Mines, Metal and Men

A Skylands Trail Of Historical Sites Tells A Remarkable Story About Industry and Invention.

Imagine a hundred years from today. How will people remember the the beginning of this century in Northern New Jersey? Will our great grandchildren have a sense of our human reality? Will they understand the revolution of the personal computer, the experience of driving an automobile on an interstate or reading a magazine on paper? Will they comprehend our fears and disappointments? Will our descendants know what really "turned us on"? Will they find romance in the stories of their ancestors?

It is magical to understand another time; to reveal (for yourself, not out a book) the mysteries of the past. It is the ultimate "virtual reality" to feel the things that have happened right where you're standing- especially if they're important things. You can't touch the experience with any video, documentary or Disneyland. Exploring the past, rather than reading about it, is enchanting. And by making personal discoveries about our heritage we find more meaning in what we encounter day to day.

There is a thread of heritage and industry that began in the New Jersey highlands centuries ago, before America officially started. If you know about it, a ride on the interstate becomes a little more interesting as you approach the hills on the horizon, passing through corridors cut through the earth. And turning off onto a county highway becomes a tour through some of the richest history in America when you really know where you are.

From pre-Revolutionary times through the 1980s, the ore and minerals contained in our corner of the planet have shaped our history. Mining is the basis for a major contribution from Northwest New Jersey to modern American society. From the first established settlements in the Musconetcong River Valley the iron working communities were the most durable. Forges and foundries were the economic engines of the time, places that saw remarkable events.

Iron is only a part of the story that is told in the wealth of sites you can visit here in the Skylands. You can follow a trail of key places in the development of the Industrial Revolution- and modern American society. Out of the first established settlements in the Skylands- invariably ironworking communities- grew a network between the mines, blast furnaces, refining areas and ironworks that was by the 1840s-1860s a marvel of the times. This period, the "dead period" between the Revolution and Civil War is one of the most under-rated in our history. Before these years there were no railroads, no health care, no telecommunications, no real cohesiveness beyond a political doctrine. There wasn't even a standard currency- each bank printed its own money. Things that went on during that period right here in the Skylands had a lot to do with how we live today.

The folks that run these sites- Historic Speedwell, Oxford Furnace/ Shippen Manor, Waterloo Village, Sterling Hill Mine and the Hunterdon Historical Museum- have begun to work together to create a trail of industrial history that spans hundreds of years, and a good chunk of our Skylands Region. You could make the trip from Morristown to Stanhope to Oxford to Ogdensburg in a day, but each property merits more than just a cursory look. As Dick Hauck of Sterling Mine explains: "It's an interesting situation. I've seen pictures of the pyramids since I was able to walk. I've seen pictures of the Parthenon all my life in history books. But until you walk up the Acropolis and actually enter the Parthenon there is a dimension that you can never describe. And walking on any of these properties, they are not a facade, not something that has been created by some illusionist. These are real places where real people spent their lives creating industry, commerce and changing the course of history. Because it was the mining and the metal industries in Northern New Jersey that created the development of this country in the earlier stages. The mining industry spans from pre-Revolutionary War, ending only eight years ago. So you're looking at a huge span of Americana. It's the multiple dimensions of these properties that can excite the senses."

Sterling Hill Mine

30 Plant St., Ogdensburg 07439

Fluorescent caverns thrill visitors on the underground tour of Sterling Mine in Ogdensburg

All during the early 1800's, the mining, smelting and forging of iron was equally important in hundreds of locations throughout Northwest New Jersey. The unique ore deposits of Sussex County's Sterling Hill Mine Tour and Museum in Ogdensburg and Mine Hill (Franklin) provided an era of analysis and exploitation which eventually aided in the development of a suitable smelting process and utilization of the unique zinc ore. The resources from these mines found their way to hundreds of 20th century every day products- from automobiles and radios to pharmaceuticals and printing ink- until the Sterling Mine closed in 1986. When the mines were electrified around the turn of the century, sparks emitted from some of the equipment emitted ultraviolet light, revealing the spectacular fluorescent quality of minerals in the surrounding cavern. The sites are geological record holders: With the over 70 renowned fluorescent minerals, they are host to more than 330 minerals and are the type localities for 67 species, about half of which are found nowhere else.

