National Geographic : 1974 Jul
assistant foreman Maurice Price through the Vermont Marble Company mine deep inside Dorset Mountain. In eerie light dimmed by dust, shadowy figures extracted famous Dan by marble, distinctively streaked with clouds of color. I asked Maurice, first quarryman in his family, why he went underground. "My dad wanted me to stay on the farm, but I couldn't see being bossed by him and the weather. No rain, snow, or crop failure down here. And you can't beat the climate: about 50 degrees year-round." Less comfortable conditions prevail in an other Vermont quarry, an open-pit operation at nearby West Pawlet, where a long line of Welshmen have helped keep the slate in dustry alive. Jack Williams held a chunk of stone be tween his aproned knees and skillfully cleaved slates, slim as a silver dollar, for my farmhouse roof. In 1948 this barrel-chested bachelor left the quarries of Wales for those of Vermont and a new life that closely re sembles the old. "I been working slate since I was 14," he said. "But I'm topside now instead of closed up in a mine like at home. My sister feeds me on good Welsh cooking, and there's plenty to lift a glass with come St. David's Day." Fair Haven, another Welsh stronghold, lies a few miles north, in the center of the nation's major colored-slate belt. But the town owes its origin to a fiery, self-starting Irishman who, as the Revolution ended, shaped a raw site into a thriving community. In the pro cess, crusading Matthew Lyon was twice elected U. S. Congressman from western Vermont, once while jailed for sedition. Ever restless, he moved on to Kentucky, which sent him to Congress four more times. Lyon barely missed another congressional term when he ran again-this time from Arkansas. Not far from Fair Haven, wedge-shaped Lake Champlain starts inching toward Canada where it spills, 107 miles later, into a river route to the sea. "It's been a long time since you and I caught perch off Porters Point and sold them for admission money to 'big-band' shows at Malletts Bay," Ralph Hill reminisced as we cruised familiar shores. We regretted that Benny Goodman never knew he cost us 60 fish. Cleft for thee, granite from the Rock of Ages quarry in Barre marks the final resting-place of countless Americans. Some 250 feet above the quarry floor, riggers prepare to anchor a pulley. Rows of mining pins hold safety lines or keep slabs from falling. Drills used in former years have grooved weather-darkened walls; today workers cut the stone loose with torches. Italian-born craftsmen (above) sculpture memorial statuary with pneumatic chisels.