A Brief History of Mine Hill
Created & Written by Dr. Anthony Troha
The Ferromonte Historical Society of Mine Hill

Part I ~ Part II
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The Geological History of Northern New Jersey
late jurrasic
North America broke away from Europe and Africa around 200 million years ago. In the process, a "rift zone" (a large region filled with huge cracks in the Earth's surface) was formed. Lava was able to flow into these cracks, thereby producing the deposits of iron ore parallel to the Appalachian Mountains, including those in the Township of Mine Hill.
Plate 2
After these rift basins were filled with sediments and lava, they were subsequently tilted, faulted, and eroded over millions of years. This formed, among other geological features, the Watchung Mountains and the Palisades near New York City.

Although everyday weather caused a great amount of erosion, it was the massive, mile-thick ice sheets, called “glaciers”, that caused the majority of the erosion. About every 60,000 years, the Earth becomes colder and enters an “Ice Age”, a time period when the polar ice caps grow so large that they move further towards the Earth’s Equator than they do in warmer time periods.
Plate 3
The lava deposits in the rift basins were harder than the surrounding rocks, so they were more resistant to the glaciers, which acted like giant pieces of sandpaper, grinding the surfaces of mountains into sand. As the glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age, 20,000 years ago, material scoured from the hillsides was deposited into the valleys by run-off from the glaciers. This sand was later dug out of the ground and used in a myriad of industrial processes, including making concrete. Thus, the glaciers are responsible for the large number of sandpits in the area, like those in the “Kenvil Flats” section and along Hurd Street.

The glaciers of the last Ice Age halted their advance just north of the current location of Mine Hill. At the time, there was a mile-thick sheet of ice covering half of northern New Jersey. Because so much of the Earth’s water was frozen in the glaciers, the sea levels dropped and the coastline was hundreds of miles farther out to sea than it is today.
Plate 4
The Suckasunny Mine
On August 13, 1713, the West Jersey Proprietors purchased all the land from the Whippany River southward to the Passaic below the Great Swamp. Westward, the parcel extended to the area that now encompasses Mendham and Succasunna.
The land was purchased from a Lenape sachem, named Naweenake, who is assumed to have been a member of the Passaik Tribe of the Lenape.
Within this region, there was a rocky outcropping that had been discovered three years previously by survey John Reading, located at a site that the Lenape called “Suk-ahsin-ing”, or “Place of the Black Rock”. For some time, they had formed tools out of the hard rocks that erosion had liberated from the outcropping.
The European settlers knew immediately that this was a large deposit of Magnetite, an ore of Iron, and it would be worth a fortune. Between its discovery in 1710 and its sale in 1713, the ore was free to anyone willing to endure the arduous journey to the remote location of “Suckasunning” on Mount Ferrum. The ore-laden rocks were placed in leather satchels carried on the backs of horses that were guided through the forest along trails made by the Lenape. In 171500/fhn Reading purchased this land, and then sold it the following year to Joseph Kirkbride, who died shortly afterwards. His heirs established the Suckasunny Mine.
Plate 5
The Dickersons
philemon dickerson
Philemon Dickerson
1788 - 1862
mahlon dickerson
Mahlon Dickerson
1770 - 1853
Kirkbride’s heirs owned the mine until 1779, when Jonathan Dickerson and his business partner, Minard Lefevre, began purchasing interest in the mining firm.
By the time Jonathan Dickerson passed away in 1805, two-thirds of the mine property was in his name. Jonathan's son, Silas, operated the mine for two years before he tragically died in a horrific accident at the nail factory in Stanhope, after which control passed to his brother, Mahlon, a lawyer and politician in Philadelphia. By 1810, Mahlon had bought out Lefevre's share and became the sole owner of the rechristened "Dickerson Mine". Mahlon Dickerson's political ambitions precluded his day-to-day supervision of the mine, so he employed surrogates to operate the facility in his absence. Mahlon Dickerson served as Secretary of the Navy under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, and both Mahlon and his other brother, Philemon, went on to serve as Governor of the State of New Jersey.
Plate 6
dickerson mansion
Courtesy of the New Jersey Historical Society
Mahlon Dickerson used the wealth that the mine provided him to build a mansion that once stood on the opposite side of Canfield Avenue from the Dickerson Mine. It was deemed a hazard and torn down in 1964. The following year, a historical marker was placed in the vicinity to inform passersbys of the history that was lost.
Plate 7
dickerson mansion
Courtesy of the New Jersey Historical Society
In 1844, Mahlon Dickerson renovated and enlarged his mansion, producing the structure pictured here in an 1895 albumen photograph.
Dickerson christened his home "Ferro Monte", Italian for "Iron Mountain".The village that sprang up around the mine first used the Latin form of the name, "Ferro Mont" before it also adopted the Italian version.
This house will appear in other mine-related images, so it is worth familiarizing ourselves with its façade.
Plate 8
After Mahlon Dickerson died in 1853, the mansion became a boarding school, then a rental home. In this c. 1905 image, the mansion appears much as it did when Governor Dickerson was living in it, but as the years passed, it was allowed to decay, and portions of the structure were eventually torn down, including the 1844 addition.
Plate 9
The Canfields
frederick canfield
Frederick Canfield
1810 - 1867
Mahlon Dickerson wanted a permanent supervisor for the mine, so in 1828, he enlisted his nephew, Frederick , to fill this rôle. The youngest son of Mahlon's sister, Mary, and David Sealy Canfield, Frederick had lived in the village of Ferro Mont for most of his life, so he was already familiar with the mining business when his uncle asked him to take over daily operations.
His position made him wealthy, so he was able to construct his own mansion closer to the mine. The home survived into the 1950's, when it fell victim to vandals and an arsonist. He was also an avid mineral, bird, and insect collector. The mineral collection is now in the Smithsonian.
Plate 10
Frederick A. Canfield
1849 - 1926
Augustus C. Canfield
1842 - 1891
Edmund Canfield
1844 - 1884
Frederick Canfield and his wife, Julia Ann Halsey, had five children, three of whom were involved in the family's mining venture.
Frederick Alexander Canfield graduated from Rutgers College and the Columbia College School of Mines. He worked as a mining engineer for numerous companies before taking the jobs of general manager and secretary of the Dickerson-Suckasunny Mining Company.
Augustus Cass Canfield practiced law in Morristown, and was later the secretary and general manager of the Dickerson-Suckasunny Mining Company, secretary and treasurer of the Ferro Monte Railroad Company, and an incorporator of the Morris County Savings Bank. He was also a member of the New Jersey Assembly and, later, a New Jersey State Senator.
Edmund Canfield was a civil engineer who worked on the Morris & Essex Railroad and the Longwood Valley Railroad. He was also involved in the iron-mining industry in New Jersey.
Plate 11
dickerson mine
The Dickerson Mine in 1859
At the time of Mahlon Dickerson's death, the mine employed about ten men and was only producing 2,000 tons per annum. His heirs realized that the mine was not being worked to its full potential, so they greatly expanded the operation, hiring hundreds of miners who extracted tens of thousands of tons each year.
The opening of the Morris Canal in 1825 greatly enlarged the mine's customer base, enabling the ore to be shipped to the major furnaces in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Dickerson-Suckasunny Mining Company carted the ore along the aptly named Dickerson Mine Road to the Dover Turnpike (today's Route 46) to a company-owned ore dock at McCainsville (now Kenvil).
This process proved laborious due to the condition of the local roads and the need to load the accumulated piles of ore onto the canal boats. Also, each wagon paid a toll for traveling the quarter-mile on the turnpike.
Plate 12
Adits, Slopes, and Shafts
Miners create different passageways to make contact with an ore deposit and extract the minerals found therein. These include vertical shafts, slopes (i.e. angled shafts), and adits (nearly horizontal tunnels). The latter two have rails upon which ore cars can travel, while vertical shafts use elevator-like cages to lift men and ore alike.

