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Rossie Lead Mines


Author unknown

The celebrity which has been given to Rossie lead mines will add interest to their history. The Indians of St. Regis have a tradition that their ancesters knew of the existence of lead not far from the present mines, but the precise locality is not known. The nativies were accustomed to smelt their lead by casting the ore upon a fire built upon a piece of bark or wood, & pouring the metal, when melted, into a groove in the sand. The bar was then cut into small pieces, & rolled into balls between flat stones. A quantity of pure Galena was found upon the bank of the Oswegatchie, in the village of Ogdensburg (evidently the cache of some Indian), many years before the discovery of the mines.

It is said that lead was first discovered at Rossie among the ashes of a log-heap , but its precise locality was not then known. Arthur Bacon, of Rossie, is reported to have discovered galena among the earth at the roots of an upturned tree, some time before particular attention was driected to the subject. The Victoria vein was subsequently discovered by a daughter of Joel Jepson.

In december,1835, Mr Parish entered into a contract with Mr B. T. Nash, who professed to seach for for lead. By virture of this contract, fifty cents per ton was to be paid for the iron ore & seventy-fivr cents per ton of lead ore, should mines be discovered, all the lead ore to be smelted in Rossie. The lease was to continue for ten years. A company had been formed previous to the drawing up of this contract, consisting of B. T. Nash, Josept Barber, Zadoc Day, Joseph Disbrow, & one other, for the purpose of mineral explorations, & Indian traditions led them to the Rossie district. Mr Nash after sold the right to J. C. Bush. Two companies were incorporated by the legislature, May 12, 1837, for the working of the mines. The charters of these two companys were alike in date, limitation, powers, & privilages. They were to continue untill jan 1,1847; capital of each, $24,000, to be divided into 960 shares of $25.00 each. The company holding the eastern divison of the Coal HIll vein was styled the "Rossie Lead Mining Company," & David C. Judson, James Averill, Erastus Vilas ,Peter C. Oakley, & Roylas Vilas were its first directors. The western division of the same vein was held by the " Rossie Galena Company," of which John C. Bush, Bliss T. Nash, Elias G. Drake, Silvester Gilbert, & David C. Judson were the first directors.

From an examination made at the time, it was inferred that the ore contained no silver, or, at least, that the quantity was to small to denote its presence by the tests employed . The lead ashes were found to consist of the carbonate & sulphate of lead & the carbonate of lime, in variable proportions, formed by the action of the atmosphere. Work was commenced upon the western section in 1836, but systematic operations were not commenced until Jan 1, 1837, at which time the eastern company also commenced operations.

An immense number of laborers were employed, & the busness was carried on prosperously for a considerable time, notwithstanding the entire inexperience of the managers & miners, & the the enormous expenditures for the erection of smelting-houses & machinery, which were afterwards found to be inefficient. Wages of laborers & prices for provisions were very high & the whole operation was conducted without regard to ecocomy; but, with all these drawbacks, the companys made large divdents, & stock rose to extravagant prices. The ore was principally smelted by Messrs. Moss & Knapp, at a furnace on Indian River, about one mile from the mines, at $25.00 per ton, with a clause in the contract giving them all over sixy-eight per cent. A reverberatory furnace was erected at the mines, but this was found out to waste more lead than it yielded. The Victoria & Union veins were worked for a short time by Mr. Parish. A "working" was commenced by him on the Robinson or Indian river vein, where ore was found upon the surface, & about three hundred pounds of lead were taken out driectly over a cavity in the granite, which upon blasting to the solid vein, proved to be fifteen feet in depth. A shaft was sunk to the depth of seventy-six feet in depth, which yielded 1100 pounds of lead; cost, $1600.00. In the branch of the Union vein two shafts were sunk, the western fifty-five feet & the eastern fifty feet in depth. A statement made by Mr. Charles L. Lum, who kept books of Moss & Knapp, shows that the product of the furnace was in all 3,250,690 pounds, or 1625 tons, of metallic lead, the average yield of the ore being 67%, or 10 & 1/4 tons per fathom. Both companys discontinued working about 1840, & numbers of persons lost large sums from the depreciation of stock. These lead mines having been discontinued more than ten years, & having reverted to Mr. Parish during the summer of 1852, a portion of the premises were leasd by Mr. R. P. Remington for ten years, with a privilage of ten years longer, with a one-twelfth royalty, & a company, styled the "great Northern Lead Company," was incorporated ,under a general act, Sept 8 1852, for a term of fifty years, for the purpose of working mines Of lead & other ores in St. Lawrence County. Capital fixed at $500,000, in shares of $10.00 each. The first driectors were James C. Forsyth, Ernest Tiedler, P. Strachan, JohnF. Sanford, S. T. Jones, Silas M. Stilwell, Charles G.Myers, R. P. Remington, & James G. Hopkins.

This company erected a Cornish engine of sixty-horse power, with improved & very perect machinery. They imported a large number of practial miners from Cornwall, England, & work was carried on on quite extensively for about three years, when it was discontinued, as they declared themselfs unable to pay the royalty demanded by Mr Parish. In 1864 the works were leased by Mr. J. B. Morgan, & were carried on by him untill 1868, since which time they have remained idle.

Mr. Charles Westbrook, while prospecting for lead in the vicinity of Rossie village, in 1865, discovered veins of lead ore, in one of which he removed with a stick over four hundred pounds of Galena. Mr. Parish afterwards caused a shaft to be sunk to the depth of a few feet, when it was found that the vien contained but little lead, & work was discontinued.

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