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Full text of "The history of gold mining at Great Falls, Maryland."

1 



THE HISTORY 07 GOLD MINING AT GREAT FALLS, MARYLAND. 



THESIS PRESENTED TO 
MARYLAND BETA CHAPTER 
TAU BETA PI 



BY 
EDWARD M. McMANUS 



JANUARY 15, 1932 



HISTORY OF GOLD MINING AT GREAT FALLS, H4RYLAND 

SUGARY 

There Is doubt as to the date of the discovery of 
gold at Great Falls, I.Iaryland. Numerous reports dispute the 
date. However, it is known that the first mine was opened in 
the year 1867. This was the Maryland Mine. 

Numerous mines are mentioned in early records but, 
considering that each time a mine changed hands it also changed 
named, it is likely that many names refer to the same mine. At 
the present time there are names for five of the mines, each 
having a varying number of shafts. These are: The Maryland 
Mine, The Montgomery Mine, The Ford Mine, The Huddleston Mine, 
and The Sawyer Mine. 

The history of every mine isj operation for a few 
years, abandonment, and subsequent reopening when hopes were 
raised by the coming of new machinery into the mining industry 
and the wily schemes of promoters. Very few operators of the 
mines were successful. All in all, it is a history of failures, 
but failures that are interest In" to the extreme, perhaps, 
because they are entwined with the magic word GOLD. 



-1- 



THE HISTORY OF GOLD MINING AT GREAT FALLS, MARYLAND. 

Great Falls, Maryland, is approximately 16 miles 
upstream from Washington along the Potomac River and is 
situated on the fall line of the river. It takes its name 
from the picturesque falls of the Potomac at this point. 

No exact date can be given for the settlement but 
it is known that Captain Fleet of Captain .Tohn Smith* s 
forces sailed up the river to this point to trade with the 
Indians and that the lands about were patented to early 
settlers under such names as Brightwell's Hunting -Quarter, 
Thompson's Hop Yard, Goose Pond, and Bear Den. 

That gold in paying quantities should be found so 
close to the national capital is a matter of surprise to 
many but there is nothing in the geological nature of the 
territory which renders it improbable. The whole Appalachian 
Range is gold-bearing and the mines at Great Falls are but a 
manifestation of this gold-bearing strip in the range. The 
gold occurs in the rocks in this manner: found in the pure 
white quartz free from pyrites; associated with the pyrites; 
and in the pyrites. 

Doubt exists as to the exact year of the discovery 
of gold at Great Falls but early records show that gold was 
discovered in Montgomery County, in which Great Falls is lo- 
cated, in 1849 at Sandy Spring. Although there is a tradition 
that gold at Great Falls was discovered in 1848, older residents 



-2- 



in the vioinity of the mines state that discovery was at the 
time of the Civil 7/ar. The story is told that when the Cal- 
ifornia Volunteers were encamped near the falls , and after a 
swin in the river one of them noticed grains of gold in the 
sand in a companion' s hair. They kept their secret and at 
the close of the war returned and began operations. 

The first operations were probably panning of all 
the nearby streams and, though there is no definite record, 
results must have been satisfying. 

The history of the mines is a long succession of 
beginning operations and subsequent abandonments and chang- 
ing owners. To give all of these would require considerable 
research through land records, and so the larger mines by 
the names they are known at the present time will be consid- 
ered and their more important owner's success or failure given. 

The names of five distinctive operations in the 
vicinity are the Montgomery Mine, the Sawyer Mine, the Huddle- 
ston Mine , the Maryland Mine, and the Ford Mine. 

The first mine opened at Great Falls was the Maryland 
Mine in the year 1867. The operations were not extensive and 
no machinery was used. The workings were abandoned. Periods 
of operation and abandonment occurred at this mine regularly 
thereafter and various interests from Scranton, Pittsburgh, 
Colorado, Washington, and Illinois invested money and machinery 
for the operation of this mine. Practically all lost money. 
This mine enjoyed its most successful operation around 1890, 
when the superintendent was a man named Lloyd. Under his super- 



-3- 



vision machinery was installed and large amounts of gold were 
taken from the workings to be sent to the mint. This mine was 
last operated around the years 1914-1915 when, ore was taken 
out and shipped in sacks to another point to be worked. It 
has been abandoned since then. 

