Running along Spring Valley Road, I’ve always been intrigued by the big mound that’s at the corner of Spring Valley and Glendale. Do you know the one I mean?
But, as is so often the case with these curious and intriguing sites I run by (and really, the whole reason I started this blog), I wonder about them in the moment, but immediately forget about them as soon as I’ve passed. In this case, however, someone else had noticed this mound and casually mentioned that the mound was the tailings of a silver mine from the 1800s. Wait, what? A mine? A SILVER mine? Right in our neighborhood? And when in the 1800s was it worked? By whom?
Then, more recently, in the course of hearings for the expansion of the Sunshine Home, folks started protesting about proposed digging and blasting that would take place right above this mine. (Check out this link for more details.) Hmm, so the mine extends from Glendale almost down to Cedar Lane Park?
One local affirmed that there is indeed a mine behind the houses on Spring Valley Road. He told me that there was an entrance on his property, and years ago he’d poked around inside the first chamber. Then the ceiling was about 5 feet high. However, now it’s filled with sand and mud with a constant stream of water running out of it — he said he’d even rigged up a pipe to take advantage of the mine to water his garden. He also told me that he had a neighbor who had been born there in the 1920s and told stories of swimming in the mine with his brother. Ah, yes, the good old days before the kiddies were tied to their tablets and screens!
But what was the story of this mine? Was there really silver in there? Who discovered it? How much was dug out, who did the mining – oh, so many questions!
First, mining was, if not a big business in Ossining, at least fairly well established. According to this New York Times article from 1856, a productive silver mine was located “A few rods north of the State Prison, the entrance being only a few feet from the river and on a level with the railroad. It consists of a perpendicular shaft 130 feet in depth, having as many as nine chambers or galleries branching off in various directions, and severally of 80 to 100 feet in length.”
According to this same article, silver was first found at that site in 1770. Here the reporter gets quite purple with his prose, describing how “A fisherman found near the mouth of the present shaft what proved to be a lump of silver cropping out from a limestone rock. He subsequently tried to explore further by means of a powder blast but, unfortunately, his hopes themselves were blasted . . . and the poor fisherman received no other reward than that what beneficent Nature kindly bestowed, by silvering o’er his head with age.”
Ouch, New York Times! Who knew they were so punny back in the day?
I only share this story in such detail because I think the tone of it is pretty amusing and it shows that mining, specifically silver mining, was a going concern in the area since before the Revolutionary War. The article goes on to say that the ore retrieved from that particular mine there was turned into bars of silver bullion nine to twelve inches in length. That’s a lot of silver! However, many, if not all of the investors were members of the British Army, so the War put a stop to mining operations. (Sorry Redcoats!) It wasn’t until the 1850s that mining recommenced, when patent medicine maker Benjamin Brandreth decided to try to restart the mine.
Here’s an interesting article link and a photo of the now-blocked up mine shaft. (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this from the train.)
Copper and lead had also been discovered in the nearby Kemey’s Cove area in the 1820s. Called the Sparta Mine, it was excavated by the Westchester Copper Mine Company who brought miners over from Cornwall, England to work the site. Funny how much of Ossining seems to have been settled by people coming from far away — England, Portugal, Italy, South America, just to name a few. But I digress . . .
Okay, these are quite nice stories, I hear you saying, but you’ve fallen into an Internet hole. What do they have to do with a mine all the way across town on Spring Valley Road? Well, I thought it interesting to think of Ossining, Sing Sing then, being a mining town. Plus, it lends credence to the idea that mines were not uncommon back then.
So back to Spring Valley . . .
The Westchester County Historical Society has a photo of our Spring Valley Mine – well, at least a photo of the mine opening:
They describe it as the “Old Silver mine on Rose property on corner of Spring Valley Road and Glendale.” I think this is located at the bottom of that mound mentioned earlier.
Gray Williams, the Town of New Castle historian, has established that a Mr. Williams (a relative perhaps?) owned property with a silver mine at #31 Spring Valley Road in the 1850s and it seems that the mines were noted between 1850-1862 on local maps.
Further research led me to another local historian who has made an exhaustive search of Westchester County records, and sheds a bit more light on this specific area.
He’s traced land ownership back to 1784, when a Lewis Miller received property in Mount Pleasant (now Ossining) from the Forfeiture committee. (I can only assume that this means the land had previously been owned by Loyalists, was seized by New York State after the Revolutionary War and auctioned off. Check out this informative article from the New York Public Library site for more information on how that all went down.)
