The Trotter Tunnel At Sterling Hill, Ogdensburg NJ
Last Updated: 17th Jan 2008
[This article originally appeared in The Picking Table, the magazine of the Franklin-Ogdensburg Mineralogical Society]
The Trotter Tunnel at Sterling Hill:
Its Construction and Litigation
Its Construction and Litigation
by Daniel E. Russell
Until Sterling Hill was consolidated under a single corporation in 1897, mining activities on the site were concentrated on three separate parcels, each controlled by different interests. The northernmost parcel was known as Lot 8, and was primarily associated with the operations of the New Jersey Zinc Company, chartered in 1852. Immediately to the south was Lot 9, which contained the mine and mills of the Passaic Zinc Company, one of the most long-lived of the 19th century mining companies involved at Sterling Hill. The southernmost parcel over the orebody was Lot 10, also known as the "Noble Mine".
It appears that one of the peak eras of mining activity on Lot 10 began about 1876-1878, with the creation of a tunnel or adit into the orebody by Charles W. Trotter, enabling a more cost-effective exploitation of the ores.
EARLY HISTORY OF LOT 10:
The history the mineral titles to Lot 10 is somewhat more complex than that of the other two parcels comprising Sterling Hill.
The earliest reference to the existence of an economic ore deposit at Sterling Hill dates to a land transfer from 1730, in which the site is referred to as the "Copper tract", either an allusion to copper staining of the rock outcrops by the weathering of minor amounts of copper sulfides that occur scattered through the ore to form malachite or azurite, or through the mis-identification of zincite as cuprite. The property was acquired in the 1760's by William Alexander, prominent New Jersey iron founder and self-proclaimed "Lord Stirling", who was to give his "title" to the locality (albeit with a minor change in spelling). While Alexander sought to exploit the vast ore deposits at Franklin and Sterling Hill, inadequate period smelting technology and a lack of a genuine understanding of the ores ultimately defeated him.
After Alexander died without leaving a will in Albany, New York during the final months of the American Revolution, his vast estates scattered across northern New Jersey were acquired by Robert Ogden and his sons, who similarly possessed large interests in iron mining, smelting and forging in New Jersey. By 1800, Sterling Hill was owned by Elias Ogden, son of Robert. Elias also died intestate; a commission was appointed in 1805 to divide his estates in the Walkill Valley, including Sterling Hill, amoung his heirs. The orebody at Sterling Hill lay beneath "Lots 8, 9, and 10 of the Ogden Division". Lot 10 remained in the possession of various members of the Ogden family until 1837, when it was purchased by Dr. Samuel Fowler, son-in-law of Robert Ogden.
Fowler, a competent amateur mineralogist as well as a physician, had previously acquired Lots 8 and 9 at Sterling Hill between 1818 and 1824, and also possessed rather considerable holdings at Mine Hill in Franklin, all acquired either through purchase or inheritance from his in-laws. He corresponded with many of the leading mineralogists of the era, both in the United States and abroad, on the unique minerals of the deposit. More importantly, Fowler aspired to see the deposits at Sterling Hill and Franklin exploited on a commercial basis, and devoted considerable effort throughout his life to this end.
After the death of Dr. Samuel Fowler in 1844, Lot 10 was inherited by his daughter, Mary Estelle Fowler, and, in 1847, was acquired by her brother, Samuel Fowler Jr (most commonly referred to as "Colonel" Sam Fowler, although this military rank was not bestowed upon him until only a short time before his death during the Civil War). He sold the property to the New Jersey Zinc and Copper Mining and Manufacturing Co. that same year, who remained in possession of the parcel until 1853, when Fowler repurchased the lot.
Samuel Fowler Jr. severed the title to the zinc ore (at that time, only zincite was used as a significant ore of zinc at Sterling Hill, although in later years hemimorphite, willemite would be recognized as valuable sources of zinc) from the so-called "iron ore" (franklinite) title. Properly treated, franklinite yielded an iron-manganese alloy called "spiegeleisen" (literally, "mirror iron"). Added to iron, the manganese removed most of the impurities from the molten metal, a critical step towards making high-grade steel.
Fowler's decision would result in decades of court battles between more than a dozen corporations and would, more than any other factor, would impede the development of mining at both Franklin and Sterling Hill for nearly half a century. It was based on the erroneous belief that the franklinite and zincite occurred in two separate and distinct veins. In reality, the two ores were commonly intermixed.
Title to the zinc ores on Lot 10 was sold to the National Paint Company. This company sold part of the mining rights on the parcel to the Consolidated Franklinite Company of New York on 29 June 1859. Attempts by the National Paint Co. to commercially exploit the deposit failed, and the company went into bankruptcy prior to 1861.
In the final resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings, the zinc ore titles become extraordinarily confused and intertwined. The rights to the zinc ores owned by the Consolidated Franklinite Company of New York were sold to the Consolidated Exploring and Mining Company on 23 June 1863, who resold Lot 10 to the Franklinite Steel Co. on 5 December 1863. While the deed was executed by Ashbel Green and Daniel H. Curtis as trustees of the Consolidated Franklinite Co., it was also countersigned by James L. Curtis as President and Director of the Consolidated Exploring and Mining Company.
James Langdon Curtis was active in many of the mining ventures at Sterling Hill and Franklin in the mid 19th century, serving as President of the New Jersey Zinc Co., New Jersey Exploring and Mining Co., Consolidated Exploring and Mining Co., Franklinite Steel Co., Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co., and serving on the Board of Directors of nearly half a dozen other companies, including the Franklinite Mining Co., directly involved in attempts at mining at Franklin and Sterling Hill. Curtis was described by an associate as a "careful, intelligent and conservative gentleman".
To further complicate the title history, the zinc title to Lot 10 was also sold to different parties by both Peter S. Decker, Sheriff of Sussex County, at an 1864 court-ordered public auction to repay some of the National Paint Co.'s debts, and by George W. Savage, Receiver of the State of New Jersey, at the time of the final liquidation of the assets of the National Paint Company by the court in 1878.
