"Post Rock's in the Making"
Post Rocks Being Made In The Old Days
Limestone fenceposts were the early homesteader's answer to the shortage of wooden fenceposts on the nearly treeless prairies of north central Kansas. Throughout the 1870's and 1880's fenceposts cost 25 cents each, delivered to the fence line. Each 5-6 foot post weighed about 250-450 pounds. Four to eight posts made a big load for a team of horses. Thousands of posts still stand throughout the area.
In addition to its use in fences, clothes line post, stone sidewalks, well covers, tombstones, the attractive striped stone was used in constructing hundreds of homes, schools, churches, and bridges, giving the towns of post rock country a distinctive look.
The post rock building that houses the museum was originally built as a home about 1883 by homesteader Dan Haley and was located southwest of Nekoma, Kansas. In 1963, under the direction of the Rush County Historical Society, it was moved to its current location and restored to serve as a museum to tell the story of the stone, the tools used to quarry it, also the stories and history of the post rock during the days of its popular usage.
Limestone posts, with a pioneer personality, have supported their barbed wire fences around thousands of prairie acres in North Central Kansas since the 1870's. Still standing guard, they reflect the sturdy character of the pioneers whose ingenuity conceived and erected them on their almost treeless homesteads. No two posts are quite alike in size, shape, or the natural color that time and nature has weathered on their surfaces.
This post rock area is marked by the use of stone posts from the western border of Washington County, southwest for almost two hundred miles into the northern Ford County. In width the fence post area ranges from ten to forty miles. It is estimated that about forty thousand miles of post rock fence can be traced throughout this area.
The first use of the limestone was for building rock. It was uncovered from outcroppings, "sledged" out by hand and dressed with stone hammers. Because of its availability and abundance, it was soon extensively used for construction of homes, schools, churches, bridges, posts, decorative stone, and other structural purposes.
Soon a method of quarrying was used where holes were drilled into the limestone strata about eight inches apart. Feathers and wedges were placed in the holes and the wedges lightly pounded until the rock split in desired widths. It is said that water was sometimes poured in the holes in the winter and the expansion of the water would split the stone.
The era of quarrying rock for fence posts has been practically over since the 1920's. Increased prices of stone posts compared to wooden and steel posts caused their quarrying to be generally discontinued. These two toned, light tan, rusty brown stone posts, with weathered dark irregular patches, dress the prairie landscape with a distinctiveness not found elsewhere.
Is there a better reason for The Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail to use the post rocks for their markers then this? I think not, the post rock is a large part of the history of the State of Kansas that is slowly fadeing away with the passing of time. These post rocks have with stood the test of time. Nature took millions of years to make them and we hope it will take just as long for nature to take them back.
Do stop by the Rush County Historical Society Post Rock Museum, on the southern edge of LaCrosse, Kansas, and see just how our marker posts were first made.
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Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.