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 Post subject: Mines in Vermont and a ghost story
PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:00 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 02, 2006 1:05 am
Posts: 6
Location: NYC
Years ago, I read a ghost story in a book called "Mysterious New England" about a copper-mining town in Vermont destroyed by an Indian curse. There's a reasonably good paraphrase here. The story is invented, of course, but the old mine site exists: I believe it's either the Ely Mine or possibly the nearby Elizabeth Mine. There's a nice history (PDF) of these mines; at one time, they were connected with Isaac Tyson, Jr., a Baltimore industrialist. Tyson had made a fortune by buying up "serpentine barrens" in Maryland and Pennsylvania and monopolizing the world's supply of chromium for about a decade in the early 19th century. He came to Vermont looking for further mineral deposits, and discovered iron as well as copper, erecting a furnace to smelt it. A mine explorer in Vermont has put some pictures of these mines online. The quality is mostly indifferent (they look to have been taken in the 1980s or so), but they're still quite impressive. The copper was mined as sulfides; some of the interior views and the tailings piles at the Elizabeth Mine are remniscent of the Philips pyrrhotite mine.

(BTW, Miner Frank, if you're reading this, please check the links I left on your Wikipedia talk page. Some of the articles you've been adding links to, like the one on the Mesabi Range, aren't really germane to this site, and I don't want to see you get in trouble for "spamming".)


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 10:10 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2005 11:33 pm
Posts: 3088
Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
Very interesting story. Ghost stories are always interesting to listen to, especially when they are based on something historic, like a mine. I would assume then from looking at the site that the mine this story pertains to is not accessible anymore?

Miner Greg


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 3:03 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2005 11:28 pm
Posts: 1764
Location: Winnemucca, NV
Chris, this sounds like a region that warrants future investigation by our mine researchers. Since it is far less developed in Vermont, it looks like an ideal area to find mine sites relatively undisturbed and containing artifacts. I read about the reclamation proposals at Elizabeth Mine in the past and often wondered at what stage of planning or reclamation they are at. Here is an interesting website containing vintage photos of some of the mines featured on Paul J. Donovan's website, http://www.uvm.edu/perkins/landscape/LS_ArchiveSearchResults.php?KW=Mining.

ghosts and mines make for interesting stories. Peters Mine (http://www.ironminers.com/ironmines/peters-mine-1.htm) was reported by the miners to contain ghosts and others have claimed to see ghosts at the mines within the vicinity.

_________________
"If you thought old, abandoned mines were only in the west, then you haven't been to IronMiners.com!"


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 3:44 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2005 10:17 am
Posts: 755
Location: Monroe, CT
Mike- did you see the picture of the ore car in pike hill mine!? it looks to be the same model as the one in the roxbury mine! and the winch! very neat, we have to take a trip up there some time!


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:21 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 02, 2006 1:05 am
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Location: NYC
Mike, those are some good photos. I like the structures -- I'm sure if you viewed the site today, you could hardly be persuaded they stood there. The Ely, Elizabeth, and Pike Hill mines are all on the Superfund list for their tailings piles, but the cleanups don't appear particularly well funded just now, and it's not clear that they'd involve sealing adits, which are probably negligible contributors compared with the weathering sulfide dumps.

I'm sure there were many more ghost stories in the days when these mines were active. In the flickering light of miners' candles, with death and injury always near at hand, the supernatural must have seemed very close indeed. Georgius Agricola, writing in the 16th century, describes "gnomes of kindly intent" called "kobelt" or "guteli," which imitate busy mining activity and yet never do work. ("Kobelt", Agricols says, comes from the Greek "cobalos", "mime", and seems to have been applied to malicious spirits as well, from whence it was transferred to the metal cobalt.) This matches exactly the description of the "knockers," once widely believed in in Cornwall and other parts of England. Was the belief carried over by the German miners imported to open new tin mines in the days of Elizabeth? The Cornish miners certainly carried their belief in "Tommyknockers" across the sea, when they went to work in the western Pennsylvania coalfields and later in the California Gold Rush.

On the subject of mining legends, there seem to be numerous local legends in the East about Spaniards working a hidden mine, often of silver, somewhere back in the hills, which is thereafter searched for in vain. The same book ("Mysterious New England") which has the story of the copper mine I mentioned tells of the "Lost Silver Mine" of Bristol Notch, Vermont, where dozens of people spent years futilely digging and blasting in search of such a vein. Closer to home, there's a similar story in Harriman State Park. The Spanish were certainly prospecting in the southeastern US until the mid-18th century, but the idea they came to the northeast seems rather incredible. In the 1820s, the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, was engaged for his reputed second sight in an attempt to locate such a mine beneath Ouaquaga Mountain, in New York along the Susquehanna River. Sometimes, ancient mines in the East have been associated with the Mound Builders, or other vanished pre-Columbian tribes. In keeping with the ghost stories theme, Manly Wade Wellman wrote Shiver in the Pines about a group of treasure hunters who find more than they bargained for in one of these ancient diggings.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 1:11 am 
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Yes, Beck was an excellent writer, even if you have to take some of the folklore with a bit of salt. I have his "Jersey Genesis", and have read a number of his other books. A pity most of his work was set to the south in the bog-iron, rather than the magnetite, country, although I do remember him mentioning in passing an old mine near Rocky Hill, and I think he might have written about the Pahaquarry Mines.

For the Hudson Highlands, the William Thompson Howell diaries are pretty good for folklore; it's a pity so much of the ground he rambled over is now closed off as part of the West Point Reservation. There's a great deal of information to be dug out of old publications and whatnot that (to return to the original point of the thread) is often a great deal stranger and more ghastly than the teenage Nazi-satanist-weeping lady-ghost-stories that seem to have taken over Weird New Jersey, last I bothered to check. In 1933, Peter Zodac wrote an article in "Rocks and Minerals" about the Philips (pyrrhotite) Mine, and mentions in passing that "a few years ago" a professor leading a group of students along the upper adit fell to his death in the main chamber. Since that was after the last known dewatering of the mine (in Howell's time), the body is presumably still there, at the bottom of the pool...

Zodac also wrote an article describing a small gold mine in the area! Unfortunately, it was on the Camp Smith property and is also inaccessible for exploration. In the course of that article, he mentions the "lost Benson mine", which follows the usual outline (mysterious stranger brings pure silver into town to pay for goods, mine never found after his death), except that Benson was an Englishman. There's a big collection of material on mines in the area at the Putnam County Historical Society (the one gmike mentioned in the thread on the Croton mines); it would be neat to scan some of that stuff and put it online.


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