HISTORY OF THE BARE HILL COPPER MINES
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Though it Is little known, there was once a thriving copper
mine in the State of Maryland, The Bare Hill uopper Mines. It was
located at what is now called Mt . Washington, on the outskirts of
Baltimore City. There was a great deal of difficulty encountered
in putting the mine on a profitable basis when it was first dis-
covered. The trouble arose when the original owner was inveigled
into an unfair agreement with a ruining engineer.
One began to hear of the Bare Hill Copper Mines when It was
purchases by ld r. Keener who incorporated a company of the same
During the foremost existing years of the Bare Hill Copper
Mining Company production rose steadily, and the profits were
fairly large considering the times, as time progressed, the com-
pany was hampered not only by undesireable conditions such as
floods and fires, but by the accumulation of dishonest company
leaders. These circumstances brought about the permanent closing
of the mine. The land Including the mines and surroundings was
mortgaged and finally sold. Its present o./ner being a resident
of Washington D. C. To date, the land is for sale being in the
hands of a Baltimore Real Estate concern.
If perchance one were to pass by the present copper mine
at Bare Hills, he would hardly recognize the place as a former
copper mine .
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LOCATION OP THE BARE HILLS COPPER MINES
HISTORY OF THE BARE HILLS COPPER MINES- -BALTI MORE
The Bare -"ills are now located less than a mile from Balti-
more City, near the suburban section known as Mt.. Washington.
That portion of the Hills where the chrome mining operations were
carried on is near Palls Road, while the copper mine is on Smith
Avenue. Old Pimlico Road connects Falls Road and Smith Avenue.
As Baltimore City increased in size, Bare Hills, quite naturally
became closer. In the 60' s the Hills were seven miles from the
Copper was discovered at Bare Hills in 1844 when Smith Ave-
nue was a mere dirt road. Sometime prior to 1844, copper had been
discovered on the farm of Thomas B. Watts, who desired that the
deposits should be explored and worked. H e , having little money
and knowing nothing about mining, entered into an agreement with
Thomas Petherick, a mining engineer, for the exploration of the
copper on the farm, ^n the agreement Watts received one dollar
consideration and a promise of a full fifteenth part of all min-
erals after the same had rendered fit for smelting, clear of all
expenses. Petherick paid Watts to make an excavation to the small
shaft previously sunk on the farm.
In December, 1844 Petherick transferred his interest to
Isaac Tyson Jr. This gentleman attempted to hold Watts to his
agreement, but Watts, being advised that he had made an unequal
contract, treated it as null. Tyson brought suit. The case was
argued by some of the most noted lawyers of the time--Reverdy
Johnson and J. H. B. Latrobe for Tyson, and T. Parkin Scott for
Watts. The Court decided that the agreement was one-sided. Tyson
could 3 under the agreement, use the mine if it were found produc-
tive, but if found otherwise, he could just lag along, doing nothing,
and all the time depriving Watts of revenue which he might be able
to get from somebody else who knew better how to work it, or by
using the property for other purposes. Therefore, the contract was
Tyson, according to history, was a loiterer. Others also
endeavored to mine the copper there. However, the operation be-
tween 1845-1855 -were carried on none too successfully, although
the shaft was dug to a depth of 350 feet. The drawing of water,
always a great question at the Bare Hills copper mine, and the
hoisting of the ore and rubbish were done by means of a small steam
engine. The water was drawn up in buckets through a small irreg-
ular shaft which struck the vein at the depth of 140 feet.