The history of the iron title to the parcel is less convoluted. Samuel Fowler Jr. transferred the iron title to Samuel Brooks and Silas M. Stilwell in 1852 for the consideration of $100,000. Brooks and Stilwell conveyed the property to the Sussex Iron Co. in 1853 for a consideration of $350,000. On 1 January 1855, the Sussex Iron Company sold their rights to the franklinite in Lot 10 to Samuel Fowler Jr. and James Langdon Curtis. On 7 Dec 1855, Fowler and Curtis sold all the rights to the franklinite on Lot 10 to the Franklinite Steel Co. The stated consideration for the property was $10. The Franklinite Steel Co., which already owned part of the zinc title to Lot 10 purchased from the Consolidated Mining and Exploring Co., had been formed in 1854 under an Act of the New Jersey State Legislature. The President of the Franklinite Steel Co. was James Langdon Curtis.
On 29 April 1871, the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. which had been created under Act of Legislature of State of New Jersey on 6 April 1871 purchased for the nominal sum of $1 both the zinc and franklinite rights to Lot 10 from the Franklinite Steel Co. The Vice President of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. was James Langdon Curtis, who would after a few years rise to the Presidency of the corporation. According to period accounts, he owned fully four-fifths of the capital stock of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.
NEGOTIATIONS TO MINE LOT 10
In early 1874, the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. entered into negotiations with Charles W. Trotter, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who desired to secure a license to mine zinc ores on Lot 10.
Charles W. Trotter was the son of Jonathan Trotter, third mayor of the City of Brooklyn and one of the founding officers of the New Jersey Zinc Company. The younger Trotter had been engaged at Elizabethport, N.J. in the manufacture and sale of white oxide of zinc. The license to mine his own zinc ore on Lot 10 would allow him to increase his own margin of profit on zinc white, permitting him to better compete with the New Jersey Zinc Co. and the Passaic Zinc Co., each of which were supplied by their own mines at Sterling Hill.
On 28 April 1874, The Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. issued a seven year license to Trotter to mine and remove 10,000 tons of zinc ore, in the form of "carbonate of zinc, silicate of zinc and red oxide of zinc" from a 165-foot wide strip of land along the northernmost border of Lot 10. Each year, Trotter was to remove one-seventh of the total 10,000 tons, or roughly 1400 tons.
The term "red oxide of zinc" was commonly used throughout much of the 19th century to refer to the mineral zincite, which then constituted the primary zinc ore mineral at Sterling Hill; likewise, "carbonate of zinc" equates to the modern mineral species smithsonite, which was actually quite rare at Sterling Hill (but still routinely found a place in most descriptions of the zinc ores appearing in legal documents). The term "silicate of zinc" however, was used almost interchangeably to refer to both hemimorphite (a hydrous silicate of zinc) and willemite (an anhydrous silicate of zinc). Regretfully, none of the period accounts of the licensing, construction, or litigation of the Trotter tunnel state which mineral is meant. Based on the location of the Trotter tunnel, which ultimately penetrated deep into the "Mud Zone", a large formation of unconsolidated material that lay between the East and West ore limbs at Sterling Hill it would appear that the mineral in question was hemimorphite, not willemite.
The Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. stipulated that Trotter was to "properly open and work said mine... at his own cost and expense", and that Trotter was to pay the company the sum of $10 for each ton of zinc ore (set at 2,240 lbs) removed, but he was allowed to deduct the cost of opening and working the mine from the per ton fee paid to the company. The costs incurred in mining the ore were not to include any of the expenses Trotter realized after the ore was brought to the mouth of the mine (including transportation, merchandizing, beneficiation, and processing).
In effect, these provisions established that the initial risk of the mining venture was to be wholly Trotter's, not the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.'s, but provided a mechanism by which Trotter would be reimbursed for the mine development work from the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.'s share of the proceeds of the ore sales.
The Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. also required that all mining was to be performed under the supervision of a mining engineer to be selected by the company. The company also reserved the right to mine the ore for Trotter, in which case no deduction would be allowed him for the cost of mining. The company stipulated that they reserved the right to work the mine whenever such activity would not interfere with Trotter. Further, all "tools, implements and property used in opening and working" the mine were to become property of Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. upon expiration of Trotter's license.
Trotter also was required to advance $5,000 on the predicted revenues from the ore; of this, $3,000 were to be paid immediately to the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. and the remaining $2,000 were to be immediately expended in the opening and working of the mine. Any residual amount from this $2,000 not required to initiate operations at the mine was to be remitted to the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE TROTTER TUNNEL:
License in hand, Trotter began to lay plans for mining on Lot 10. The Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. engaged Daniel T. Mapes, a New York City civil engineer, aged 48, to serve as their on-site engineer to supervise Trotter's work.
Trotter later recalled that no agreement had been made during the negotiations with the company on precisely how the ore would be mined. A small open-pit mine already existed on the site; Trotter wrote that the "expectation then rather was to mine from above through the pit which already existed, and hoist the ore out therefrom. On full examination of the ground, and on consultation with the company's engineer, however, (I) abandoned that project and determined upon entering the hill with a tunnel..." The tunnel was the suggestion of Mapes, who had proposed to Trotter the possibility of "constructing a tunnel, and horizontally striking the vein of zinc ore". After consultation with various officers of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. who claimed an intimate knowledge of the orebody on Lot 10, Trotter was assured that he would strike the orebody about 150 feet from the point at which the mouth of the tunnel was proposed.
The concept of a tunnel agreed upon, Trotter began hiring men to begin the work. He engaged as superintendent for the driving of the tunnel, and subsequent mining operations, William I.J. Kemble, a resident of Franklin. Kemble, about 52 years old at the time, had been a miner since 1846, working the zinc deposits of Franklin, and even doing a stint as a miner in California.
The mouth of the tunnel was placed roughly 50 feet west of the edge of the main thoroughfare through the district, the highway that connected Franklin to Sparta. (This road long since supplanted by a new highway on the opposite side of the valley through which the Walkill River courses corresponds to the modern-day Plant Street.) The tunnel itself was to be laid out along a south-east to north-west axis.
On 6 July 1874, Trotter's crew began to drive the tunnel by hand.
Mapes wrote, "It was determined not to use machinery in driving the tunnel, because, I supposed and all thought, that the deposit of zinc ore would be found at a point not further than one hundred and fifty feet within the hill from the tunnel's mouth..."
Trotter acknowledged his reliance on the opinions of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. executives in framing his approach to the construction of the tunnel, however incorrect their understanding of the orebody was to prove to be. He later stated "...relying upon such representations, and desirous to save expense, I refrained from obtaining a steam engine or other such expensive machinery often used in more difficult and extensive jobs." However, he added, "the rocks were found to be very hard, in places highly crystalline and difficult to blast out."
