Lower lead mine operation 1912-13.

     This was stated in an article written by prominent Orange County Historian and author Mildred Parker Seese. After much research Mrs. Seese wrote "One thing can be said without contradiction; Mamakating is the oldest mine in New York State. It was part of the mining venture in upper Jersey which is scarcely recorded yet unquestionably existed during the first half or three quarters of the 1600 's. The Jersey mines, in the neighborhood of Franklin, were in fact, a major enterprise of the early 17th Century which continued into the second half of the 20th -- more than 300 years of virtually continuous operation. The lead which was their modern product didn't run out. It was the price of imported metals that closed the mines. (They are a tourist attraction now.) The more precious metals, gold , silver and copper, were what the prospectors sought when Mamakating was an uncharted part of New Netherlands and boundaries were likewise unknown. They found copper, and somewhere in the archives of Amsterdam, if modern wars have not destroyed it, there is a sample of copper delivered by one of those prospectors in 1657-9.

     Modern historians, aware of the continuing Jersey mines, overlooking the Mamakating mine -- which was really much more accessible before the railroad era -- have attributed the sample to Jersey. Mrs. Seese concluded that they were talking of the Mamakating spur of the Catskills, but not the Jersey end of that long ridge. Many facts can be found in Amelia Stickney Decker's story of "The Old Mine Road." Samuel Eager expressed the opinion that Dutch miners were in "Mamakating Hollow" before 1664. "Those who labored at the Shawangunk mine in Mamakating cannot be styled as setters. When they departed thy left no enduring trace behind them." What of the vague tales of even earlier Spaniards looking for gold and silver mines along the same ridge? Manuel Gonsalus, who was the first permanent settler of Sullivan County, had his name mentioned in connection with the mine holes in different historical books. The gold found by early prospectors turned out to be fools gold. However, in an extensive investigation of the Shawangunk (Wurtsboro) mine, by the Bureau of Mines done in the spring of 1948, rich deposits of zinc and lead were found along with amounts of copper, pyrite, silver in a minor amount, and gold in a minute amount. Quartz constitutes the principal gauge mineral deposits.
     Although the mines have been in operation many times down through the years, the problem of seperating the metals kept the operation from prospering.

     As far back in history as the Indians of the area, miners have been making use of the mine to a certain extent. One of the hallucinations of that period was, that the forests of this continent abounded with rich mines of gold, silver and other precious metals, and that the natives were well acquainted with these mines, and could be induced to disclose what they knew. The Swedes, as well as other immigrants, used every artiface to induce the Indians to lead them to these El Dorados. Thus doubtless, the Dutch discovered the old mine at Minisink, and the lost mine of Mamakating. Generally, however, the ore found was not as valuable as the mixed lead, copper and zinc found in the Shawangunk. Samples were sent to Europe, and much to their disappointment it was termed "Fools Gold". Although the search for mines lead to the discovery of much fertile land in the wilderness, and its occupation by whites at an early day, it did not lead to the settlement of the banks of the Delaware by the Swedes, or any other Europeans, as far up as Minisink, until several years had elapsed.
     The pioneers of Mamakating knew that the Indians obtained lead not far from Wurtsboro. The natives always refused to show where it was to be found, and generally became angry whenever the mine was alluded to. Even the white men who were in part or wholly domesticated with them, could not get any information from them in regard to it. At last a white hunter named Miller dogged them, at the risk of his life, until he ascertained that they got the ore near a certain clump of hemlock trees, which were the only ones of that kind within a considerable distance. He heard them at work; but did not dare to go to the locality until a considerable time afterwards when he was sure the savages were not in the vicinity. Miller intended to tell this to a man named Daniel Gunsaulis. He told him the lead was on the mountain near the hemlocks, pointed them out from the valley, and promised to go with him to the mine after he had made a visit to his friends in Orange County. He went, but died at Montgomery during his visit there. Gunsaulis never attempted to profit by what Miller had told him. In 1813, however, he communicated what he knew of the matter to our venerable townsman, Daniel Niven Esq., who, in 1817, hired a man named Mudge to assist him in searching for the lead, and they succeeded in finding it. A quantity of ore was sent to Doctor Mitchell and others, chemists. Mr. Niven made a confidant of Moses Stanton, a resident of Wurtsboro, who as well as Mudge, insisted on sharing the profits which were expected to be made from the discovery, and the three became partners. Not long after, those who had analyzed the ore endeavored to purchase the mine of Mr. Niven and his associates. But the discoverers found a difficult way of selling. The land did not belong to them, and it was not known who did own it. 
They could neither buy the mine or sell it. So they rested the matter until 1836 -- Mr. Niven and his partners mutually agreeing not to make any disclosure concerning the mine, unless with the consent of all three. Their secret, however, was revealed after it had been kept secret for twenty years. Stanton had an awkward habit of talking in his sleep, and one night, while his eyelids were closed, he spoke of the location of the mine so distinctly that his son, who was present, had no difficulty in finding it. Young Stanton was fortunate as to ascertain who some owners of the land were, and he made some five hundred dollars by keeping his ears open while his father was "dreaming aloud". (Quinlan's History of Sullivan County --1873, Mildred Parker Seese -- Orange County Historian. Check out this great link to see the inside of the lower mine: http://www.abandonedmines.net/shawangunk_mine.htm

