Ganister Quarry Crew No. 1, ca. 1924

Thanks to Arlene Gardiner for sending me a copy of this photo. It captures one of the quarry crews for Pittsburgh Limestone Corporation in 1924 atop the stone crusher. One of her ancestors is in the photo as are two of mine. Back in 1998, she (daughter of one of the men in the photo) and Joseph Skvir (son of the John Skvir in the photo) identified all the people they knew in the photograph. I’ve created an identification sheet for the photo and used the names they provided. But there are still plenty of unidentified men in the photo.

Most likely this is an earlier iteration of the crew that had its photo taken perhaps ten years later in the Company Outing photo I’ve previously posted. For example, the Mike Wapner in that photo is the son of the Michael Wapner in this photo. I should point out that I’ve opted to use the provided spellings. We see in the Company Outing No. 6 is Mitro Karol while in this photo he is identified as Demetri Karol (Demeter=Metro). And then in some cases we have names with numerous variants. For example, Vasil Fek and Frank Speck are brother despite their differing surnames. If the names in the photo are too small to read, you can click the image and the larger size version should load.

Quarry crew no. 1.

Something else worth noting is the background. Anybody who has driven around Ganister or the Williamsburg area will know the area as forest-covered except for the areas cut down for farming. The mountains in particular are covered in trees. But if you look at the background, you can see that by 1924 the mountains are almost completely deforested.

Trees provided useful fuel for furnaces as well as raw materials. And so the area’s natural forest was largely chopped down. It would not be until decades later, after the closure of the quarries, that nature recovered and trees returned to the area.

In fact, if you wander around the area, you’ll see crumbling remains of homes and quarry infrastructure covered by vegetation as nature reclaims the land.

Here’s a list of the people presently identified in the photo: Ed Guerin, Demetri Karol, Jack England, John Kasun, Joseph Morrison, Frank Malovich, Vasil Fek, Nicholas Krajacic, Steve Fek, Steve Hanzir, Mr. Koss, John Skvir, Michael Wapner, George Butcherine, Peter Lopite, Frank Speck, Demetri Mudry (Homeriack), Joseph Pidany Sr. (Homsey), Mr. Rusich, Mike Youchison, Andrew Pitlivka, James England, and Samuel England.

The Pennsylvania Railroad and Ganister

This gallery of photos comes from Abram Burnett and the photographs highlight the importance of railways to Ganister. After all, even if the quarrymen removed all the limestone from the ridges, it still had to be shipped by rail to the steel furnaces in Pittsburgh. And the railway in Ganister was the Pennsy, or more formally the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Specifically, Ganister served as a junction on the Pennsy’s Petersburg Branch. The junction was named the Springfield Junction, hence the photos from and of SJ Tower that operated the signals at Springfield Junction. When I was growing up, I would hear stories of how the quarrymen and their families would hitch rides on the Toona Express, i.e. the trains heading west towards Altoona.

Today much of the railway landscape looks very different. The freight station remains today. And while the tracks were ripped out years ago, the roadbed remains via the Rails to Trails project. The Lower—pronounced like flower—Trail runs down the old Petersburg Branch.

Company Outing

The Pittsburgh Limestone Corporation operated the quarry in Ganister that eventually became the Blue Hole. Every year, the quarrymen were treated to an outing. This photo, taken at some point prior to 1937, is from one of those outings.

I’ve made a version of the photo where I’ve labelled the individuals by number and listed the person’s name at the bottom.

I have not identified most people, but I’ve listed a few. And thanks to you readers, I’ve been able to add some more names. This includes Ed Guerin, Mike Wapner, Wasil Youchison, Mitro Karol, John Homyack, John Skvir, John Fitzingo (or Fecenko), and possibly Angelo Calderone.

Click the image for the full-size graphic if you can’t read it.

Mike Conrad and Wasil Youchison

This photo comes from my personal collection. Mike Conrad (originally Kundrat) stands on the left and my great-great uncle Wasil Youchison stands on the right. The photo dates to 1927 and was taken from what is today Wertz Road. Below is a photo I took in 2012 from very nearly the same spot to contrast how the area changed over 90+ years.

Mike Kundrat (Conrad) and Vasil Youchison standing on what is today Wertz Road with Stone Row in the background, 1927
Mike Kundrat (Conrad) and Vasil Youchison standing on what is today Wertz Road with Stone Row in the background, 1927

Wertz Road in 2012
Wertz Road in 2012

Mary Youchison and Mary Verbonits

This photo comes from my personal collection. The woman on the left is Mary Youchison, my great-grandmother, and her friend Mary Verbonits is on the right. The photo dates from 1925 and the two are most likely standing in what was known as Gypsy Row.

Mary Youchison and Mary Verbonits standing in, likely, Gypsy Row, 1925
Mary Youchison and Mary Verbonits standing in, likely, Gypsy Row, 1925