Trotter placed as many men on the project as he thought practical. Too many men would merely get in one another's way, so he employed two shifts, one tunnelling by day, the other by night. Not counting the engineer, superintendent, blacksmith, carpenters, and teams of horses with their drivers to haul waste rock away from the work site, this amounted to a mere 8 men per shift.
When the tunnel reached a length of 150 feet, the vein of zinc ore had not been struck. "When we penetrated to that distance," Mapes stated, "we supposed daily that we should find the zinc, and so proceeded on..." The tunnel progressed deeper and deeper into Sterling Hill, without result. Trotter continued the work, convinced that any day zinc ore would be struck.
It was not until 1 Feb 1876, more than 18 months after the tunnel was begun, that the first sign of the orebody was reached. Trotter's crew had tunneled through more than 360 feet of rock and 20 feet of earth more than twice the distance that the "company experts" had claimed. This costly mistake can be attributed to an inaccurate 19th century understanding of the shape and dip of the orebody, in part due to inadequate and frequently contradictory geological field work, but certainly perpetuated by representatives of the various corporations which owned a stake in Sterling Hill who wished investors to believe that the orebody continued far to the south, perhaps even farther than Sparta. (In fact, three addition lots of the Ogden division, each well south of the actual bounds of the Sterling Hill orebody, were acquired in the mid-19th century by mining companies based on this assumption, and one of these lots was owned by the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.)
The first ore struck by Trotter's workmen consisted of a 14 foot thick mass of "silicate of zinc", located on the southern wall of the tunnel. According to Mapes, they found the ore "largely mixed with dirt...of so poor quality that the average would not pay to manufacture, and it was necessary to select merchantable ore from the mass."
In July, 1876, Trotter's men struck franklinite. "The object of all parties was to reach the red oxide..." Mapes wrote. "Therefore we tunnelled further through seventy feet of franklinite, and then found only the silicate at last... (The Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co) did not wish (Trotter) to mine the silicate, but to proceed and reach the red oxide, which the officers... assured him would certainly be found after getting through the Franklinite..." (Mapes' comment that the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co."did not wish" Trotter to mine the silicate at first hand may appear confusing, since their license specifically permitted him the use of this mineral. It is appears that Mapes was trying to express the fervent desire of the corporate officers that Trotter not stop his tunnel at that point, but to continue and attempt to reach the primary ore, zincite.)
In hopes of imminently striking zincite, Trotter continued to drive the tunnel deeper into Sterling Hill. On the other side of the franklinite vein was an additional 25 feet of dirt, after which they struck a second mass of "silicate of zinc" 6 feet wide.
Trotter continued through the mass, and continued tunnelling a short distance into barren rock, before he ceased excavating. At no time did Trotter strike the promised zincite vein, save for the small amounts probably admixed with the franklinite.
Kemble described the body of "silicate of zinc" as "not hard that is, it is not necessary to blast; the work was done with picks." The franklinite, however, was "very hard, requiring severe blasting" to penetrate. The barren limestone (marble), "though not as hard as the franklinite, was worse to tunnel, its nature being such that, when blasted, it is apt to create irregular and uneven walls."
Trotter's tunnel was completed about October 1876; at that time, they began mining operations for the recovery of the "silicate of zinc". Ultimately, Trotter had driven the tunnel more than 505 feet more than three times the length that the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. had estimated would be necessary at a cost of $15,000.
Trotter described his creation no doubt with a modicum of pride thusly:
"The tunnel itself is well made, sufficiently so for all purposes of its construction; where it passes through rock it is from seven to nine feet high, and from six feet to seven feet wide; whenever not in rock it is timbered, and is then about six feet wide at the bottom, four feet and a half at the top, and six feet and a half high."
Trotter installed in the tunnel a 20"-wide narrow gauge railway, for the purpose of "facilitating the driving of the tunnel, and also of carrying ore when raised to the ore dock." The ore cars used in the tunnel were "three feet wide, four feet high, and four feet long," Kemble wrote, although "one of the cars is a little larger and wider". He added that "the tunnel is lighted by candles or lamps stationed at different points."
Although the work on the tunnel had progressed slowly, Trotter had not stood still.
On the east side of the Sparta - Franklin highway, Trotter constructed a dock for the storage of ore. The dock was about 300 feet long and varied between 16 and 23 feet wide, made of solid stone, and located on the same level as the floor of the tunnel. One observer described the ore dock as being "constructed of earth and mining debris with a facing of rock (unmarketable) got from the tunnel and there is no wood work or planking about it except boards laid down for a space of twenty or thirty feet whereon to lay fine ore..."
On a level eight feet below the ore dock, Trotter constructed a rail spur of the same gauge as the adjacent New Jersey Midland Railway Co., and ran about 500 feet of rail to connect to the Midland's line. Part of the land was leased from the New Jersey Zinc Co., the remainder being leased for $60 a year from Rebecca F. Ross, one of Samuel Fowler Sr's daughters, who still retained partial surface rights at Sterling Hill. He also acquired a plot of land 25 by 30 feet for a blacksmith shop from the New Jersey Zinc Co.
The total cost of the ore dock and rail spur was $1,000.
In addition to the improvements being made to Lot 10 in anticipation of mining, Trotter began new negotiations with the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.
On 4 November 1875, while the excavation of the tunnel was still in progress and months before the first glimpse of ore was seen, Trotter obtained a second license from the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. which provided him the right to mine an additional 10,000 tons of zinc ore on Lot 10. Subject to the same stipulations as his previous license, the new agreement extended his authorization to mine for 4 years, with a quarter of the ore (2500 tons) to be removed each year after the original seven years of the first license expired. The new document was, in addition to Curtis, signed by Silas Stilwell as Assistant Secretary of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. Stilwell was a prominent New York City attorney and financial analyst who in 1831 authored the first legislation to abolish imprisonment for debt, and subsequently revised the New York State banking laws. His father had made considerable investments in the iron foundries of the Hudson River Valley in New York, and it appears that Silas continued the family interest in the metals industries.
