Dolan and Vulcan Materials. Vulcan Lands, Inc. owns and operates the northeastern portion of the quarry. Payne & Dolan (formerly Franklin Aggregates) owns and operates the remaining area. The quarry also has 2 asphalt plants located at the bottom of the pit, one operated by Payne & Dolan and the other by Black Diamond.

On occasion the operators of the quarry have offered complimentary trips down into the quarry during the Franklin 4th of July celebrations. Buses carry visitors to the floor of the quarry where they are shown the layout of the land and the mining equipment plus an explanation of the type of work done there.

Geologists have also made visits to the quarry throughout the years, discovering thousands of fossilized skeletons like squids, sponges and corals that once lived in the water. The fossils were discovered at the “core” or central part of a coral reef. 400 million years ago the land between southern Wisconsin and Niagara Falls was at the bottom of a tropical sea. This was millions of years before the Ice Age and before the Great Lakes were formed.

When the quarry walls were blasted, these fossils were unearthed. The collections found consisted of molds or casts that were formed after the animals were buried in the sediment. Water had dissolved parts of the animals’ organic matter.

As of 2012 the quarry had reached its expansion limits in only a few locations. Eventually, in years to come, a reclamation plan will be put into effect. It would take place several years after mining operations cease, which could be 30-50 years from now.

The plan calls for the quarry to be turned into a 246-acre lake surrounded by almost 80 acres of developable land. Then Franklin’s landscape will have been changed again. It will have gone from acres of farmland to quarry operations and then eventually a recreational area that will have as its focus a very large and deep water expanse.

– Judeen Scherrer