Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Origin of the Rose Quartz Monument
By Van King

Rose quartz monuments are not rare. Scotts Rose Quartz Quarry in Custer, South Dakota gets orders for rose quartz on a frequent enough basis that they set aside any suitable monument size blocks for that purpose during their mining operations and have done so since the 1920’s. My interest in the beautiful rose quartz monument in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY is that it isn’t from South Dakota, but is from Albany, Maine.

Only by 2002 has there been an explanation for rose quartz’s wonderful color. The mineral has sub-microscopic particles of a reddish purple to a bluish purple mineral called dumortierite. That mineral occurs in such minute quantities that proving what the mineral actually was had to wait for modern technology to answer the question. Because the color is due to particles included in the host quartz, even the most transparent pieces of rose quartz have a “sleepy” haze and most pieces are really cloudy pink. Rose quartz may be found with a mineral that is commonlyl used in making the finest porcelain glaze. That mineral is called feldspar. Such was the origin of this block. The monument stone is about 4.5 x 3 x 2 feet and calculates to have a weight of about 4500 pounds.

The rose quartz monument marks the resting place of Julius J. Andersen [1879-September 25, 1954] and Leona M. Andersen [1879-February 1, 1938]. From Julius’ obituary in the Democrat and Chronicle, we learn only the highlights of whom the Andersens were. Julius had emigrated from Germany in 1893 and was a highly respected tailor in Rochester. Both he and Leona were active in their church, including its Missionary Society. Julius was a member of the Masons, Fireman’s Benevolent Society, and the Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

The author became interested in discovering the current location of this rose quartz monument as part of researching the history of feldspar mining in Oxford County, Maine and the Bumpus Quarry of Albany, in particular. The Bumpus Quarry is a small quarry that has had a turbulent history at several levels. That quarry was leased by Harry Bumpus from his wife’s brother and sister, Allan and Sybil Cummings, on June 1, 1927. Unfortunately, Sybil died about three weeks after the lease date, leaving no last will and testament. After a mourning period, the quarry started operations in September of that year, but the process of probate lasted four years and Sybil’s heirs were anxious to get their share of the mining profits. Rose quartz had been found almost immediately in the quarry, but it initially did not have appreciable value. The quarry should have yielded about $1000 profit per year for its feldspar output, but there was a complication. An enormous quantity of beryl crystals was soon discovered and there was great fanfare about the beryl crystals being "world record" size, etc. The weight of the beryl sold from the quarry was about 100 tons and the heirs hoped to get their share of the royalties from that mineral, also, but a family feud and other issues prevented disbursement of funds. Finally, a comment in Business Week magazine in 1930 sent the probate issue to court: the article said that a beryl quarry is “better than owning an oil well”. During the Depression the heirs were very eager to get their share of their “oil well”, especially as just $1,000 was then a goodly fraction of two year’s wages for a laborer. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, expectations had been raised to unsupportable levels and the family feud eventually resulted in the heirs getting about $175 each, but the feud resulted in the loss of love and family forever. Rose quartz continued to be produced by the Bumpus Quarry, whenever mining was active, and it eventually was the large share of income for a miner and gift shop owner, Stanley I. Perham [June 2, 1907 – December 1, 1973].

Sometime in 1950, Julius ordered his rose quartz monument from Perham’s Maine Mineral Store located in West Paris, Maine. Leone Andersen had died twelve years earlier and she may or may not have already had a marker for her plot. Julius’ motivation to acquire a rose quartz monument for himself and his wife is unknown. Monuments made of South Dakota rose quartz were well-enough known, but rose quartz from Maine was rarely fashioned into grave markers of any kind. One must imagine that Julius, and perhaps Leona, had been tourists in Maine and had visited Perham’s store where he/they became familiar with rose quartz’s beauty. The personal visit is the only reason which seems adequate to have inspired Julius to pick the rare Maine rose quartz for his monument.

The Oxford County, Maine newspaper, Advertiser Democrat, published a photo of the raw rose quartz block as it was being crated for shipment to Rochester on October 27, 1950. At the time of shipment, the block reportedly weighed about 5,000 pounds and was claimed as a record size block of rose quartz for any locality east of the Mississippi River. It was also revealed that the block was destined for use as a monument in “New York”. It may be surmised that the block was a special order and that Stan Perham had directed the excavation of the block. During the time period, the Cold War between the USA and Russia was escalating and the Federal Government was paying high premiums for beryl by the ton. Beryl was the chief ore of beryllium which was essential to initiating the nuclear reaction resulting in so-called nuclear bombs. The Bumpus Quarry, which had spawned a feud over its beryl production, was again producing beryl for the Strategic Minerals Stockpile in 1950. It was also producing rose quartz as a by-product.

Unfortunately, the ravages of weather have not been kind to the rose quartz monument in Rochester. Hidden cracks have been affected by the frost and ice and cracks have widened so that the monument is now in fragile condition.

The above article also appeared in edited form in the Epitaph, the newsletter of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery (Rochester, NY), volume 29, #1, Winter/Spring 2009, p. 1-2.