The quarry my novel is loosely based on has a renaming survey out now. So the Morkans’ Quarry will be transformed and re-used.
And this is not at all a bad thing. Razor-wire and mystery surrounded the Morkans’ Quarry when I knew it firsthand. I drove by it every afternoon and again late at night on my way to and from the Springfield News-Leader. Down in its flooded pit, bordering National Avenue, was a teal blue like gemstones could only wish for. And every so often, some awful, sad story ran in the paper of an employee emptying concrete from his truck, or washing it out and succumbing to toxic gas down at the pool’s edge.
Lime, a base, is not what was killing people, and it doesn’t put off any gas. After Marblehead Company of Chicago sold the quarry, the place went through lots of owners (after 1906 I didn’t track ownership). Springfield used the old mine shafts as a city dump for a long time. And before I was born, when my parents first settled in Springfield, the years of waste and rubbish down in the shafts caught fire. Noxious smoke crawled up from all kinds of wild and populated places in town as the carse topography let a nearly inextinguishable fire vent. Very exciting, though that’s not how my Dad characterized the nuisance.
Before the Civil War, the place had this designation in old Springfield directories: Burns Kiln. Lime and bricks were made there well before the war. And the name, Burns Kiln is especially resonant to me. One, Burns is an interesting name (if not a precarious name) for someone who owns a kiln; two, Michael Burns at SMS (now Missouri State) was my teacher and advisor and tremendously responsible for my path in life.
Springfieldians have until April 16, the day of my signing at Borders, to voice opinion on a new name for the place where I imagined Morkan Quarry to be. Springfield friends, here’s the link to sound off about what you want the Morkan Quarry re-named. I like the choice offered, “The Quarry at Jordan Valley.” But I’m not a tax-paying citizen of Springfield any more, alas, …so my vote is only of sentimental value. Enjoy democracy in action!
And, of course, if you have quarry lore to add, go for it in the comments below.