Scottish Granite Cutters and the Texas Capitol
IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY NORTHEAST SCOTLAND, AND THE CITY OF
Aberdeen in particular, came to enjoy an international reputation in
the granite industry. This owed much to a flourishing export trade with
the United States, particularly in tombstones and similar memorials.
But Aberdeen did not export only its dressed and polished stone; many
of the quarrymen and especially the masons responsible for these
products also found their way to the U.S.A. The majority congregated
in the easily accessible New England states, but some went further
afield, to the Midwest, California, and Texas. Scots immigrants, settling
singly or in small groups, had played an important part in the early his-
tory of Texas, but the best-known--and most notorious-influx oc-
curred in 1886, when a large contingent of masons was brought out to
cut stone for the new Texas State Capitol in Austin.'
Once the United States began to develop its own granite industry
after the Civil War, it became interested in purchasing the well-known
skills of quarrymen and masons from Scotland. American labor at this
time was inadequate and expensive, and Scottish masons in particular
were offered good wages to come over and train a native labor force.
Although immigrants were also brought in from Cornwall, Devon, and
Wales, the majority of the British workmen were Scots, probably mostly
from Aberdeen, and it was by no means unusual for around two hun-
* Marjory Harper has a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland where she is em-
ployed as a lecturer in history Her main publications arc two books on emigration, entitled
Emzgratzon from NorthEast Scotland, volume I, Willing Exiles, and volume II, Beyond the Broad At-
lantzc (1988) Her current research interests include interwar emigration from Scotland
(1919-1939), the social welfare work of the Countess of Aberdeen, and computer-based
research into the backgrounds, university experiences, and subsequent careers of students at
Aberdeen University in the nineteenth century
'The Austin Dazly Statesman of Oct 2, 1875, mentioned some Scottish stonecutters who had
come from St Louis to work on the new "Cook building" in downtown Austin, and the same
newspaper on Mar. 23, 188o, referred to Scottish carpenters employed in Belton, T'exas, fifty
miles north of Austin. For other references to Scottish settlers in Texas, see Aberdeen Jounal,
Aug 15, 1866, Nov. 19, 1879; Austin American-Statesman, Jan. 24, 1986.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed July 7, 2015.