Interview with Harvey Saunders, Jr. – 2

Interview with Harvey Saunders, Jr. – 2

Mr. Saunders went to work for the Lone Star Cement Company after having run the Butts Farm for Mr. Powell.  However, when Mr. Powell went bankrupt, he knew Mr. Staylor who worked for Lone Star so they offered him as job as a mechanic around 1938/39.  He started as a number 2 mechanic.  When the war started they went to work for three 8 hour shifts.  The washer plant was already in being and had been for some time.  Initally they used a smaller drag line but ultimately bought the new big drag line in 1920.  Cost was 1 million dollars then.  They also operated a mud barge because they needed the blue mud to mix with the marl.

Mining was already in operation by Lucy Upshur.  She had a hammer mill to grind it up.  She used it for chicken feed, fertilizer (lime) for the fields, and a reasonably good driveway material.

Would load about 2 ½ barges each day.  Every second or third day the tug would show up with empty barges, pick up full ones and go back to South Norfolk.  Lone Star was ultimately shut down by the EPA because of their pollution from the furnaces that cooked the marl into its fixture.  Then they started using a different type of material from France or Italy which was brought over by ship and unloaded by conveyor belts into the plant.  They had a bad accident when one of the ships hit one of the containers that off loaded the ship away from the dock.  Lone Star hired just about every dump truck when they had to unload from another location.

The trip from the washer plant to South Norfolk was 5 hours.

During the war they made additional trips to keep up with the demand.  The mud barge was also used to keep the harbor clean for the tugs/barges.  Arthur Joyner worked the Mud barge with Mr. Gwaltney spelling him once in awhile.

When Mr. Saunders went to work they were about ¼ of a mile from the washer plant moving toward Chuckatuck.  As they dug their first hole they realized the large supply of water that was available so they put pumps in the pond and started pulling the water from them.

When the marl arrived at the washer plant it was dumped from side dumping cars into a large hole that had a screen over it to filter out the larger marl chucks so they could be broken up before going into the hammer mill.  Jack hammers were used for this purpose.  From the hammer mill the material went into a large washer mill.  These were large containers 50 x50 x4 deep with hugh sceen type paddes going back and forth washing out the impurietes like sand, mud, clay, and dirt.  Marl then becomes very light in comparison to just plain soil.   On one occasion they had a rather large blue type rock that they could not break up event with the jack hammers.  Mr. Saunders said just open up the screen and let it on through.  He had second thoughts about this and in fact it was a piece of meteorite which would have possibly destroyed the hammer mill.  This piece stayed out in front of the building for years.  It ultimately disappeared possibly by a gentlement from UVA who kept nosing around looking at that rock.  The Smithsonian wanted it, but it was decided to leave it at the washer plant.  Lots of large pieces of sea life from 50 millions years ago were found and kept.

When they closed down Mr. Saunders was the last employee.  He was responsible for getting rid of all the equipment through a bidding process approved by the main company office.  Harvey, Jr. bought the 900,000 tons of marl bid against Gordon Jones.  He also bought the drag line for $2000.00

It was not until the late 40’s before they came across the road.  They came up the left hand side of the tracks behind the Kelly farm.  The first hole was the one behind Marvin Winslow’s house.  From here they went back to the river toward the Washer Plant.   Then they dug two huge ponds one of which was adjacent to Cedar Creek.  The latter pond broke through into the creek thus making it tidal.  Once they reached the Nansemond River or came close they went back toward Chuckatuck on the south side of the track and dug the first hole on the other side of the Fresh Water Pond (natural pond), and then the larger pond adjacent to Mr. Glasscock’s farm and just before King’s Highway.  At this point they had started to build an overpass as they were going to cross the road and continue on toward Smithfield.  They crossed the road around 1950.  This was the Devoric farm, onto Porter’s property.  They dug around Lucy Upshur’s house and after digging all of this they went across the Chuckatuck Creek.  They shut down around 1975 after having gone all the way to Cherry Grove Road.

Pits range from a depth of 120 to 50 feet for an average of 90 feet deep.  When they hit a hard spot that the teeth on the bucket would not pull it up they would dynamite it.  Mr. Saunders was the main man to lower the dynamite from the bucket with Mr. Frontelter lowering him close to the water.  The drag line had 200 tons of pig iron as counter balance.  This was an electric crane.  The extension cord was 2000 feet long and about 3 inches in diameter and cost then $22.00 per foot.

The drag line set of four sets of trucks (4 rail road wheels on each one two per side) which  ran on rails attached to big pallets.  The drag line was self supporting in that he would simply move these pallets ahead and run onto them, then move the next set up.

Drag line was sold to Peck Iron Works.  The main enclosure was all done in tounge and groove wood on a steel frame.  The drag line was 52 years old.

Mr. Saunders was also responsible for doing the core drilling to confirm the existence of marl.  They went all the way to Smithfield.  There was a small operation near Morgarts Beach many years before.  Lone Star found out about this later on and bought the whole farm sometime around the turn of the century.

Chemical analysis by Virginia Tech was 97 percent calcium chlorate, 2 percent magnesium.

W.G. Saunders had a model A truck.  He asked the operator to drop him a bucket full in his truck, but the operator said it would be too heavy.  W.G. said “oh no it will hold it”.  So he dumped a bucket full into the truck and when W.G. drove off his truck broke in half being so overloaded.

There were normally 25 people working for Lone Star at any one time.

Tape 2

Mrs. Saunders was in the home economics class at Holland and they served the first Ruritan supper.

Looking for the employees record, but cannot find it as yet.

Mr. Saunders had the first accident that Lone Star had when he lost part of his thumb and finger when he tried to uncouple a car.  He should not have done that since it was his job.

Would toot when he wanted the train to pull up a bit.  The first locomotives were coal burner steam engines.  There were a number of fires along the track and Harvey Saunders, Jr. and Buck Kelly were the firemen.  Buck pulled his arm out of the socket and it was reset by Dr. Warren in Smithfield.  Seems that Buck had to carry around a bucket of sand in an attempt to straighten out his arm, but it never worked.

Mr. Saunders always kept us a swimming hole.

The little black boy that drowned in the marl hole (Willie Beale) was from the same family that then lost 5 little kids in the fire behind Wesley Chapel.  This is when Chuckatuck Fire Dept was started.  At this point the No Trespassing signs were put up.

Talks about Mr. Saunders making a new diving board.  Scott Saunders was determined to be the first one to use it.  He jumped up and came down on his head on the burlap bag which was on the end.

Carroll Willoughby rolled Harvey, Jr. in the snow and filled his mouth up with snow and almost killed him.

At a scout meeting over the store Totsi Moxley held Harvey, Jr. out of the upstairs window by his ankle.