On 1 September 1876, Trotter renegotiated his licenses with the Executive Board of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. Acknowledging that the intent of the original licenses "having been duly carried out by...(Trotter) as far as practicable," Trotter would for one year be permitted to "mine out silicate of zinc ores from the tunnel and mine on Lot No. ten aforesaid, at his own expense and charge, and sell and manufacture the same," and, after deducting his expenses for the actual mining costs, divide the profits from the sale equally with the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. The whole of the profits due to the company were to be credited towards the "account of the expenditures on said mine": in other words, all the profits otherwise due to the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. were to placed towards Trotter's expenditures (inclusive of the cost of the additional length of the tunnel) in developing and operating the tunnel and mine, in a manner which would greatly accelerate his reimbursement. All other stipulations in the original contract were to remain in force.
This modification was in part derived from the failure of Trotter to find zincite in the tunnel, as the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. had promised he would, and stood as a form of compensation for the rather significant error the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. experts had made in estimating how far Trotter would have to tunnel before he struck ore.
On 14 September 1876, Trotter obtained a third license from the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co., this time to mine 40,000 tons of the franklinite ore his tunnel had penetrated. Trotter claimed that the franklinite license was "urged by officers of the company" who thought that it would not only assist in negating the debt of the tunnel but could also infuse new capital into the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.
As was the case with his earlier licenses, Trotter was "to do all the work in mining and taking out said ore, and marketing and disposing of the same, and is to furnish all the labor, teams and tools, and money necessary to mine, take out and market said ore". During the ensuing year, the license called for Trotter to pay $1950 to the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. against anticipated revenues from the sale of the franklinite, but that all proceeds beyond that amount were to be "applied to the liquidation of the cost of making said tunnel". Once the cost of mine development had been satisfied, Trotter and the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. were to share equally in the profits. Oddly, the license is open-ended; while it clearly establishes the quantity of ore Trotter was to have, it states nothing about the time frame in which he was to take it. By May, 1877 he had paid $1350 against this figure, indicating he was able to meet his financial obligations to the company.
In October, 1876, Trotter published a "circular letter" to a number of iron manufacturers on the availability of "Franklinite ore" for iron production. However, observers claimed that as late as 22 March 1877, Trotter had done nothing to begin mining franklinite under the license, except for the ore removed in excavating the tunnel. While Trotter's business was admittedly manufacturing zinc products, and the zinc ores were therefore his primary concern, his lack of activity in mining the franklinite seems to indicate the absence of a ready market for the ore.
A COMPETITOR FOR LOT 10
About the time that the Trotter tunnel was completed, the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Company entered into negotiations with John Silsby, also of Brooklyn, N.Y., for a lease of the franklinite rights (exclusive of any interest in the zinc ores) for the whole of Lot 10.
Apparently, Silsby had been introduced to the officers of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Company by Henry C. Gardiner, a New York attorney. Gardiner later wrote that he had for a long time been interested in the franklinite deposit on Lot 10, "...but from the fact that the owners of the mines not possessing the capital to work the mines" and since the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. was not on intimate terms with the iron industry, "the ore has not been brought into general use as it ought to have been." The franklinite ore was, as an ore of iron and manganese, valued at between $5 and $20 per ton.
One of Gardiner's acquaintances was Henry Martin, then age 45. Martin had been involved with mining since boyhood, especially in the mining and smelting of iron and copper ores. He had served for 14 years (five of which he was copartner in the firm) with the Sable Iron Co., which had holdings in Clinton and Essex Counties in New York State. He had been President of the Baltimore Copper Co. for 5 or 6 years, and considered himself "thoroughly informed practically as a miner."
Martin possessed, according to Gardiner, "an intimate and extensive acquaintance with the manufacturers of iron in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and ... a great ability and skill for the sale and introduction of ores". Gardiner was also acquainted with Silsby, whom he called "a man of large means amply sufficient to furnish all the necessary capital for working and developing the mines contained in Lot No. 10." Gardiner believed "that if the knowledge and skill of Martin could be joined with the capital of Silsby, a market could and would be created for franklinite ore to such an extent that the mines contained in Lot 10 would be able to supply only a very small part required".
On 15 March, 1877, a draft memorandum of agreement was signed by James Langdon Curtis and John Silsby. It is interesting to note that Curtis makes no mention therein of executing the document as an officer or representative of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. The agreement outlines that Curtis would personally "cause the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. to make, execute and delivery to (Silsby) a good and sufficient lease of all the veins, lodes or beds of Franklinite" contained on Lot 10, in return for payment of $1 from Silsby. It outlines that Silsby could mine franklinite on Lot 10 over a period of 21 years. The document describes Lot 10 as "that tract of land beneath the surface of which Charles W. Trotter has constructed a tunnel across a vein of Franklinite about seventy feet in width."
The memorandum of agreement also states that Silsby would be responsible for any payments "he may or shall have paid (Trotter) for the use of the said tunnel..." which certainly intimates that Silsby would be permitted access to Trotter's tunnel, but certainly in a manner economically equitable to Trotter. Most importantly, the document provides that the Silsby would accept the lease "subject to the license and privilege granted to Charles W. Trotter to mine and remove forty thousand tons of Franklinite and ten thousand tons of Zinc ores..." (emphasis the author's).
On 22 March, 1877, the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Company executed to Silsby a lease, for a term of 21 years, for "all the veins, lodes, and beds of Franklinite... contained in, upon and beneath the surface..." of Lot 10, receiving in return the nominal payment of $1.
The lease contained a number of covenants and restrictions. First, the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. was to receive half of the net profits from mining and selling the franklinite ore. They also reserved the same rights as they had reserved from Trotter in his licenses, specifically, that Silsby was to "properly open and work said mine... at his own cost and expense". He was to pay the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. the sum of $10 for each ton of ore removed, but he was allowed to deduct the cost of opening and working the mine from the cost per ton. All "tools, implements and property used in opening and working" the mine were to become property of Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. upon expiration of the lease.
He would mine, remove and sell 5,000 tons of franklinite ore the first year, and, each year thereafter, promised to mine at least 15,000 tons of franklinite "provided there be a market for the same at fair and reasonable prices." During the first year of the lease, Silsby was to "diligently seek and endeavor to find and create a market and demand for the purchase and use" of the franklinite ore, and for the remaining 20 years he would "mine, remove and sell the said ores to the fullest extent of the productive capacity" of the mine, "provided there shall be a demand and market therefor, at prices paying a fair and reasonable profit."
