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Rocks, Rails and Ranches

Rocklin History Tour: Stop 1

Union Granite Company: N 38° 47.314', W 121° 13.595'
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
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The lake in front of Rocklin’s library at the corner of Rocklin Road and Granite Drive fills one of four granite quarries operated in the in the early 20th century by the Union Granite Company under the management of Finnish immigrant Matt Ruhkala. 

The quarry is about 100 yards north of Ira Delano’s Rocklin Granite Company quarry, Rocklin’s largest and most financially successful 19th century quarry. Delano’s Quarry closed in 1916 and was Rocklin’s garbage dump in the 20th century. It now underpins a motel and parking lot behind Taco Bell on the south side of Rocklin Road.
 
State records show that both Ruhkala and Delano produced stone for buildings and monuments. After 1907, both men were producing curbing as well, possibly to repair San Francisco roads damaged in the 1906 earthquake. 
 
Ruhkala settled in the Rocklin area to learn the granite business in 1889. His skills with stone-working tools allowed him to open his first Union Granite Company quarry in 1903. That quarry is now under the westbound lanes of Highway 80. 
 
In 1919, while Rocklin’s granite industry was in decline, Ruhkala acquired a quarry near today’s Kmart  shopping center and raised a family of 11 children in a home less than 100 yards from the quarry rim. That quarry is now in the path of urban development and the home was recently demolished.  
 
In 1933, Union Granite, led by Ruhkala and four of his six sons, acquired the California Granite Company’s Capitol Quarry, known today as the Big Gun Quarry, near the corner of Pacific Street and Rocklin road. Union Granite sold that quarry in 1977 and it closed in 2005 as Rocklin’s longest continually operated granite processing operation. 
 
This is the first installment in a 19-part series in which Gary Day will take readers on a tour of Rocklin’s historic sites. You can find the sites yourself with a handy Rocklin History Tour booklet, available at the Rocklin History Museum, 3895 Rocklin Road. GPS coordinates were provided by Brian Ignaut. Short stories about Rocklin’s history are at www.rocklinhistory.org/history_series.asp.