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Sedentary Rock: Limestone

By Lori Thielen

During Sylvan Grove’s bicentennial in 1976, Duane Vonada along with many other community members pondered on their town’s heritage. After looking around, the answer became obvious. Stone, particularly limestone, was everywhere, and it truly was their heritage. After all, there are the old stone quarries, the limestone buildings, arch bridges and the countless post rocks for as far as the eye can see.

They decided to do something in commemoration. Consequently, street signs made with limestone stand posts on each end soon lined the city, thanks to the assistance of Duane. Nearby Teascot had another celebration, and it also recruited Duane’s help and was quickly decorated with similar signs.

After seeing Duane’s skill, a friend came up with a diagram of a stonecutter and convinced Duane to do a post with an engraved name. The rest is history and now Vonada Stone Company.
The company was founded in 1986 by the Vonada family, Duane, his wife Donna along with their son Damon and his wife Janet. It is located in the heart of Post Rock County on a third generation farm seven miles from Sylvan Grove.

The limestone is mined out of a quarry just down the road from the Vonada farm. The feather and wedge method is the same technique performed by their ancestors who mined limestone for houses as well as post rock. In the old days, they needed something that wouldn’t burn up in the prairie fires, so limestone rock was the solution, Duane said. The only difference is that we utilize a power drill; they used a hand drill. "Today we are able to do in one hour what might have taken them one week," Duane said.

Limestone is a sedimentary rock made of the mineral calcite, which came from the beds of evaporated seas and lakes once covering the region. As one looks around the countryside, a yellow-gold color captures the eye. Limestone is everywhere in the hillsides, fence posts, bridges and buildings.

Vonada Stone Company makes the most of the rock to create anything and everything imaginable. Benches, sundials, birdbaths, personalized signs and other specialized products are sold in their shops and at shows across Kansas.

Even though the company is a family business, Dan Nagelea has been with the company for over 12 years. Since the Vonadas also ranch and manage farmground, without Dan’s assistance, the company probably would not be what it is today, Duane said. Dan does much of the mining as well as the stone impressions with help from Damon and Duane. Donna and Janet perfect the products as they paint in the tiny crevices. Everyone lends a helping hand as often as they can.

Limestone underlies much of the area in Lincoln County. The roots run deep as does the ideas and traditions of acquiring the stone. There’s lots of stone here, if you want to have the patience to mine it and make good use of it, Duane said.

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated April 6, 2009
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