Ballston Spa Life
History Lesson: Mining operations at Milton northern border were unique for area
Ballston Spa Life
BALLSTON SPA — Extensive mining operations were carried out in the early 1900s in the Adirondacks, coming as close to Milton as Porter’s Corners. The mines of Greenfield never produced the profits that many were seeking, but operations lasted for almost a quarter century.
One of the earliest attempts to establish a mine in Saratoga County was done by a man named Dr. Mitchell from Northampton, Fulton County. Around 1840, he built a separator on Mount Antonio close to where the Sacandaga and Hudson rivers unite. Examinations were made at various places on the mountain that convinced the doctor that valuable deposits of iron could be profitably extracted, but his failing health led him to abandon the effort.
Around 1900, William Carver was prospecting near Porter’s Corners and came across some black lead. He related his discovery to a businessman named Meyer from New York City, who formed a stock company with the purpose of mining the lead. When graphite was also discovered on the property, Meyer formed the Empire Graphite Company XE "Empire Graphite Company" and switched over to mining for graphite.
Excited local and New York City financiers invested $500,000 in the company to build an extensive mill complex, purchase equipment and hire workers. The heavy mining equipment was delivered to North Greenfield by railroad and had to be manually hauled the remaining several miles with teams of horses. Delivering the eleven-ton drier was such a spectacle that it was recorded for posterity on several postcards.
The Porter’s Corners mine covered about two acres of land with a maximum depth of twenty-five feet. At least one tunnel was excavated three hundred feet into the ground. Rocks were brought out of the mine using small railcars, which delivered them to a gyratory crusher and two sets of crushing rolls. The pulverized rock was then moved to “buddles,” or troughs used to wash and separate minerals, and later to settling tanks, rotary sills, wet screens, rotary driers and sizing screens in succession.
Since the mill was situated on a steep slope of a hill, gravity was used to transport the treated graphite to the horse teams that hauled it to the Delaware and Hudson Railroad King’s Station four miles away.
It took some time to achieve full production at the mine. Seven years after Carver first made his discovery, the Empire Mill was still in the experimental stages. Initial plans for the mine were quite ambitious—machinery was installed with the expectation of netting one hundred tons of graphite per day with fifty men. Although these numbers were never reached, the mine was deemed a success when the graphite was sold for $1 per pound.
A fire destroyed the original mill in 1909, causing $100,000 in losses, but a larger one was built in its place. Unfortunately, soon after the new mill recommenced operations, prices dropped and forced it into bankruptcy.
Starr’s book “Lost Industries of Saratoga County” is scheduled to be published by The History Press in time for the holiday season. For more information, see www.HistoryOfSaratoga.com.