Reading Cards
3. Lime for Kiln and Quarry


  1. Coming to Kansas
  2. Shunganunga
  3. Lime for Kiln and Quarry
  4. Gardens and Orchards
  5. Letters from Home
  6. Traveling on the River
  7. Native Americans in the Kansas Territory
  8. John Brown and the Ritchies
  9. Becoming a State
  10. Building a Community


When white settlers came to the Kansas Territory in the 1850s, they found few trees with which to build new homes. There were trees along the creeks and rivers, but many of these were cottonwoods. Cottonwood twists and turns as it dries leaving wide cracks in floors and walls. It was not a very good buidling material. Without wood, what would these new Kansans use for shelter?

Much of the grass growing across the countryside covered huge areas of rock. Much of this rock was limestone which is a good, versatile building material.

When John Ritchie brought his family to Topeka in 1855, he wanted to encourage other families to come to Kansas as well. He knew they would need houses, barns, and stores. John began to quarry limestone. He hired men to help him cut the huge rock formations into smaller stones. This was very hard and dangerous work. If a rock slipped, it could crush an arm or a leg.

People who bought stone needed mortar to hold the stones together. This mortar also came from the limestone. John built an enormous oven, or kiln, behind his house. Chunks of limestone were put into this oven and part of the stone burned away leaving a fine, powdery lime. This lime was mixed with water. It was scooped between the stones where it dried, holding the rocks together. The result was a strong, stone wall.

John used this limestone to build his own house, which is still standing at 1116 SE Madison in Topeka.

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