Marshall Historical Society

Eastern Rock Products
By Rod Fuess, February 1996

Eastern Rock Products (ERP as we call it) has been a stabilizing factor in the central area of Oneida County for a number of years. Many families have received their livelihood by the company or being in the supply field. Also there have been several people who have gone into the trucking business for the purpose of delivering products to customers. Many tons of stone were hauled by the railroad until it was discontinued . The taxes paid by ERP have certainly been a help to the Town of Marshall.

I will try to give you a little history of the company.

There were nine plants as of 1956. Due to the closing of some plants, the expansion of others and the purchase of other locations, ERP now operates 12 plants at Boonville, Poland, St. Johnsville, Jordanville, Whitesboro, Herkimer, Middleville, and of course Oriskany Falls. These plants are stone plants, sand gravel plants, lime plants or asphaltic plants. Some plants have 2 or more plants at one location. For instance, Oriskany Falls has one stone plant, 2 asphaltic concrete plants, one lime plant and the construction division.

At one time we also had a cork turf operation for making cork turf for tennis courts. It was discontinued a few years back due primarily to the high cost of maintenance in this. As the years went by and the demand for aggregate material increased, the company upgraded equipment such as increasing the loading capacity of the front end loaders and the shovels from 2 or 2 1/2 yd. To 3 1/2 yd. In 1965 a new material stocking system was set up at a cost of about $250,000. In 1967 an offer to buy ERP was made by Koppers Co., of Pittsburgh. After negotiations the offer was accepted.

The influx of new capital enabled the company to further improve the operation. Through the 70s and the middle 80s the company continued to grow under Koppers. In 1988 another bid for the purchase of ERP was received from a company named Beazer Co. They were out of England and were buying up aggregate producers east of the Mississippi. I never saw the gentleman but reports say he was a workaholic. He made his inspection of the company operation from a helicopter. It was said that he made the statement that he could be the largest producer of aggregate east of the Mississippi River. His offer was accepted in 1988. In 1990 another bid was received for the purchase of the company. This from a company owned by a man named Hanson. His company was called Hanson PLC with ERP is called "Benchmark Div." He owned quite a few construction type businesses. His offer to Beazer Co. was accepted in 1990. I am not familiar with this company as I retired in 1989. But I understand the company is in good financial condition. So as of this report the total operation is running quite well.

Company safety: Over the years ERP has enjoyed a relatively good accident record. This is due to the company's emphasis on safety. Employees are required to wear hard hats, safety shoes and safety glasses. Where needed, safety equipment is furnished: welding helmets, leather gloves and cotton gloves, and welding goggles. Many safety meetings are held. The company has a safety award program. Every 10,000 hrs. an employee who is accident free receives a monetary award. There are definite steps in the program. Plaques are given at certain times. It takes a long time to accumulate many hours. Our work season is about 7 or 8 months. Working 50 or 60 hours a week will give you an idea on that. I believe that there have only been two fatalities over the years.

We made a product here in Oriskany Falls called cork turf. It was for a playing surface on tennis courts. It was developed by Chet Fuess and Hugh Johnstome, with ERP furnishing the money for the project. The first Cork Turf tennis court was located where now stands construction headquarters at Oriskany Falls. Cork Turf is made by mixing asphalt oil-stone dust and ground up cork in certain proportions. Chet Fuess laid the first tennis court for a customer. It was on the top of Radio City Music Hall. After Chet retired, this crew was taken over by Henry Godfrey who did this work until the product was discontinued. After ERP stopped the tennis court business, I believe it was taken over by the Budge Bros., well known tennis pros. It is interesting to note in passing that the Oriskany Falls stone plant furnished all the stone for the construction of the long runway at Griffis Air Force Base in-Rome. The contractor drew stone 24 hrs., a day for the job. We also furnished a good number of tons to the construction of Route 20 also the New York State thruway.

The first president of ERP was, of course, Mr. H.V. Owens. The present president is Mr. Ed Sullivan. Over the years several local men have been involved in the company's management. Clarence Munz (vice-president-construction), Marcel (Red) Cheseboro, assistant to Mr. Munz, C. Grant Russell (head of lime sales), Chester Fuess, (superintendent of Colprovia plant), Harry Towns (Supt. of Oriskany Falls stone plant), Carelton Sykes (Supt. of lime plant), Bernard Elmer (Supt. of asphaltic concrete plants), Charles Gray Sr. (Supt. of construction), Charles Gray Jr. (Supt. of construction), Leonard Sigsbee, (Supt. of Oriskany Falls stone plant).

See also the history of quaries by John McConnell.

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