• In about 1885, on the road leading down from the quarries, men on wagons haul rough-cut granite fresh from the quarries. They would cut the granite to manageable size and bring it down the hill by horse and wagon to the stone sheds on North State Street, where it would be finish cut and marketed. During the winter months, sleds would be pulled by horses to haul the granite so that the work could proceed year round. Concord Public Library

For the Monitor
Published: 9/14/2020 10:56:56 AM

Sometimes a road leads to a location. To a place there is a need to visit, or perhaps it brings you back to where you started your journey. To this very day, there are roads across our beloved Rattlesnake Hill that simply lead us to the past.

Growing up in Concord, many of us visited the various granite quarries during the summer months for a refreshing swim, a daring jump off a high cliff, some solitude in the forest surrounding a campfire or simply to say that we did take the road and visited. I enjoyed my childhood hiking Rattlesnake Hill and swimming in the quarries, in particular Perry’s Quarry. Some people preferred Swenson Quarry or New England Quarry, as well as some of the smaller quarries such as Fish or Cat & Dog. There are many quarries dotting Rattlesnake Hill, most filled with water once the excavation depth was at a point where natural springs were contacted and pumps could no longer maintain the flow of the spring water. Those abandoned quarries became the place our summer memories still linger.

As the prison labor quarried granite from Rattlesnake Hill over 150 years ago, there were many trails and rough roads or paths to allow access to the developing quarry trade. As the business developed over the next decades, the hill had over a 1,000 men working each day on a year-round basis. The large sections of quarried granite were hauled down the hill on wagons led by oxen or strong horses to cutting sheds near North State Street. During the winter months, the men still worked in the quarries and the wagons hauling the granite to the stone sheds for processing were simply traded for large sleighs until spring. The roads were rough and the journey down the hill with a wagon or sled laden with tons of granite was both difficult and dangerous.

On Nov. 19, 1897, the Concord City Council contacted the Concord engineer and requested that he study Rattlesnake Hill to determine if a survey might be obtained, roads built to each quarry, and perhaps even a spur line for the railroad to access the hill eliminating the need for the wagons and sleighs. The Concord City Council certainly had the thought of commerce in mind and a desire to further develop the already very successful granite industry on Rattlesnake Hill.

Prior to the building of the Boston, Concord & Montreal railroad, we saw granite as well as other freight being transported from Concord to Boston by wagons led by teams of horses. The only other method for transporting the early harvested granite as well as other goods was the Concord & Boston Boating Company. As the possibility of new roads and rails on Rattlesnake Hill was being planned in 1898, all of the granite was being transported by the Boston & Maine railroad, after essentially leasing the Concord & Montreal railroad and offering reduced prices for transporting freight to Boston.

The quality roads that we walk to this very day on Rattlesnake Hill are the result of the decision by the Concord City Council ordering the city engineer to investigate and survey the hill. It was within a year of the Nov. 19, 1897, council meeting that construction started to build the roads, referred to as “Branch Roads” on Rattlesnake Hill. With the completion in 1898, we find Rattlesnake Hill with a series of quality branch roads leading to each of the main quarries, the advantage being an attraction to additional businessmen seeking access to the hill for new quarry operations. It was during 1898 that my very own great grandfather Martin Spain invested in his own quarry and walked the newly created road each and every morning. Once he selected and cut his granite ledges, he loaded the granite onto his wagon and transported it to the bottom of the hill for processing into curbing, building blocks and monument pieces. Once processing was completed, his finished pieces were sold and loaded onto the railroad en route to Boston and farther points beyond. To further entice investors was the fact that Concord offered not only a limitless supply of granite but also water power, electric power, and foundries for manufacturing tools and equipment. The views from beautiful Rattlesnake Hill were frequently mentioned too in the ongoing effort to attract more businesses to Concord as the 20th century was starting.

For my entire life, I have walked the same roads on the hill that my father, grandfather and great grandfather walked. I have enjoyed the very best that nature can provide here in Concord. I have spent time at my grandfather’s long-abandoned quarry picking up the pieces of granite that he himself once held on too.

The maze of branch roads on Rattlesnake Hill offers me a clear path. As I walk them, I walk with my ancestors, the destinati on is simply my past.

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