Endless Mountain News

"The Washington Home & Garden Show, 2001"

Stone Waterfalls Are All the Rage!

Endless Mountain Fieldstone Supply was invited by The Washington Home & Garden Show to do the feature display for their annual show at The Washington Convention Center. The show ran from March 29 thru April 1, 2001, and drew thousands of people. Our display was a waterfall in memory of the American Indians and dedicated to The Forgotten Ones with special recognition given to Robert Frost and his book, "Mending Walls" and Curtis P. Fields, author of "The Forgotten Art of Building a Stone Wall".

The display was set up to be triangular in shape so that each side of the triangle was exclusive to one subject, but consistent to our overall theme.

The front, which faced the main entrance, was the actual waterfall and was the first thing visitors saw when they entered the Convention Center. It was erected of eleven stones ranging in size from 3'x3' to 6'x9' and was approximately 9' in height when completed. We brought the stone from our yard in northeast PA and the plantings were supplied by Silverbrook Nursery in Norton, VA. The actual construction of the display had to be completed in three days to be ready when the show opened. We were awarded a first place ribbon for Best Large Waterfall for our efforts.

Endless Mtn. Fieldstone Supply at Washington Home & Garden Show Endless Mtn. Fieldstone Supply at Washington Home & Garden Show
Front display replicating the
natural beauty found in our area,
once inhabited by Indians
Waterfall showcasing plantings and giving a
glimpse of tribute to Mr. Fields
along right

The late Curtis P. Fields offered a simple solution to access upper levels with his stile staircases, which were stones incorporated into the laying of walls to act as steps. Although this appears to be a lost art, there are many situations where this could work today.

Endless Mtn. Fieldstone Supply at Washington Home & Garden Show

Use of stile stairs as part of wall

Robert Frost spoke of his border fence wall being in dire need of repair. In remembrance of him, we found a fallen log and brought it to Washington. On the left side of the display, we erected a wall in disrepair with the log shown as the culprit for the damage. This was our tribute to him and also something we could relate to, as this is a common sight in our business and in our area.

Endless Mtn. Fieldstone Supply at Washington Home & Garden Show

Wall needing repair

"Quarrying Bluestone in the Endless Mountains"

Bluestone mines that dot the Meshoppen, Wyoming County, area contains a durable and colorful sandstone unique to the endless mountains.

For over 100 years, miners have been blasting into these jagged mountainsides to uncover bluish snad grains cemented by percolating marine waters over 350 million years ago. Owner and miner Matt McClain refers to his mines simply as "the quarry."

Bluestone quarries Bluestone quarries

Cubes of layered Pennsylvania Bluestone are cut and lifted to be split apart into patio stone.

In the quarry, mud puddles splash the surface as an employee, Porky, slices an 18-inch-square, glassy chunk using a gas-powered saw that operates like a lawn mower. Off to one side, Kerby, Matt's older brother, and co-worker Hyram Stevens are layering chunks into thinner slices. "These men split 1,000 feet of stone a day," McClain points out.

At McClain's mill, Endless Mountain Fieldstone Supply located in neighboring Tunkhannock, bluestone slabs are trimmed and sized. The mill property consists of a gravel driveway and a sky-blue shed filled with the buzzing sound of an electric saw. Finished one- two- and three-foot squares of the stone are layered onto pallets. Building contractors order 24-ton tractor trailer loads of these for curbing, flagging and building materials.

Bluestone quarries Bluestone quarries

Natural 1" to 2" thick layers are split and prepared for shipment.

Explaining the varieties of bluestone comes naturally to McClain, who started mining at the age of 8 in his family's backyard quarry in Meshoppen. "In center deposits, you'll find the blue-blue color," he says. "Customers pay extra for its durability and natural look, although it fades to green inthe sun."

Irregular standing patios call for scraggy pieces found on the fringes of a quarry in shades of lilac, yellow, buff, brown and green. "People want natural, rustic-looking material that's not necessarily blue in color," McClain explains.

Tawny bluestone boulders called fieldstone add authenticity to waterfall landscapes, cob-textured porches, steps and paths. Said to be "glaciated in" from the highlands during an ice age, this type of stone was traditionally used by farmers as fencing to keep cattle away from crops.

Bluestone quarries

Pennsylvania Bluestone sized and packaged for shipment.

