Friday, December 16, 2011
History of the Hurstville Lime Kilns
In 1870, Alfred Hurst came to the area, having heard of the limestone formations along the banks of the Maquoketa River. He then found what he considered the best quality limestone rock to produce the whitest, purest, and most adhesive lime in the marketplace. He constructed a small pot kiln and started producing powder lime. He then erected the first draw kiln in 1871, with the other 3 following soon after. In the 1st year, production reached 100 barrels a week, with a total of 3200 barrels for the year. At the company’s peak, the kilns would produce 8000 barrels of lime a day!
This time of year when the weather got cold, the fires could not stay hot enough to burn the limestone. Thus the kilns were not operated in the winter months, but the men were kept busy all winter sawing cord wood to feed the hungry fires, as well as making barrels and feeding cattle. The kilns used upwards of 100 cords of wood a day, requiring almost 8000 cords of wood a year for each kiln. Lots of land was needed to provide the wood for the kilns. In 1878, A. Hurst & Company owned 240 acres of land; eventually at the company’s peak, 3,000 acres of land were owned.
When heated, limestone breaks down into a powder. At the base of the kiln was a cooling shed where the lime was removed from the kiln. After the lime had cooled, workers then packed the lime powder into barrels. The lime was then shipped to a building site where it would then be mixed with sand and water to create mortar, a material used for buildings before cement and concrete. They did it all.
A half dozen eagles just down the road.