Rocklin, A Town Built on Granite
Downtown Rocklin is astride a 100 square mile belt of high quality and easily accessible granite that extends from Folsom to
The Central Pacific Railroad started laying rails eastward from
The name “Rocklin” didn’t first appear in print until about 3 months later when it was listed as a passenger stop in a railroad timetable. But, according to former quarry operator and Rocklin mayor Roy Ruhkala, the un-named and idyllic spot in the Union article was probably Rocklin and the quarry was probably the pit behind today’s Just Tires store near
According to the Sacramento Union of March 28, 1864 the Central Pacific’s first paid freight was three carloads of granite bound for a building project in
The account of the legislators’ train trip appears to be the earliest documented evidence of Rocklin’s granite industry, although old timers in the 1920’s talked of quarry activities as early as 1855. Also, the native Nisenan might have quarried small amounts of granite for their food processing implements, arrowheads and tobacco pipes for 2000 years prior to that time.
In his book Rocklin, Leonard Davis’ says that Rocklin’s quarries of the 1860’s supplied granite blocks for railroad tunnels and culverts. A biographical sketch from the 1860’s tells of Michael Kelly and his 9-year-old son Maurice who delivered Rocklin granite blocks by oxcart for culverts all along the line as far as
Rocklin’s 1870 census shows that Rocklin’s quarrymen of the 1860’s and 1870’s were predominantly Irishmen, possibly from families escaping the Irish potato famines of the 1840’s.
By 1880, at least 6 Rocklin quarries had shipped granite blocks for dozens of imposing granite structures, including the San Francisco Mint (1867) and
The 1880’s saw the arrival in Rocklin of a large population of Finns. By 1900 Finns owned more than half of the Rocklin’s quarries and were dominant in Rocklin politics and social life.
By 1910 Rocklin quarries had supplied granite for several major projects in
But by 1915 cement-based concrete had begun to nudge granite from builders’ plans and a stonecutters strike that year closed all but two or three Rocklin operations permanently. In 1920,
Some quarries operated for just a few months, others for several decades. 62 quarry pits were eventually opened and abandoned. One was used as Rocklin’s garbage dump for several years and later filled to underpin a new building. At least one lies under the westbound lanes of highway 80. Another is water-filled and beautifies a mobile home park landscape. Many are filled with runoff rainwater and debris and lie hidden by weeds in empty fields.
Although one or two quarries continued to ship building stone, monuments and other specialty products until near the end of the last century, the industry had ceased to be important to Rocklin’s economy by the early 1930’s. The Big Gun Quarry near
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