McClain began mining 40 years ago in a quarry behind his family's two-story, white Meshoppen farmhouse. His father, George McClain, gave up being a pastor of a small Methodist church when his income wasn't supporting his family of nine boys and one girl, and entered the bluestone mining market.

Leaving the family business at age 16, Matt traveled the countryside searching for a less strenuous livelihood. Construction work paid his bills over the next 10 years, until he felt the urge to return to the family tradition of mining bluestone.

His 29-year-old son, Stace, also left and then returned to the stone industry. He operates an area fieldstone yard. Sitting behind his desk in his office trailer, Stace discusses with his father why they both left and later returned to the bluestone business. Family pride, it seems, had a great deal to do with it, a quality as durable as the stone the family has mined for 40 years.

"Stone Walls"

They bend and weave through the New England countryside, like veinsof rock they once were now shoved to the surface in pieces to connect us solidly to the land. Stone walls seem to line every country lane in our Northwest Corner. They can be seen hugging the road for miles, only to drift across open pastures and disappear into the thick underbrush with oak and pine trees.

Stone walls, fences realty, were a result of industrious farmers taming the land for crop growing and homestead building. As they cleared the rocky soil, the farmers moved the rocks to the outer edges of their property and piled them up to create fences. These dividers not only served as boundary markers but as enclosures for containing livestock.

It is impressive to think of the manner in which these stones were worked. In "Diary of an Early American Boy," Eric Sloane tells of the strenuous process by which Noah Blake and his contemporaries moved stone around in 1805. Stone boats, which were little more than flat wooden slabs with a rope or chain attached, were employed for sliding medium-sized stones over the grass in summer. Extra-large stones were left for ice-sliding during the winter months. And Mr. Sloane tells us, each person's style of rock piling was unique, and his masonry could be recognized as hid from a distance.

This sense of style and continuity may have led to the proliferation of newer stone walls in this area. Masons are being called upon to reconstruct damaged old walls and many new walls are being designed into the landscape of new homes. And then there are those stone works which can only be called art, as the stones are woven into a design that is striking and thought-provoking if not functional.

Mark Mendel of Sheffield, Mass., has been working with stone since 1969 and has made a serious commitment to working with brick and stone, developing new or traditional designs and restoring existing ones. Having established his business, Monterey Masonry, to service the Berkshires 17 years ago, his enthusiasm for stone work has only increased. "People like stone because it's a connection with the past that's disappearing," he said. "Also, stone is in its own sense of time...so elemental. "A very recognizable example of Mr. Mendel's work is located on Route 7 in Great Barrington in front of Guide's Supermarket.

A combination of native cobblestone, split-wood rails, swirls of Vermont red slate and pieces of steel arching high above the stone wall, it was designed to be visible above wintery snow mounds and to create a visual impact as the viewer drove by at 30 or so miles an hour.

Quarrying can get in your blood, says mason Matt McClain of Endless Mountain Fieldstone Supply in Tunkhannock, Penn. He was in Lakeville, recently, overseeing a stone wall project. One of 10 children, Mr. McClain's first experience with stones was to build a retaining wall on his father's farm at age 8 - for which he used a stone boat. That was nearly a quarter century ago, and his passion for stone has led to his ownership of a large fieldstone quarrying and masonry business. He balances the demands of building his business with staying personally involved with the design of new projects. While it may be his vocation, stone is still Mr. McClain's avocation: "I love stone; it's there forever," he says.

In "Mending Wall," Robert Frost bemoans, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall" as he spends a spring day repairing a shared boundary stone fence with a neighbor. Frost challenges the assumption that good fences make good neighbors. "Spring," he says, "is the mischief in me, and I wonder if I could put a notion in his head: "Why do they make good neighbors? ...Before I build a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out." He may not have thought them all necessary, but we are certainly pleased to have them.

Endless Mountain Fieldstone Supply takes every opportunity to mend the original walls in Pennsylvania. Deer, cattle and the elements have taken their toll on the walls that are left standing. Most have fallen and are accessible for the landscape market. However, our goal is to preserve a heritage we all share in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.

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Endless Mountain Fieldstone Supply
423 S.R. 6E
Tunkhannock, PA 18657

Phone: (570) 836-3573

Send mail to stone@epix.net with questions or comments about this web site.
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