We sincerely appreciate your interest and welcome you to the website of the oldest continuously operated quarry in North Carolina.
We are an "aggregate" producer but you may be very surprised to learn that we do not mine or crush any "gravel", and we never have! Gravel comes from the French word "gravelle" meaning coarse sand and it is actually any loose rock larger than about two millimeters, or 3/4-inch. Crushed stone, like we produce, is blasted from the ground using high explosives and then processed, by a sophisticated yet purely mechanical means, to produce specific products under stringent technical specifications. Gravel, sand, and crushed stone are considered aggregate but crushed stone is an angular rock and typically has a less rounded shape than common gravel. We mine and crush a limestone rock ore, namely marble. Marble is a metamorphic rock resulting from sedimentary carbonate rocks being subjected to high temperatures and pressures.
There are about 10,000 construction aggregate operations nationwide and about 635 in North Carolina. Of these, 135 are crushed stone operations and 500 are sand and gravel. Amazingly 22,000 lbs of aggregates are used per year for every man woman and child in America. Aggregates make up 94% of asphalt and 80% of concrete. One mile of a four lane interstate highway requires about 38,000 tons of aggregates.
We are pleased with the impact we have had on our employees, their families and even the customers that use our products. We have achieved a 20 year period without a single loss time accident at our quarry and this magnificent accomplishment placed us in the top 1% safest work environs of our entire industry. We have a long history of proven commitment to being a socially responsible company. It is with great pride that we can report numerous instances of grandfathers, fathers and sons being employed at the mine. Oftentimes fathers and sons are employed at the same time.
"Nantahala" is an ancient word from the Cherokee Indian dialect which means "land of the noon-day sun", and it sure accurately describes the narrow confined steep river gorge where our mine site is located. In fact, on many winter days the direct sunlight strikes the valley floor of the gorge only in the very late mornings and recedes back to shadows soon after lunch.
Old historical accounts indicate the first talc and limestone removed from our quarry was sometimes around 1820 by the Cherokee Indians, then in 1830 Nimrod Jarrett apparently operated a talc mine on our site. William Thomas had a talc and limestone operation here for a period around 1867 and our recognized corporate father, Frank R. Hewitt purchased the property about 1873 and started the North Carolina Talc & Mining Company (our parent) in 1890.
Our current corporate lineage began in 1890, but our mining ancestry extends to an even earlier time. Today we produce the acknowledged highest quality limestone aggregate in the entire region and anticipate continuing to do so until the end of the 21st century, or more. It is known that well before the civil war the Nantahala quarry was yielding minerals essential for the needs of the area and we are currently well known as an established local source for the essential infrastructure materials required for the growth and continuance of our basic economy.
In 1914 Mr. Hewitt's talc mill burned to the ground and around 1918 L. L. Jenkins became the apparent owner and operator until he sold to Percy B. Ferebee in 1926 and the mine was re-organized as the Nantahala Company until 1936 when Mr. Ferebee's stock became the Nantahala Talc & Limestone Company that we still know today. In 1942 the talc mine, which had long produced some of best talc available anywhere, flooded and has never been returned to production.
Mr. Ferebee's only son, James B. Ferebee II managed the operations during some difficult times from 1950 until his death in early 1970. Percy Ferebee died later that same year on 12/30/1970 and Jack R. Herbert , at 21 years of age, (his grand-son-in-law) became president and as chief executive successfully guided the company for the next 36 years until stock was sold to the current operators, the McNeely family of Sapphire, NC.
On 11/01/2006. Mr. (Bill) William L. McNeely, Jr. became the president of Nantahala Talc and Limestone; Mr. Herbert remains quite active with the company. The entire McNeely family is intimately involved in the management and day-to-day operation of the company.
Environmental stewardship seems to have served both us and the community well in our operations. Mr. Ferebee, a past owner for 44 years and one of our past presidents, was an ardent conservationist and one of his life's dreams was to consolidate the entire Nantahala gorge property under his ownership, have it preserved and give it to the public for (in his own words) their "perpetual enjoyment". During our period of mining this lofty goal was actually achieved and in 1970 he donated most of the property to the "people of the United States", while retaining provisions for continued mining operations. From his gift the "Ferebee Memorial in Nantahala Gorge" was established and the property of about 6,000 acres is now recognized and loudly applauded by most, as a scenic jewel of the entire area and it has become a whitewater rafting "Mecca".
All mining in our country is now heavily regulated to ensure full environmental protection, and our operation is no different. It is remarkable that we have mined here for over 100 years in the heart of the property and materially contributed to its very preservation yet apparently have done little to impair its special scenic beauty.
It is noteworthy that our stone (unlike many others) is, in fact, an acid neutralizer and forms a very desirable and beneficial buffer solution when in a water solution. Some of our popular products are washed with water, but even this wash water is used for several purposes. The used water and "tailings" are not released from the mine site.
We currently have most traditional aggregate products available, including our new (and very popular), landscape boulders. We have modern machines for proficient and efficient loading of these large natural rocks on our own trucks and deliver them to customers oftentimes hundreds of miles away. On the other end of the size spectrum we also produce the finest quality manufactured sand that is available anywhere in our service area. Our sand is in very high daily demand for use in quality concretes. Our sales products truly range from tiny particles of sand to a single huge boulder we shipped by rail that weighted 50 tons.
Another large segment of our sales supports road building of all types. "Macadam", stone roads were referred to even from biblical times and the same basic road building process that we still use today was pioneered by Scotsman John Loudon McAdam around 1820. We are still a small dynamic, flexible and service oriented producer that is driven toward delivery of excellent customer service. Our sand and landscape boulders were not even products that we had available a few short years ago and yet now represent a large segment of our sales. We are ever so proud to continue an established tradition of service to this area by providing superior, yet economical, stone that is needed for the area's continued growth.
And, if you gain nothing else from this website you should carefully note and remember:
IF it is not grown, it Has to be mined.