Q   U   A   R   R   Y  and  S   T   O   N   E   W   O   R   K   S


      Quarried Stone
        -building stone
        -architectural details
      Reclaimed Stone


       Fence Posts
       Building Stone
       Quarry Process
       Lime Mortar
       Post Rock's Decline
       1930s WPA







(link to)
  Architectural Salvage 
   Reclaimed Stone
   Bed & Breakfast


 “Architecture is the art  which so disposes and
adorns the edifices raised by man, that the sight of them may contribute to his mental health, power, and pleasure.
” ~ Ruskin




Kansas Limestone




“Land of the Post Rock” is a distinction given to about 3 million acres in North Central Kansas- an area where a single bed of rock (the 8-12” Fencepost bed of the Greenhorn limestone layer) was used so extensively for fence posts during early Kansas settlement days that the posts have become an identifying feature of the landscape.  

Settlers to Kansas found that the area was destitute of timber and turned to the material at hand…a layer of rock close to the surface that they soon found could be used for fencing as well as building. Besides being durable and fire resistant, this limestone had several other advantages. Being close to the surface it could be obtained easily with the proper tools and techniques. It was uniform in thickness (8-12”). It was persistent, extending with little interruption for miles. And when freshly quarried it was soft enough to shape with tools and hardened after being exposed to air.

There were of course disadvantages. Quarrying rock in “post” length required skill, hard work, and time. Once split out and shaped they had to be transported. This again required hard work and ingenuity as each 5 to 6 ft long post weighed about 350-400 lbs.

Posts were hauled/delivered to the pasture using various means. To go short distances a “sled” or “boat” was often used. This has been described as being a large forked tree limb with branches laid crosswise to make a platform which would hold several posts. A team of horses would then pull the sled to the post hole.

After being delivered to the fence line it was considered a simple job to tip the post (always the heavier end) into the prepared holes. The holes were dug by hand to a depth of 18” to two or more feet (depending on the height of the posts). Holes were dug about every 15 feet so that in the finished fence line there were about 320 posts per mile. Corner posts were propped to stay in a vertical position by leaning other posts against them at about a 45 degree angle (generally in the direction of the fence lines).



Often because of its name and unique use, Fencepost Limestone is identified with stone posts- neglecting its primary use as building stone. Even settlers with little knowledge of how to quarry or lay stone used it to line wells and cellars, to form inside walls and outside fronts of dugouts, to build fireplaces, to make steps and porches…

The 1870’s was Post Rock Country’s formative period as well as being the period of time that saw the greatest influx of European immigrants…Bohemians/Czech, Volga Germans, Germans, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Scots, and English. Soon every community in North Central Kansas included stone masons from the “old country” which assured knowledge about the building potential of post rock and their inclination to use it. The emerging (and now remaining) architecture was the most visible link of these groups/communities to their past and gives insight into the way they worked, played, and worshipped. Many agree that of all influences in central Kansas none exceeded that of the Germans. Despite grasshoppers, crop failures, and other adversaries, most Germans held on.

Cooperative work involving building with stone gave those with little or no experience a chance to learn from a trained craftsman. By the 1880’s improvements on homestead claims included stone houses, outbuildings, foundations and footings, wells, walls, feeding/watering troughs, fence posts, gate posts, hitching posts, clothes lines, and sidewalks.


(tools, quarry process, dressing, lime mortar)

Tools used in the quarrying and shaping process were simple. They included feathers and wedges (plugs), stone drills and bits of various sizes, chisels, stone hammers, slips and scrapers, and scribers. Most of the tools were made at home forges or in local blacksmith shops.

The quarrying process for obtaining building block, fence posts, or other products was the same: holes were drilled about 4 or 5” deep into the rock and 9- 12” apart along a line marked for splitting; feathers and wedges were placed in the holes; and tapping the wedges lightly with a stone hammer split out the slabs, posts, or blocks.

Although building block size was standard (2’x8”x8”), there were a variety of ways in which a block was dressed or finished: rough quarry faced, axe flattened (characterized by the kerf marks of the axe), pitched faced (also know as pillow faced), and sawn (although traditionally done with a two man bucksaw, some ingenious settlers came up with alternatives such as a mechanical saw on a beveled gear driven by a mule walking in a circle). Special hammers and chisels were used for finely dressing or architecturally carving lintels and sills (and sometimes quoins). Lintels were unique from building to building and were an opportunity to add an element of style and artistic beauty to a structure. Sills often followed in the style of the lintels and were usually weatherized to help shed water.

The mortar needed to lay building blocks came from “slaked” lime…burning broken pieces of limestone in crude kilns along creek banks to extract (which produced) a lime powder used for mortar and plaster. One needed to begin “slaking” their lime long before any other element of the building process could begin. Burning lime mortar and plaster was one of the first industries to evolve with limestone quarrying and the building trade.



Sidewalks were the pride of many post rock towns, historically quoted as being the “best sidewalk in Kansas”, and “firm under feet for generations”. The large pieces were hauled from local quarries fastened with chains to the running gears of the rock wagon. Sidewalks could be either a full 8” thick or a thinner flagstone. The flagstone came from specific areas of Post Rock country (Mitchell and Lincoln counties) where the Fencepost layer has a natural tendency to split along the center brown streak, which made flagging from a slab of rock possible. This was used extensively for sidewalks.

After 1900 when the building and maintaining of roads became important to the region, post rock was called upon as a material for bridges. In building bridges for both public roads and railroads, the stone arch emerged as a popular architectural form. Native limestone bridges tended to be at least twice the cost of any other type of bridge. Most thought the cost was justified as the bridge would stand for hundreds of years and cost little or nothing for repairs. In addition to this, nearly the whole amount paid for a bridge was going back into the local economy (material/stone and labor).

Another unique use of the post rock was for stone arch caves, which farmers needed for shelter from storms/tornadoes and a storage place for farm products. The typical method for building caves was to lay stone blocks for the base of the cave walls to a height of about a foot. Wood forms for the arch were set on the wall bases and boards placed over the forms made a solid arch. Stone blocks were then laid over those boards. When laying the blocks was completed, the wood forms were knocked out. The stone arch (the cave wall) would stay. Mortar was not necessary as pressure from the stone would hold the arch in shape.



By 1920 building with stone and regional development had passed their climax. Among many factors contributing to this decline was the availability of cheaper, easier to use building materials. Many of the old stonemasons were leaving the scene and young men (returning from WWI) took work away from the homestead. A new type of economy and pace of life was evolving. Power machinery began to arrive on farms. The automobile gave residents mobility and the area accessibility. Homesteads were losing their self-sufficiency status. Rural farming began shifting to fewer farms.

The depression of the 1930’s made possible a brief comeback of post rock as a major building material. It was widely used in public construction projects funded by the federal Works Projects Administration (WPA). No posts were quarried or set under the WPA, but post rock was used in many building projects: schools, libraries, city halls, community buildings, bridges, park shelters, recreational facilities, and courthouses. Post rock was again a resource that came to the aid of its regional economy, leaving behind a multitude of incredible limestone structures and adding to the legacy …”Land of the Post Rock”.


by Grace Muilenburg and Ada Swineford
(University Press of Kansas, 1975).

“When we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, “See! This our father did for us.” ~ John Ruskin



Bluestem Quarry and Stoneworks
5010 Highway 232  Lucas, KS  67648
Toll Free (866) 567-3110
All Content © 2007, Bluestem Stoneworks

Questions regarding the website may be directed to the webmaster.