Tyndall Stone Quarry

From EGM Heritage

Figure 1: Tyndall Stone Quarries in the vicinity of Garson, Manitoba: 1. Sinclair Quarry; 2. Strindlund Quarry; 3 Western Stone Co. No. 2 Quarry; 4. Garson Quarry; 5. Murray and Gunn’s quarries; 6. Western Stone Co. No. 1 Quarry; 7. Tyndall Quarry; 8. Malmstrom Quarry; 9 Hazel Quarry; and 10. Cutter Quarry (from Goudge, 1933, Fig. 7, p. 99).

Tyndall Stone® is the registered trademark of the unique creamy buff or bluish grey mottled fossiliferous Ordovician dolomitic limestone that has been quarried at Garson, Manitoba (Figure 1) for over 100 years, by Gillis Quarries Limited (and other companies). The stone, also known as “tapestry” stone due to its mottled or fern-like appearance, has been quarried for use in building and construction across Canada and around the World. According to Wallace (1927, p. 12), Tyndall Stone was “one of the most attractive building stones in Canada” and was “probably the best limestone for building purposes that Canada produces”. In the late 1920s, and up to 1931, the district of Garson was the largest centre of building stone in Canada (Goudge, 1933, p. 99).

Tyndall Stone originated as a lime mud deposited in shallow, but relatively calm equatorial sea during the Upper Ordovician Period (445-450 million years ago), when what is now Manitoba, was located just south of the equator. The stone occurs as 2 to 3 foot thick, near horizontal beds within the Upper Mottled Limestone of the Selkirk Member of the Red River Formation The formation is present near the base of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, which lies above the Precambrian basement of the North American craton.

The distinct mottling of Tyndall Stone is due to interconnected, branching and tubular (3 cm in diameter) brownish or greyish-brown dolomitic limestone that is present within a matrix of light buff or grey limestone. According to Kendall (1977), Coniglio (1999), and McCracken et al. (2007), many geologists believe that the mottles are trace fossils that represent preserved burrows possibly made by worms or crustaceans (as they foraged for food, or escaped from predators) in the soft lime mud that accumulated on the ancient sea floor. Coniglio (1999, p. 17) speculated that thalassinid shrimp, such as Callianassa (also known as the 'ghost shrimp' may have been the decapod crustacean responsible for the burrows (Figure 2). According to Goudge (1933, p. 100), the magnesian mottles consist mainly of tiny dolomite crystals cemented by sub-crystalline calcite. He noted that a tiny channel (worm boring) is present in the centre of each tubular mass. The burrows, filled with less dense material relative to the matrix, acted as conduits for magnesium-rich water that deposited the dolomite. The darker colour of the mottles relative to the matrix is due to oxidation of the trace amounts of iron and/or pyrite deposited with the dolomite (McCracken et al., 2007).

Goudge (1933, p. 102) attributed the buff and the grey (or, blue) colour of Tyndall Stone) present in all of the quarries, as being due to oxidation and reduction of the rock due to groundwater flow along fractures and bedding planes (See: Figure 3). The grey (blue) limestone is the buried “reduced” stone, whereas the shallow buff limestone has been oxidized.

Parks (1916, p. 100) and Goudge (1933, p. 102) noted the presence of large and well preserved white calcite fossils in Tyndall Stone. Receptaculitids, (an extinct group of uncertain affinities, possibly calcareous green algae) are the most common macrofossils. Solitary rugose corals (horn corals) are the second most abundant group. Other common fossils include: brachiopods bryozoans, gastropods, cephalopods, and trilobites; stromatoporoid sponges; colonial rugose and tabulate corals. Sections of echinoderms are the most abundant bioclasts (Young et al., 2013, p. 10).

According to the Garson and District History Book Committee (1990, p. 15), it is believed that the Tyndall Stone was first discovered in the District of Garson by a farmer named Gunn who had dug a shallow water well (probably in Section 3, Township 13, Range 6 East) on a local rise in topography, known the “Hill” (looking from the west along PTH 44). The “Hill” is 2.4 km long by 0.8 km wide. The name of the stone was derived from the shipping point at Tyndall, Manitoba on the Canadian Pacific Railway, situated a short distance to the east of Garson (Figure 1).

