The Indestructible Headstones Of Slate Ridge Cemetery
Slate Ridge Cemetery, founded in the mid 1700’s, is the final resting place of veterans that served in almost every American war, including several revolutionary war soldiers. Even more interesting are the unique blue black slate headstones, pictured here, that are made from slate mined in the nearby Funkhauser quarry in Delta, PA. It was the first commercial slate quarry in the United States.
The slate, known as Peach Bottom Slate, was mined from a belt only .25 miles wide. It extends 1.5 miles south of the York County, PA state line into Northern Harford County, and 5 miles north into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The earliest documented quarrying of this slate goes back to 1730 by a Welshman living in the area. In 1840 a large number of Welsh began migrating to the area and brought with them a better way of mining the slate.
In 1850 the slate was taken to the Crystal Palace World Exposition in London and judged to be the best decorative slate in the world. If you look at the photos you can see that most of these headstones look almost brand new even though they are all over 150 years old.
The oldest of them is 234 years old, and the engraving is still clear and readable. From what I have read, a high content of silica and aluminum is what makes the slate virtually weather resistant. There is little to no corrosion of the stone making the engraving as clear as it was the day it was done.
The Slate was also used for Roof shingles, fence posts, and sidewalks and in many federal and state buildings on the east coast. Some of the older houses in Delta, PA still have slate rooftops and in some parts of the town you can still see segments of the slate sidewalks. A local church has a Peach Bottom Slate roof that is 200 years old and is said to have never leaked.
The quarry, used up until sometime in the early 70’s, was once considered to be worth millions of dollars. Over the years of disuse it filled with water. Eventually it became a popular swimming and party area for locals. Several people have since drowned in the quarry and there at least one murder. It has been recognized as number two on the list of the most dangerous quarries in the country to swim in. What once was the source of a world renowned building material that turned a small country town into a thriving community, has now become nothing but an eyesore and liability.
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