Using his instincts and willingness to work hard, J. Eugene Meckley was able to survive the Great Depression in the 1930s by earning a living owning and operating a delivery truck. Hauling mostly milk, coal and fertilizer, he had occasion to travel to Lebanon County from his home in northern Dauphin County to bring back a load of burned limestone. Influenced by his father-in-law Benjamin Markel, and again relying on his own instinct for business, he became interested in the possibilities of forming a business burning limestone for sale to farms in the area.
In the fall of 1936, Eugene purchased and rebuilt 8 Set Kilns. With only three employees, the first year’s sales totaled $12,000. In just a few months, he was able to introduce the use of the Draw Kiln to customers in Northumberland County, and greatly increase production of burned limestone. It was not an easy task–working 7 days a week emptying the kilns and delivering the lime, Eugene also operated a small farm.
In 1946, the decision was made to purchase a truck field spreading unit for bulk delivery and field application of pulverized, agricultural limestone. The widespread use of burned limestone (calcium oxide) was replaced with mechanically pulverized limestone (calcium carbonate), ending an era. The practical application process, coupled with a distinct economic advantage, solved the problem of handling large quantities of a heavy and difficult to maneuver material. This solution created an increase in demand for limestone, and in 1947 Eugene invested in his first grinding mill.
Through years of slow, steady growth, and a continuous desire to diversify to satisfy the ever-changing needs of the agricultural community, Meckley’s Limestone developed a reputation for quality and reliability. In the 1960s, Meckley’s was operating a fleet of 27 field spreading units, and discovered a niche among larger producers: their fleet was the largest operating under the control and ownership of one location, anywhere in the United States.
In 1963, Meckley’s obtained approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation of its crushed aggregate for use in paving and road construction–another major milestone in the company’s history. This new market helped establish a solid economic base for the production and sale of crushed aggregate, which then led to the purchase and erection of a bituminous concrete plant in 1966. This new development complemented the quarry operation since a considerable amount of aggregate quality stone had to be quarried in order to have access to the higher quality limestone required for agricultural, and later, chemical usage. Eugene Meckley turned over the operational management of the quarry to his son, Fred, in 1965. Having attended Penn State and after serving 3 years in the Navy, Fred made a commitment to join his father and sister Barbara in the business.
The decision was made to purchase the 246-acre property in 1966, after 31 years of leasing, and Meckley’s Limestone was incorporated to ensure the survival of family ownership through the generations. In 1996, Fred’s son Jim returned as corporate vice president and general manager of operations upon his graduation from Cornell.
In the 1970s, it became apparent that the economic practicality of this type of business had to be reevaluated, as the 27 units were sitting idle for 6 months of the year. Rising to the challenge of finding new methods of application and distribution, Meckley's discovered that damp limestone could be stockpiled and stored outdoors year-round. Dealers were set up to take bulk delivery and provide their own spreading services. While Meckley’s continued to provide the pulverized limestone, the costly application was in the hands of the dealers.
Effective January 1st, 2021, Matt took full ownership of Meckley's.