Tuesday, December 14, 2010

graphite from the Colonies !

As early as 1630, when the region known as Massachusetts Bay Colony would have also been the address for a contiguous southern Mainer, colonial explorers searched the area for resources that were of especial value in London markets. None less than Governor John Winthrop's son- also named John- began a graphite trade with the Nipmuc. The native Nipmuc mined graphite from the hills in Tantiusques (near today's Southbridge, Massachusetts) to produce ceremonial paints. Winthrop used the mine to supply English pencil manufacturing. The Tantiusques graphite mine is among the oldest mines in America, and its fame is also connected to Captain Joseph Dixon who worked in the mine and built up a crucible-making business and the famous Dixon Ticonderoga pencil company. The mine was closed in 1910.

Today, the mine site looks like this:

In 1901, George H. Haynes wrote:
The mine is situated in the midst of a tract of land, still wild and desolate.
StrangeMaine readers might know that Henry David Thoreau's family business was a pencil factory. Thoreau pencils were made in the Tantiusques region- and were used atop Mount Katahdin by Charles T. Jackson for the early geological surveys of Maine.

Read the whole story about this ancient mine here

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