Now, the following is pretty dry — I’m reproducing what amounts to a chain of title in rather excruciating detail because I think it clarifies the location of the Spring Valley Mine, or at the very least establishes that a mine did indeed exist. Feel free to skip ahead . . .
Lewis Miller died in 1831 and his will instructed his executors to sell his real estate only after the death of his wife. (Considerate fellow, no?) His legatees were told to use money from the estate to support Henry Hunter, “a colored man.” Hannah Miller, Lewis’ widow, died in 1854. Henry Hunter lived in the house on the property until his death in 1864. (I wonder if Henry Hunter was a slave or a freeman like his neighbors up the road, the Heady family.)
Though no record of land purchase exists, in 1864, a 40 ¼ acre plot was sold to Josiah Lewis by the executors of the estate of Lewis Miller.[Liber 536, p.91] The property was described as being approximately 158 feet from the road, and near the mouth of a silver mine. The red outline of the map below shows the boundaries of this parcel:
Basically, it looks like it encompassed what are today the Cedar Lane Park and Sunshine Home parcels.
Josiah Miller kept this property until 1893 when he sold it to Harry R. Miller of New York City. [Liber 1307, p.389] Harry Miller defaulted on his mortgage and the land was sold at auction to George H. Fowler in 1898. [Liber 1491, p.58] Fowler sold to Edwin McAlpin in 1905; McAlpin sold to Edgar VanEtten in 1912 and VanEtten to Russ H. Kress in 1917. (Russ Kress’ property was featured in this blog post.)
Then, there are three smaller properties along Spring Valley Road on the map above labeled R.E. Robinson, S. Lewis and J.B. Carpenter that make up the original property of William Edwards, who purchased it in 1856 from Martin W. Sanford. [Liber 360, p. 186.] The names are hard to read, but you can take my word for it.
William Edwards sold the portion of the Edwards land labeled J.B. Carpenter, which borders the original Lewis Miller property near the location of the silver mine, to his daughter Elizabeth Ann Smith in 1879. [Liber 965, p. 366] Neither of these deeds mention a silver mine, but in 1846 when Sanford bought the property from Richard Palmer, the deed refers to the same corner as being “near a mine hole.” [Liber 188, p. 134] When Palmer bought the land in 1843 from John Smith, the deed says that the tree at the corner is “a few feet south of the old mine.” [Liber 104, p. 213] Smith bought the land from John R. Swift in 1840, with the same wording regarding the mine in the deed. [Liber 92, p. 349] In 1837, John H. Hammond to John R. Swift – same language. [liber 72, p.107] 1833, Hammond buys from Henry Hunter (same Henry Hunter from above)[Liber 51, p. 179] 1828, Lewis Miller and Hannah, his wife sell to Henry Hunter, “a colored man” for $40 the approximately four acres of land, the western corner described as being “near the mouth of the mine hole.” [Liber 34, p.415] This part is a little confusing to me, because earlier it was noted that Lewis Miller’s 1831 will instructed that Henry Hunter should be supported by Miller’s estate. But I suppose they could have sold him a bit of land AND helped support him. (Interestingly, the 1817 New York State Gradual Emancipation Act decreed that all slaves born before 1799, were to be freed by 1827.) Perhaps this was Lewis and Hannah Miller’s way of emancipating and helping out a former slave?
But okay, okay, enough. You get the picture. There definitely was a mine (and probably some slaves too) in the neighborhood.
Sadly, I’ve not been able to uncover any information about the mine itself, just that it existed. I don’t even know what was mined there, or when it was active. I can only surmise, based on the comments from the titles and deeds listed above, that the mine was discovered and worked sometime before 1828, as that is the first mention of a mine or a mine hole. But nowhere is there a mention of an active mine, and I’ve hit a dead end in my research. (If anyone else knows more, please comment!)
Now, just to throw some confusion into our story, I discovered another New York Times article, this one from May of 1894, that seems to describe two mines in this general area:
Hmm, where could this road over “Long Hill” to Yorktown be? Is this our Spring Valley mine?
The article goes on to describe another mine in the area:
Now, according to an old map I own (c. 1890s?), there was indeed an old church located at the corner of what is now Spring Valley Road and Blinn Farm Road. Are there ruins of an old mine here, too?
This article is certainly clouding the issue of exactly where and what kind of mine(s) we are discussing. However, my confidence in the reliability of this article is rather shattered by the last paragraph of the article:
Am I reading this right? It is almost as if this reporter is suggesting that since no records exist of these mines, they must have been built BEFORE the Native American settlers, by some “Race whose history is unknown to us.” You don’t just think, anonymous 19th century New York Times reporter, that there are records somewhere, but you were just unable to find them?