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Gunn’s Quarry

In 1894 (or possibly, 1898), the first quarries were opened in vicinity of Garson (Parks, 1916, p. 47). One of these was probably Gunn’s Quarry (Figure 1, Locality 5 (East)), in NW3-13-6E, owned by John Gunn & Sons, Winnipeg. The quarry was in operation in 1903, employing 30 quarry men. The main product of the quarry was lime produced in two draw kilns that can be seen, from the former route of PTH 44 (previously, the Trans-Canada Highway). The lime was shipped by rail on the same spur line servicing the Tyndall and Garson quarries (Wells, 1905, p. 40). By 1914, no quarrying was being done in Gunn’s Quarry, nor within a nearby second smaller quarry, by John Gunn & Sons (Parks, 1916, p. 57). In 1915, Gunn’s Quarry and nearby quarry was sold to August Gillis (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 17).

It is interesting to note that William R. Gunn, one of the sons of John Gunn attended Manitoba College (later, the University of Manitoba) and was the first graduate of that institute.

Garson Quarry

Figure 2: Visual depiction in three dimensions of Thalassinoides traces, which are the fossil burrows now found as magnesian mottles in Tyndall Stone, as depicted by Coniglio (1999, Fig. 4, p. 17).

In 1898, William Garson opened the Garson Quarry (Figure 1, Locality 4) in l.s. 3 and 4, 10-13-6E (Parks, 1916, p. 47). By 1903, the quarry (500 feet long, 250 feet wide and 70 feet deep) was owned and operated by the Garson Quarry Company of Winnipeg, employing 68 quarry men and 30 expert stone cutters. The quarry was equipped with 3 horse-powered derricks and steam-power derricks for loading stone and rubble into train cars, running on the same spur line as the Tyndall and other quarries. Ornamental shapes and pedestals were made on a steam-power lathe and lime was produced in 4 draw-kilns, according to Wells (1905, p. 38). Garson Quarry Company became very profitable in the following years, but in 1911 William Garson died from pneumonia; and the company went into debt that included a claim to John Gunn & Sons (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 16, 208).

In 1912, Peter Lyall Sr. of Peter Lyall and Sons Construction Co. Ltd. of Montreal assumed the debt of Garson Quarry Company; and re-opened the quarry in 1913, under the management of Northwest Quarries Co. Ltd. (Wallace, 1913). In 1916 the Garson Quarry was being operated by Wallace Sandstone Quarries, Limited of Nova Scotia, with Peter Lyall as company president. The name of the community was changed to Lyall from Garson from 1912 to 1927 to honour the company president (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 16). In July 1914, Parks (1916, p. 53) visited the quarry and reported that 250 men were employed by the company. Equipment at the quarry included: channellers, drills, jackhammers, a compressor, 5 derrick and a Marion steam shovel. Also, on the property were 6 draw kilns, in which waste rock was converted into lime. Dressed stone was worked in 600 foot by 100-foot mill building with a crane gantry, cranes, gang saws, diamond saws, rubbing bed, planers, lathes, hammer machine, compressor and pneumatic rods. Power for the plant was obtained from the City of Winnipeg’s power plant at Pointe du Bois. Parks listed the following buildings, as being completed using the output of the quarry:

  • Royal Alexandra Hotel, Winnipeg.
  • Law courts, Winnipeg (part).
  • Saskatchewan Legislative Building, Regina (Parks, 1916, Plate I).
  • Presbyterian Church, Moosejaw
  • Sask. Court House and Land Titles building, Humboldt, Sask.
  • Armouries, Prince Albert, Sask.
  • Court house and Land Titles Building. Swift Current, Sask.
  • Registry Office. Fort William, Ont.
  • Post-office, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
  • Gaol and gaoler's house, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

After Park’s 1914 visit, the mill building was extended by 70 feet and a double diamond saw, a drag diamond saw and 4 additional planers were added (Parks, 1916, p. 53).