Today the property at Sterling Hill has been converted into a mining museum which includes over thirty acres of indoor & outdoor displays and historical buildings. It features an exciting underground mine tour where you can see the shafts from which miners brought ore from thousands of feet underground. After walking into the mine entrance, feeling the hardness of the underground surround, and continuing on a fascinating journey through the tunnels, visitors are constantly amazed when they enter a spectacular cavern lit by fluorescent minerals.

And kids never fail to learn something while they embark on a unique and fascinating journey into the earth. The walk inside the mountain passes dozens of exhibits illustrating mining practices, geology and mineralogy. Passing from chamber to chamber inhabited by real-life models, peeking into shafts diving deep into the old mine, feeling the chilly dampness of the underground, visitors gain a real sense of "what it was like". The site offers the precise amount of drama and realism to leave a lasting impression, one that is educational and truly entertaining.

Above ground Sterling Hill features a museum filled with antique mining equipment, mining artifacts, rare mineral specimens and gift shop with a collection of world wide minerals. And series of "mining fields" contains an assortment of minerals from which young prospectors are challenged to supply their boxes with various types.

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Oxford Furnace/Shippen Manor

Shippen Manor in Oxford is now home to a heritage museum in Warren County.

In what is now Warren County, a contemporary to the works in Morristown lay at Oxford furnace and Shippen Manor . The rich ore deposits near Oxford made it a center for the industry for about 225 years, making it the longest continuous iron producer in the United States from 1741-1965. By 1766, William Shippen II, a real-estate speculator, was the sole owner of a 4,000 acre estate and furnace tract. Shippen's investment was in natural resources agriculture, water power, forest products, and mineral deposits. The Manor which he soon built oversaw tenant farms, a gristmill, saw mill, store, and no doubt a blacksmith and some sixteen slaves noted in an early census. It was the ore that persevered, however, and Oxford saw a series of innovations in various forms of heating the blast, steam power blowing, the use of coal for fuel, and in 1835, the first blast using heated air in America. Smaller water power charcoal furnaces degenerated while Oxford was able to accept the challenges of the Industrial Revolution.

Shippen Manor has survived the centuries. Its location, situated dramatically on the brow of a hill above the village of Oxford, reflects its builder's social position and status of the estate. The building has undergone extensive renovation under the care of the Warren County Cultural & Heritage Commission and now serves as a Manor Museum/Cultural Center. 908/453-4381


Historic Speedwell

Visitors can tour Vail Mansion at Historic Speedwell

In the first half of the 19th Century, Stephen Vail and his sons produced iron machinery and tools at Speedwell Iron Works in Morristown. Vail's success was a result not only of excellent craftsmanship at the works, but also of his acute and adventurous business sense. From Vail's inventiveness and entrepreneurship came two vital highlights in our history. The SS Savannah made the first transatlantic steamship trip powered by an engine from Speedwell. And it was at Speedwell that the electromagnetic telegraph became a viable means of communication. Stephen Vail, who provided the capital and technical expertise necessary to bring the telegraph to fruition, was involved in the project for only 3 months. It is this "hiccup" in Vail's larger untold story- one of supplying agents and outlets all over the world with the cutting edge of machining, research and development- that rings romantic with us today.

After Vail died in 1864 his descendants resided at Speedwell until 1955 when the property and its entire contents went up for auction. In 1967 the remaining buildings, most in serious disrepair, were saved from demolition, and Historic Speedwell was established. A trip to the site gives visitors into the craftsmanship, industry and spirit of Stephen Vail and his peers.

