Pictured is the structure associated with loading gravel to trains from the Middle Point Quarry. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Pictured is the structure associated with loading gravel to trains from the Middle Point Quarry. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – Information provided by Floyd O’Daffer in his “History of Van Wert County” notes that in about 1914 or 15, the huge Middle Point Quarry purchased a large steam shovel which was used to build the Panama Canal.

In 1888, said O’Daffer, the Pennsylvania Railroad planned to lay a second track alongside the single track that passed through the Middle Point area of Van Wert County. The France Stone Company contracted to supply ballast for the railroad from Fort Wayne to Crestline. This was the start of the need for the Middle Point Quarry.

“The France Stone Company started operations at the Middle Point quarry on Aug. 14, 1888, and ceased operations July 1, 1946. They had been in business for 58 years, and in the height of operations employed 60 people,” wrote O’Daffer.

“Between 90 and 100 acres of what some called the big lake, others a fisherman’s paradise and many a familiar swimming spot since 1946, was pumped dry in 1957,” continued O’Daffer. “Reports were circulated all over the area that a new crusher would be placed in the big hole, which would mean big business again for Middle Point.”

In 1956 when the owner, George France of Toledo, decided that the quarry should be pumped dry, the water averaged between 25 and 40 feet deep, including a channel which ran through the area.

The task of pumping the huge hole of water was placed in the hands of Middle Point’s Harry Showalter, Robert Roodes, Allen Brown and Dale Kline. Originally, it was projected that it would take a year of continuous pumping to empty the 78-acre quarry.

One elevated pump poured out 2,200 gallons a minute while another pump pushed out 1,000 gallons in a minute. Surprisingly, the entire job was completed in 10 months. The only water remaining in the quarry was in a drainage channel.

“The water pouring from the quarry was dumped into Dog Creek and finally into the Auglaize River. The pumping was good news to farmers along the stream since it made a clean water supply for livestock which grazed along the stream,” wrote O’Daffer.

“When the quarry was shut down in 1946, the quarry had an output of 50 rail cars a day, which was mostly to the railroads for ballast stone, and to the county commissioners for stone roads,” continued O’Daffer. “The machinery contained in the huge cement-supported structure was removed in 1946-47. When the quarry went dry, workers were surprised at the small amount of debris found in the bottom.

“Some large bass which had outsmarted fishermen during the years, fell victim to the operation, while others managed to reach the channel which was nearly 25 feet wide and 20 feet deep and extended nearly a mile,” O’Daffer quipped.

The total France site consisted of nearly 320 acres, divided by the Middle Point Road with the quarry on the north side.

At one point, the quarry was considered as a possible site for a “mini-park.” The state department’s concept of a mini-park was one of about 1,000 acres, providing space for some recreational activities, but not on a scale of a large park of 5,000 acres