In February 1916, a major fire destroyed the Centre Block of the Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Wallace Sandstone Quarries, Limited was contracted to supply stone in the reconstruction of the Centre Block. Tyndall Stone was used for the walls of corridors, entrance halls, main and first floors Commons and Senate Chambers; Confederation Hall and Hall of Honour (Lawrence, 2001, p.22). In 1917, the mill building was destroyed by fire and quarrying ceased (Mineral Inventory Card No. 966).

In 1944, Louis Juravsky bought the Garson Quarry for back taxes and formed the Garson Limestone Co. Ltd., with his sons Sam and Mal. A plant was developed in an old icehouse; and they began shipping rubble to a paper mill in Kenora. Then, they began production of building stone using a channeling machine; and in 1962, with a diamond saw with 244 cm. diameter blade. This marked the first quarry use of a diamond saw in the Garson District, which greatly increased production (Bannatyne, 1988, p. 7). Architectural stone from the quarry was used in the Museum of Natural History in Regina. The quarry ceased production in 1969; and the property was sold to Gillis Quarries Limited in 1973 (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 16; Mineral Inventory Card No. 966).

It is interesting to note that William Garson was the father of Stuart Garson, Premier of Manitoba from 1942 to 1948. William Garson also was one of the pioneers who founded Winnipeg Hydro (Parks, 1916, p. 47).

Tyndall Quarry

Henry’s Quarry, the predecessor to the Tyndall Quarry (Figure 1, Locality 7) in the north 1/2 of NE3-13-6E was worked as early as 1903 by William Henry & Company of Tyndall. Dressed and rough building stone; fine rubble for concrete; dressed ornamental stone (for tombstones); and quick-setting quick lime (for mortar and plaster) were produced at the quarry. A spur line from the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline at Tyndall, Manitoba provided access to the quarry, according to Wells (1905, p. 38).

In July 1914, Parks (1916) visited the Tyndall Quarry, which had been acquired from William Henry & Co. by the Tyndall Quarry Co. (a syndicate of 4 stone supply companies) – Oliver & Mason (40 men, Winnipeg); Menzies & McIntyre (25 men, Winnipeg); Winnipeg Stone Co. (30-35 men, Winnipeg); and Western Stone Co. (65 men, St. Boniface). After 3 years, Western Stone Co.’s interests were purchased by the three other partners (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 17). And by June 1927, Oliver & Mason became the sole operator of the Tyndall Quarry (Wallace, 1927, p.13, 32).

In 1933, the Tyndall Quarry was 950 feet long, east-west; with a maximum width of 400 feet. The active area at the west end of the quarry was 270 feet square and was worked to a depth of 22 feet. The quarry had a capacity of 50,000 cubic feet of stone per month. Eighty men were employed during the quarrying season including 25 quarrymen (Goudge, 1933, p. 122).

Around 1944, the Tyndall Quarry was 1,000 feet long, east-west; with a maximum width of 350 feet. The quarry was worked by channelling machines; and blocks of stone shipped to the company’s stone-dressing plant at 1591 Erin Street in Winnipeg for cutting and carving or directly to stone-dressing plants in other cities. According to Goudge (1944, p. 23), earlier lime production from waste rock had ceased; and the ruins of the battery of stone kilns could be seen at the east end of the quarry. Tyndall Quarry Co. ceased operation in 1957, after the death of Dave Oliver (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 19).

Winnipeg Stone Co.

Winnipeg Stone Co. supplied the stone for the following buildings from the Tyndall Quarry according to Parks (1916, p. 60): Law courts, corner of Broadway and Kennedy St. Winnipeg. Carnegie Library, Winnipeg (Parks, 1916, Plate XIII). Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg (Brisbin et al. 2005; Young et al. 2013). (See a slide show at https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/multimedia/fp-slideshow/Manitoba-Legislative-Building-construction-571779761.html.) Land Titles Building, Winnipeg (Parks, 1916, Plate XIV). Sir Daniel McMillan's residence, Winnipeg.

Murray Quarry

Figure 3: Tyndall limestone showing relation of oxidized buff colour stone to joints and bedding planes within reduced grey (or blue) colour of the surrounding host rock. (From Goudge, 1933, Fig. 8, p. 102).