Each of the groups working this mine developed it a 
little more and the result is that it has most extensive under- 
ground workings. The shaft here is 350 feet deep with levels 
running off at about every 50 feet or so. The bottom of the 
shaft is below the river and an interesting fact is that when 
this first reached such a depth, operations were abandoned 
because the problem of the seepage water was too great. Sub- 
sequent installments of pumps enabled others to work the mines 
later, however. 

The Maryland Mine is easily found, being directly 
on Conduit Road a mile from Great Falls and at the end of the 
concrete road coming from Potomac Crossroads. Machinery, 
boilers, tracks, ore dumps, etc., may be seen here. There are 
two shafts here. One is an older shaft, tie hoist of which 
was not operated by engine. A level running off from this 
shaft has caved in and left a large depression near the gate 
of the mine; approximately 50 feet from this older shaft is 
the later shaft which has a tall superstructure and the hoist 
of which was operated by a steam engine. 

The Montgomery Mine began in the year 1871 on the 
farm of Robert Davidson. Legend has it that as Davidson's 
son was driving home the cows one evening he discovered a 



-4- 



nugget along the bank of a stream known as Rock Run. This 
nugget was worth $175. Davidson immediately started mining 
operations of the manual type. He continued until 1876 when 
he became dissatisfied and sold 65 acres of his land to a 
firm for $7,000. This firm continued operations for a time 
but sold out to a Baltimore concern called the Montgomery 
Mining Company. This Company employed about 30 hands, used 
machinery in its operations, and sunk 5 shafts from 20 to 
80 feet in depth. 

An H. C. Harrison was the superintendent for til is 
group and under his regime gold was produced in plentiful 
quantities. Philadelphia Mint was the recipient of the gold 
from this mine and mint receipts are available. Harrison was 
forced to quit operations because of trouble with his help. 

A few years later a new company began operations 
at this mine but its time of operations was short and it soon 
sold out to still another group, whose superintendent was 
named Hocater, He was also successful in the production of 
gold in considerable quantities. His equipment consisted of a 
10-stamp mill, copper plates, concentrator, forge and crucibles. 

The use of this equipment and the general method used 
at nearly all the mines for obtaining the gold was nearly the 
same . 

From the levels of the mine came the ore to be hoisted 
up the shaft, loaded in cars and taken to the crusher. This 
machine reduced the ore to small fragments ready for the next 
step. 



-5- 



The crushers emptied into a stamp mill which was 
mechanically fed. The stamps were power-driven pistons vahich 
alternately rose and fell on the fragments lying on plates 
beneath the stamps, reducing the ore to "pulp**. This pulp 
was then flushed over copper plates previously treated with 
mercury. This mercury-gold amalgam was gathered and placed 
in a distilling apparatus and the mercury distilled off, 
condensed and used again. 

This process took care of the "dust" or "flour" 
gold, but the concentrator, a form of inclined table crossed 
by many narrow strips, was used to collect the black sand 
and the smaller, heavier ore particles containing gold, which 
had escaped the action of the plates. This concentrate was 
removed to be mortared and smelted. 

The pulp was further treated by placing in a clay 
crucible, supplied with a flux and reduced by heat. Upon 
breaking the crucible a "button" of gold was found. These 
buttons were remelted and poured into conical molds called 
"plumb-bobs", which weighed from two to five pounds. This 
was the gold that was shipped. 

After Hocater, a certain gold-seeker from Chicago, 
Parsons by name, leased the abandoned workings of the Mont- 
gomery ? r ine. He made several open cuts and then began oper- 
ations in Rocky Run, the nearby stream. He built a dam across 
the stream and constructed "toms" , a form of concentrator, and 
worked the stream bed. 











-6- 












From 


various sources one learns that, 


af te 


r two 


or three 


years 


of labor, 


Parsons returned to Chicago 


and that 


later, 


wh 


en residents of 


the county v 


[sited the 


Chicago Ex- 


positi 


on, 


they 


found him 


possessed of 


considerable wealth. 






