Rare pillow basalt table will be raffled off in a Manitoulin Streams fundraiser

The pillow basalt rock is probably three billion years old, and volcanic in origin. photo by Warren Schlote

GREEN BAY – Rock-hounds and gem collectors alike will be green with envy over Ed and Connie Ferguson’s unique tabletops cut from a massive pillow basalt stone found in Mr. Ferguson’s Green Bay gravel pit about a decade ago.

“I’ve dug up some rocks you’ve got to see to believe, but this one was really unique,” said Mr. Ferguson.

“We knew it wasn’t jade but we knew it was really strange,” he said, recalling the moment it was unearthed in its entirety. When struck with a hammer, it rang out in metallic tones.

He took a sample out of the 8,100-pound rock and brought it to Colonial Brick and Stone (which operates a quarry on Manitoulin Island). That wedge showed promise of an interesting interior, so they arranged to have the entire boulder brought down to the Kitchener-area stone shop.

When the crews arrived to pick up the boulder, one of the crewmembers seemed jaded at the prospect of the stone being anything special.

“I showed him the wedge sample and he immediately said, ‘don’t touch that stone with any metal equipment’,” said Mr. Ferguson.

Colonial Brick and Stone informed Mr. Ferguson that they would be cutting slabs of the rock on a given date, and strongly suggested that he be present for the occasion.

“As soon as they finished the first cut, everybody was amazed,” said Ms. Ferguson, who noted that the owner of the company has been dealing with stones for his whole life and had never seen such a specimen. “It took them more than an hour to cut each slab.”

The Fergusons reached out to an employee at the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines who identified a piece of the stone as pillow basalt.

“Where it came from is unclear because this type of stone mainly comes from a volcanic eruption. It’s probably three billion years old, from around Timmins, and was left here by a glacier 13,000 years ago,” said Mr. Ferguson.

The 18 slabs went to Midhurst Granite for polishing—the proprietor had to buy two new tools to get the job done up to his standards due to the rarity of this kind of stone. 

The slabs are sized at three feet by four feet and smaller and the base can be chosen by the purchaser. In the Ferguson home, which might be mistaken for a basalt showroom with its abundance of tables, there are units with stainless steel, cedar trunk and custom wood shapes.

One slab will be going to each of the Fergusons’ four children and they plan to keep one for themselves. In addition to the two that have already sold, that leaves approximately 12 still up for grabs. ‘Floor models’ are on display at the Manitoulin Island Hotel and Conference Centre and Killarney Mountain Lodge.

They also recently donated one to Manitoulin Streams for a raffle fundraiser with tickets available at $20 each until December.

However, with an approximate price tag of “expensive as hell,” Mr. Ferguson said he was not expecting them to sell in any hurry. 

“They’ll sell themselves if you get them in the proper light,” he said. “This is fine art.”

Finding the right angle is most accurate when describing these slabs which range from 200 to 500 pounds in mass. When the light hits some of the veins within the rock, dazzling golden flecks shimmer against the muted green sheen found in between. 

All of the slabs have an entirely unique pattern on their surface and contain varying amounts of veins throughout their area.

“You can see how the lava has pushed all the elements together into this one big stone,” said Ms. Ferguson.

Mr. Ferguson is working on building a structure to display the slabs at their Green Bay property. For the time being, anyone interested in taking a look at the slabs first-hand is invited to call Connie Ferguson at 705-210-9885 or email her at cjf657@gmail.com. The couple has also set up a website for further information, ManitoulinGreenStone.ca.