In 1914, G.W. Murray normally employed 60 men in his quarry in NW3-13-6E that was leased, (on royalty) from John Gunn of Winnipeg (Parks, 1916, p. 55). The Murray Quarry (Figure 1, Locality 5 (West)) was situated immediately to the west of Gunn’s Quarry in the same quarter section. According to Parks (1916, p. 56), at the time of his visit in 1914, production was abnormally low. Equipment at the quarry to produce quarry blocks comprised: a compressor, 2 derricks, steam channeller, jackhammers, hammer drills, rock drills, steam shovel. Four draw kilns producing lime were also on the site. On May 14, 1915, the Murray Quarry was purchased by August Gillis from John Gunn (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 19).

Western Stone No.1 Quarry

After the sale of Western Stone Co. interests in the Tyndall Quarry were finalized, Joseph Bourgeault, owner of the company purchased a 30 acre property in 14-3-13-6E from John Gunn, immediately to the west of the Tyndall Quarry and opened his No. 1 Quarry (Figure 1, Locality 6). In 1923, signed contracts for St. Roch Church, Quebec City; T. Eaton Company building, Montreal; and St. Wilobrod Church, Montreal. Shortly after, he secured contracts for T. Eaton Company building, Toronto and the interior of the Royal York Hotel, Toronto. In 1926, he was awarded the contract for the Hudson Bay Co. building in Winnipeg; and he moved his Winnipeg plant to Garson (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 17). By 1926, the Western Stone No. 1 Quarry was 300 feet long and 150 feet wide with a maximum quarry face of 22 feet. A private line to the Winnipeg Hydro transmission line was leased and supplied power to the quarry and the mill (the only one in the Garson area), which employed more than 135 men. Main quarry equipment included: 4 derricks, 2 steam channellers, 2 compressors, 1 power plant and 1 donkey locomotive. The mill (the only one in the vicinity of Garson) had 7 diamond saws, 1 carborundum saw, 2 turning lathes, 4 planers, a split table, 2 rubbing beds, 4 polishing machines, 3 travelling cranes, 2 electric derricks and 1 complete machine shop (Wallace and Greer, 1927, p. 12, 15).

Joseph Bourgeault retired in 1931 and he sold his Western Stone holdings to Carter & Hall). (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 17). In 1933, Carter & Hall moved their operations to the Western Stone No. 2 Quarry (described following) because the remaining quantity of sound buff stone was small; and due to the increasing quantity of chert found, as the No. 1 Quarry was deepened. About 1944, the No. 1 Quarry (480 feet long, east-west; 300 feet wide, north-south; and 30 feet deep) was purchased by Louis Juravsky, who began shipping waste rock for utilization in sulphite-pulp mills (Goudge, 1944, p. 23).

Western Stone No. 2 Quarry

By 1926, Western Stone Co. Ltd. acquired the southwest 40 acres of NE9-13-6E, which included the Independent (Wm. Henry) Quarry. The company resumed work on the 75 foot by 100 foot quarry, with 35 feet of marketable buff stone beneath 8 to 9 feet of overburden (Wallace and Greer, 1927, p. 12, 15. In 1933, the Western Stone No. 2 Quarry (Figure 1, Locality 3) was in operation, replacing the abandoned Western Stone No. 1 Quarry in NW3-13-6E (described above). The quarry was part of the 667 acres was held by the company in sections 9 and 16-13-6E and it was serviced by a ¼ mile spur line from Garson Station on the Canadian Pacific railway. The spur line bisected the quarry into two 300 foot square halves – the area to the east, with a 28 foot depth; and the area to the west to a depth of 14 feet, exclusive of overburden. The strata in the quarry dipped shallowly to the east and main joints trended at right angles to the dip (Goudge, 1933, p. 114 and 1944, p. 24).

