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Sunday, May 20, 2012
The Tilly Foster Mine
The Tilly Foster Mine as it appears today.
This isn’t a gold mine instead it was an
iron mine and where my
great-grandfather went to work when he first arrived in the United States after
leaving Nova Scotia for
poaching gold on the Queensland. He left
his wife and child behind in Halifax, Nova
Scotia intending to bring them down to the States as soon as he
earned enough money. These events
started in the spring of 1870 at the mine he worked as a mine rigger a job he
had done earlier in Glace Bay. Much of the work was stonemasonry, a job he
pursued for the rest of his life.
The Tilly Foster Mine
itself is today an abandoned iron mine that was the most active during the
1970s that is about two miles west of the village
NY. The mine is now filled with
water, and is surrounded by a junk yard.
The mine was named after Tillingham Foster who bought it from George
Beale that owned the land where it was located.
After he died in 1842 the mine site passed through several hands until
it finally came into the possession of the Harvey
Iron and Steel Company. The mine
finally opened in 1853. After its
opening it employed large numbers of Irish and Italian immigrants. These workers were known by numbers since
they had names that were too hard to pronounce by the “Apple Knockers”
that owned the mine. My
great-grandfather must have been the only Scotchman working in the mine.
Chondrodite on magnetite from the Tilly Foster Mine Photo by Rob Lavinsky
The main minerals produced from the mine were magnetite and chondrodite from a mine
that employed 300 workers and reached a depth of 600 feet (180 meters). At the height of its production they were
producing 7,000 tons of ore a month where after mining it was shipped by train
to New York City where large
amounts of it were trans-shipped to Scranton, Pennsylvania
where it was made into rails by the Lackawanna Steel
Company for use on the Delaware-Lackawanna
After reaching a point where it was no longer feasible to
operate it as an underground mine it was converted into an open pit mine during
the years 1887 to 1889. In 1895 a major
collapse occurred that killed thirteen miners.
The collapse of the mine spelled its death knell and it was flooded by a
nearby reservoir that supplied New York City
with drinking water.
In its day it was the largest open pit mine in
the world that collapsed in 1895 killing thirteen miners when tons of rock came
crashing down on their heads. Many of
these miners were only known by their numbers.
The cave-in of the Tilly Foster Mine was caused by heavy rains that
soaked into a mass of soapstone
near the surface of the mine. The mine
was described as a funnel shaped oval hole in the ground that at the time of
the collapse was 400 feet deep.
During World War II the abandoned mine was pressed into
service by the military where it was used as a site to test and train with
diving equipment. A collection of
minerals and other artifacts from the mine can be seen at the Southeast Museum in Brewster,