The American Civil War was over and the U.S. government went on a building boom that lasted the rest of the 19th Century. One of the principal building materials was granite and Maine held vast deposits along the coast and offshore islands. Quarries were developed over the remaining half of the 1800s at Spruce Head, Longcove, Clark Island, Willardham, Hurricane, Vinalhaven and many other islands. The Yankee granite workers had gone on strike on the Saint George peninsula in the early 1890s and the quarry owners had recruited Finnish workers right off the boat to replace the strikers.

This first group of Finns did not speak English and had no idea that they were being used as scab labor. It took the arrival of a second wave of Finns from the quarries around Fitchburg and Rockport, Mass., to inform their compatriots as to how they were being used by the company management.

Aune Matson Bragdon recalled, “It’s ironic that the Finns were brought to the area to break a union strike, yet after the arrival of the Finns and certainly in part due to them the unions became stronger than ever.”

There were undoubtedly some granite company owners who rued the day the Finns arrived due to their involvement in union activity among all of their settlements coast to coast.

The “Rockland Opinion” reported in 1906 that there were several hundred Finns working as granite workers and paving cutters at Longcove and they had already called attention to themselves by their “strange method of bathing… the sauna.”

“We were called dirty Russian Finns by some of the English speaking inhabitants of Longcove,” Sylvi Johnson Lampinen said. Finland was still part of the Russian Empire at this time. This initial reception by some very soon evaporated as the Finns proved to be as honest, hardworking and civic-minded as their English neighbors.

The village of Longcove is one of 11 villages that comprise the town of St. George and it became heavily settled by the Finnish people during the 1890s. Many first generation Finns referred to Longcove as Longco.

“There were four boarding houses that stick in my memory: Two at Longcove for 250 men, one at Clark Island for 350 and one at Wildcat for 200,” said Bragdon.

Many of the early workers were single or had left their families in Finland until they were able to save some money to send for their passage to America. Often the granite quarries had contracts for a short time and the workers were forced to seek work in another location. Many suffered from wanderlust and might work the quarries in New England, copper mines in Colorado, Iron Range in Minnesota and lumber camps of the Pacific Northwest before deciding on a final destination.

“The social life for the bachelors at Longcove centered around the boarding houses particularly on weekends with the consumption of home brew, wrestling matches, gambling and card games occupying their time. Both a Socialist and a Communist Party were established at Longcove,” said Bragdon. “Meetings were held in a hall built there. This hall served as a meeting hall, union hall and was the scene of many Finnish plays and dances. Also, a Temperance Society was formed and a small library established.”

The Temperance Society eventually constructed a building on Route 131 that was the scene of many dances, plays and activities until it burned down in the 1920s. The Finnish library was moved to the Watts farm on the Wallston Road where it remained for many years until rescued by Tom Judge who moved it to his property and has replaced about 90 percent of the material in this historic structure. The library’s book collection resides with the Maine Finnish Society in West Paris.

A bandstand located beside the Booth Brothers store provided an opportunity for frequent concerts during the summer months. Emil Ruuska and John Kulju were two of a number of Finns who played in the band. The Finnish people enjoyed gathering at summer picnics (kesajuhlat) and often running events were a part of the day’s events. Two of the top runners were Henry Kontio, of West Rockport, and Kusti Nuppula, of Owls Head. Granite workers were drawn from many ethnic groups, including Scots, Welsh, English, Swedes, Norwegians and Italians who also inhabited Longcove.

Sylvi Johnson Lampinen remembers an early encounter with Italian cuisine: “The Italians in Longcove would be cooking macaroni. My mother, thinking they were cooking worms, refused to let us have some.”

The village of Longcove was well served by a large store as Emily Morris, daughter of the postmaster, describes it: “The Booth Brothers and Hurricane Island Granite Company had a very large store in Longcove. The store was operated by Fred Erickson, Harold Watts, Austin Kinney and Wallace MacLaughlin. They sold first class meat, eggs, butter, canned goods and yard goods. The ladies could buy gingham and percale, thread of all colors, needles and pins. It was nothing to buy three yards of gingham for a house dress or a school girl’s outfit. One thing one never hears about today…rompers. Every little 2 or 3 year old wore rompers in which to play.”