Silsby also agreed that if the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. caused a corporation to be created for the purpose of mining the franklinite, Silsby would surrender his lease in return for half of the full-paid capital stock of the corporation. Both parties would receive their profits thereafter in the form of stock dividends, as opposed to a direct profit split from ore sales.
The company also reserved the profits from their agreement with Trotter to themselves.
Yet in their lease to Silsby, no mention is made that the lease is "subject to the license and privilege granted to Charles W. Trotter". The original wording of the memorandum of agreement between Silsby and Curtis is, instead, replaced by a rather nebulous provision that the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. "reserves to itself" the same "rights and privileges... subject to the same conditions and limitations" as appear in Trotter's licenses. Nothing in this provision establishes that Silsby was required to recognize the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. license to Trotter; it merely states that Silsby and Trotter were to respect in identical fashion the rights of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. in their exploitation of Lot 10.
How the wording and intent of the memorandum of agreement became so grossly altered in the matter of a few days is not apparent. This is not the first case of one legal document being transmogrified into a new title transfer which expresses entirely different legal rights; in the early 1850's, title to the "franklinite and iron ores" at Mine Hill, Franklin, suddenly metamorphosed into title to the "the iron ore known as franklinite", laying the groundwork for decades of litigation over the very meaning of the two terms, and what difference in mining rights they conveyed (especially after a process was discovered to make it technically feasible to recover zinc from Franklinite). It is certainly ironic that James Langdon Curtis was also a principal corporate officer, and dominant shareholder, of the company that was responsible for this earlier "change".
Thirty days prior to the actual execution of the lease, Silsby had begun to make a market for the ore: The Cambria Iron and Steel Company had agreed to take 20,000 tons a year, and a Mr. Henderson had agreed to take 12,000 tons a year for his iron works.
In preparation of mining Lot 10, Silsby appointed Martin as his "agent", to manage all activities on Lot 10 as well as act as ore salesman and promoter.
Silsby would later claim that from the outset he had "desired to get along in the easiest manner" with Trotter, despite the fact that he was of the opinion that his lease superseded Trotter's license of Lot 10.
Henry Martin paid a visit on Trotter on Saturday, 17 March 1877, just two days after the draft memorandum of agreement, to inform him that Silsby had leased Lot 10 for mining of franklinite and to express that he "desired to have a pleasant understanding, and that they should not interfere with each other in selling the ores, and that each could throw custom into the other's hands". It also appears that Martin inferred to Trotter that Silsby was intent upon using Trotter's tunnel for the mining of the ore.
By that time, Trotter had taken on as partner in his venture William Dixson, and requested time to confer with his partner on the matter.
When Martin met again with Trotter and Dixson, three days later, Trotter said "You thought we could work together without any interference with each other. I think differently. How would you propose to obviate difficulties?"
Martin replied that Silsby proposed to put his own mining crew into the tunnel, along side Trotter's men and under the direction of Trotter's superintendent (Kemble), and to share equally half the salary of the superintendent.
Trotter responded that he "would do nothing of the kind" and added that "there is no more franklinite ore in Lot Number 10 than what belongs to me... forty thousand tons". Trotter later recollected that he told Martin that he saw no way in which Silsby could exercise his right to mine the Franklinite ores in the tunnel without interference with Trotter's efforts.
Trotter would later claim that Martin stated "Well, then, I suppose we shall have to sink a shaft" to which Trotter said "Very well".
Silsby subsequently wrote a note to Trotter, sent via Henry Martin, that "the allegation you have made, that there are not exceeding forty thousand tons of Franklinite on lot No. 1, is a gross error, there being in said lot No. 10, as I think you know, from 500,000 to a million of tons."
Gardiner hurriedly arranged a meeting between himself, Trotter, and Silas M. Stilwell (although whether Stilwell was acting in his official capacity as Assistant Secretary of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co., or merely on his own accord), in New York City to ask Trotter to drop all his objections to Silsby's use of the tunnel, "to the end that the franklinite ore could be at once brought into the market."
Gardiner offered to try to secure for Trotter the payment of 25 or 50 cents a ton for every ton Silsby mined, until Trotter's expenses for the tunnel had been reimbursed and for Silsby to mine and sell the franklinite for Trotter, at a cost to Trotter not to exceed $1.30 a ton.
Trotter responded that he knew that "Silsby had no market for the (franklinite), and could not obtain one", adding that because of the low zinc content of the franklinite it was worthless for making zinc, and "that the iron manufacturers would not use it". Trotter claimed he "had done everything in his power to sell the ore, and could not sell a pound". He added "that he had sent circulars to all the iron manufacturers and that he had not received a single answer from any of them", and thus from his own experience he knew that the ore could not be sold.
Trotter stated that if he accepted their offer, "Silsby would mine only a few hundred tons and would then stop altogether, because he could get no market". Trotter firmly believed he "could not mine the ore for less than two dollars per ton, and that he knew a great deal more about the business than Silsby".
Gardiner informed him that Silsby had already found "a market for all the ore they could get out of the mine, and that the iron manufacturers were urging Silsby to send forward the ore".
At that point, Trotter grew angry, and stated that if Silsby wanted the tunnel, he was willing to sell him all his interest in the tunnel and his zinc factory at Elizabethport. Gardiner asked him what he would want for the tunnel alone, sans the zinc works, to which Trotter declined to respond.
Stilwell told Trotter "you know that I am your friend; that if you will state what you think you ought to have, I will do all I can to secure to you from the company everything that is your due, and more; but I hope that you will throw no obstacle in the way of Silsby in developing our property. Silsby is the man we have been looking for for twenty five years, and have never found him until now. I consider it of the greatest importance to the company that he shall be allowed to proceed at once and open our mines and sell our ores. You, Charles, have tried to sell these ores, and have not succeeded; now we have the opportunity, and I do hope you will not prevent it."
Trotter agreed to another meeting between Stilwell, Curtis (now President of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.) and himself at Stilwell's 20 Nassau Street office in New York City. Stilwell later told Gardiner that "Trotter declined to say what he wanted and nothing whatever could be done with him".
One can imagine that Trotter felt himself ill-used by both the officers of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. and Silsby. After spending 20 months driving a tunnel into the side of Sterling Hill, more than three times the length that the "experts" supplied by the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. had claimed necessary, after finally striking zinc ore not rich zincite, but lesser quality "silicate of zinc" and being unable to market the rich franklinite he had struck, the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. wanted him to step aside so that Silsby could take possession of the works. To add insult to injury, Silsby had succeeded where Trotter had failed in marketing the rich franklinite, and apparently done so without much effort creating a market even before he officially took possession of the mine.
