When I was a kid, my cousin and I would ride all over the trails near Rush Lake, a state hunting area in the Upper Thumb. We explored the hills and the large cattail-filled lake. One area that fascinated us was a deep pool of water cut out of the sandstone at the end of Quarry Road. It was larger than the size of two Olympic swimming pools. We threw rocks into it and tried to figure out how deep the water was. We typically got chased out by some irritated neighbor or got bored and went to explore something else. Other than the name of the street, no one knew anything about that deep pool at the end of the road.
A Mystery at Rush Lake State Game Area
Years go by and I’m researching the quarry operations of Grindstone City and of William Wallace’s quarry in Bay Port when I encountered a strange reference to another business. There is mention of a stone quarry with a large dock operation near an area called Little Oak Point. Oak Point is located north of Rush Lake. It was an interesting development. Could this be the origin of that large water-filled pool I explored as a kid?
A Rush Lake Competitor to Grindstone City?
The Babbitt Sandstone Company was headquartered in Ypsilanti Michigan. It began stone quarry operations in March of 1885 in Lake Township. It was opened on a large exposed area of Napoleon sandstone just north of Rush Lake. News of the quarry’s opening in newspapers throughout Michigan indicated that they wanted to manufacture grindstones. They extracted a blue sandstone that was very hard and ideally suited as a building material.
Babbitt established a long dock out into Saginaw Bay for shipping the building material. By 1887, the quarried stone was also used for cemetery memorials as the hard sandstone was considered to weather well and hold the inscriptions. Examples of the memorials are said to be found at Caseville cemetery.
Babbitt’s Small Quarry Fails at Rush Lake
Like Grindstone City, the operations began to falter in the late 1880’s . Public records in 1892 show that the Babbitt operations may have started to decline as the company failed to file its financial report that year to the state. By 1910, a State geological survey indicated that the quarry is no longer in operation and the quarry areas were filled with water.
The last evidence of the Babbitt quarry can still be seen at the end of Quarry Road. Specifically, the 1800s excavations are on the edge of the Rush Lake State Game Area in Lake Township. The site can be seen from Google Earth of the large holes of the former stone quarrying operations. The Babbitt quarry was the smallest and shortest-lived of the sandstone quarry operations of the Upper Thumb.
Research on Rush Lake
Isabella County Enterprise, 27 March 1885
Geological Survey of Michigan Lower Peninsula 1896-1900, State of Michigan
A Biological Survey of the Sand Dune Region on the South Shore of Saginaw Bay Michigan, 1910-1911, State of Michigan