History of the Limestone Quarry

As written by Jeff Rice, owner

The Portage Quarry can trace its beginning to the time between the Ordovician and Silurian eras, two of six periods in the Paleozoic era  nearly 400 million years ago when limy sludge was beginning to harden. That sludge formed from the carbonate secreting creatures in the reefs and hardened into limestone.

The use of Portage Quarry as a business dated back to the late 1800s when the limestone was highly valued for its level of dolomite. It was reported that there was no purer dolomite in the world. Dolomite was used for building stones and an aggregate in concrete and asphalt for roads. Geologists report that this type of Niagara limestone indicated that it originated as an enclosed or isolated portion of the sea basin.

The quarry is just a mile south of Bowling Green, platted four years after a treaty was signed with the Indians in 1817. The next 34 years Bowling Green was slowly settled and incorporated on July 23, 1885.

The first documentation for the existence of a limestone quarry can be traced to page 742 in the Report of the Geological Survey of Ohio, By Geological Survey of Ohio, published in 1888. The limestone was reported to contain 53.98% carbonate of lime and 43.25% carbonate of magnesia. These minerals were useful in the manufacturing of building materials and magnesium bricks.

There are still railroad tracks going through the quarry from where the crusher was, and went across the road where the green line is. There they had stockpiled the stone and lime where they were put on railroad cars for transporting to other locations in the states.

Old lime kiln where trains (New York Central) took on water half a mile north and east of the old stone quarry of Portage. The towers were destroyed by blasting in 1947. Now the railroad is across Route 25 to the east and there are two quarries there next to the railroad which would be where the railroad took on water.

Courtesy of Wood County Public Library, Bowling Green, OH

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Powell Road is South of the Quarry, North would be where the overflow is off Route 25. It flows into the Portage River south of the town of Portage.

When the owner of property west of the Quarry died his daughter inherited the future mining rights. Following his death she was to receive  $2.00 of every ton they dug on their property. An eccentric woman for the time, she was very flamboyant and was often spotted with her red Cadillac convertible. Her tastes for parties were taboo for the era, and she was a talk of the town of Bowling Green, even to this day.

The further they mined onto her property the more the quarrymen ran into a softer stone. To sustain her lifestyle she kept raising the cost for mining the stone but wouldn't sell the property. This was the 1950's and work was starting on I-75. The mining company was Wood County Stone Company and in 1962 pulled its pumps for a location south of the town of Portage. Jack Fellhauer had a week to get the steel from the basin of the quarry. He told me he worked around the clock pulling up what he could salvage but it filled up a third of the way in a week. Two springs are located in the middle of the South wall. You can feel the springs when you swim over by the trench. Jack Fellhauer died of cancer in 2006.

Quarry mining was dangerous work. A former employee's next door neighbor's brother was killed in a dynamite explosion in 1947 that also took down the towers. At the time of the accident they thought the dynamite was not ready, they walked up and it blew.
 

Portage Quarry located on corner of Powell Road and State
Route 25, possibly taken around the turn to the 20th century.
This is the northwest corner of the quarry.

Courtesy of Wood County Public Library, Bowling Green, OH

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I think the office was moved from the South to the current location in the 1950s. There is still a septic tank for the old office just to the north of the gate. The current dive shop was built right where the old office was. Believe it or not that was the highest point on the property at the time they built it. It took 20 years for it to reach the levels it's at now.

Bill McBride of Sub Aquatics started diving there in early 1970s. They had a school bus they used to put the compressor in. A guy who was operating the compressor on weekends filled a propane tank with high pressure air and it blew up. The compressor operator was hurt pretty bad. This is the bus that sits on the bottom by the silo.

Bill hired Jeff Davis of Aqua Hut to work there. When the lease came up Jeff negotiated for it and became the new owner. He operated it for a couple years.

The year was 1978 when I took over. Davis called and said he did not want to run it anymore. I took it over because I was in a very high stress environment and would go there to relax. I would eat lunch there and after work would go to dive and swim. I had my own private place nobody wanted.

I just took a swim after building the first beach and added
on to it about five times since then.

 

I spent five years pulling steel cable out of the water. There was a tar truck still filled with tar I had removed by two cranes. The truck body is still on the property. I was told it blew up and they didn't know what to do with it so they let it rest on the bottom.

I was told the quarry was a dumping grounds for hand grenades thrown in by the sheriff on a Sunday afternoon. The city used the quarry as a dump where the current beach is. It was truly a mess. I can remember one Sunday afternoon hearing a black lab barking a very shrill Bark in pain. He had stepped on a steel cable and run it through his paw. My dog Hurricane had also done this later in years.

Expansion of the west wall was done by me. On the back wall you will see the six inch water pipe in the ground that was used as a property marker. The pipe marked where the water used to come to and the ledge was probably 100 yards out in spots from the strip mining. The bank used to come to the edge of the big cottonwood tree there. It took five years to fill in the back wall. Part of the Wood County Highway Department helped with that. I built it so there was a ledge all the way around the Quarry for the Divers. So you could walk out to the edge.

The picture of the front gate shows from a distance the manager, Charlie, and his car. Charlie went to school at BG and is still
around the Bowling Green area. My daughter spent her summers
in that trailer at the age of 13 when she started. Yes we were
a diving operation even before we had a dive shop. Note the
absence of a business across the street.


The levee on the front was getting weak and at that time we built the front road along the wall from concrete that was being dug up on I-75. It took 16 trucks running 10 hours a day and a bulldozer. A comment was made to me by one of the drivers that he dumped his load and it was gone, he couldn't even see it. I ran a D12 dozer for months on that project.

Tyler Schultz is responsible for a lot of the underwater attractions. He has spent years putting them in just the right spots. There are a lot of people who have helped through the years. I have just touched on my 30 plus years on the property.

Cooper shop at the lime kiln at Portage Quarry around 1900.

Courtesy of Wood County Public Library, Bowling Green, OH

Lime kiln and quarry in Portage, Ohio. Robert Whitney McMahan, Snowflake Lime Co. of Portage, Ohio.

Courtesy of Wood County Public Library, Bowling Green, OH


Bart Rice with a dive flag and his salute at a very young age, likely 9 years old, 1982 estimated year. He later went on to military tours of Iraq and recognized with a Bronze Star for his service during battle.


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12701 South Dixie
Bowling Green OH, 43402

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