Village of Waterloo

The blacksmith shop at Waterloo sits along the remnants of the Morris Canal.
Photo by Chris Beatty

Waterloo Village, a restored eighteenth and nineteenth century town located just off exit 25 from Route 80 in Stanhope, is a comprehensive interpretation of the vigor and vitality of the Skyland's past. With its stately Victorian homes and forest groves, Waterloo's calm facade barely hints at the pivotal role the town played in over 150 years of industrial growth in the region. The village began as an iron-smelting operation in the 1760's; and became a prime supplier of armaments for the Continental Army during the Revolution. During the early nineteenth century Waterloo became an important stop on the Morris Canal. Brisk business was conducted at its gristmill, sawmill, blacksmith shop and general store, all of which have been restored.

While the ironworks have long since vanished, a visit to the site is an experience in living history, to see waterwheels power the mills, to hear the ring of the anvil, to step back in time. In association with the Canal Society of New Jersey, Waterloo Village is the site of a series of Canal Days which feature boat rides on the Morris Canal, exhibits on aspects of canal history, walking tours of the village's canal features and of its architectural history. Eight Waterloo Village buildings are open with historic trades demonstrated at the carpenter, seamstress and blacksmith shops. The recently discovered canal boat exhibit will also be open. There will be live music and food service available.

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02 Mar 2018, 07:29
Waterloo village is not closed. It has been open for some time. Many thousands of school children have been visiting the village. The Canal Society of NJ , has its Museum there and hosts Canal Days during the summer. Please update your site. Visit The Waterloo village Facebook page for more info and events!
Jack Woods
07 Aug 2017, 06:58
I have found sketchy info about "The Woods Mine" in Stockholm. It was a paragraph in a book about NJ mines. It may be the property where our family reunions were held up to the late 1950s. I wonder if there is any more info.
Someone posted here asking about a trail, which I'm quite sure it's the roadbed of the Ogden Mine RR (Edison's mine.)

