Dispatches from Southwest Virginia

Daily Dispatch, Volume 7, Number 147, 22 June 1855, pg. 1


No. V.

More of the Lead Mines and their Extent--The Copper Mines of Carroll, &c.— The Iron of Pulaski — Coal of Montgomery and other Counties — The Benefits of the Railroad to this Country.

I have sought to bring to the notice of the reader some very remarkable facts, illustrating the mineral and agricultural resources of South Western Virginia, interesting as they are, not only with reference to the mere local advantage of that part of the State, but in their bearing upon the wealth and power of our beloved Virginia. In the communication of these facts, I have interlarded them with some descriptive passages and pleasantries, (dull enough I fear,) which, if they have inveigled a single reader into a perusal of the important statements presented, have to that extent accomplished my object. I return to my theme, resuming the description of those Mineral Resources with which my last concluded.

The Salt and Gypsum of Washington and Smyth, I have spoken of with some particularity. In my last, I described a visit to the “Wythe Union Lead Mines.” I stated that their annual product, worked in their very rude style, is about 500 tons. I learned at the Works that the cost of a ton of Lead, ready for market, is about $40. Its present market value is $120, from which would have to be deducted the cost of transportation, leaving indeed a grand profit. The owners are very industrious gentlemen; but very prudent, and will extend their plans and operations cautiously.

The chief point of interest, however, is the extent of the Lead region. No satisfactory exploration has ever been made of it; but Lead has been discovered at different points along New River for some 50 miles, beginning some distance above Cripple Creek, where the Union Mines are located, and extending down to below Pepper’s Ferry. Then what is said to be very excellent Lead ore, has been discovered on the land of Dr. James Kent, of Montgomery, upon the head-waters of the Roanoke, due east from Pepper’s Ferry, and in the heart of the Alleghanies. The Virginia and Tennessee Railroad passes very near those points, and intersects the line of discovery above Pepper’s Ferry. So that here we have a very extensive Lead region, whose ore, developed at various points, is very rich; but which has been worked only at one point, and in an exceedingly primitive way. When the Railroad makes this deposit better known, and the works become more extensive and modern, Lead will become an important and profitable article of commerce in Virginia.

The Copper Mines of Carroll, Floyd and Grayson, are of modern discovery, and have been but partially explored. From discoveries made at different points in a line running east north east, and west south west, it is ascertained that the copper region extends a distance of 50 miles from near Grayson C. H., across Carroll to near Floyd C. H. Mines have been opened in all these counties; but the main operations are in Carroll, from which alone shipments of ore have yet been made. In this county there are four companies operating. The Paint Bank Company (Geo. Stuart & Co.) have opened extensive mines and sent 500 tons of ore to market. They have also opened three extensive mines in Floyd, the Toncray, Weddle and Nowlin. The Cranberry Company in Carroll, (Bachman, Peck & Co.) have sent off considerable quantities of very good ore. They have opened five mines. The Dalton Company (Alexander Pierce & Co.) have opened an extensive mine; but have not shipped much ore. The Yarnall Company (John L. Yarnall & Co.) are getting ready for extensive mining operations— they have cut copper at 9 or 10 different places, which promises well. The discoveries made at various points along the line above described, we are informed, show that the copper lead continues rich all the way; it being at every point there discovered sufficiently valuable for mining. I see a calculation in a letter that the mines worked by Bachman & Co., which are valued at $1,000,000 will yield 250 to 300 tons of ore per month, valued at $25,000 or $30,000, or $300,000 to $350,000 per annum. The writer does not say what will be the expenditure in raising this quantity of ore. I guess that his is a pretty strong calculation. He says, however that spending recently a week at the mines of this same company, the hands averaged $83.33 each per day, supposing the ore to yield 25 per cent. A very rich vein recently opened yielded a lump of ore weighing 1,800 pounds, apiece of which being assayed yielded 60 or 65 per cent. The vein in which it was found was opened 25 feet lengthwise and 10 feet in width.

