Mining memory's mother lode

| 21 Feb 2012 | 12:13

    Franklin - Miners from Franklin Zinc’s glory days assembled at the Franklin Mineral Museum to reminisce with old buddies, drink good beer and listen to the Franklin Band play favorite tunes. Mining in Franklin ended Sept. 30, 1954, when the rich veins of zinc-iron-manganese ore were depleted. Many of the miners then went to work in the nearby Sterling Hill zinc mine in Ogdensburg, which didn’t close until the early 1980s. “There was nothing like the good camaraderie we had,” said Dick Smith, a former foreman and veteran of 23 years in the mines. Dick Silker, a 39-year mine veteran, added that everyone had worked hard, but the proof of the brotherhood the men felt for one another was that they looked forward to every chance to get together and talk about old times. Bob Metsger, who had served for 40 years as chief geologist and manager, agreed that the men had been an exceptional team. Former mining buddies Andy Gancarcik, John Antal, Richard Rammage Jr., and Paul Rizzo said that the mines had been a big part of their lives and the lives of their fathers and grandfathers. “We have good memories of those days,” Gancarcik said, as he nursed a bottle of beer. “The work paid well, but we worked like hell and we really busted our butts. We’ll always miss it, especially the friendships and the jokes.” The reunion took place at the small brick museum, which is tucked away on Evans Street in Franklin. The modest exterior gives little hit of the mineral treasures to be found inside, which include samples of Franklin’s rich lode of zinc and spectacular specimens of rare or crystallized or fluorescent mineral species. Franklin is world-renowned as a region of ancient rocks, faults thousands of feet deep, and a wealth of mineral species such as zincite, franklinite, and willemite. On Sept. 13, 1968, the State of New Jersey passed a resolution declaring the Borough of Franklin “the Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World.” The Franklin zinc deposits have yielded 357 different mineral species, starting with the discovery of zincite in 1810 by Dr. Archibald Bruce. According to museum literature, Franklin Mine Hill produced a half billion dollars worth of zinc during the 106 years it operated.