But hey, why not assume that these mines were constructed by some unknown race? Who knows, maybe the Nine were digging mines here long before Andrija Puharich moved here and communicated with them via cassette tape? (Inside joke. Check out this blog link for more info.)
However, as mentioned before, New Castle historian Gray Williams found that the existence of mines in this area were noted on maps from the 1850s. And the various titles of the properties in question consistently refer to a mine or mine holes. So many people seemed to be aware of these mines. The only conclusion I can draw about the above article is that this New York Times reporter from 1894 didn’t research this very well. Plus, I think it’s been fairly well-established for quite a while that Native Americans resided here for at least 3,000 years before Henry Hudson showed up in the 1600s.
This is turning out to be a rather unsatisfying post — I feel as if I’ve uncovered a lot of details, but ultimately don’t really know any more than when I started. Which was that there was a mine of some sort that operated at some point in the 1800s along some section of Spring Valley Road.
If anyone reading this has anything to add, please write a comment!!!
13 thoughts on “Spring Valley Mine”
I was told years ago that your ” mound” at the corner of Glendale was left after the removal of top soil that someone sold for the1939 World’s fair. I can’t remember my source – perhaps Mr. Kukura(opposing corner,long ago)- but someone else confirmed it. Ask Bob Seebacher who knows everything.
Hmm, everyone I’ve talked to says it is the tailings from a mine.
My family owned the turkey farm on Spring Valley Road until 1967. The property next door may have been a church at one time, as there was an old graveyard behind it. Don’t recall any signs of a mine back there… but, I was very young and not fond of the swamp near the graveyard, so I never really explored it. Sure wish I had!
This is a very interesting post. My relatives (Smiths, Fowlers, and Tillotsons) lived on this property and in the immediate area. I have several of the deeds mentioned above, as well as the maps. I never knew about an old silver mine. Very interesting! If you having any other info regarding these family’s please let me know.
I can assure you that a Mine exists along side SVR. I personally know of two visible entrances along SVR. One being behind 31 SVR and the other at the corner of 15 SVR and 27 SVR. I wish you would show a picture of the clearly visible entrance of this mine.
This one it’s personal. I actually went inside 20 years ago and toured part of this once beautiful silver mine. From the main entrance it has about 5 steps down into the entrance hall. The main hall it’s about 30′ long X about 10′ wide. It points north west and it splits into two different shafts/ hallways. One goes North towards Glendale rd and the other heads west towards the buildings at the Sunshines property. Both tunnels run horizontal and at a slope at about 1/4″ per foot. Oh I know that because I walked both these tunnels while wearing water waiters and only stopped and turned around when I ran out of the 200′ yellow rope that I had attached to myself and to an old 2″ pipe at the entrance of the mine. Having ran out of rope and the water being so cold I decided to do a u turn and planed to go back at a later date. The 2″ pipe that I mentioned still there and can be seen from my side of the property. Up until 1995/1996 the house that sat just outside of this mine used water for everyday consumption from the mine and the plumbing still there and it’s visible. The house was finally knocked down about 2 years ago days before Sunshine applied for the expansion.
I happened to be home the day when a local contractor a Mr Joao Dos Anjos from Ossining brought his escavator over and demolish the old structure. It caught my eye due to the fact that as everybody knows any house built before 1970s was builted using Asbestos materials and lots of lead paint. Prior to knocking down a house the owners / contractors must bring in a Hazzmat company and remove all possible Hazzart waists. However in this case not even the oil tank was removed from the houses basement. It was knocked down in a couple hours, he filled in two unlined 30 yard containers and the rest was buried. Yes the basement walls and its contents are still there including the oil tank that may or may not be filled with heating oil. The contractor spread some dirt and rocks over the open hole and that was it. No fill was brought in to fill the hole and nothing was removed from the basement. Talking about contamination!!!!????… I wonder if someone got some $$$ under the table and how come certain people don’t have to follow the rules…..
Hi it’s your neighbor Tom thanks for the read…very interesting!
I stumbled upon something in the woods a few years ago and have been trying to figure out what it was until an older neighbor told me yesterday that it was part of an old silver mine!
You probably know already what I’m talking about but there are 2 large iron contraptions with pulleys set on a hill by the border of Sunny Ridge and the old Abercrombie Estate….about 100 or 200 yards south east of where Glendale road meets Spring Valley.
