Red sandstone was quarried in Stewartdale, north of Whycocomagh, over a century ago on two farms.

Stone was extracted from a 200-foot-tall hill on the farm of John H. R. McDonald. According to a 1914 report, about one acre of stone was exposed and stone was only quarried near surface. However, the area was believed to have much more sandstone hidden underground. A bore hole sunk at the foot of the hill, about 200 yards from the small quarry, showed that the sandstone went down at least 100 feet.

The report described the stone’s colour as “about equal to the Amherst stone in the intensity of the red, but the shade is different as it lacks the slight rose-coloured tint of the Amherst variety.” This was a reference to the Amherst Red Stone Quarry which provided distinctive red sandstone for many of Amherst’s beautiful historic buildings. Today, the Amherst quarry is a lovely pond in a field, an example of how former mines and quarries are often hidden in plain sight.

The Stewartdale stone had very little jointing/fractures in it, which means large blocks could be extracted. The best stone for building and monuments needs to be 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, as the Whycocomagh stone was.

The haul to tidewater at Whycocomagh was four miles.

The farm of Mrs. James MacDonald was adjacent to John McDonald’s farm. It also had about one acre of exposed stone in 1914. Only a small amount of sandstone was extracted near surface.

Sandstone was also quarried in a number of other places in Cape Breton.