It might be best to park at the beach in Lower Cove and walk up the shoreline towards the old Grindstone works. There is a road leading down off the highway, but it is only passable by foot or driving down with a 4WD. If you are walking on the beach looking for fossils or grindstones, be careful of falling rocks near cliff faces and mind the tide. This is the Bay of Fundy and the tide rises very fast. Note that you are not permitted to remove fossils or grindstones from the beach or dig in the banks. You are more than welcome to take all the photos you wish. Also, if the tide is going out, the wet rocks can be slippery.
Looking to the South from the quarry, you can see the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. A little to the south-west on the right, you are looking down the mouth of the Bay of Fundy and to the west across the water to Wood Point, New Brunswick.
Lower Cove was the site of a booming quarry and grindstone producing industry long before the early 20th-century industrial boom in the more populated areas of this county. Acadians were producing grindstones on the Lower Cove beach prior to 1800, probably for their own use and not as a money-making enterprise. One of the early stone traders was Joseph Read who leased a property in the area in 1810. Commencing in 1831, Amos Seaman leased the grindstone quarries from the DesBarres (Minudie Estate) holdings for 40 pounds sterling a year. Under Seaman’s management, the quarrying of sandstone became a major industry employing over one hundred people at most times during productive years.
The grindstones were gleaned from sandstone reefs. This beach experiences some of the world’s highest tides and so the reefs were only accessible for quarrying at low tide. The stone was lashed to rafts or vessels to be carried by the incoming tide. Stones were then fashioned into grindstones and loaded onto scows for transfer to schooners, clipper, or cargo ships in Minudie. Grindstones from Lower Cove were shipped mainly to New England and the Eastern seaboard. Placed in a cradle-like holder and rotated, large grindstones were principally used as filing objects for sharpening tools and machine blades. Smaller stones were used for kitchen knives, scythes, axes, and other small implements. Good grindstones usually lasted a year, and were, in that time, greatly reduced in size by the wear of filing.
Basically, grindstones were chunks of sandstone fashioned into a circular shape. Each stone had a square hole placed in the centre from which the stone could be attached to a frame for use. In the early 1800’s, the stones were quarried and dressed (made circular) entirely by hand. Leonard Lee, in 1991, wrote two informative articles about the Lower Cove quarry industry. In one, he quotes Abraham Gesner who wrote in 1836: “After having been split into pieces of small dimensions with iron wedges, it (the sandstone) is conveyed to the stone cutter, who, with a pair of compasses, describe the circle and with amazing facility cut the eye, and complete the whole process in the shorter space of time than would be required to form a piece of wood of similar size into the figure of a grindstone.” Grindstones were fashioned in a variety of weights and sizes. In 1875, a stone produced in Lower Cove and shipped to Maine was seven feet in diameter and weighed 8,000 pounds.
Until the second half of the 19th century, quarrying and stone cutting was done with black powder, horses, and skilled stone cutters. In 1843, Amos Peck Seaman introduced, at Minudie, the first steam-powered mill in the province. It could be assumed that after this date, steam was used to dress the stones at his quarries. Sandstone quarrying was phased out in Lower Cove in the early 1900’s. More expedient methods of filing were developed and improved transportation systems in the U.S. that led to exploitation of their own sandstone in the interior of that country.
Lower Cove is one of twelve locations in the Maritime provinces where sandstone was quarried for the creation of grindstones and one of three in this county alone, the others being Minudie and Ragged Reef. Production was impressive. In 1847, the number of stones shipped from Cumberland County was recorded at 33,075. Only the foundations remain in Lower Cove today of the offices, powder shack, chimney (removed in the 1960’s for safety reasons) wharf, store or the various other work buildings used to facilitate the operation of the quarries. Today, a walk along the Lower Cove beach will reveal a number of dressed stones, most of them abandoned due to flaws. As well, some tools and the remains of the wharf are quite visible. Visit this area, but please do not disturb these remnants of the quarrying industry. Lower Cove is a protected beach, what remains are monuments on site in testament to the people and the natural resources which so early and so substantially contributed to Cumberland’s economy.