The Mill Site, Franklin, N.J.
After the mine closed in 1954, the mill lay idle. No longer was it pulverizing trainloads of ore, the product destined for Palmerton. No longer were the miners operating the revolving "picking table" with their UV lamps, separating the green-glowing willemite from the other minerals such as hardystonite and calcite.
The Mill Site still had something going for it, though. Back when the mine had been open, the NJ Zinc Co. had used tons of Franklin Mine rock to shore up the pilings for the trestle that carried the ore cars to the mill. This made the Mill Site one of Franklin's best above-ground places to collect minerals (after '54 there were no more underground ones). For quite a few years it was also probably the least-known place, outside a small circle of serious field collectors. Certainly all the miners and their families knew about it, but out-of-towners often had no idea.
In the 1980's, FOMS hosted one or more digs there. I can't even imagine how cool that must have been, especially since the Mill Site had a high concentration of Parker & Palmer shaft tailings. The site produced esperite, margarosanite, prehnite, xonotlite, hardystonite, axinite, and even some roeblingite. Of course there were many fine specimens of the classic "red and green" willemite / calcite rock, including good examples of the ever-popular "polka-dot ore".
FOMS dig at the Mill Site, 1985.
Franklin Mineral Museum photo.
This area is now covered by a building and parking lot.
For about another ten years or so, the site was pretty well-known to collectors. Then, it tapered off. Local collectors used to go in there at night, but there were no more organized digs. There was certainly nothing on the scale of the 1980's digs. In the photo above you can see just how big those pilings were for the trestle... and how big that trench was. I can imagine what they must have found. Actually, I don't need to imagine; I've talked to collectors who were there back in those days. Later on, the big trench was filled in.
I don't know the whole, detailed timeline of the Mill Site, but I do know that another site (Schuster Park) met its end partly due to what was a perceived lack of interest among collectors. People were becoming more interested in TV and video games, I guess, than in actually doing outdoor things. (Actually, with the rise of the Internet, there is a lot more potential for people to become interested in minerals.)
Anyway, the best-known feature of the Mill Site, besides the great rocks that were there, was the pair of big smokestacks from the old mill. Today they're still there, but one of them is starting to lean a bit. Who knows how long it will be before wind and gravity finally take their toll? These landmarks are the kinds of things that need to be photographed.
A minor digression here. There was an antique railroad trestle that I wanted to get a photograph of, back around 2003 or so. I didn't get around to it (too far away) and in the meantime, a tornado came along and wiped the thing out! That's why it's so important to get photos of these kinds of places.
Mill stacks, Franklin, N.J., June 2012.
If you look at old photos of the Mill Site (pre '54), that whole thing was a mountain of Franklin mine rocks. It must have been at least fifty feet deep. The collectors must have been only scratching the surface. Just think about how much rock must have been required to shore up the trestle that supported ore-laden trains every day. It's not as if they would have just piled eight or ten feet and said "good enough". At another site in Franklin that once supported a tram, the tailings were at least twenty-five feet deep.
There were some local collectors who were still finding things at the Mill Site in later years, but there was a lot of work involved. So much, in fact, that few wanted to expend that kind of energy. Who knows what could have been found seven or eight feet down where nobody had picked it over? Even the guys who dug to try to find stuff seldom reached that depth, as such a thing becomes enormously labor intensive (and time-intensive). That's not something a person can do in one day, for sure.
Sometime around 2008, give or take a year, a senior housing center was built on the Mill Site, directly where the rocks were. The best site in Franklin is now gone forever. With the Parker Dump and Schuster Park both long-gone, that seals pretty much the last place where Parker and Palmer Shaft minerals could be found (although we can always hold out hope for the Trotter...)
The building that now covers the Mill Site. June 2012.
Good minerals have the strange, unwanted property of attracting buildings and pavement.
This June, I set out to get some photos of those stacks while they're still there. There was one vantage point in particular that I was saving for last. As I got to this spot, I noticed a low-hanging cloud that didn't seem to be there before. It was situated in such a way that it looked as if the mill stacks were operating one last time. The top of the cloud was catching the last rays of sun.
I found that rather interesting (still do). Just minutes before I took this photo, I hadn't noticed any clouds in the sky!
Well, that's it for my Mill Site article. I hope you enjoyed it.
Franklin residents and collectors: if you have photographs, slides, or negatives of Franklin rock dumps, field trips, or mining structures, I might like either to buy them from you or borrow them so I can make good scans of them (yes I will take care of them).
I'm trying to accumulate color pictures of Franklin collecting sites, especially between the years 1950 and 2000, for this website.
If you have these kinds of photos, let me know.
I'm especially interested in color photographs & slides of:
- The Mill Site (any time prior to the Senior Center; preferably non-digital photos)
- The Trotter Dump
- The Parker Dump
- Taylor Road Dump
- Schuster Park, when it was a rock dump
- The Buckwheat Dump, 1980's or earlier
- Road construction (etc) in Franklin that revealed mine tailings
I'm also very interested in photos of the Passaic and Noble Pits (Sterling Hill) from before 2000 or so, and especially from the 1980's.
Thanks for visiting this website!
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