It looks like an old ski lift though placed close to the ground.
If you follow the line down the hill it would run right into the small pond (with the little stone hut) on the estate.
Maybe a mine shaft now under water?
I’ll go back soon to look further.
Ooh, Tom, knock on my door when you go to look at it again!!
My relatives, the Trathens and Dunstans were very early settlers in what was then Sparta. Originally from Cornwall, England, they went to Sparta after mining in Michigan for a while to work in the mines or possibly even owned the Westchester Mining Co.
How very cool! Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you everyone for sharing and thank you Caroline for creating this thread and posting all your work!
Mining history in the hudson valley has been my serious hobby for some years and you introduced me to this mine.
I have been since researching more on this and have established below:
Resident Laura Whitlinger reported to news 12 that there are 5 openings.
3 of these openings are shown in the “Historic Mine Survey” report compiled by Hager-Richter Geoscience Inc from thier April 2017 Electro Resistivity Survey.
I have not been able to find this on the web, but extracted degraded images of them from news 12 report: http://westchester.news12.com/story/40074906/environmental-reviews-show-ossining-childrens-home-construction-is-safe
Superimposing the ERS plots to the map and re-labeling gives the map below(gray squares represent anomalies, not shafts):
The entrance is exactly where Caroline shows with the red arrow in her map with Edward’s property circled on the back corner of 23 and 27. There is a shaft on the top of the hill on the property of 15 behind 27 and there is tunnel which leads to a shaft on a NE adjacent property, which could be the shaft behind 31 which Helder reported, but was beyond the Hager-Richter survey, so it’s not conclusively marked on the map.
This would account for 3 of the reported 5 openings thus far.
Regarding the Rose property; how far did it extend SW of Glendale Rd, if any?
From the Patent Trader, February 15th 1973, there is an article “Subdivision application stalls for owner search” which explains some more info regarding these mine openings. It also cites that Stanley Strauss owned property SW of the present day Glendale Rd but NE of the Old Glendale Rd, upon which was a collapsed old silver mine shaft. Taking a side track, the opening shown in the Rose property picture was an adit, not a shaft, and would not likely collapse as they described it in the article.
Going back to my earlier topic; was the Rose house on the NE side of the old Glendale Rd, or the present Glendale Rd?
The F.C. Ferry 1858 Westchester County Map shows a “Silver Mine Hole” on the top of the hill on the SE side of present day Spring Valley Rd opposite the intersection with Glendale Rd. This sound like it could be the workings Tom was talking about. Would this be one of the 5 openings Laura Whitlinger spoke of?
Finally, I drove through the area and down Glendale Rd and found the mound on the NE corner of the Glendale Rd intersection Spring Valley Rd not too promising. If there were tailings there, they would have been burried as there are no trace left if there were. Glendale road shown several properties which had what appeared to me to be tailings. They may not have originated there, but could have been sourced from local tailing to build up the yards, but it’s all speculation till confirmed.
Thank you again!
Thank you for sharing your findings! I agree that if there are any tailings in that mound on the NE corner of Glendale Rd, they are quite buried. I will say that a friend tells me that they poked around there and found some crushed metal buckets and pickaxe heads (among other things) which COULD indicate mining activity. It could also indicate that the area was used was used as a dump at some point. Either way, it seems clear that there was a mine of some sort stretching from Glendale Road down Spring Valley some distance.
I’m late to the dance here, (only 5 years though) but chalk it up to my living on the west coast and the Oct. 4th New Yorker which has an article by Patricia Highsmith about African American Cemeteries. The author does not mention Ossining so I started poking around. I decided to post because I think I have something germane to add.
My maternal grandfather, Carl Brandt, owned 10 acres just north of and up the hill from what I believe is the cemetery in question. He owned it from some time in the 20’s or 30’s until the late 50’s when he sold it, to whom, I know not. I remember being told that there was an African American cemetery “down the hill” from the farmhouse that my grandfather expanded. He worked in the construction business and retired as a V.P. of a large firm. The area was subdivided some time ago and houses now litter the land down the hill.
I remember the turkey farm mentioned above well. Especially when the wind was from the south! I also believe we occasionally bought Thanksgiving and/or Christmas turkeys from them.
I don’t remember when but I do remember walking down the hill to view the cemetery and seeing headstones. The cemetery was quite small, no more than 20 to 30 square yards in size. I also remember it was a swamp at that time and totally uncared for. I gather from the photos of the headstones that either the remains of those buried there have been removed to a more suitable location or the cemetery is now cared for.