One . 


'/illiam B. 


Russ was the 


superinter 


tdent 


for the 



last group to be active in quest of the elusive metal at the 
Montgomery Mine. During his superintendency the mine suffered 
many bad falls of rock and considerable propping had to be 
done. He was hopeful of success, but his company, the Potomac 
Mining Company, abandoned work and the mine has never been 
worked since. 

This particular mine, the Montgomery, is difficult 
to locate at the present time because there are no buildings 
now standing and the mine is in the woods off Persimmon Tree 
Road, near Potomac. The only evidence of operations are the 
numerous openings. 

The Ford Mine was prospected by Colonel Kirk, a 
Georgia miner, who also prospected many other properties in 
the region. He did not attempt workings but prospected and 
sold out to companies interested in operating. Kirk sold out 
the Ford Mine to the Allerton-Ream Company. 

The Allerton-Ream Company mined gold in various 
quantities but eventually gave up their lease and two young 
men, Guilotte and Gibbs, carried on, getting on the average 
of an ounce of gold per day. At that time they were well 
paid for their labors, but a misunderstanding severed their 



-7- 



relations and the enterprise ceased its activities. 

The Hud dies ton and Sawyer Mines have somewhat 
similar histories. Kirk is said to have prospected both 
of them and considerable gold was removed from each. 

Among the various superintendents at the Sawyer 
Mine were Townsend and Arehy. Archy was from the Whitehall 
mines of Virginia and employed a number of men and worked 
with considerable energy. He sank 3 shafts, one of them of 
a depth of 150 feet. It was the opinion that he knew his 
business and rumor has it that after three or four years of 
operation he retired, successful. 

The Sawyer Mine got its name from the fact that 
Senator Sawyer was at one time interested in it. The mine, 
however, did not prove successful and he gave it up. 

After Sawyer came fill Kirk, a son of the same 
Colonel Kirk, the prospector. Kirk obtained gold from the 
mine, but never paid his help and was eventually forced to 
shut down. 

Kirk sold out to Craven, a butcher, of whom it 
was said that !1 he could cut meat but he couldn't mine gold." 
He was unsuccessful. 

The Sawyer I'ine has not been worked for consider- 
able time and only shafts and surface cuts are now visible, 
and these are almost hidden by growth. This mine is situated 
on the old Killrurn property, off the Persimmon Tree Road. 



-8- 



After Kirk had prospected the Huddleston I'ine he 
sold out to Rhinesdale and Purcell. The shaft Kirk had sunk 
was just off of a vein and after a thaw a huge mass of dirt 
fell, exposing the vein. Examination showed free gold and 
a large quantity of it was removed. This mine was never 
worked "by machinery; pan washing and a bucket for raising 
out the muck being the method employed. 

Huddleston, the man from whom the mine took its 
present name, was a farmer of the vicinity. ?Te was never 
successful in the operation of the mine and later sold out 
to another concern, whose success was not marked, either. 
The mine was finally abandoned. 

Around the period of 1912 all the mines were 
bought up by large interests, thought to be the Dupont 
Corporation, and consolidated within a farm of 2200 acres. 
Over this area a man named Hassan operated a diamond drill, 
sometimes boring to depths of 1700 feet, seeking, it is said, 
to discover the mother vein. Numerous concrete bases where 
the drill was set up may be found today, mute evidence to 
this costly and intense search for gold. Hasson also dug 
many open trenches across fields. In this manner he would 
encounter veins on both sides of the trench which could be 
worked out. Hasson' s corporation, however, did nothing beyond 
these prospecting operations, which are estimated to have 
cost #2,000,000. 

The last operations of mines in the Great Falls 
area was around 1915, when the Ford and Maryland LTines were 



-9- 



worked. These mines are the most accessible of the lot and 
some of the buildings are in a fair state of preservation. 

Various assays of ore have shown values as high 
as $522 per ton, but the average value was from $7 to $10 
per ton. 