Angela Fobar
20 Mar 2017, 19:29
I recently found out about a family owned mine called the Kishpaugh Mines that was located in New Jersey and ran from 1871 - 1900. I was wondering if you had any information or pictures of this mine. Thank you so much!!
karen mcconnell
25 Oct 2015, 12:26
I'm curios abour any mines from the 1900's near roebling nj or in roebling.
21 Sep 2015, 18:22
Can you assist me translating historical location coordinates to modern GPS or map locations? I once lived at Ghost Lake at Jenny Jump Mountain, before it was acquired by the state, trying to decipher, which mine hole on the mountain is the Davis Prospect site referenced in historical writings. I have an 1892 map that shows 2 shafts north of the Davis Prospect that I would like to locate. The mountain has numerous areas that look like they have been worked in the past, just trying to pin point the exact area the history writings reference the location.
23 Dec 2014, 20:10
Hi! I am researching my family tree, and have run into a dead end regarding my great X3 grandfather James Flatt/Platt/Flate, who married Jane McCall in Jefferson in 1810. They had at least two children, David, born in Weldon, and my great X2 grandfather Benjamin. However, in 1822, Jane McCall Platt married a Joel Beardslee, indicating most likely the early death of James. I am curious if you are aware of any accounts of accidents/deaths in the mines of that era. I have tried the old newspapers at the Morristown library and extant records of the local Presbyterian churches to no avail. Thanks.
30 Sep 2014, 12:46
Hi, Just found your site and am amazed at what you know about all these mines.
and wonder if you have any info on a mine accident 28th August 1873 at the Allen Mine NJ, when my gt uncle Frederick Vivian age 23 was killed, he was an engineer at the time.
I live in Cornwall England.. plenty of old mines here too that have long been closed.
Regards Jill
30 Dec 2013, 20:17
so neat to find this info all in one location
17 Nov 2013, 13:32
I was hiking Ramapo Forest (NJ) and saw several round, very large, heavy stone circles, some with holes in the middle, that had been abandoned. Can you tell me their history: what they were used for? why they were abandoned? and how they got there?\r\n\r\nThanks -\r\nAdrienne
Rose DeRocher
22 Feb 2013, 12:43
Hi\r\n My husband's great great grandfather, James McGrane, is said to have died in a mining accident in New Jersey, between 1838-1842. His wife Ann then left New Jersey for Wisconsin arriving in 1842.\r\n There is some indication the family may have lived in Morris County area.\r\nThanks for any assistance.
David S. Bernstein
14 Sep 2012, 06:00
Jackie, yes there are active iron mines operating today in the United States. Most of New Jersey's iron mines were closed/abandoned in the late 1800s following the discovery of ore in Minnesota. The ore could be mined cheaply through open pits rather then through shafts/ tunnels and the like. Some of the old mines in Minnesota are still operating together with mines in Michigan and a handful of other states.
12 Sep 2012, 11:20
What I would like to know is if there is\r\nstill any iron ore mining being done in\r\nthe USA today.
David Bernstein
24 Jul 2012, 06:16
Hi Sandra,\r\n\r\nI just noticed your message. I believe the Bennington Woods development is near the area where the Mt Olive Mine and several smaller mines once operated. Land was set aside that could not be built on due to the old workings. As to your question, if there are monitoring wells, someone in town must know who installed them and who monitors them. Someone at your town's building department must also know who the developer of this area was-Bennington Woods has all the "named streets" correct? I would dig a bit deeper at town hall and hopefully you will find what you are looking for.\r\n
Sandra Hafner
14 Jul 2012, 08:09
Hello Mr. Bernstein. Not sure if you can help me, but hopefully you can lead me in the right direction. I live in the Bennington Woods section of Flanders, NJ. I am trying to find out if there is anyway to know who installed the (water) wells up here and what are the chances that they have a survey of sorts as to how the pvc and electric were routed to the house? Tried the Health department for the town, but they said that nothing like that exists. Thoughts?
David Bernstein
16 Feb 2012, 05:40
Wow, thanks very much, Mike! Much appreciated. I firmly believe that these old places must be documented and that's what I'm trying to do on Mindat.\r\n\r\nFeel free to get in touch.\r\n\r\nD.
Mike Gecek
06 Feb 2012, 21:21
Mr.Bernstein please allow me to assist you in your next nature outing..hello Im Mike G. from oxford..im fascinated by your pictures on the mindat site..please contact me if you would like a guest on your next outing in our beloved skylands area..thanks for all the pics...awesome
