The Lime Quarries of Estabrook Woods

Lyme Quarry

Whenever I ride through the woods near the barn, I keep a lookout for the history of the land: stone walls that mark the old fields (now overgrown with trees), foundatons of houses and hunting lodges long demolished, cellar holes and lime quarries. Although now the type of lyme we see in the woods is more frequently associated with ticks.

Lime was mined for chimney mortar and wall plaster. Although Estabrook Woods wasn’t a rich source of limestone, there are still a few sites where you can see the limestone ribbons protruding from the ground. I passed this site a week or so ago, and while it’s now green, not covered with leaves, it hasn’t changed much in the past hundred years or so.

In fact, Thoreau mentions the Woods often in his journals. On Nov. 14, 1857 he wrote of a ride to the limestone quarry on Old Carlisle Road (now known as Estabrook Road)

This description of the Lime quarry in Estabrook Woods was written in 1898. How much fun is it ride by it and realize that not much has changed in more than a hundred years.

On the way back to the barn, we pass the old lime kiln, burried under the weeds. It was used as early as the 1690s when cartloads of limestone or were backed up an earthen ramp and dumped into the oven for baking. It’s said that cellar stones for the kiln can still be seen along the Estabrook Road. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them

5 thoughts on “The Lime Quarries of Estabrook Woods

  1. Wow. That’s interesting. I like geology, and your area is just full of old stuff, left over from when it was one giant continent called Pangea. I bet my boots it’s just stuffed with fossils. It appears that that area is full of relatively young red oaks.
    Have you ever read any of John McPhee ‘s books? There is no better writer, (when it comes to writing science for the lay person, because geology has the most arcane argot in the world. No, wait. Botanical taxonomy does. Geology is second)., Although, John McPhee, has the distressing habit of never putting a map in his books. He does a lot of writing about geology of our country. “In Suspect Terrain” covers mostly the Pennsylvania/NJ/NY area, but New England can’t be much different. I think one of the most memorable things he ever wrote is, “The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.” THAT sums up so much in such a few short words.
    What a lovely ride. What a lovely place to ride.

  2. I haven’t read any McPhee for a long time and will have to go back to him. I love the history of New England. One of my future posts will be related to the Revolutionary war, as where I ride was full of Minute Men. I pass by the Old North Bridge in Concord every day on the way to the barn and often walk on the Minuteman trail.

  3. That’s incredible. The one thing that amazed me in my many different assignments and deployments while in the Army, was that so much of the world has a deep and long history, and we’re just babies in comparison. And we’re proving that our memories are so short as to be non-existent.
    On the other hand, much of the history that I saw in Europe did not show the country in it’s best light. Meaning, there are still remnants of World Wars I and II throughout Europe. For instance, in Belgium, I scaled…it can only be described as that, climbing..up what was once a trench, dug in World War I. Thing was DEEP.
    I had the opportunity to see Auschwitz. Maybe I should have taken the opportunity…but I couldn’t bring myself to go. I KNEW what happened there. I didn’t need to see it.
    You go to Italy and see the Coliseum..which is where I felt for the first time in my life what could only be described as ‘ghosts’ or spirits…and you knew that the Coliseum was a place of death and murder. And, no, I’m no believer in the supernatural…but you could feel a darkness, a profound sadness. I’d bet my boots it’s the same for any preserved concentration camp in Europe.
    So it’s encouraging, at least in our case, that that lovely limestone intrusion (which I believe is the term) in the middle of an oak forest is historical, but had nothing to do with war. Maybe you can dig some fossils out of it!

  4. It sounds like you’ve lived more interesting places than can be imagined. I don’t think I could go to Auschwitz either. I don’t believe in ghosts, but that land has soaked up too much pain and suffering. Many years ago I had the opportunity to study in Arles, France for a summer. Some of the events were held in an ancient amphitheater and I can still remember the thrill of sitting there with the spirits of the past, imagining all the other people who’d been there. I feel the same way about ancient coins, imagining the hands who’ve touched them and what they were used to buy.

  5. Yes, you could say ‘interesting’, but that’s part of the Army. You move around a lot.
    I really identify with your thing about the coins. When I lived in Germany, the house I was renting (had the most glorious garden, full of birds and hedgehogs!) had been built before WWII. In one of the garden beds, I found a “reichsmark”..a silver coin, dated 1940, from the Nazi era, with the nazi swastika on the back. It was…disturbing, to say the least. I felt the same way. We think of the Nazi’s as being part of history, but a coin makes it all that more real.

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