The Rosendale natural cement industry can claim many connections
with important 19th Century personalities. Hugh White, in whose
honor the Rosendale hamlet of Whiteport is named, was one of these
leaders. Canvass White, Hugh White’s older brother, discovered
a type of limestone suitable for the manufacturing of a hydraulic
cement while working on the construction of the Erie Canal. Canvass
obtained a patent in 1820 for his “Water Lime Cement”.
After the completion of the Erie Canal, Canvass White continued
as an engineer in the construction of many other canal projects.
It is said that Henry Clay, when asked to recommend an engineer
for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, said “Get Canvass White;
no man more competent, no man more capable. And while your faith
in his ability and fidelity increases, your friendship will grow
White's Rosendale Cement, The
Century House Historical Society
For nearly a century, miners in the Rosendale area persistently
quarried rocks suitable for the production of natural cement.
So proficient was their pursuit of these rocks that the long-abandoned
remains of their efforts are ubiquitous in the region’s
dark and overgrown corners. Despite the dangers and arduous labor
of cement mining, the abundance and quality of the area’s
raw materials sparked an explosion of local industry, elevating
the Rosendale Consolidated Cement Companies to one of the foremost
cement producers in North America. Indeed, the Rosendale area
owes much of its very existence to this economic boom, but why
did it happen here? Why are the “cement rocks” so
plentiful along the banks of the Rondout Creek and in the rolling
hills of the Helderberg Plateau?...
...These ‘cement rocks’ are actually a type of sedimentary
rock called Dolostone. This hard, gray rock was traditionally
referred to as waterlime by miners and was used exclusively in
the production of natural cement. During construction of the Deleware
& Hudson Canal, engineers discovered amounts of dolostone
on the property of A. J. Snyder. It was this discovery that initially
attracted the attention of entrepreneurs in the mid 1820s.
Like most other sedimentary rocks, dolostone slowly accumulates
in thick piles of flat, laterally extensive layers of sediment.
Layers of sediment that will eventually become dolostone are deposited
in the warm, clear, near-shore waters of shallow oceans. The accumulating
sediment often buried the shells of organisms living on the sea
floor, leading to their preservation as fossils. Fossiliferous
dolostone isn’t the only sedimentary rock near Rosendale.
Other sedimentary rocks in the area include conglomerate, sandstone,
limestone, and shale.All of the sedimentary rocks the vicinity
of Rosendale were originally flat, deposited in the sun-drenched,
coastal environments of a sea that once extended off to the southwest.
However, when examining the rock formations near Rosendale today,
we see layers that are twisted, buckled, and fractured into complex
jumbles resembling a rumpled rug. These contorted and broken rocks
record the effects of immense geologic forces generated during
the collision of entire continents.
Mountains belts are born from such collisions. When continents
grind together, originally flat-lying rock layers are faulted,
folded, and uplifted thousands of feet into imposing ranges spanning
thousands of miles. Such is the case near Rosendale, where a series
of ancient collisions between North America and the landmasses
of Europe and Africa deformed originally flat-lying sedimentary
rocks into the rock formations we see today.
The faulted and folded rocks exposed throughout the Shawangunk
Mountains, the Rondout-Esopus and Wallkill River Valleys, and
the Helderberg Plateau are all part of the sinuous Appalachian
Mountain Range that stretches from Nova Scotia to Alabama. It
is important to recognize that the Appalachian Mountains as we
see them today are merely deeply eroded remnants of a once grand
mountain range. At their prime, the Appalachian Mountains would
easily match the height and extent of the great Himalayan Mountains
Burmeister, Kurtis C. Mines
of the Rosendale natural cement region: windows into ancient
mountains for a graduate student from the Midwestern plains.
(Article submitted for publication in "Natural News,"
the newsletter of the Century House Historical Society, January