Plate 13
dickerson mine
The Dickerson Mine as depicted in 1855. Note the narrow-gauge rail line that was used to haul ore out of the mine. The material that formed the ceiling of the adit in the background was subsequently removed, forming the ravine seen today.
Plate 14
dickerson mine
The emerald-green waters of a large pond hide the three shafts of the "Old Mine", the oldest workings of the Dickerson Mine. The tremendous size of the pool is due to the removal of copious amounts of the surrounding earth and stone, which dropped the surface approximately twenty-five feet below the original contour of the land at this point. The lighter area on the side of the hill to the right is the beginning of a ravine that was once an adit.
Plate 15
dickerson mine
A cross section of the "Big Mine" operations at the Dickerson Mine as it existed in 1855. The diagram shows the top of the ore deposit, the engine house, horse whim, pumping equipment, and hoists. The then-deepest part of the mine, called the "Old Mine", at the northeast end had been abandoned by that time. It was penetrated by three shafts, sunk about two hundred feet below the present surface, which is around twenty-five feet lower than the original contour of the hill. These workings were two hundred and seventy-three feet long at the bottom. The drawing shows that the bottom of the "Big Mine" was about one hundred and seventy feet below the surface. At this point, the shaft had not struck the "horse", labeled as "C" in the figure above, a barren mass of country rock which, in this case, separated the "Big Mine" vein from the "Cow Belly" deposit.
Plate 16
dickerson mine
The operations undertaken during Mahlon Dickerson's tutelage pale in comparison to the later Dickerson-Suckasunny Mining Company's venture. The slope was eventually 1,300 feet long.
In 1883, a series of cave-ins occurred in the Cow Belly section, causing it to be abandoned. This prompted the decision to sink another shaft in order to tap the "Big Vein" at its northeastern extent. This was the Dickerson Shaft, which was a 750-foot deep, three-compartment, vertical shaft located behind the Dickerson Mansion.
An adit was built under Canfield Avenue to transport the ore to the Ferro Monte Railroad.
Plate 17
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