This copper region is certainly very wonderful. It has been pronounced the most extensive deposite of copper in the world.— Truman Smith, late a member of Congress from Connecticut, has recently visited Carroll county, to take a peep at the copper leads. He is a member of the Cliff Mining Company of Lake Superior, and well informed in the premises. He is reported to have declared that he was satisfied that this Virginia copper field was the largest yet discovered in the world.

The mines are chiefly under the direction and management of enterprising Tennesseeans from the Duck-town Mines of that State. The region lies nearly parallel with the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, and the mines are from 22 to 32 miles distant from it. So vast a deposite of copper as this is represented to be, however, must have a convenient outlet to market. There are two plans projected: a branch to the Virginia and Tennessee Road, and an extension of the Danville Road through Henry, Patrick and the copper region, to the Virginia and Tennessee Road.

If the statements that have appeared are anything near the truth, this great copper field will add immensely to the wealth of Virginia, and especially of the great South West.

The copper ore is at present shipped to the Smelting Furnaces of the Northern cities. Why can’t the capitalists of Richmond or Lynchburg erect Smelting Furnaces, and make the profit now derived from the ore at the North ? Richmond has the coal at hand. The cost of a Furnace is said to be almost $200,000; but the profit from the smelting process must be large.

There is now imported into the U. States about $3,500,000 worth of copper, more than a million of which is imported duty free in the form of sheet copper, for the purpose of sheathing vessels. With the immense mines of South Western Virginia added to those of the Lakes, may we not only cease to be importers, but become exporters of this valuable metal, furnishing it to other parts of the world?

Very rich Iron ore has been discovered, and once worked, at Peak Knob, near Newbern, in Pulaski. The same description of ore has been discovered for a range of twenty miles, on the South Eastern side of New River, and a part of it has been successfully worked by Mr David Graham, the representative elect from Wythe county. Mr. G has a nail manufactory at or near the mines, which has been for some time in operation. The peculiar red soil in which it is contained, diverges to the northwest of the river, and is strongly defined at Mount Airy and Seven Mile Ford. Indeed, with the very partial developments that have been made, and the signs which appear, there it no doubt that there are a plenty of Iron ore this rich mineral district.

And yet we have another addition to make to the list, and that is the important one of Coal; which has been discovered along the general route of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, on its northern side, beginning at the Big Spring, in Roanoke, and extending westwardly sixty five miles. It is generally a semi bituminous coal, like that of Cumberland. It is sometimes in contact with the road and again is eight or ten miles from it. At the Christiansburg Depot I saw some of it, which looked well, and I saw it burning at Wytheville, making a bright flame and throwing out much heat. It is used to advantage in the Scotch Furnace, of the Wytheville Lead mines; but cakes too much for the Slag furnace.

The coal deposites, as with the lead and copper, have been but partially investigated. Enough is known, however, to satisfy any one that it is an important item in the resources of this Heaven favored region of Virginia A fuller survey may show that the coal is of a value and extent far exceeding the highest calculations. In considering the advantages of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, it is an important item--since even though it should not become an article of commerce with more distant points, its transportation for local consumption will add largely to the profits of its freight lists.

Here, then, we have a mineral region—of salt, plaster, lead, copper, iron and coal —of unspeakable richness, about one hundred by forty miles in extent, that is penetrated by the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. It is a country, too, of unsurpassed beauty of scenery and of extraordinary fertility! What a revolution is the railroad to work upon it? And what incalculable wealth is it to yield, as well for the aggrandizement of Virginia, as for the promotion of the wealth and happiness of its own people!

It was designed to conclude these articles with the present number; but it is found inconvenient to do so without making too long an article for our space. I have yet to say something about the health giving fountains and summer retreats of the south west; for nature has extended the range of its blessings so as to include these too. To-day, however I am exclusively devoted to mineralogy. I only wish I owned some of those rich mines in the south west, I would gladly devote some years to it, unless indeed I owned such an one as the Kirkbridge Copper Mine, said to be worth a million! In that case I would sell out. But it is the height of absurdity to talk about a journalist owning a copper mine, notwithstanding there is a vulgar idea that the craft enjoy an unlimited property in brass! C.