The Nictaux granite quarry, before and after!

Granite was quarried in Nictaux, Annapolis County, from about 1889-2007. Most production was for headstones, bases for headstones and other monuments, and blocks of stone for building foundations.

When quarrying began, the stone was used locally for building culverts for the Nova Scotia Central Railway.

In 1906, John Cline (sometimes spelled Kline) of Halifax opened a small quarry to produce monument stone and shipped it to Halifax.

By 1914, there were three operators in Nictaux. Besides Cline, the other two were the Middleton Granite and Marble Company and Thelbert Rice of South Williamston.

Stone from the Middleton Granite and Marble Company’s quarry was used to mark the grave of Halifax-born John Thompson (1845-1894), who served as Nova Scotia’s eleventh premier and Canada’s fourth prime minister.

Thompson died on December 12, 1894, at Windsor Castle, where Queen Victoria had just made him a member of her Privy Council. After the ceremony, there was a formal lunch at which he feinted. He was taken to another room where he said, “It seems too absurd to faint like this.” He returned to the lunch but before he could eat anything, he suddenly fell backward, killed by a massive heart attack. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Halifax.

Stone from the Middleton Granite and Marble Company’s quarry can also be seen in the United Church of St. George and St. Andrew in Annapolis Royal, which was built in 1911. An historical report does not clarify whether the stone was used in the church’s foundation or as decorative stone.

In 1955 two companies were producing in Nictaux: the Nixon Granite Works and Gehue’s Granite Works.

In 1967, Heritage Memorials Ltd. started working in part of the old Nixon Granite quarry and became the sole operator in 1973.

Quarrying continued until the early 2000s to provide monument blanks and bases, producing about 2000 tons of stone per year.

Extraction stopped because of a common challenge with quarrying stone for building and decorative purposes – the best stone is solid and attractive, without joints/cracks, veins or other characteristics that are considered undesirable. When we blast and crush rock like gypsum for use in wallboard, or aggregate for use in construction, things like cracks do not matter because we break the rock down anyway. But stone used to erect buildings or for decorative purposes (i.e. for headstones, trim on buildings, etc.) needs to be as flawless as possible.

After over a century of quarrying, the remaining near-surface stone in Nictaux had too many flaws like these for further extraction to be practical. Besides veins and joints, the stone also has xenoliths in it: different types of rock within the main rock that are interesting geologically but considered flaws in decorative stone.

Quarrying deeper may have revealed more higher-quality stone but the additional cost of quarrying at depth was not economical. It became cheaper to import stone from international sources.

Despite the long time these quarries operated, they are quite small for two reasons. First, they generally produced only small amounts each year because decorative stone is not a bulk business. Second, a surprisingly large amount of stone can be extracted from a relatively small hole.

The map below also shows the location of the Robert Baltzer Quarry. In fact, it was just a test pit that Mr. Baltzer dug in July 1988 on his farm, 1.3 kilometres southwest of the Heritage Memorials Quarry. The stone at the Baltzer farm was very similar to that of the Nictaux quarries including, unfortunately, the fractures, joints and xenoliths. No commercial production took place at this site.