Joseph Bourgeault retired in 1931 and sold his Western Stone holdings to Carter & Hall (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 17). A total of 180 men were employed by Western Stone Co. Ltd. during the quarrying season, of whom 50 were quarrymen. The No. 2 Quarry had a productive capacity of around 100,000 cubic feet of stone per month. Main quarry equipment included: a steam dragline excavator, 2 steam channelers, 4 wooden guy derricks, 4 jackhammers, 2 air compressors, a centrifugal pump, and a blacksmith shop. The mill (located next to the abandoned No. 1 Quarry) also included a well-equipped machine shop and a blacksmith shop. Monthly capacity of the mill was 12,000 cubic feet of finished cut stone. The sawing plant (situated next to the No. 2 Quarry) included a one overhead travelling crane, 2 swing gang-saws and a sand pump. (Goudge, 1933, p. 115, 118). Stone from Western Stone No. 2 Quarry was used in the staircases of the Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alberta (Goudge, 1933, Plate XXI, p. 104).

According to Goudge (1944, p. 24), the No. 2 Quarry was last worked in 1934. Seven years later, the sole owner, Hall, closed down the quarry; and it was then held by the municipality. Eventually the property was sold to Gillis Quarries (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 17).

Other quarries in the Garson District

Other minor Tyndall Stone quarries in the Garson District are shown in Figure 1. These quarries were mainly used for crushed stone and lime and included: Sinclair Quarry (Locality 1); Strindlund Quarry (Locality 2); Malmstrom Quarry (Locality 8); Hazel Quarry (Locality 9); and Cutter Quarry (Locality 10).

Gillis Quarries Limited

In 1911, August Gillis started a stone plant in Winnipeg (located at the corner of McPhillips Street and McDermot Avenue). In 1913, August Gillis and Sons supplied their new plant (at the corner of Spruce and Richard) with several purchases of stone from Garson Quarry (then held by Northwest Quarries Co. Ltd. and Wallace Sandstone Quarries, Limited). On May 14, 1915, he purchased the Murray Quarry and Gunn’s Quarry (Figure 1, Locality 5 (West and East, respectively) in NW3-13-6E from John Gunn & Sons (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 19, 21-23).

The Manitoba Legislative Building dome was completed in 1920 by August Gillis and Sons. In 1921 August Gillis died; and Gillis Quarries Limited was incorporated (Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990, p. 19, 39).

About 1926, Gillis Quarries Limited’s quarry was 450 feet long by 130 feet wide and approximately 26 feet deep. Output from the quarry amount to 6,400 tons of rough stone by 20 men and 20,304 bushels of lime were produced in 2 intermittently operated kilns. Finished stone was produced in the company’s mill in Winnipeg by 30 employees (Wallace and Greer, 1927, p.16).

By 1933, the company held 290 acres. This included the Gillis Quarry, in E1/2 3-13-6E, which was 300 feet wide (north and south) by 370 feet long (east-west), and 24 feet deep exclusive of the overburden. The quarry had a capacity of 65,000 cubic feet of building stone per month Equipment in the quarry comprised: a channelling machine; 2 wooden guy derricks, 8 jackhammers; 2 air compressors; a centrifugal pump and Blacksmith shop. The cut-stone plant, with a capacity of 8,000 cubic feet of finished stone per month. was housed in a 200 foot long by 100 foot wide building in Winnipeg. A lime plant using waste stone from the quarry was located at Garson. Approximately 80 men were employed during the quarrying season, of whom 20 were quarrymen (Goudge, 1933, p. 118, 120).

About 1950, Gillis acquired the Western Stone quarry properties. In 1972, Gillis Quarries Limited moved its dressing plant operation from Winnipeg to Garson, where all stone finishing has been carried out since (Bannatyne, 1988, p.7). The Garson Quarry was sold to Gillis Quarries Limited in 1973. Bannatyne (1988, p. 7) reported that Gillis Quarries’s 1986 production was 26,868 tonnes.

In 1989, the Canadian Museum of Civilization opened; a new pavilion and shopping arcade was completed at Chateau Lake Louise; a new pavilion and reconstruction of the tower of the Empress Hotel in Victoria was finished; and renovations to stone arches and panelling of the inside of the Parliament Building in Ottawa were completed. Numerous other examples of buildings constructed from Tyndall Stone® produced over the years from Gillis Quarries Limited can be seen in the brochures available at: http://tyndallstone.com/technical/brochures.