This store also extended credit to the granite workers during periods of inactivity at the quarry. Toivo Hakala recalled, “My father worked for Booth Brothers’ Granite Company at Longcove during the spring and summer to pay off the debt he had accumulated during the fall and winter when he would leave the family and work in the Maine woods north of Bangor.”

The granite company extended help to the workers as Emily Morris remembers: “When a woman became pregnant and her husband was out of work until spring, he could go to the office and tell them of his need and the company would give him money to pay the doctor and the company would be repaid when the man returned to work in the spring. Alfred Hocking was office manager and Almond Hall, his assistant, were both from Wiley’s Corner.”

The shopping options for the villagers would increase on payday when the peddler Leino would appear outside the Booth Brothers store offering everything from “soup to nuts” for sale. The granite company dominated economic life in the village but appears to have been supportive of workers and their families in times of need.

Although the two boarding houses in Longcove provided housing for 250 men, additional rooms were provided in private homes and the Kulju, Hyvarinen, Matson and Elgland families were among those who took in boarders.

“My father worked as a paving cutter and we lived in a large tenament house in Longcove,” said Bragdon. “After he died my mother took in boarders. She charged $7 a week including meals, board and laundry service.” Mele Hyvarinen Saari told James Skoglund, “

After my father died, my mother cooked breakfast and dinner for quarry workers and worked at one of the boarding houses to support the family.” The Putansu, Polky and Mackie families were among the families whose members would work in the quarries. Sometimes the tradition of labor was passed down from one generation to the next. “William Hill, my grandfather, Matti Hill, my great grandfather, and Oscar Jacobson, my great, great grandfather all worked in the quarries” recalled Scott Hodgkins.

The Longcove post office, with John Morris, Sr., presiding as postmaster, was authorized by the U.S. Postal Service to accept Longcove as one word during the time of the granite industry. The post office and store were located at the intersection of Route 131 and the Longcove Road.

“Every March the men began to return to the quarries and would gather around my father’s old coal stove in the store and they would all shake hands, my father included, and talk about all the happenings in their lives while they had been away,” said John’s daughter, Emily Morris.

John Morris encouraged Emily to learn Finnish so she could keep him abreast of what the Finns were talking about in the store and post office. Emily became so fluent in the language that she frequently attended services at the Finnish Congregational Church in South Thomaston. Reverend John Heino, the minister at the time, would often ask her to participate in the church service which were conducted in the Finnish language at that time.

Emily was not the only non-Finn to become skilled in the Finnish language.

“There was a man named Shorty Conway who spoke Finnish very well,” said Lucinda Polky Montgomery. “It was funny only because he was a Scot.”

The granite industry in Longcove provided employment for hundreds of men during its heyday and when the business was going full tilt a man could support his family quite well. However, even in the best of times the granite industry was dangerous for the workers in those days before OSHA protections and disability insurance.

“Because of things like silicosis [stone cutter’s consumption], arthritis and the toll of years of hard physical labor on the body, many granite workers were worn-out in their 40s,” said Malcolm Wiley.

Almond Hall was the last superintendent of the quarry when it closed in 1941. His son, True Hall, recalls: “When the Longcove quarry closed in 1941 the heavy equipment and machinery were taken by several tractor trailers to the Reems Maufacturing Company in Providence, Rhode Island. It was the second biggest shipyard in the country at the time. I was 11 years old at the time and got to ride with one of the truck drivers delivering the equipment…it was an exciting time for me.” Although some activity in the Longcove quarry continued into the 1960s, this closing in 1941 marked the end of a colorful and productive period of the granite industry locally. The quarry is owned today by George Hall and Sons of Rockland. Sten Glad, after the closing of the Longcove quarry, tore down one of the large boardinghouses and used the lumber to build a poultry house on his property in St. George. The Longcove post office was torn down by Harold Solberg and he used the lumber to construct cottages on the river in St. George.

The quarry where once hundreds of workers labored to wrest granite from the earth is now silent, most of the old commercial infrastructure is gone and vegetation has filled in most of the open space so that today it is difficult to imagine that for over fifty years this picturesque village was a bustling hub of the granite industry.