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Once A Company Town

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More than 140 years ago, it was a booming community not far from Maquoketa in Jackson County. Hurstville had the largest operation of its kind, west of Chicago. The Hurstville Lime Kilns.

The business helped to shape an entire community. Around 1870, brothers Alfred and William Hurst settled in the area. Using limestone from nearby quarries, the brothers built their business. They constructed lime kilns which heated rock to seventeen hundred degrees farenheit. That process turned  the lime into white powder.

They developed a limestone mortar used in building construction. The kilns operated round the clock from Spring until Winter. During the Winter, workers sawed wood and that was used to fire up the lime kilns.

Bob Sheets is with the Jackson County Historical Society. He says the limestone plaster product was used in the construction of homes, barns, and other structures.

As the business took off, the lime powder was shipped by wagon or train throughout the United States. A town was formed around the business. Hurstville had a company store where people bought groceries. A post office and blacksmith shop sprung up. There was a school and a boarding house.

Twenty three families lived in company homes built in the town. When Portland Cement was discovered in 1914, hard times hit Hurstville. The company eventually closed and all operations at the kilns stopped.

Over the years, the center kilns and parts of the retaining wall fell. About thirty years ago, volunteers helped to clean the site and build steps to the top of the kilns. They cleaned and hauled rock. Myron Rockwell did the tuckpoint work.

Today, all four kilns stand just outside of Maquoketa near Highway 61. The historic site is a reminder of what used to be a company town.