Vermont’s mining history

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(Host) This June 26-27 the fifth annual Vermont History Expo will be held at the Tunbridge Worlds Fairgrounds. Commentator Edith Hunter says the Weathersfield Historical Society is preparing to share exhibit space with several other societies on the common theme of “Mining in Vermont.”

(Hunter) Although one does not think of Vermont as a mining state, in the early days the settlers had to “put down their buckets” where they were. They looked for, and in some locations found, iron, copper, gold, granite, marble, slate, asbestos, soapstone, talc, and limestone. Towns in which many of these resources were found and around which early industries developed, will be grouped together at this year’s Expo.

As early as 1786 in Weathersfield, somewhere along the Black River near the Cavendish-Weathersfield town line, there was an iron operation. However, apparently by 1792 the meager supply of iron ore had been exhausted and the Weathersfield ironworks had shut down.

Mount Ascutney, part of which lies in Weathersfield, yielded granite which was used for the foundation of the Center Meeting House in 1787.

In 1850 soapstone was found in Weathersfield and a very successful soapstone industry developed near the quarries in Perkinsville producing stoves, sinks, foot warmers, and griddles. Although by 1910 the quarries had given out, the company continued, with soapstone coming from Chester, Grafton, and now from South America. Our 2003 Expo exhibit featured soapstone.

The western section of Weathersfield was rich in yet another mineral resource, limestone. In the early days many farmers had small lime kilns where they burned limestone for their own use – for mortar, for white-washing, and to enrich their soil. Several of these early kilns have been preserved.

In 1849 a young entrepreneur, Charles Amsden, arrived in Weathersfield with $100 in his pocket. Within a year he had bought the grist/saw mill at which he had come to work. It was in the lime-rich western section of town and young Amsden had soon built two large stone kilns whose remains may still be seen off Amsden Hollow Road. The open-faced limestone quarry, now grown up to brush and trees, is south of the kilns. Amsden bought up hundreds of acres of surrounding woodland as a source of fuel for his ever-hungry kilns that often burned day and night.

By 1890 he had created a community of 30 buildings – 20 homes for workers, a grist/saw and shingle mill, a large store for general merchandise, a post office, a chapel, and a school. The Amsden Lime Company which did business into the early 1930s will be the subject of the Weathersfield Historical Society exhibit.

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont.

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