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History of the Nature Park

The DePauw Nature Park was the site of an active limestone quarry from 1917 to 1977. The limestone rock began forming 350 million years ago from the remains of animals living on the bottom of an inland sea that covered this region. Hanson Aggregates donated most of the land for the park to DePauw in 2003, and additional acreage was purchased by DePauw during the last ten years.

During a site visit, Mr. Robert Mahoney, retired Hanson Aggregates employee, explained the history of the operations and structures at the site. Mr. Mahoney’s father was the quarry manager, and his family lived in the house on the quarry property. After serving in the armed forces in the 1950s, he returned and worked in the quarry until it closed. 

The quarry began operations in 1917 or 1918, ended mining operations in the early 1970s and was closed in 1977. The quarry discontinued operations after the railroad line New York Central was discontinued. The railroad had a right-of-way along the western portion of the property and was the main distribution system for the product.

The Putnam County Recorder’s Office documented the following transactions:

  • Previous to 1908, the property was owned by David and Jonathan Houck and Robert Glidwell

  • In 1908, 1919, 1936, 1941, 1945, and 1946 portions of the property were sold to the Ohio and Indiana Stone Corporation and the Miami Stone Company.

  • In 1975, the property was merged with the France Stone Company.

  • In 1979, the former Conrail right-of-way was transferred to the France Stone Company.

The recorder’s office had no further transactions recorded after 1979. However, according to Mr. Marshall Zoll with Hanson Aggregates, the property was purchased by Hanson Building Materials America in 1991.

The quarry property is approximately 500 acres with the main entrance off of Walnut Street. The northern portion of the property contained the former quarry operations. Mr. Mahoney lived in the house located on the east side of the settling pond. Accompanying the house was a root cellar and a detached garage. The house had collapsed and only the concrete foundation of the garage and root cellar remained. During a site visit, Mr. Mahoney located the well in the southwest corner of the house. Upon investigation the well was determined to be approximately 8 inches in diameter and 100 feet deep with a static water level of 48-feet. Approximately 300 feet east of the house was a barn, which Mr. Mahoney’s family had used for livestock. The barn was partially collapsed, and it appeared that it had been used for storage of quarry supplies.

The office for the quarry was located approximately 300 feet northwest of the house. Only the basement of the office remained with an in-ground truck scale located along the south side of the office. According to Mr. Mahoney, the office had an AST in the basement for heating oil, a 500 gallon gasoline or diesel UST along the east side of the office, and a 500 gallon gasoline/diesel UST along the south side of the scale. The office also had a well located off the northwest corner, but no surface structures remain for location of the well.

Electrical power was supplied to the quarry from the southwest via overhead lines, which feed into an electric substation with transformers mounted on a concrete pad and a shed with switches. This substation was located approximately 400 feet southwest of the house.

Mr. Mahoney explained that the operation of the quarry consisted of blasting the rock from the quarry face, and transporting it to the mill where it was crushed, sorted, and stock piled. Overburden and quarry spoils were deposited along the north and west edges of the quarry as fresh rock was mined from the southern face of the quarry. The deposits of overburden and spoils were estimated to be up to 40 feet thick.

The blasting agents were stored in a powder magazine located on the west side of the quarry. A 1950s aerial photograph owned by Mr. Mahoney shows a steam shovel working the blasted stone face of the quarry and loading dump trucks. The mill is also depicted in the photograph southwest of the office. The steam shovel operated on coal, prior to the conversion to diesel fuel. For the milling operations, water was pumped from the settling pond, used to wash the rock and returned to the pond to separate out the fines. If more water was needed to supplement the pond, water was pumped from Big Walnut Creek by a pump station located near the powder magazines and transported via underground and aboveground piping to the pond. As needed the settling pond was drained via a sluice gate at the north end of the pond, and the sediments were excavated and transported to the west side of the property and deposited near the powder magazines.

After the milling operations, the gravel was stockpiled west of the mill. Railroad hopper cars were loaded with gravel from the stockpiles by railcar mounted cranes, which were moved around by small steam engines.

As explained by Mr. Mahoney, the quarry had a maintenance shop, which was located approximately 100 feet southwest of the mill. The maintenance shop was a single story structure made of cement block. Adjacent to the maintenance building was the wash house. The wash house also included a lunchroom. Mr. Mahoney stated that a well, several hundred feet deep, supplied the wash house with water.

Mr. Mahoney explained that the area along the north side of the entrance road has had other business operations, such as asphalt plants and a corrugated pipe factory. He stated that during the 1950s and 1960s three small asphalt plants operated on this portion of the property.

On both sides of the entrance road to the quarry were piles of concrete. Mr. Zoll explained that the concrete had come from the construction of the Wal-Mart distribution center on the east side of Greencastle, in 1990. During construction of the distribution center, a portion of the concrete floor did not meet specifications and Hanson Aggregate allowed the concrete to be disposed at the quarry. In addition to the concrete, Hanson Aggregates also allowed soil from the construction site to be deposited throughout the quarry. The soil at the construction site was unsuitable due to high moisture content. Hanson Aggregates sold limestone from the quarry to Wal-Mart to replace the excavated soil.

In addition to the settling pond, the property had three other ponds, which were labeled north pond, quarry pond, and spoils pond. The quarry pond is in the northern portion of the quarry. In general the quarry pond is shallow, but it has a deep portion on the east side of the peninsula that protrudes from the northern shore. It appears that this deeper portion may have been dredged.