A Short History of the Ely mine, page 5


       The mine reappears in the hands of the Ely-Copperfield Mining Company in 1896 (88), with Roswell Farnham as President.  An article that year in the Vermonter, vol. II, no. 2 (Sept. 1896), p. 30, reads like a prospectus, and seems to be aimed at investors.  Emphasizing progress in mining and smelting methods, testimonials by experts, and the proximity of the mine to markets, the article states, “...there is nearly two million dollars of ore opened up...”, “...the mine can be put upon a producing basis within thirty days...it is confidently predicted that the annual product will be not less than ten to fifteen million pounds of copper...”

       It was enough to persuade George Westinghouse, who purchased the mine on December 8, 1899. That year, the Elizabeth mines in South Strafford produced nearly two thousand tons of ore; an investment in a mine nearby seemed reasonable (89).  He pumped the mine out at great expense (90) and experimented with different methods of extracting ore. Two roads were proposed, from Copperfield and Pompanoosuc station, to Ely Station, in reports from Superintendent of Mines George J. Troop, Jr. on October 4, 1900.  In September, Troop toured the routes with the surveyor Professor Robert Fletcher and his associate J.V. Hazen, from Dartmouth College, accompanied by an instrument man, two rod men, a chain man, an axe man, a level party of two and a typographer (91).  Neither road was built.  While Perkins (92) and Jacobs both blame overzealous tax assessors and disappointing results of Westinghouse’s experiments for the decline of the mine and his eventual departure in 1905 (93), Jacobs lays the responsibility more heavily on the assessors.  The mining equipment was sold for junk and the remaining houses were sold at auction around 1910.  Elysium, E. Ely-Goddard’s house, was sold to Gardner Melendy for $150.00, and was disassembled and moved to Lake Fairlee, where it was reassembled, and remains with some of its former splendor.  When interior work was recently done, the interior wallboards were removed to reveal sequential numbering written on the inside face of the exterior boards.  The mine, dumps and rights were acquired by the Ely-Copperfield Associates of New York, which was to work the dumps initially, then rehabilitate the mine.  Operations with a steam-powered flotation mill began in April of 1918, and in three months had produced 437 tons of concentrates averaging 16.1% copper. (94)  Jacobs states the mine property passed to Agnes P. Bennett in 1917, then, in April 1942, to the Vermont Copper Mining Company. (95)  There was an estimated 300,000 tons of available ore in these dumps. (96)  The material averaged 1.34 per cent. of copper; recovery was sixty-seven per cent. (97)

           One last time, in 1942-3 due (again) to the war demand for strategic metals (98) the mines were assessed.  The Vermont Copper Company was organized in April 1942 and sold $500,000.00 worth of stock.  Preliminary investigations in the spring by H. M. Kingsbury, Mining Geologist of the American Smelting and Refining Company, were followed up with Kingsbury joined by R. S. Canon and L. W. Currier of the United State Geological Survey and J. E. Bell of the Bureau of Mines.  Kingsbury was later to work for the Vermont Copper Company.  Plane-table mapping was done that fall by field parties under W. S. White of the Geological Survey (99).  His report (100) resulted in the Elizabeth Mine being reopened and worked until 1958.  This was the most productive period of all for the Vermont copper industry.   Vermont produced, altogether, about 145 million pounds of copper, two-thirds from the Strafford mines, and most from the 1940s (101).  The enormous structures from those years are collapsing, but the massive wooden beams, huge cement hoist footings and acres of tailings testify to the quantity of ore processed.  These buildings and the adits they conceal are the most tangible evidence left of Vermont’s copper years.  The last activity seen at the Ely mine was the shipment of 59,899 tons of 1% dump ore to South Strafford in 1949-50.Only footings and tailings piles remain where Copperfield stood, and only one footing, a few pipes, and the ever-present tailings piles indicate proximity to the icy entrance to the Pike Hill mines.  Traffic consists of the occasional hiker or skier, snow machines and dirt bikes.
             The tailings at all three sites are continuing threats to the environment.  In 1876 it was noted, "The vapor or smoke from the roast-bed kills all vegetation in the vicinity.  The grass is dead and it kills the apple and forest trees." (102)  In 1965, it was noted that a survey of vegetation around the Ely mine showed "a striking absence of all higher forms of life with the exception of two species of white birch trees" (103)  Things have not changed much.  The Elizabeth Mine, covering approximately 1400 acres, is estimated to contain more than 2 million tons of metals and sulfides-rich tailings on 42 acres of the property.  Elevated levels of iron, aluminum, manganese, copper, zinc and nickel have been detected in Copperas Brook and the West Branch of the Ompompanoosuc.  It has been asserted "as of the mid-1980s, there were no trout in the Ompompanoosuc River between West Fairlee and Thetford or in the West Branch of the river below South Strafford (104).  Several nearby residential water wells were sampled; only one failed to meet safe standards, however. [previous page]

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I would like to acknowledge help from many sources, but the errors which have crept into the manuscript are wholly mine, and will be willingly and gratefully corrected. 

 

ENDNOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

IMAGEMAP


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