When Silsby learned second-hand of the meetings, he interpreted the action as an attempt by Trotter to extract from him a "bonus" ... an extortion payment to allow Silsby's crew to "go into the premises and mine quietly without... opposition..."
"Finding all attempts to get along with... Trotter peaceably to fail," on 14 April 1877 Silsby served written notice on Trotter and Dixson to immediately surrender possession of Lot 10.
It would appear that Silsby felt that his lease constituted a valid activation of the clause, repeated in all of Trotter's licenses, which gave the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. the right to mine both the zinc and franklinite ores for Trotter (and nothing in the clause prohibited the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. from engaging a third party to perform the mining). Also, Silsby may have believed that since the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.'s lease made no provision requiring him to recognize the validity of Trotter's mining licenses, (and noting that Curtis' memorandum of agreement which did recognize Trotter's rights was not legally binding in the face of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co.'s lease) and that, most critically, his lease from the company gave him access to all of the Franklinite on Lot 10, Silsby concluded that his lease legally constituted a revocation of the franklinite
license granted Trotter. Or, at least, it duly constituted a convenient pretext to eliminate the impediment which Trotter had become to Silsby's operations.
When Trotter was served with the notice at his New York City office, he asked Martin, who was acting as courier for Silsby, "Well, what is it you want?" Martin responded "I want a reply from you as to what you are going to do." Reviewing the contents of the notice, Trotter refused to comply, saying "I shall do nothing of the kind."
On 2 May 1877, Silsby sent Trotter four more notices, the first demanding possession of the tunnel, the second demanding access to the tunnel to mine, the third demanding possession of all of Lot 10 external to the tunnel, and the fourth revoking all of the licenses granted Trotter by the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Company.
Upon receipt of the notices, Trotter responded "I decline to do as Mr. Silsby requests." To Silsby's revocation of the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co's licenses, Trotter stated "That's of no consequence. Mr. Silsby has no power of that kind. I decline to comply with any of his demands."
However, Trotter took the opportunity to attempt to clarify an earlier comment he made to Silsby. "I don't claim that there are only 40,000 tons of Franklinite. I meant that all the ores above the level, or bottom or floor of the tunnel will not amount to above forty thousand tons".
Silsby, at this juncture, called in his attorney, Robert Gilchrist of the firm of Gilchrist and Gilmore, who filed a petition with the Chancery Court of the State of New Jersey seeking an injunction against Trotter and Dixson.
On 3 May, 1877, Theodore Runyon, Chancellor at Chancery of the State of New Jersey, issued an injunction against Trotter and Dixson, enjoining them to not interfere with Silsby or his men in their access to the tunnel on Lot 10, or in Silsby's mining in the tunnel or in Lot 10. Further, Silsby was to have access to all of the tunnel railways, railroad tracks, and cars from Trotter's operation.
In granting Silsby's petition, the court noted "it is intended by this order to give protection to said Silsby in the right to use said tunnel contemporaneously with the use thereof by said Trotter... but always so as to not interfere with (Trotter's) mining operations there..."
Runyon also ordered Silsby to post a $10,000 bond to Trotter.
On the morning of Saturday, 12 May, 1877, Trotter's crew was at work in the tunnel under the direction of Kemble, breaking down ore, loading it into cars and placing it on the ore dock. In the afternoon, Kemble put the crew to work on the construction of a railroad switch on the spur line they had constructed to the New Jersey Midland Railway's line. Kemble noticed that Martin had arrived at Lot 10, "without any apparent business errand".
Between 3 and 4 o'clock that afternoon, Martin was joined by Owen Connelly, a Silsby employee, and a Mr. Shriver, Deputy Sheriff of Sussex County. The small group approached Kemble.
Martin said "Mr. Kemble, I make you acquainted with Mr. Shriver, the Sheriff; he has some papers for you."
Deputy Sheriff Shriver handed Kemble the injunction and a subpoena to appear in court to answer the charges wrought by Silsby.
"We take possession of the tunnel" Martin announced.
Martin and Shriver went to the tunnel. Kemble followed after them a few minutes later.
"...When I got there the door of the tunnel was locked," Kemble recalled. "There was a new padlock on it, which was not there before they went to the tunnel, of which I had no key." He had "been accustomed before that, when leaving the tunnel at night to lock it or cause it to be locked."
Martin later recorded that the reason he caused the tunnel to be locked on the day the injunction was served was "because the usual time for locking it had arrived, which on Saturday is about half past three to four o'clock" and added that Trotter's crew had already quit for the day.
One of Trotter's ore cars was trapped outside when the tunnel was sealed. Kemble asked if they would open the tunnel and put it inside, "as the boys might do mischief with it": the next day being Sunday, he feared the local boys would run the ore car up and down the track. According to Kemble, Martin refused; Martin would later claim they agreed that it would be just as easy to take the car off the track, which his men did.
According to Martin, Kemble's final words to him that day were: "If I had known that the injunction was out, I would have fixed the tunnel so you would not have worked there for any six months".
On Monday morning, about 7:30 a.m., Kemble returned to the site with a 4-man crew to continue the mining. They found the tunnel occupied by 12 of Silsby's miners at work removing zinc ore, a second crew of Silsby's men removing franklinite, and both crews using Trotter's cars to run ore out to the dock. "The tunnel was so occupied that it was impossible for me to do any work therein without interfering with the work they were doing, and so, in obedience to the Chancellor's order... I forbore to endeavor to work there."
The Silsby mining activities were under the direction of Owen Connelly, who had been installed as superintendent under Martin. (As a minor historical footnote, Connelly would serve, about 1906, as Harvard mineralogist Charles Palache's guide during his investigations at the Noble Mine.)
Kemble briefly discussed the situation with Martin. He pointed out that the court order only forbade interference, not mining. Martin said "Suppose when you send a car in you should meet one of ours coming out?" Kemble agreed that this could be construed by the court as interference, and so desisted from his attempts to mine.
Trotter had previously mined and stored on the ore dock approximately 400 tons of franklinite, as well as roughly 560 tons of zinc ore. The zinc ore, however, was "mixed with dirt, and of poor quality". Unable to obtain the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co's recommended price of $10 per ton, Trotter had been selling it at $4 a ton. Silsby's men "heaped up the ore belonging to Messrs Trotter and Dixson... lying upon the ore dock, so as to give more room upon the dock" for their own ore.
