Early settlers in Central Kansas found few trees to use in fencing but discovered that a ledge of limestone, known as Greenhorn Limestone, lay just below the topsoil. This layer of limestone was deposited in a relatively shallow part of the Creatacious sea. Greenhorn limestone is found only in an area approximately 90 miles long and 20-30 miles wide. There are over 300 varieties of limestone but post-rock limestone with its characteristic reddish iron oxide layer is found only in the Post Rock Country of Central Kansas.
The ledge of limestone varies in thickness from 1/4 inch to 24 inches. Ideally a layer from 8 to 12 inches thick is used for the making of building blocks and fence posts. To quarry the stone, holes are drilled into the limestone about nine inches apart and a pair of thin strip of metal called "feathers" are placed in the holes. The feathers are then separated by a wedge. When tapped the wedges tighten against the feathers and force the rock to break along the line of holes. Each wedge must be tapped in succession to provide a uniform break.
Earliest records show that limestone fence posts were first used in the 870's with the introduction of affordable barbed wire. Limestone posts weigh between 200 and 300 pounds. In the 1880's the labor of making a limestone post might earn the laborer three cents. Working 16 hours a day a man could quarry out twenty posts. Delivered and installed at the fence site the price could go as high as twenty-five cents each.
Although many of the posts remain in their original locations and serve their original purpose many have been replaced. Reasons for their replacement include the tremendous amount of labor required to quarry and set limestone posts and because the two or three feet of topsoil covering the posts has became more valuable as farmland.
Post rock fences serve as a reminder of a time when fences were built to last into the far distant future. Recently there has been increased interest in preserving this unique part of Kansas history and farmers are keeping it alive as bit by bit some post rock fences are being put back.
In 1887 my great grandparents, John and Lillis "Jane" Mettlen, came to Lincoln county in the heart of Post Rock country to homestead. Shortly after the family's arrival John passed away leaving Jane, her daughter and her four sons to improve the land to meet the requirements of the Homestead Act. The four young men made a living by quarrying limestone posts and setting them for 25 cents each. On a good day they could set eight posts.
We invite you to visit Set In Stone and enjoy seeing the buildings and fences made from Greenhorn limestone that are found are found only in Post Rock country.