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[p. 65]

Medford mining matters.

WE asked, in a recent issue of the Register, for information relative to a Medford silver mine. We are now answering our own query, though not as fully as we might wish. We have no scheme to promote, or mining stock for sale. The subject is simply one of historic interest, and worthy of record.

We naturally turn to the files of the press for information of this mining operation of 1881. The Medford Mercury, then in its first year of publication, under date of September 17, tells of a visit made by reporters of four Boston dailies. The occasion was enlivened by the presence of ladies, and somebody's ‘Old Bill’ furnished the motive power up Forest street to the Spot Pond house. From thence the party walked through the woods to the scene of operations. There the writer, who signs himself S. W. G., had ‘a half-hour interview with Mr. Harrigan,’ from which he deduced the following:—

This mine was discovered by F. W. Morandi of Malden, who was wandering through the Fells for pleasure. He immediately purchased a large tract of land, and contracted for the sinking of a shaft 25 feet deep with a Mr. Halliday. The shaft is now 12 feet deep, the workmen having been about two weeks at work, putting in from 3 to 5 blasts per day, each bringing forth encouraging results. Mr. Harrigan told us, that if in going down the next ten feet the richness increased as it had thus far, the mine would be a paying investment, and in all probability the shaft would be sunk 100 feet.

The first assay yielded $18 in silver, $4 in gold, and the estimate is at present $50 per ton, with copper in large proportions both in sulphide and oxide. The ore is taken to the smelting works in East Boston. About a mile northeast, Matthew Roberton has discovered silver, which is supposed to be an outcropping from the same vein.

On October 15 appears—

That silver mine at Spot Pond is progressing favorably. The shaft has been sunk to a depth of 30 feet, and Mr. Harrigan has contracted to carry it 25 feet farther down. It is understood that the yield is satisfactory thus far, and that more land will be bought for mining purposes.

The above is all that our local paper tells of the mining operations in a technical way. Thirty-three years [p. 66] had elapsed when we made our query. It was prompted by a telephone inquiry made by some one unknown to us—yes, we have a lot of such, as some take us for an information pagoda. We replied, ‘There was something of the kind, but we have no definite knowledge of it—no—no—we can't tell any lies about it. Good-bye.’ Some weeks later a very readable and interesting story appeared in the Sunday issue of a Boston paper, with a view of the locality. It located the mine on land of Mr. Willis, and says, ‘the shaft was sunk to a depth of eighty-five feet, encountering a spring that caused much trouble and that a lateral tunnel was excavated for seventy-five feet and that there all trace of silver was lost.’ Also that ‘the work was prosecuted for two years and after $10,000 was expended, ceased for lack of capital.’

How true these details may be we know not, save the fact that work ceased, which is self-evident. We have made some inquiry. One man, an assessor of those days, says, ‘We went up there to see if there was anything taxable. . . found only a hole in the ground. . . no buildings or machinery. . . nothing doing.’ Others were at the time in question incredulous, saying it was a scheme to sell land. This was before the territory became a public reservation, also before the construction of the Winchester reservoir, which now stretches away from the near-by ‘Old Tony's ledge,’ toward the Lawrence observatory on Ram's Head. The spot is shown on the map of the Fells and marked ‘old silver mine,’ and the elevation of ‘Silver Mine hill’ given as two hundred and fifty-five feet. At this remote day it is difficult to get at satisfactory conclusions. One says to us, ‘Fiction is always readable, but don't believe it.’ The story of night and day gangs of miners, heavy blasting, and richness of ore in recent accounts do not accord with the testimony of old residents. The Mercury, in its resume of ‘81, said:—

Who in Medford would have risked a pair of old shoes on the prophecy, that in the course of the year, silver mines would come [p. 67] to light within the bounds of the town? And yet an enterprising genius has brought to light in the vicinity of Spot Pond veritable silver mines, in which there is a stratum of bright possibilities, if nothing more. The resolute miner has faith in his mines and holds out the brightest kind of promise. We hope he will not be disappointed.

The recent writer, to whom we have alluded, tells that boys overturned the engine into the shaft, and the debris of crushed rock had filled it somewhat. To satisfy our curiosity, and equipped with the park commissioners' map, we recently repaired to the ‘old silver mine.’ We found ‘a hole in the ground,’ or rather in the ledge, rectangular in shape, about eight by ten feet, and perhaps nine in depth. We noted the mound of debris piled beside it, now overgrown, as nature has been kindly at work. We wondered if the Mercury man's ‘bright stratum of possibilities’ still remains in the lateral seventy-five foot tunnel the other mentioned, or whether, indeed, that tunnel was purely mythical.

Remembering the ‘Folly's flower’ of our school book, we picked a bunch of columbine for a boutonniere as a memory of this old Medford enterprise, wise or otherwise. All the silver we saw was the dime we exchanged for nickels to pay our carfares.

Lead mining at Wellington.

The latest Medford mining operation seems to be of the placer-hydraulic variety, for lead instead of silver. The product secured by the use of simple apparatus requires no smelting, and is readily marketable at war prices. On the Wellington marshes amateur sportsmen have for years practiced marksmanship with clay pigeons, and have thus ‘salted’ this latest Medford mine with the baser metal of bird shot.

Recently, according to accounts given, numerous children, and some women, have been engaged (when the tide allowed) in digging over the marsh mud and washing out the metal. Fabulous reports are given of the [p. 68] yield reduced to cash, one sum named would mean a weight of ten tons, which in bird shot isn't a homoeopathic dose, though the size is such. Still, the essential fact remains, that Medford mining for lead is a success.

Some years since, it was said, a ‘Marine Salts Co.’ extracted gold from sea water down on the coast of Maine, for ‘divers’ reasons, as its stockholders had cause to remember.

We congratulate the Medford Salt-marsh Mining Associates (not incorporated) on their legitimate success, and the originator of this latest mining scheme for his happy thought, doubtless more profitable than the silver mine in the Fells.

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