Describing the physical workings of the mine soon after Silsby's men took possession of Trotter's tunnel, Martin noted that the tunnel was properly 350 feet long. "At that point the mine itself commences and on the left side of the line of the tunnel a space of about 30 feet toward the left and twenty feet forward has been mined for zinc; and from this point up to the surface there is a hole... From the surface of the hill to the bottom of the tunnel (measured through said hole or pit) is a distance of about seventy five feet. Said pit or hole is used for light and air, and most of it was made several years ago in mining franklinite, but has long since been abandoned. It is of the area of about 20x30 feet, varying in diameter."
The "pit or hole" appears to have been a relic of an earlier 19th century attempt to exploit the franklinite deposit on Lot 10, and was not necessarily part of either Trotter's or Silsby's work. Martin continued:
"Beyond the said space of 30x20 feet so mined as aforesaid, are two other spaces which have been mined by (Silsby); one is 10x12 feet and the other about 12x12 feet, so that there is a space of over 800 superficial square feet, at a distance beyond 350 feet from the mouth of the tunnel which has been mined, and the general height of the said two smaller spaces is about 10 to 12 feet..."
The litigation that ensued consisted of recriminations and counter-recriminations between Trotter and Silsby. The attorney for Trotter and Dixson stated "their business in relation to the said mine was entirely broken up and destroyed by losing possession" of the tunnel.
Silsby wrote to the court: "It is of the greatest necessity for your orator to be able to mine Franklinite immediately, to supply the market he has already created in good faith... If said Trotter and Dixson are allowed to keep your orator out of said tunnel, and from exercising his mining rights there, they will cause your orator irreparable injury, deprive him of the market he has created, and will be taking away ore by their mining which your orator is equally entitled to..."
Silsby requested that the Court appoint an independent mine manager to oversee operations both in the tunnel and in Lot 10 in general; the manager was to work under the direction of the Court. He requested that, if Trotter and Dixson were not restrained from actual mining in the tunnel or in Lot 10, that the Court would at least issue an injunction against them from interfering in the mining activities of his own crews. He asked the court to enjoin Trotter from any mining activities at all on Lot 10, including the tunnel.
Silsby's attorney charged that Trotter, from date of his lease until the date of Silsby's lease, had done nothing to mine the 20,000 tons of zinc ore or the 40,000 tons of franklinite ore. Although the terms of Trotter's first license dictated that he should have already removed 2800 tons of ore, Silsby's attorney was more likely trying to make the point that Trotter's mining activities were non-existent rather than claiming breach-of-contract.
Silsby informed the court that Trotter had admitted to him that "he had not been able to find any purchasers for any franklinite, that he had issued many circulars, had had but one or two answers, and they led to no results".
Trotter stated that Silsby, since his seizure of the site, had been marketing ore at half the price fixed by Trotter. Trotter's price had to include cost of mining, into which they had to factor the cost of the tunnel; Silsby, "having possession of the tunnel without expense", was able to fix lower prices.
Martin retorted that Trotter's license had stipulated he was to be reimbursed for the cost of the tunnel from the portion of profits due to the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. He added "it is not the cost of the tunnel that makes the difference in the price, but it is the asking of more than the market price, and the wasteful and expensive manner in which the mine has been worked." By "care and attention", Silsby was able to mine at a cost $2 per ton cheaper than Trotter.
"As an illustration," Martin told the court,"two men under (Silsby) will load five cars in a day, while four men under Trotter would load but three". Martin stated that from Trotter's sale of zinc ore, he should already have been reimbursed the cost of the tunnel notwithstanding the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Company's contractual pledge to reimburse him. Trotter's superintendent had admitted to him that they had been unable to sell any of the franklinite, "though having it on hand over a year".
Martin wryly added "...if he charges more than the trade will pay, it is not the fault of (Silsby)".
Finally, he pointed out to the court his opinion that, with the mine under Silsby's direction, Trotter and Dixson would be able to recoup their investment more quickly than if Trotter and Dixson worked alone. Martin testified that since 14 May, 1877, when his own crew had begun mining via the tunnel, they had exposed in a space of 110 feet in the tunnel an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 tons of franklinite.
Silsby described Trotter's tunnel to the court as an "irregular and ill built tunnel, but useful". He estimated that the tunnel, with other improvements made to the site by Trotter, was worth between $5,000 and $8,000... well below Trotter's actual cost of $15,000. He complained that the construction of the tunnel "ought to have been accomplished with an adequate number of men, and proper machinery, in four months from date of license". Mapes, who was painfully aware that the decision to excavate the tunnel had been based on an estimated distance of 150 feet, not 380 feet, to strike ore, dissented, however. "In my judgement, the method determined on and executed was the best, the cheapest, and as expeditious as was desirable or desired... The work was driven with all practicable speed..."
Silsby claimed in court that the tunnel represented the only manner in which the ores of Lot 10 could be worked, "except at an expense which will be very great and extraordinary", and further, that there was no other place on Lot 10 through which another tunnel could be constructed. He stated the tunnel was sufficiently large as to permit from 20 to 25 men to mine ore in it, while Trotter had never used more than 5 or 6 men in it. He further estimated that he could enlarge the tunnel so that, within 30 days, 50 men could mine in it without disturbing one another. Trotter countered by reminding the court "there is but one track in the tunnel, nor is another possible. There is no place in it where a siding could be made in which to switch cars off the main track." Henry Martin, in a brilliant flash of logic, proposed "a very simple contrivance of a bell on each car, to be rung so as to signal that a car was coming in or going out, would dispense with all necessity for two tracks in the tunnel. "
A tunnel, Trotter declared to the court, was not the only manner in which Lot 10 could be worked. "It is true that the tunnel is a cheap and better method of mining the ores, and was for that reason adopted," he said, "but it is likewise true that on a certain point in the hill, penetrated by the tunnel, there is a pit sunk long ago some fifty feet in depth and which could be sunk still further, and through which franklinite outside the line of the tunnel could be reached and raised."
While the courtroom battle for the tunnel raged back and forth, Silsby's men continued to exploit the orebody on Lot 10.
Martin had discovered that Trotter's cars were "very poor and unfit to use", and he had three new cars made.