In 1855, Dr. William H. Keener acquired a small interest in
the mine, and in 1858 he purchased a controlling interest. Captain
Edward Powers, his superintendent, abandoned the combined use of
shaft and slope . He widened the slope and extended it to the sur-
In 1860 the Bare ^ills Copper Mining Company was incorporated
by Act of the General Assembly of Maryland. Later, in 1864, the
company was reorganized with ^eener as president, and work commenced
on a greater scale. Up to 1864 the shaft, which was not vertical
but on an incline of forty-five degrees, had been dug to a depth
of 590 feet. The new system of pumping and hoisting was carried
out by a steam engine cylinder with two boilers, 25 feet long and
3g- feet in diameter. An ore crusher was attached to the engine
with a pair of rollers 18 inches in diameter and 14 inches in
length. Three jigger machines of the oblong type were used for
sifting. Other improvements were made, such as a suitable dressing
house for ore, an office, a smith's shop, and a carpenter's shop,
a dwelling for the superintendent , and four blocks of miners'
In 1864 the mining company had a capital stock of $500,000
in 100,000 shares. All was apparently subscribed to at the time or
within a short period, for two dividends on the total capital were
declared before 1866, but the working capital was not absorbed
at the outset. Furthermore, $25,000 was loaned on good security.
Keener, before 1864, had explored the levels and exposed to easy
access, enough ore so that it was not necessary to spend a great
deal in sinking the shaft.
During the first two months of the new company's operation,
over 175 tons of ore were mined. Only twelve miners were working
at the time.
From March, 1864 to Mar oh, 1865, 700 tons were taken from
the mine, and the shaft was dug approximately 50 feet deeper to
a 650 feet level.
During the month of May, 1864, alone, 80 tons of ore were
brought to the surface by 25 miners , and in June, 1864, forty
hands were engaged at the mine. Thereafter, until 1867, the aver-
age was twenty-five men, nine for exploration and sixteen to work
the ore .
A resume of the period 1863-65 shows: In 1863, 432 tons of
which 2,352 pounds, of copper were mined with a value Of $21,558.
In 1864, 700 tons, value about $54,300. In 1865 about 75 tons
a month. In June, 1864, a dividend was declared of 2£ per cent,
$12,500, on the capital stock of $500,000, and in December, another
at 4 per cent, or f 20, 000.
Weed In "Copper Deposits of the United States" writes that
Dr. Lehmann, once chemist at the Baltimore Copper Works , reported
yearly shipments prior to 1864, as varying between 2,000-2,500 tons
of 15-20 per cent ore. Inasmuch aa the records of the Baltimore
Copper Works were destroyed by fire, his figures mostly from memory,
are not so accurate as the ones given by the copper mining company
No records are available for years of 1865-1868. In July of
1868, a great cloudburst and flood at Baltimore occurred. The mine
was damaged and flooded and work stopped for sometime.
. The water was pumped out, and the mines functioned intermit-
tently from 1867 to 1887. The shaft during this period reached
900 feet in depth inclining under Smith Avenue. For the ten year
period 1866-77, the annual output was from 800 to 1,200 tons of
cobbed ore, averaging 18 per cent copper, with 1,000-1,500 tons of
hutched ore or concentrates. From 1866 to 1887 the shipments
gradually lessened, aver a ing about 50 tons a month of 18 per cent
cobbed ore. At that time copper was worth a price of about fifteen
cents a pound. The gross valuation from 1864 to 1887 was then about
fl, 750, 000 for 32,500 tons of 18 per cent material.
In 1880, according to the Tenth Census report, the mine
yielded 17 tons of concentrates i'rom which 1,275 pounds of copper
were produced. '-L'he mine was undoubtedly dying. Works stopped
In the late 90 's the mine was operated a^ain. A number of
irlt . Washington residents became stockholders in an unsuccessful
company. Very little was done. The fact that the company exchanged
stocks for provisions at the general store, for the services of a
mason who erected foundations, and for other material shows that
it *as in weak financial condition. According to the stockholders
and one former director who were interviewed, there were some
honest officers m the company and thei-e were some dishonest ones.
In any event, the stockholders lost their money.
During this last venture, new machinery an air compressor,
and other equipment 'were set up. One nearly resident stated that
after all the money was gone, coal, which kept the stea.si engine
going on which the pumps aepended-could not be purchased. The
mine rilled up with water again.