Screenshot from a home movie taken in the early 70's

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Hike to Mamakating Mine

Jeff Otto & Ron Vassallo - 9-9-09

Photos by Jeff Otto


From Google Books: The Mineral Resources of the State of New York

New York State Museum Bulletin

Entered as second-class matter November 37, 1915, at the Post Office at Albany, N. Y., under the act of August 24, 1912

Published monthly by the University of the State of New York No. 223, 224 ALBANY, N. Y. July-August 1919

The University of the State of New York
New York State Museum

John M. Clarke, Director




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The University of the State of New York
Department of Science, February 24, 1919

Doctor John H. Finley

President of the University


I transmit to you herewith and beg to recommend for publication, as a Bulletin of the State Museum, a manuscript report entitled:

The Mineral Resources of the State of New York which has been prepared by David H. Newland, Assistant State Geologist.

It is needless for me to emphasize the importance of a work of this kind to the intellectual and commercial interests of this State. The report is a summary of our present knowledge of what is, second only to the soil of the State, its most important natural asset. In variety, quality and quantity the mineral production and the potential mineral resources are of momentous importance to the people of the State.

Very respectfully yours

John M. Clarke

Nature of deposits. The ores occur in fissures, brecciated zones, and along the bedding planes of the grit. Replacement of the latter by the ore-bearing solutions has taken place only to a very limited extent. The main occurrences are within fracture zones, developed no doubt by shearing and slight faulting of the beds during the uplift which came at the close of the Carboniferous period and resulted in the present folded arrangement. The actual fault displacements are slight but are indicated by the grooving and polishing of the walls of the fissures.

The principal fracturing has been in a plane that crosses the strike of the beds and extends downward at a high or vertical angle. Differential movement, accompanied by fracturing, has taken place also along the bedding planes, and in one instance at least (Summit- ville) has resulted in a brecciated zone of considerable extent. Secondary alteration as an accompaniment of the fracturing is not marked, although there has been an infiltration of white vein quartz and impregnation of the grit by pyrite before the ore deposition took place.

The ore bodies, as might be expected, are irregular in character, and their size and form are conditioned by the relative degree of fracturing which the wall rock has undergone. In places there has been a minimum of crushing, so that sulphides are restricted to a narrow band or group of individual stringers measured by inches,

1 N. Y. State Mus. 47th Ann. Rep't, 1894, p. 541.

and again the fracturing may extend over a width of many feet, with a corresponding enlargement of the deposit. The cross-fracture in the Ellenville mine shows extreme variation in this respect, ranging from a few inches to 15 or 30 feet in width. It would appear this quartzite has accommodated itself to stress by irregular, spasmodic movements, indicative of no definite mobility under the conditions, but on the other hand a great resistance to the crushing forces.

The sulphide minerals do not appear to have replaced the quartzite to any extent. The fragments of rock embedded in the ore preserve their singularity and the contact line is abrupt. It is possible that some of the pyrite which occurs in disseminated cnstsl particles within the quartzite, as well as an ingredient of the ore, may have been deposited by such process, but the main bodies of sulphides bear little evidence of it.

The introduction of the ores was preceded by extensive deposition of quartz, which constitutes the single important gangue material. It is a white or clear vitreous quartz frequently developed in good crystals.

The ore. The metallic minerals are represented by sphalerite, galena, chalcopyrite and pyrite, and most of the ores are mixtures of these different materials. Sphalerite is the most abundant mineral as well as the chief element of value in the ores; but in the early days mining seems to have been directed rather to the extraction and saving of the galena. The latter fluctuates in its proportions and is much more uncertain in its distribution, having a tendency to occur in independent aggregates. Masses of galena are encountered that are practically free of admixture, up to one-half of a ton in weight. Chalcopyrite also varies greatly in its occurrence and seems most abundant in the Ellenville mine, where it forms crystal aggregates in vugs, with vein quartz as a later deposit.

