The Montello Granite Company of Montello, Wisconsin opened its quarry in about 1880. Soon, 80 to 100 men were employed at the site, doing an annual business of nearly $100,000, and business continued to grow. Stone cutters came from all over Europe. As the most skilled workers, they made the best money – up to $3 a day by 1898, more than twice the pay of polishers or laborers. My great grandfather, Frank Heller, began working in the quarry about 1900, and continued until becoming ill in 1944. He worked as a polisher.
Granite blocks were cut from the stone face and shipped by boat down the Fox River and, later, by a branch of the Wisconsin Central Railway. Formed by slow-cooling masses of molten lava millions of years ago, tests have proven that for durability and strength, there are few granites anywhere that equal Montello granite. Its qualities are so enduring that it will be found standing in many of our cemeteries uninjured long after the monuments and mausoleums constructed out of most kinds of stone have crumbled into decay.
The blocks which were too small or unsuitable for building or monumental work were crushed for macadam, a type of road paving. Many thousands of these blocks were sold in Milwaukee and Chicago. Some of the finest monuments of the country have been constructed from the Montello granite. They may be found by the score in cemeteries in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Among the more important pieces include the Custer monument and the monuments to Wisconsin soldiers at Gettysburg and Chickamauga. The sarcophagi for General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant at Riverside Park, New York, were hewn from Montello granite, having been selected by a special commission in competition with granite from many parts of the world. These were cut from single large blocks measuring approximately ten feet six inches by five feet six inches by four feet ten inches.
Montello granite has also been used for building purposes. In Chicago, it has been used in the Herald Building, the Stone Building,the Pickard Residence, the Miller Residence, the Kirk Block on Madison Avenue and 55th Street and many others. But, uses for granite fell off and efficiency trailed, and in 1977, the quarry closed.
Many of the company buildings still exist.