After this last disastrous enterprise during which the pro-
perty was mortgaged and sold, It came into the hands of the present
owner, Mrs. Elizabeth Hill, 716 E. 21 St. M. IV,, a resedent of
Washington D. C. Mra. Hill has the land in the hands of a real
estate agent, M. Goldseker 1 , of Balto. MA. Mrs. Hill's land that
is for sale, not only included the mines themselves but also the
I tried to gain the acquaintances of some of the miners still
living in the vicinity but my efforts ire re not rewarded. Prom what
I observed from the people and their surroundings, 1 could, in a
way, understand their attitude. They were not very friendly and
education seemed to be sadly neglected, living conditions did not
seem up to par :%nd houses were overcrowded in some cases. I ex-
plained to them the object of rny visit, but my three years of public
speaking aided me none. By a stroke of luck, I did make an acquain-
tance, but the introduction was carried on between the pages of
one of tne books from which I was gathering material. Mr. Doheny
informed me of some of the high lights of the Copper Mning Company
in those days.
The period of greatest prosperity was apparently in the 1860* s.
In those days, however, wages were not high. The miners received
about $1.50 a day, the surface men $1.25, and the boys $.50. The
surface men and the boys worked in one shift , ten hours of daylight ,
the miners worked in three shifts, eight hours each. The miners
used candles, either stuck in clay on their stiff hats or placed
on a rock.
The ore was mined by means of hammer and black blasting pow-
der. Later the air drill came into use, a method by which air was
pumped down a pipe to the apparatus. Dynamite was not used in the
earlier days , it was hardly known. Instead, they used blasting
powder which was put in a hole frith a fuse. If the hole was wet,
they mace a paper cartridge.
A wooden cart with a iron frame was pulled up a three foot
gau^e track by a cable on a dram, run by the engine. It took from
i'our to five minutes for a load to reach the top.
After the ore arrived at the surface, the solid pieces of
copper were removed, the scrap was thrown away, and the remainder
crushed, after which it was given to the boys to sift, ^ext, the
copper concentrates were put in a trough and washed by water which
was pumped up from the mine ana dammed up.
The ore, in the earlier period, was taken by horse and wagon
through a natural cut in the hills to Bare Hills Station, where a
copper house and a siding were located on the Northern Central
Railway. The copper sent to the copper house near the siding was
transported to Canton, Baltimore. At a later date the ore was taken
down Smith Avenue to the Mt. Washington Station, instead of by the
old route .
Most of the miners lived around Bare Hills . Six or seven of
the old miners' houses are still in existence and occupied. The
old mining company office is now used as a dwelling. Some of the
rriners who worked as boys are still living in the vicinity. No
laws had been passed in the third quater of the last century in
regards to child labor. %>. Poheny, who was eleven years of age
when he worked at the mine, says that there were at least ten other
boys between the ages of twelve and eighteen working there at the
same time. He was the youngest. Most of the boys had stopped
school in the fifth or sixth grades. He says that the boys were
fired daily for various pranks by old Captain Cooper, and then as
they started to leave, wore called back again. The captain, he
added, was superstitious about whistling in or near the mines be-
lieving accidents would follow. Uo serious injuries or deaths
are on record. He also stated that most of the miners were Irish
and as for amusements whiskey was one of the few.
The foundation where the air compressor rested, a main shaft
now practically filled in, a ,/ater filled shaft that led to the
main shaft, the old office, and a few houses in which the miners
lived, besides the hills of dead materials, are about all that are
left on the surface to snow what was once a busy mine .
1. First and Second Reports of P. T. Tyson, State Agricultural
Chemist, to Maryland House of Delegates, January 1860-1862.
2. Copper Ores of Maryland, J. Overbeck. Dissertation, 1915.
3. Maryland-Its Resources, Industries and Institutions, 1893.
4. Maryland Mining Indus tries--W. B. Clark and E. B. Mathews,
5. Maryland Geological Survey-Baltimore Comity, 1929.
MAIN SHAFT Or BARE HILL COPPER MINES THAT
/$ NOW BEING F/LLED IN.
OLD FOVMOAT/ON F'GR F//E \/AF?/OU$ ENGINES
EM PLOYED TO 3f?lNG TtfF. ORE CART FO THE
ViTWS SHOWING HJLLS OF WASTE MATTER
SHAFT PAR /ALLY FILLED BY WATER AND LAND
MATTER LEADS TO M } AIN 3 HAFT. USED TO
REMOVE WATER TEOM M/NE.