From 14 May 1877 until late December of that year, he had between 20 and 23 men at work in the tunnel, and an additional 7 to 10 men working outside. Martin felt confident that the operations on Lot 10 could be enlarged to hold "double and more than double" that number.
Kemble, who had remained "at or near" Lot 10, in the employ of Trotter and Dixson, "for the purpose of protecting their interests as far as possible" had observed the work of Silsby's crews. He noted that "scarcely anything has been brought out of the mine except the ore itself, showing to a practical miner that no care is taken in the process of mining in the removal of earth from it, or in other dead work, so that there must remain within the tunnel considerable quantity of earth and rubbish which hereafter must be removed at very great expense..."
He stated he had overheard Connelly give orders "to work all the men you can on the silicate, and leave all the dirt standing that will stand".
"We will work out all of their damned silicate!" Connelly added.
He observed that, by 4 December, 1877 less than 7 months after taking possession of the tunnel Martin had removed 1042 tons of the best zinc ore from the tunnel, 770 tons of poorer quality zinc ore, and about 1685 tons of franklinite ore. Kemble estimated that the best zinc ore was worth $12 to $15 per ton, and the poorer quality $6 to $8 per ton; the franklinite was worth between $5 and $7 a ton. However, Martin had told him that the franklinite was being marketed for $3.50 a ton.
Trotter estimated the value of the franklinite to be at or above $6,000 and added that the 1810 tons of zinc ore had been sold by Silsby to the Lehigh Zinc Co. in Pennsylvania for in excess of $18,000.
Kemble observed Silsby's men using Trotter's railroad spur connecting to the New Jersey Midland Railroad on one occasion; he noted that about 50 tons of ore had been piled into cars of the Sussex Railroad, marked for delivery to Aitkins Brothers, Pottsville, PA.
Finally, on 15 January, 1878, Theodore Runyon, Chancellor for the State of New Jersey, rendered his opinion on the contested tunnel and mining rights.
His decision determined that both Trotter and Silsby were entitled to the use of the tunnel, but that Silsby's right was subordinate to Trotter's; that until such time as Silsby was ready to furnish the zinc ore to which Trotter was entitled (pursuant to his license from the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Company), and until Silsby notified Trotter of his election to do so, Trotter was to have exclusive use of tunnel as long as his operations rendered it necessary that he have exclusive use.
When Silsby was ultimately able to mine the ores for Trotter, and when Silsby notified Trotter of his intent to do so, Silsby would be entitled to exclusive use of tunnel for purpose of furnishing those ores, AND FOR THAT PURPOSE ONLY, for such time during the year as required to furnish Trotter with ore; during the rest of year, Trotter was to have exclusive use of tunnel, provided Trotter's operations rendered exclusive use necessary.
Whenever Trotter's mining operations did not require exclusive use of the tunnel, Silsby was to have use of the tunnel "to such extent as will not interfere" with Trotter's use. Further, whenever Trotter suspended work temporarily, or whenever his mining operations did not render the use of the tunnel necessary to his crew, Silsby was to have the entire use of tunnel.
Finally, Runyon ruled that "if it becomes necessary for the protection of the parties in the enjoyment of their respective rights as thus defined", the court reserved the right to appoint a manager of the tunnel.
While the decision of the Chancery Court handed down a temporary triumph to Trotter, the ultimate victory would be Silsby's.
On 9 April, 1878, only months after the court rendered its verdict, the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co. sold their interest in Lot 10 consisting of title to both zinc and iron ores to an intermediary party, who transferred the title on 28 April to the Manganese Iron Ore Co., a corporation in which John Silsby held the position of President. To consolidate his claims to the zinc title, Silsby also purchased at auction the title to Lot 10 possessed by the National Paint Co. upon the final liquidation of that company's assets by the Chancery Court of New Jersey in the same year. James Langdon Curtis held prominent position on the Board of Trustees. The Manganese Iron Ore Company was not legally bound to comply with any of the licenses given to Trotter by the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Co., either with respect to providing him access to the tunnel for mining, or to recompense any outstanding expenses from the development of the mine. Effectively, Trotter was cut off and locked out from the ores of Lot 10.
Trotter turned his attentions to Franklin, where he acquired rights for a thirty-year period to a section of the orebody there from James L. Curtis, surviving trustee of the Franklinite Mining Co., in 1877. The mine he developed on the site still preserves his name. By 1881 he was in court again, embroiled once more in the protracted litigations over mineral rights at Franklin and Sterling Hill. This time he was ironically named as co-defendant with James Langdon Curtis in a suit brought by the Franklinite Steel and Zinc Company against them, which claimed that Curtis had sold Trotter some of the Mine Hill mineral rights without authorization of the corporation. In 1883, both Trotter and Curtis were sued by the New Jersey Zinc and Iron Co., successors to the New Jersey Zinc Co., who claimed that they in fact already owned the mineral rights to a parcel of land that Curtis had sold to Trotter.
In 1881, Charles Augustus Heckscher, Treasurer of the Lehigh Zinc and Iron Co., acquired part of Trotter's Mine Hill holdings as part of the settlement of a series of lawsuits between the two men. By 1887, Trotter sold out all of his Franklin holdings to Heckscher, who would launch the final phase of litigation that would end in 1897 with the consolidation of all the mining rights at both Franklin and Sterling Hill under the umbrella of a single new corporate entity: The New Jersey Zinc Company.
Silsby's victory was, however, short lived. While the Manganese Iron Ore Co. had published a lavish prospectus in 1881, it failed to generate sufficient interest amoung investors, who were undoubtedly in part put off by the complex array of suits over conflicted mineral rights and titles throughout the district. By 1882, the Manganese Iron Ore Co. was bankrupt, and its assets sold in 1887 to Edward Cooper and Abram Hewitt, two of the most powerful men in the U.S. iron industry. It does not appear that Cooper and Hewitt undertook any extensive mining on the site, and in 1896 they transferred the parcel to the Passaic Zinc Co. who, on 1 February 1897, fused their holdings into the newly formed New Jersey Zinc Co.
Today, most of the Trotter tunnel remains preserved at Sterling Hill, although roughly 200 feet of the structure which penetrated through ore was mined away in subsequent operations. Its eastern entrance, facing modern-day Plant Street, is sealed with a massive iron door.
I’ll find it eventually
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