The variation between the different components is so marked that chemical analysis of samples gives little idea of the actual conditions in a large way. Only extensive sampling of the mines or actual runs can supply the basis for estimating the average contents of the ores in the different properties. In the Summitville mine of the St Nicholas Zinc Co. the preliminary sampling, as reported by Mr Kirby Thomas, showed the following percentages:

Iron 3.54

Lead 12.88

Zinc 20.73

Copper was not reported, but it is present in small amount in most samples. Silver was present to the extent of 2.25 ounces to the ton.

The general inference as to the origin of the deposits from consideration of these features is that they were formed by underground circulations directed along the fissure zones and bedding planes of the sandstone. The tendency of the minerals to occur in crystal particles, the frequent occurrence of vugs, and extreme variation in proportions of the metallic ingredients may be noted. The source of the ore-bearing solutions and their character are matters which can not be discussed advantageously at this time. It may be noted, however, that there are no igneous bodies exposed in the vicinity and the only intrusions in southeastern New York that have taken place subsequent to the period of the formation of the sediments is the Triassic trap in Rockland county. The presumption that the waters concerned in the ore-deposition were shallow and supplied from the surface, comparable to the body of underground water in circulation in the beds at present, would seem to be most in accord with the general conditions. However, an interesting observation has recently been communicated to the writer by R. J. Colony with respect to the country rock, who found on examination of the sandstone that it contained secondary minerals, evidencing the effects of metamorphism which are ordinarily ascribed to igneous agencies. The problem requires further investigation before it can be satisfactorily treated.

The question of source of the metals is bound up more or less with the preceding one as to their carrier and solvent agency. Limestones are found to carry zinc and lead and they form the containing rocks for many of the large deposits mined throughout the world. They are more likely to have been the immediate source of the metals than the sandstone. There are two important areas of carbonate rocks in the region, one lying under the valley at the foot of the Shawangunk ridge, and composed of the Helderberg and Onondaga limestones, and the other the belt of Precambrian limestones of which no outcrop is to be seen in the immediate vicinity, but which occur to the southeast in the Wallkill valley as an extension of the New Jersey belts. The former overlie the sandstones and the latter are separated from them by a considerable thickness of shales of the Hudson River group that outcrop on the eastern edge of the ridge and occupy a position below the Shawangunk beds. The nearest exposed area of the Precarnbrian series is several miles distant, but it is not improbable they may occur in depth within easy reach of the ridge if not actually below it.

If the ore-bearing solutions were surface waters, the Helderberg and Onondaga limestones may well have been the gathering ground and the sources of the metals. In this event the concentration would have been effected by descending waters. The other view of the matter, that the waters came from below, would involve deep-seated circulations and some stimulus in the form of igneous activity, of which there are some indications, as already stated, in the secondary minerals that occur in the sandstones. The evidence in support of either explanation, however, does not suffice at present to form an intelligent opinion in the matter.

The great bodies of zinc ores at Franklin Furnace and Ogdensburg, New Jersey, are some 25 to 30 miles south of the Shawangunk district. They have the Precambrian limestones for wall rocks and have little in common in their mineral features with the present occurrences.

Mining developments. The principal operations in the district of recent date have been carried on at the locality near Summitville, Sullivan county, where mining has been revived in the last year or so by the St Nicholas Zinc Co. The deposit was worked rather extensively between 1830 and 1840, as appears from the description by Mather who refers to the operations at greater length than in reference to the other mines. At that time it was known as the Shawangunk deposit and the lead ore was treated in a local smelter at the foot of the mountain. It consists of a fracture zone, parallel or nearly so to the bedding of the grit, along which has been deposited secondary quartz and sulphides of zinc, lead, copper and iron. The vein appears to conform to the dip of the strata which follows the slope of the mountain but at a higher angle (about 35�). The vein ranges from a few inches to 3 to 4 feet thick. In places it gives an almost solid breast of ore, but ordinarily there is a good deal of rock intermixed.

The present work thus far has been limited practically to the extension laterally of the old openings. These consist of an adit level 220 feet below the outcrop, measured on the vein, and a series of minor levels at intervals to the surface. The main drift measures 400 feet on the course which here is about north-northeast. Enough ore was encountered in the old slopes to sustain operations for the first few months and it was believed by the engineers in charge, that the profits therefrom would repay the costs of the new equipment. The continuation of the ore in depth is the critical circumstance on which the future of the enterprise will depend and there is little in the present conditions on which to base an opinion, in. regard to the probabilities of. th& future ore supply.

The ore is brought down to the mill near the base of the ridge by an aerial tramway 1600 feet long. At the mill it is broken in a jaw- crusher and then goes to a ball mill for fine grinding, after which it is sent to a classifier and then passes over Wilfley tables on which the zinc and lead are recovered.

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Additional Information and Photos from Misc. Sources