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Lime Rock

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A short distance north of the Jonathan Harris House on Louisquisset Pike are remnants of the early layout of Lime Rock: the remains of a stone furnace for burning limestone, which is dug into a hillside, then a rusting metal boiler, which is a later furnace, and just beyond it a pond that inundates an old quarry site. (Neither furnace is easily visible in summer.) The name of the community advertises its principal business from the 1660s down to the present. As indicated in the introduction to Lincoln, Lime Rock was a major source for building lime, as well as for lime in tanning and agriculture for the entire eastern seaboard from the colonial period through the mid-nineteenth century. The core of the industry still clusters along Wilbur Road, where the quarry, crushers, and furnaces which are used today mingle with the antiquated remains of past operation. Gregory Dexter and Thomas Harris began two separate operations in the vicinity. Their combined descendants, through business deals and intermarriage, dominated all aspects of lime production through the nineteenth century—including lumbering operations to provide charcoal for the furnaces and barrels for shipping, as well as a substantial fleet of wagons by which their lime was hauled to Providence and Boston for distribution. Lime Rock entrepreneurs were, in fact, among the heaviest investors in the Louisquisset Turnpike as a means of shortening the roundabout route by Great Road into Providence. The revenue provided by the parade of lime wagons from Lime Rock to Providence was a major reason for the long-time success of the Louisquisset Turnpike as a toll road, until 1870, well after all but one other in the state had ceased as private operations.

Although of major importance as a source of lime for the building trades, tanning, bleaching, and agriculture, through the mid-nineteenth century especially, the operation remained compact, while its owners continued to participate as an extended family in the farming and village life of the community. In fact, although the Harris family controlled the lime industry, much of their work force was contracted labor from local farmers who worked part-time lumbering and teaming for the company and in some instances even operated their own furnaces under marketing agreements with the Harris organization. On the site, one is struck by the juxtaposition of the factory with the farms and the village, a balance which was nearly perfectly maintained here up to the late 1980s, when suburban building increasingly impinged on the ancient village fabric.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.

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