Difficulties occurred in mining at Great Falls 
were of various kinds. One was that the gold was found in 
pockets and these pockets occurred from 15 to 20 feet apart 
and so much time and money was spent in unprofitable digging 
between pockets. Another is that area is old geologically 
and, unlike the west, the ore is covered with dirt. This 
same dirt gave the idea of false values, since assays were 
taken near the surface, and gold being practically indestruct- 
ible, the dirt has the gold concentrated in it, giving an im- 
pression of richness beneath. This dirt also prevented com- 
plete study of underlying geological formations. 

Llining engineers and geologists who have surveyed 
the area agree that the only possible profitable way of work- 
ing the ground on a large scale is to assemble very large 
quantities of surface ore that has been uncovered by digging 
open cuts across the fields. A high assay value does not 
necessarily mean profit, because the ore may cost more to 
work than it pays. Indeed, there is on record a mine operat- 
ing in the Black Hills region whose ore only assayed $2.62 
per ton, but still operated at a profit since the working 
cost was only $1.68. 



-10- 



In con eluding it may be said the gold mines of 
Great Falls produced no large quantities of gold compared 
to other states, since mint records show no listing of 
gold received from Maryland from the year 1869 to 1891, 
merely including gold received from there under the head- 
ing of "Other States Combined." 

It is unlikely that the mines at Great Falls 
will ever he reopened, but hope is ever present in some 
breasts and the numerous prospect holes that were dug in 
the area during various periods of the "gold fever" show 
the hopes of the past and one resident' s of the neighbor- 
hood statement that if he could get the six inches of 
water off the Maryland Mine he could obtain enough gold 
to satisfy him shows the hopes of the present. Another 
colored resident of the area told of a young man v/ho vis- 
ited him in the spring of 1331. This man claimed he had 
a machine to save 90 fa or more of the gold mined. The 
principle of the machine was not chemical. He hired the 
colored resident to dig him 15 sacks of ore, for which he 
paid him the sum of $2. per sack. This ore was shipped to 
Philadelphia, but no word has yet been received as to the 
success or failure, although the latter seems to be probable. 

In all, a considerable sum of gold was removed, 
but a larger sum was Invested in the mines of Great Falls. 
A few operators were successful, but these were the exception, 
for most were sadly disappointed. 






-11- 



BIBLIOGRAFHY 

Mr. Sterling W. Edwards, Teacher at 
aKinley High School, 7/ashington 

Mr. Henderson, Geologist 

Bridgekeeper at Great Falls, Maryland 

"Uncle Bob", old colored resident who 
worked in the mines 

Trans. Arner. Inst, of Mining Engineers, 

Vol, XVIII, 1890, p. 396 
American Journal of ^cience, Vol. 11, p. 126, 1850 

American Journal of Science, Vol. XVII, p. 202, 1030 

Proc. Aiaer. Phil. Society, Vol. V., p. 85, 1854 

Metallic Wealth of U. 3. - J. D. Whitney, p. 124 

American Journal of Mining, Vol. II, 1866, p. 21 

land Records of Montgomery County, 

Rockville Courthouse, Maryland 
Engineering and Mining Journal 

Vol. IX, p. 37, 1870 
■ XXIX, p. 48, 1800 
" XLVIII.pp. 56, 235; 1889 
LI, p. 175, 1891 

Mineral Resources of U. S. , 1089-90- p. 49 

Articles in the Washington Sunday Star, year 1915 

History of Maryland - Scharf 




The old shaft at the Maryland Mine showing 
eave-in of a level directly behind shaft. 








•--.land 



The hoist engine with drum 
at Maryland Mine. 




View of shaft and topjled supers true tare at 
Rord Mine with sheds containing machinery 
at right. 











*^ ~*j . * 






TP->U- 



• w 



■ "W: 



s^ssa 



h^ m..-^ ; 




View of shaft looking down- 
ward at ?ord Min-. 



I'he old assay office of 
the Ford Mine. 




Stamp mill standing near 
Allerton-Ream property or 
Ford Mine. 



Open ants near the 
Montgomery Mine. 




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