Halloween Blog Part 4 – An Italian Murder?

Well, that’s some serious detective work right there. The Coroner and the Chief of Police were of the opinion that this man was murdered, before his head, arm, and foot were chopped off and his remains tied with telegraph wire to part of a tree. And to top off the genius thought-process behind the investigation, the crime was blamed on Italians, simply because the body was found near a place that employed many who worked in the stone-crushing industry.

That’s a far cry from the truly ace detective work in last week’s story, where child-killer Albert Fish was nabbed because the initials of a worker’s organization appeared on stationery that he used. It is also reflective of the discrimination faced by new immigrant groups. Like other ethnic groups today who are not accepted because of their skin color, because they “look different,” or because “they don’t speak the language” (bigots beware – the United States of America does not have an Official Language), immigrant groups at the turn of the last century – many of which are now considered part of “mainstream society,” whatever that may be – were not greeted so warmly either. And Italians were among the most obvious of cultural groups to newly migrate to Poughkeepsie and to the Hudson Valley in general in the early 1900s. According to the first source that appears on web searches, “Between 1900 and 1915, 3 million Italians immigrated to America, which was the largest nationality of “new immigrants.”

Indeed, by 1900, most of the workforce at the Clinton Point quarry was composed of Italian laborers. Known also as “Stoneco,” Clinton Point, about eight miles south of Poughkeepsie has been mined continuously since the Barnegat Lime Company began operations in 1880. Other firms with names such as the New York Brokenstone Company, Upper Hudson Stone Company, and then New York Trap Rock followed. That last firm acquired the site in 1919. The buildings in use today, under the banner of Tilcon, date to New York Trap Rock’s 1929-30 complete reconstruction of the plant.


Building No. 4 – The sizing-screen house and eight storage silos. The structure is 780 feet long and stands adjacent to the Metro-North Hudson Line train tracks.

Tom Rinaldi and I were fortunate to tour the quarry and its buildings in June 2006. Our facilitator was Ned Foss whose great-grandfather Wilson P. Foss founded New York Trap Rock in 1897. Ned’s father Wilson P. Foss III was the last president of New York Trap Rock – he sold the company to Lone Star Industries in 1965. Lone Star sold this site to Tilcon in 1997. The management of Tilcon graciously hosted us that day, and set us up with an intern named Eric who took us through most all of the place. The photographs shown here are just a small sample of what we saw. It was really something – one of the most unique and interesting experiences that Tom and I have had. And then to top off the day, we went to Ned’s office at the Long Dock in Beacon where we watched rare, historic film footage of the quarries. That was a treat.


Building No. 2 – Secondary crushing and recrushing.

The Historical Society of the Nyacks included among their Fall 2013 Armchair Tours a presentation entitled “Trap Rock Quarries In Rockland – Digging Into Our Earliest History,” presented by Bert Dahm. Mr. Dahm explained that “trap rock” is geological term (as opposed to an industry term for how the product is processed/used). The rock is formed by igneous uplift, and when the rock is cut/falls away, it leaves behind traces on the wall that look like steps (stairs). The term “trap” is thought to derive from a European word for “steps.” In German the word is “treppe;” in Dutch it is “stappen.” Trap rock was frequently used in road construction. Today, Tilcon products are “used in a wide variety of construction applications as well as in the asphalt, concrete and block industries… Crushed stone for construction is sold by size, depending upon the application for which it is to be used. Tilcon quarries hold trap rock, granite gneiss and limestone.”


View of the sizing screen house and storage silos with Building No. 6 at center, from which shipments are loaded into freight-cars and trucks, and Building No. 2 for secondary crushing.


Vibrating screens for classifying sizes.


Belt conveyor from the primary crusher.

Our awesome day was not without a tinge of regret however. Walking through the factory we met a few of the workers and, in one building, we met an older but not too-old-appearing gentleman whose name escapes me over eight years later but the memory of the experience does not. He had a broom or other piece of equipment in hand and was probably taking it easy – we were told it was his last day on the job after about forty years at Clinton Point. He too was of Italian heritage and quite likely arrived here in the 1960s and found his first employment at the quarry, and stayed there all the way through. We were told he did not speak much English still. Tom and I, being far more at ease taking photographs of inanimate structures rather than people, both unspokenly realized the situation and wanted to snap a picture but we were too respectful to do so without asking and not quite comfortable to delay our tour to ask. We still regret not getting this man’s picture on his last day at the quarry – one of two eternal photography regrets that we have.


Inside the sizing-screen house. The belt conveyors supply the vibrating screens.


Crusher in operation.


No blasting today – the quarry was quiet.

Sources:
“Design of Clinton Point Plant, New York Trap Rock Corp.” Dow, Melvin C.
Rock Products, February 1930. Pages 61-64.

“New York Trap Rock Corporation Increases Capacity With New Plant at Clinton Point.” Pit and Quarry, February 26, 1930. Pages 21-30.

“Growth of Stone Industry Typified by Modern Hudson River Plant.” Rock Products. December 20, 1930. Pages 25-44.

Thanks to Tom Rinaldi for locating and copying these articles.

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I have one more Halloween-theme post in mind. Actually several, but a few of them will wait until next year. Part Five, the last edition for 2014, will be published though I can say that it is highly unlikely to be out by October 31. Look for it as a November encore! It will be cool and it won’t feature and horrific murder stories!

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