The Rise and Fall of the Yule Marble Company: Part 1
By Lynn “Jake” Burton
A full story of the Colorado Yule Marble Company (CYMC) has not been told. The story would tell about the creation of a boom town, construction projects of mammoth proportions and becoming the third largest marble producer in the United States. The story would also tell of Marble town residents running a troublesome newspaper publisher out of town, and more.
The story started in New York City with Col. Channing Meek putting together a corporation in 1904-1905 to develop marble deposits up Yule Creek that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars. After the corporate papers were filed, he secured more than $3 million in financial backing from about a dozen investors to pool with his own money. Meek was widely known for his ability to organize and run companies. One of the companies he ran, from 1890-1893, was the Colorado Coal & Iron Company. He learned of the marble deposits through his association with coal mine owner John C. Osgood of Redstone.
The story really gets rolling in 1907, with the CYMC starting construction on what later became the world’s largest marble finishing mill, set right alongside the Crystal River in the town of Marble. Here are some CYMC ongoings, among others, from 1905-1910:
With experience in building and managing railroads, Meek extended the end of the Crystal River Railway from Placita to Marble, 7.3 miles, so the company could transport its products to market.
The company built dozens of houses for workers on the road into town. Meek built the company office on Main Street, which he described to investors as “nothing fancy.”
The company built a power plant on Kline Creek and other structures, including a large barn for its horses.
Meek also rounded up hundreds of skilled and unskilled mill and quarry workers — many of whom were nationals from Italy and other European countries — from around the U.S. (mostly Vermont and Alabama). He attracted them by offering higher wages than they were getting, plus company housing at good rental rates. Alas, the workers’ wages were reduced after they went on strike and lost. Meek also put together a top-notch management team that he recruited from other marble quarry operations, including the Vermont Marble Company.
Meek continued to woo potential investors through stock offerings.
One big detail is that Meek got the unprofitable existing quarry up and running again, a task that included the construction of wooden derricks and cranes to move multi-ton blocks of marble to horse drawn wagons below.
CYMC had purchased the quarry about four miles east of town on the west side of Yule Creek, about 1,000 feet higher than the town of Marble, which sits at almost 8,000 feet. The quarry contained white, hard marble which company promotionals said there was an “inexhaustible supply” of, and would last for hundreds of years. The last claim was one of many that the company’s vice president, Charales Austin Bates, made to potential investors; another being that the demand for marble had been increasing for centuries and would continue to rise.
At first, the company used teams of horses to pull wagons loaded with marble blocks down the steep road to the mill. In short order, the company put the horses out to pasture and brought in a three-wheel Best steam tractor to pull the wagons. By 1910, the company had put down tracks on the road and brought in electric trollies to transport marble blocks to the mill, which, upon completion, would be a quarter of a mile long.
The company used the marble for at least four types of products: ornamental, monumental (such as the Taylor mausoleum in Glenwood Springs), firewalls (yes, it’s true) and interiors and exteriors of buildings and other structures (including the interior for the Fitzsimmons Hospital in Denver and the plaza at Cheesman Park in Denver).
The company landed its first big contract in 1908, supplying Cuyahoga County, Ohio with $500,000 worth of white marble for its courthouse in Cleveland. At the time, Marble’s population stood at 700 according to Oscar McCollum Junior’s book, “Marble: A Town Built on Dreams, Volume One.” CYCM had a free-standing building for its drafting department that was big enough to lay out gigantic plans on the floor. A Cuyahoga County employee who worked on the project said the pieces which CYMC sent them were cut so precisely that they fit together perfectly and no adjustments were needed.
To be continued…