Growing up in Waynedale in the 1950's the old pit was known to all as May Sand and Gravel. If you had gravel in your driveway, it probably came from the pit on Ardmore Ave. As kids, we would sort through the driveway gravel and pull out these little white rocks that were about the same diameter as a pencil and had washer-like plates, similar to a miniature stack of dimes. The kids called them Indian Beads. They weren't really beads, and they didn't have anything to do with Indians, but that's what we called them. We knew they were some kind of fossil and that they came from May Sand and Gravel.
Last Tuesday The Waynedale News visited what was once May Sand and Gravel. It is now Hanson Aggregates and it has come a long way since its humble beginnings. The County Commissioners first sold the gravel pit to Charles Fairfield in 1862. The business lasted until the Great Depression and then went into receivership. The local bank that held the mortgage offered to let Bill May run it for a year.
If he could show a profit during the year of 1932, then he would be allowed to buy it on a long-term contract. Bill found ways to save through efficiency and quality control and managed to take over the fledgling business.
By the early 1950's Glacier-polished gravel in paving materials was being phased out and limestone was becoming popular as a basic building material. The increased demand for crushed limestone products gave the May Sand and Stone company a major advantage because beneath the gravel and sand was enough limestone to last 150 years. By 1951 the company had sold enough of the sand and gravel to expose part of the limestone, and blue rock mining was begun in 1952. The limestone quarry was sold to France Stone of Toledo in 1968 and then to Hanson Aggregates.
Today, the quarry is 321 feet deep, with plans to go even deeper. I talked to Hanson Aggregate's Geologist, Elena Bailey on Thursday morning and we toured the facility.
The drive down into the quarry is spectacular. Each level represents a different formation of Dolomite (limestone). Waynedale sits 760 feet above sea level and as you drive down into the pit, you travel down through the sediments that were deposited from an inland sea that existed millions of years ago. About sixty-foot of the grey, slatey top layer is considered overburden. It is used for flagstone and the chirty material was once used by Native Americans to form stone points for hunting. The overburden is piled up in a large pile that many in the area refer to as Mount Waynedale.
After traveling to the bottom of the pit, we drove up to the top of Mt. Waynedale. The day was a bit overcast so we could not see downtown Fort Wayne, but the panoramic view of the entire operation was impressive. These man-made mountains and valleys add great variety to the local area.
And the old Indian Bead Fossils? Elena explained that they are actually Crinoids. Crinoids were exclusively marine animals that lived in the Devonian time period, 360 to 408 million years ago. They were members of the Phylum Echinodermata, which means "spiny-skin" and includes starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers. The Devonian limestone is found at a depth of 70 feet to 114 feet below the topsoil. Crinoids consisted of a cup-like body, (the calyx), which floated above the sea floor on a flexible stem. The stem is the part we were finding in our old driveway in Waynedale.