Sussex County History Today: Franklinite is now official

| 24 Jul 2023 | 12:28

Sussex County is the owner of a great accomplishment. What one might consider a towering achievement is that two of our Sussex County communities, Franklin and Ogdensburg, are now the possessors of the title “New Jersey State Mineral: Franklinite.”

Franklinite is a very, very rare mineral that is found in few places in the world, and certainly is only found, in our state, in the Sussex County towns of Franklin and Ogdensburg. And it has been mined here in vast quantities.

The mineral is known primarily for containing a high percentage of zinc. Zinc is an important element in many of the products of our modern society.

In addition to the zinc, iron was also an important product of these towns since before the Revolutionary War. Many locals participated in mining from possibly the mid-1600s.

Notably, a large and diverse number of immigrants came to the United States during the centuries. They came from most of the European countries to northern New Jersey to find employment.

They would write home and relatives would also come for the opportunities. All found a job in, or related to, the hard and dangerous mining operations that helped our country grow strong.

The resources - minerals from under ground and the hard-working locals and immigrants - were a significant part of New Jersey’s history and central to the state’s contributions to the country.

A long and arduous journey through the legislative process was required to attain this legal action. Sussex County’s own: Bob Littell years ago, Alison Littell McHose, Steve Oroho, Hal Wirths, Parker Space and others labored diligently to enlighten others about the importance of Franklin/Sterling Hill minerals and to get the bill through both the Senate, then the Assembly.

Bill Kroth and Jeff Osowski of Sterling Hill Mining Museum helped recently to build interest on the local level.

The legislative team tried their best. It was uncertain if the bill would get out of committee, then through the Senate and Assembly.

Enter the schoolchildren of Sussex County. An eager student drive, a grassroots effort, was launched about a year ago. The kids from Franklin, Ogdensburg, Hardyston and Sparta wrote letters to the Legislature to express their desire to see this deserved title become law. Two waves of letterwriting took place.

The students’ well-placed reasoning and above-and-beyond exertion worked well. Through their desire, they crafted letters created in their class environment, and these were delivered to proper legislators and were effective in their delivery.

The letters were many and were impactful. They had a great beneficial influence on the bill getting through the Legislature. The students found that their voices could be heard, and they realized that good intentions along with perseverance can make a difference. They found that our democracy works and they can be a living part of it!

The bill made it through the Senate with no objections. The Assembly version then went out of committee and it too had no objections. This past week, the governor signed the bill into law.

There have been no “nay” votes in the whole process. Including committee voting and session voting on the bill in both legislative bodies, the toll was 121 Yes and 0 No.

On July 19, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law, pronouncing, “By designating Franklinite as the official state mineral, we celebrate yet another quintessentially Jersey piece of history. Franklinite quite literally helped build our modernizing nation’s foundation while fueling the growth of the railroad industry and New Jersey’s local economies.”

New Jersey state geologist Jeff Hoffman also recognized the importance of the mineral to the industrialization of the state.

Assemblyman Wirths has said the process was long and he appreciated all the public support.

Everyone associated with the effort has the highest praise for Sen. Oroho. He took it upon himself to shoulder the responsibility to get the bill through the Senate and get the motion going. He is a most highly respected person in Trenton, and this played no small part in the success of the effort.

For the record, the legislation that was signed was Senate Bill 1727 and it became Public Law 2023, chapter 110.

In the interest of keeping alive our ability to influence our laws, here’s a website to follow what’s happening in the Legislature:

The title of my column is Sussex County History Today. This event is a perfect fit: A long history of an important mineral that is unique to Sussex County and a “good news” historic law passage that was aided by today’s remarkable youth.

Bill Truran, the Sussex County historian, may be reached at