James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Slate quarrying - 1

The following extract gives an insight into the work involved in producing slate:

THE SLATE QUARRIES from History of York County Pennsylvania (Volume I) by George R. Prowell (Chicago, J. H. Beers & Co., 1907)

The slate quarries of this township for half a century have been famous. They have given popularity to the name Peach Bottom over a large extent of country. Industrial statistics show that five-eights of the slate used in America is quarried from Northampton and Lehigh Counties, in this State, and the valuable quarries of Peach Bottom. For roofing purposes the slate of this township is unexcelled on account of its durability. The roof of the Slate Ridge Church was placed on it in 1805, and is still well preserved. The quarrying of the slate of this region for use as tombstones began at a very early period, but for roofing purposes slate was quarried only in small quantities before 1800. ......

The slate is first blasted out, then hoisted by steam to the bank in large irregularly-shaped blocks. These blocks are then broken or 'scalloped' into smaller blocks, and then split into sheets of required thickness. For that purpose a chisel or knife about eighteen inches long is used. The slate as it lies in distinct veins, splits readily wherever the knife is put in, if inserted when the block is wet, or 'green', as it is called by the workmen. They denominate the original moisture in the slate 'sap'. After the blocks become dry, they harden and cannot be split easily. After the blocks are split, the sheets are dressed or trimmed into shingles of the required shape, by means of a machine worked by foot-power, which is from 6 x12 inches to 14 x 24 inches.

The book goes on to mention John Humphreys (former employer and neighbour of Robert L Jones), John W Jones (Robert's brother), and Robert, himself. (see next page)   >>