Gillis Quarries Limited has quarried Tyndall Stone at Garson for over 100 years; and since 1969, it has been the only producer in the Garson District. Over the years, it has acquired all of the quarries of its previous competitors and the company should be able to continue the quarrying and finishing of Tyndall Stone well into the future.


National Geological Surveys Committee 2016 Meeting Field Trip – A total of 14 participants from the Manitoba Geological Survey and other surveys across Canada were escorted to six geological/engineering sites (including the Tyndall/Garson Quarry) mainly along PTH 9, 44 and the Trans-Canada Highway on August 24th, 2016, photos by James Bamburak, P. Geo. FEC

Quarry Area

  • Gillis Quarry Ground Water Level in excavation area
  • Gillis Quarry Field Trip Visitors surveying the excavation area
  • Gillis Quarry Cut Faces showing overburden
  • Gillis Quarry Exposed Cut Face
  • Gillis Quarry - Cutting in place
  • Gillis Quarry - Cutting in place
  • Gillis Quarry - Cutting Machine
  • Plant Area

  • Gillis Plant Block Saw Production Area
  • Gillis Plant Block Saw Work Area
  • Gillis Plant Block Saw
  • Gillis Plant Saw Production Area
  • Gillis Quarry Finishing Detail Work
  • Gillis Quarry Unique Cutting Shapes

  • Gillis Surface Finishing Sample
  • Gillis Finished Peices
  • Gillis Quarry Finished Pieces for Shipment
  • Gillis Quarry Ready for Shipment
  • Fossils

  • Shell Fossil Samples
  • Horn Coral Fossil Samples
  • Fossil Samples
  • Fossil Samples
  • Centipede Sample
  • Brain Coral Fossil Sample

  • Gillis Quarry Field Visit 2019
  • References

    • Brisbin, W.C., Young, G. and Young, J. 2005:Geology of the Parliament Buildings 5: Geology of the Manitoba Legislative Building; Geoscience Canada, v. 32, no. 4, p. 177-193.
    • Coniglio, M., 1999, Manitoba's Tyndall Stone; Wat on Earth: Waterloo University Earth Sciences Newsletter, Spring 1999, p. 15-18.
    • Garson and District History Book Committee, 1990: Garson, Then and Now, 1890-1990, Garson and Lyall, Manitoba, Prosperty and Garson S.D. 1375; Derksen Printers Ltd., Steinbach, Manitoba, 357p.
    • Goudge, M.F. 1933: Canadian Limestone for Building Purposes; Mines Branch, Ottawa, Publ. No. 733, p. 99-123.
    • Goudge, M.F. 1944: Limestones of Canada, their occurrence and characteristics, part V, Western Canada; Canada, Department of Mines and Resources, no. 811, 233 p.
    • Kendall, A.C. 1977: Origin of dolomite mottling in Ordovician limestones from Saskatchewan and Manitoba; Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology, v. 25, p. 480-504.
    • McCracken, A.D., Macey, E., Munroe Grey, J.M. and Nowlan, G.S. 2007: Tyndall Stone; Natural Resources Canada, Popular Geoscience, 2p.
    • Parks, W.A., 1916, Report on the Building and Ornamental Stones of Canada: Volume 4, Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada Department of Mines, Mines Branch Report 388, 333 p.
    • Wallace, R.C. 1927: The Mineral Resources of Manitoba; Industrial Development Board of Manitoba, 58 p.
    • Wallace, R.C. and Greer, L. 1927: The Non-Metallic Mineral Resources of Manitoba; Industrial Development Board of Manitoba, 93 p.
    • Wells, J.W., 1905: Preliminary Report on the Limestone and the Lime Industry in Manitoba; Mines Branch, Ottawa, Rept. No. 7, p. 37-43.
    • Young, J., Young, G. and Brisbin, W.C. 2013: Geology of the Manitoba Legislative Building; Geological Association of Canada– Mineralogical Association of Canada Joint Annual Meeting, Field Trip Guidebook FT-B1; Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines, Manitoba Geological Survey, Open File OF2013-5, 27 p.