Historic Sites of Manitoba: Garson Limestone Quarries and Kilns (Garson, RM of Brokenhead)
It is generally believed that limestone was discovered near Garson, in the Rural Municipality of Brokenhead, when a local farmer was digging a well and encountered an impenetrable layer a short distance below the surface. The first commercial stone quarry was established in the 1890s but the first large-scale quarry dates to the late 1890s or early 1900s when William Garson, for whom the town is named, arrived here. He died abruptly in 1911 and the quarry was purchased by building contractor Peter Lyall of Winnipeg. In gratitude for saving the town, the town renamed itself Lyall, which is remained until 1927, when it reverted to Garson.
By 1914, there were three large quarries in operation at Garson, the largest of which was Lyall’s Wallace Sandstone Company. It employed 250 men to cut stone blocks in the quarry then move them to a mill where the blocks could be cut and shaped to the specifications of architects and contractors. The stone came to be called Tyndall Stone, today a registered trademark of Gillis Quarries Limited. It acquired this name because rail shipments of stone were sent from nearby Tyndall. Buyers took to calling the stone after the point of origin stated on shipping documents.
Buildings that feature limestone quarried here include the grand hotels at Banff and Lake Louise, the interior of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, and the façade at Canada House in London, England. The Canadian Museum of History at Gatineau, Quebec is clad in Tyndall stone, as is the Legislative Building in Winnipeg.
In January 1917, the mill at the Lyall quarry was destroyed in a massive fire. Although newspaper stories contended that it would be rebuilt, Lyall instead sold his interest in it, and the site languished. It was bought for back taxes by the Juravsky family who operated it at a much-reduced level until 1973 when it was sold to the Gillis family, who had established the Gillis Quarry in 1915, across the road from Lyall’s quarry. The Gillis Quarry is the only one remaining in operation. In the working quarry are three old outbuildings, one being a small machine shop with quarry equipment pieces, tools, and other apparatus. Kilns were used to convert unusable pieces of Tyndall stone into lime.
Photos & Coordinates
“Quarter million blaze at Lyall,” Manitoba Free Press, 23 January 1917, page 17.
Garson Then and Now 1890-1990: Garson and Lyall, Prosperity and Garson SD 1375 by Garson and District History Book Committee, July 1990. [Manitoba Legislative Library]
History of Tyndall Stone and the Quarries, Gillis Quarries Limited.
We thank Keith Gillis for providing additional information used here.
Page revised: 18 November 2019