pj lyons
13 Jan 2012, 07:12
Thanks, David.
David S. Bernstein
11 Jan 2012, 13:06
Hi Mr. Lyons,\r\n\r\nThanks for the compliment. Your subject seemed familiar. I have a hard time forgetting things I read. On another forum I read this from Feb. of 2011:\r\n\r\n**Still working on previously mentioned novel. Anyone have any idea who owns the land these mines are on? For example, the Andover mine?**\r\n\r\nI am not in a position to refer you to maps or discuss ownership issues. Best of luck to you.
pj lyons
10 Jan 2012, 08:18
Hi David,\r\n\r\nWow! You really know your stuff.\r\nI am writing a novel for young adults which begins with some boys stumbling onto an illegal dumping site. In order for the story to work, the site needs to be a deep shaft entrance, not a cave.\r\n Although I live in Michigan now, I grew up in Madison, NJ, so I've set the story in northwest NJ. Could you direct me to maps, pictures, etc., that would help me ensure my descriptions of the terrain/caves etc. is realistic? \r\nThanks in advance\r\npj lyons
David S. Bernstein
05 Nov 2011, 07:08
Hi John,\r\n\r\nVery interesting post. Sorry for the late reply but I just got my power back yesterday. There were several mica mines in New Jersey. One in Morristown, one in the Broadway section of Franklin Township and several others. I don't know where you are located but I would love to take a look at and document the mine. Mica or Isenglass was used for window treatments over a hundred years ago. Mica was mined quite heavily in Connecticut, New Hampshire and North Carolina. Thanks for writing.
28 Oct 2011, 20:15
Mr. Bernstein, This is very interesting and your efforts are appreciated. Here's my question: We bought our property in 94 and at the top of a boulder train there's three pits, one of unknown depth, others dozed over. The farmer accross the street said they were from mica mining and there are twenty-forty pound chunks of mica bearing rocks. Why mica mining? Thanks
David S. Bernstein
20 Oct 2011, 14:07
Cindi,\r\n\r\nI have an answer for you. If you like, please drop me an email and we can discuss further. Mount Olive (Flanders) had three distinct mining districts two hundred years ago, two of which were south of the Flanders Drakestown Road.\r\n\r\nLook forward to hearing from you.\r\n\r\nDavid
David S. Bernstein
20 Oct 2011, 13:52
Hi Cindi,\r\n\r\nLet me do some quick research and I'll be back to you.
11 Oct 2011, 21:55
We just bought a home in Flanders, NJ. Neighbors have told us the land behind us is abandoned mineral mines.Based on the huge sink holes and strange rock piles and formations, I would agree! We were also told that 2 lots in our neighborhood (Bennington Chase) on Donna Lane could not be built on because it was not safe, due to the old mines. Do you have any information on these abandoned mines? \r\nThanks,\r\nCindy
David S. Bernstein
10 Oct 2011, 05:32
William, see my comment to you from February.
w mahar1@att.net
26 Aug 2011, 13:23
go to william mahar comments
20 Jul 2011, 11:18
I am interested in history of old stone schoolhouses in Phillipsburg, NJ (Warren County). There is a house on the market that was once a schoolhouse, erected in 1802. Is there a resource available to learn the history of this particular building? The address is 1053 S. Main Street, Phillipsburg, NJ.\r\n\r\nThanks in advance for any insight on this matter.
David S. Bernstein
05 May 2011, 06:13
Hi Debbie,\r\n\r\nThe only mine I know of in Rocky Hill was the Rocky Hill Copper Mine and I have no idea exactly where that is/was although I have on several occasions, tried to find it. Perhaps going to the library in Franklin or the Town Hall in the area armed with your information might yield results. Best of luck.
08 Apr 2011, 23:19
Many generations back,my grand father owned a lot of land around Rocky Hill as well as operated a Mine there.\r\nI don't know the name of the Mine,but my grand fathers name was John Stevens. He was appointed the commissioner to the Indian Tribe. And the year would be around 1748 or so. And yes it was to my knowledge that the Mine was abandon by him. Any information would be appreciated as to whom I can contact about the land in which he owned and abandon! Thank You.
David Bernstein
23 Feb 2011, 05:54
