Petrified Oyster Shell

by Robb Wolff

When I was young dad kept a small box containing petrified oyster shell on the parts counter at "The Massey", our farm implements business. The shells came from a quarry on the Belly River near Hillspring.  In the 1930s my Grandfather George Wolff started a business mining and crushing petrified oyster shell to be used as chicken feed.  The chickens would eat the crushed pieces of shell which helped grind up food in the chickens crop, and the calcium was used by chickens to make egg shells.

George Wolff at Oyster Shell Mine

An early Chevrolet car was used to haul the oyster shell which was loaded on a wagon made from a Model T Ford frame.  Dad hauled the shell to a rail siding at Omaktai on the Blood Reserve a few miles away.  

The crusher was powered by a Rumely Oil Pull Tractor.  At first they used two steel wheels from a tractor to crush the shell but it didn’t take long before all the spokes were ripped out of the wheels. Apparently when in operation the crusher made a terrific noise. 

Ed Crabtree helped with the project. At one point they had undercut the hill so much that it began shifting.  To prevent a collapse they jammed telephone  poles under the overhang.  Ed sometime slept at the sight.  He moved his campsite after he was kept awake by the noise of the poles creaking under the pressure of the shifting hill. 

This link to google maps shows the location of the mine on the bend of the Belly River.  There are the remnants of a bridge at the site.  I wonder if dad crossed that bridge for a more direct route to the siding? https://goo.gl/maps/pQJYHqb6BYq