Let me try to answer some of the questions posed here. Some of your posts are very old but I'll answer the questions anyway. Please note I cannot give directions to mines.\r\n\r\nSarah, regarding an explosion in an iron mine in Allamuchy, please note that there were about six to eight iron mines operating on Jenny Jump Mountain in the 1800s. I take it you have looked for old newspaper clippings to no avail? I'll give it a try and report back.\r\n\r\nCraig, It is rumored that there was a Copper Mine on Bald Pate Mountain near Washington Crossing. The mine has never been found. To my knowledge and I have a great interest in Copper Mines here in New Jersey, there was no copper mine in Stockton.\r\n\r\nWilliam, you found the Weldon Mines as a child. These mines still exist and consist of upper and lower workings. They were started prior to 1855 and fully abandoned by 1896. By that time, ore had been found in Minnesota which was cheaper to mine and therefore, most iron mines in New Jersey were abandoned.\r\n\r\nDiane, As regarding Hopewell, the only mine I am aware of was the Hopewell Barite mine which operated in the 1800s. There were nearby copper mines in Rocky Hill and Griggstown.\r\n\r\nScott, regarding the Copper Mines near the Delaware Water Gap, those mines have been closed to protect the bat population which has been nearly wiped out by white nose syndrome. Although the mines and other workings are still there, they must be viewed from the outside. But you are right, they were fun to explore!\r\n\r\nSusan-there was mining in Wawayanda. But not at Terrace Pond. Near the NY border, two iron mines, the Green and the Wawayanda, operated around 1854 to 1891. Also, to the west of Terrace Pond and Clinton Road was a town called Uttertown where some iron mining took place but it was not a significant operation.
Susan Bingham
01 Jun 2010, 13:21
I know that there was an iron mine in Waywaywanda State Park. Someone said that Terrace Pond in the annex of Waywaywanda SP was not a natural lake - that it was an iron mine also - the springs were struck and it filled with water - I don't think so - but could have been.... Any info on that?\r\nThanks Susan Bingham
Scott Pensack
09 Apr 2010, 13:43
Back around 1991 I used to hike the Coppermine trails in Worthington State park NJ. Back then the upper and lower mines were stable and one could actually enter and explore the mines. Since then, they have become unstable and are closed to the public. Would you have any history on these mines? Do you know if they will be open again? \r\n I want to visit the Sterling Hill mine and museum someday. This looks extremely fascinating.
Roy Frettsome
28 Jan 2010, 14:43
i give lectures and Study the work and contributions on telegraphy made by Alfred Vail.Thank you for the information on this website ,it fills in a few gaps in my historical records.Without the contributions made by Alfred Vail there would have been no Morse code or Telegraph. \r\n\r\nRoy Frettsome.\r\nSherwood Forest .UK
Diane Zimmillerman
03 Nov 2009, 11:53
Ralph Ege's book "Pioneers of Old Hopewell" mentions an old mine near Hopewell, abandoned during his lifetime so it would be an 18th c. mine. Does anyone know what was mined there and if it had a name? I am writing a family history on the Parke/Smith family and details like that add to the interest.
Sherry Ruhge
31 Jan 2009, 19:38
I am interested in the Germans who may have worked either the mines or helped get wood for making charcoal. If there were a lot of them around 1859 and did any historical society keep any records of them? Any suggestions of Germans congregating in certain areas would be helpful. Thanks
william mahar
22 Dec 2008, 10:07
Sir as a child I came upon abandoned iron mine shafts off weldon rd. near Milton n.j.this road[dirt] ran for several miles to lake Hopatcong. The year was approx. 1940. We dicovered the mines while hiking through the forest.Dead deer were laying at the shaft entry bottom apparently trapped by accident.I believe these early mines were in Morris county.Could you send me any info about these mines and what year the mining operations took place?Thank for any info, William Mahar
14 Aug 2008, 15:06
I'm new here, just wanted to say hello and introduce myself.
Craig Reading
19 Jul 2008, 13:48
I'm interested in the very early days of Hunterdon County. Capt. John Howell was to have operated a copper mine and smelting operation somewhere near what is now Stockton NJ. Do you have any information as to exactly where, and what happened to it. The timeframe should be about 1712-1735.\r\n
sarah ducksworth
10 Jul 2008, 19:00
I would like to know how can I find out about an explosion inside an Allamuchy, NJ iron mine on January 25, 1884 in which a colored man named Abraham Davis died. Are there records somewhere of tragic mine explosions in Warren County, NJ?
Allan Higgins
09 Apr 2008, 14:53
Keep me Informed as Richard Higgins was my 9th great grandfather\r\nThanks, Allan Higgins\r\n
Teri Heyer
31 Dec 2007, 09:35
Do you happen to know what kind of mining is being done at Mount Higgins in Old Bridge, Middlesex Co., NJ? That area was settled by the Plymouth Pilgrim, Richard Higgins, in 1669. It seems like it should be listed as a historical site, but instead is currently being mined. I would appreciate any info you might have. Richard Higgins was my 9th great grandfather. Thanks. Teri Heyer
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