REPRINTS


Wyllys Copper Mine
By Charles E. Jacobson Jr., M.D.

Ed. Note: Dr. Charles Jacobson (1910-2010) was influential in starting the Lutz Children's Museum, the Manchester Historical Society, and in preserving the Pitkin Glassworks. He conducted independent research on the Wyllys Coppermine, and published this article on June 7, 1968.

Dr. Jacobson gave the Manchester Historical Society permission to link to his web site to access this history, and his family graciously gave us permission to post it directly on our web site after Dr. Jacobson's passing.

The presence of a copper mine in the Highland Park area of Manchester has been known for years, and many of Manchester's older citizens can recall exploring in the horizontal shaft which had its origin along the bank of the stream behind the Case Brothers Paper Mill. It has been called the Wyllys Copper Mine because at one time it was on the property of Ephraim Wyllys who owned a considerable amount of land in this area, and after whom Wyllys Street is named. Ephraim Wyllys has been assumed to be a possible descendant of George Wyllys of Hartford, one of the early Governors of Connecticut, but definite genealogical proof of this association has not been established.

Matthew Spiess and Percy Bidwell, in their History of Manchester, mention the Wyllys Copper Mine in two instances. The first is in the chapter on Indians where reference is made "to a deed of the copper mine." Unfortunately a careful search of the town records in Hartford failed to reveal any mention of a deed to a copper mine, and the origin of this information is unknown or, at least, buried with the authors of Manchester's history. Apparently the mine was in a section south of Highland Park know as Woarokieskquas, the name of a Podunk maiden who, with two other women, Wunne-Hutunah and Seutaubrisk, sold land to Richard Burnham in the year 1673. In this connection it is interesting to note that the General Court of Hartford in 1660 ordered that "no white man should buy any land of the Indians in order to avoid misunderstandings." However, by doing so the whites later became "proprietors" and were taken into account in the distribution of the lands in the so-called Five Mile Tract.

The second mention of the copper mine in Spiess and Bidwell's History of Manchester is in the chapter on Colonial Life in Orford Parish: "A copper mine at Highland Park had been in operation previous to the year 1762. Governor Thomas Fitch, in his letter to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, dated September 7 of the same year, writes: "Some copper mines have been in diverse parts of the Colony opened, but after considerable expense and labor, proving unprofitable became wholly neglected." There was another copper mine in Bolton, owned by the Reverend Timothy Woodbridge, which he mentions in his will. The copper mine at Highland Park and lands adjacent were reserved in the original distribution of land and held as state property for many years."

In the year 1663 the so-called Five Mile Tract, later to be known as Orford Parish (1773), and still later was Manchester (1823), was purchased from Chief Joshua, the third son of Uncas the Mohegan sachem, by Major Talcott of Hartford for a group of Hartford and Windsor men. In 1682 the Five Mile Tract was deeded to the Town of Hartford. Nothing was done with this land until 1731 when it was divided into five tiers and the land distributed to the proprietors. In a map in the Town Hall of Manchester, date 1731, the "mine lot" is noted in tier two, abutting the properties of Mr. Holyook and Samuel Benton. In a subsequent redistribution of the land in the Five Mile Tract in 1753 the "ursurpers" were closed off, two hundred acres were reserved for "any minister who shall settle in the area" and the place where the copper mines were was to remain undivided "to lye for the general benefit of the proprietors."

It is apparent from the foregoing history of the Highland Park area of Manchester that the presence of copper ore was known in the late 17th century and was probably worked by someone unknown in the early 18th century. No records are in existence of any company organized for mining purposes in this area prior to the year 1848 despite the fact that there is abundant evidence that mining efforts had been made in the early seventeen hundreds.

Interest in mining in New England dates back to at least 1651 when John Winthrop, Esquire, of Pequett, wrote a letter encouraging the search for minerals and metals in the Colony, and specifically mentions the presence of lead near Lynn, Massachusetts, and iron near Newberry.

The difficulty of mining in Manchester in the early seventeen hundreds may be appreciated by quoting a bit of the history of the Simsbury mines:

(From History of Connecticut, Osborne)

In 1707 the famous Simsbury -- or Granby then a part of Simsbury -- copper mine was discovered and granted the first mining charter in America. It was worked for seventy years but with more adversity than success, in spite of the richness of the ore. Because of imperfect knowledge and machinery, lack of drainage and the cost of pumping which was carried on day and night by neighboring farmers, the enterprise failed. Moreover, the British Parliament did not permit refining in the Colonies, and although shiploads of ore were sent to England, the cost of transportation wiped out the profits. A certain amount of refining, however, was done secretly by German workmen, and Joseph Higby, an ingenious blacksmith, struck some coins called "Granby coppers."

Interest in mining in Connecticut was encouraged, and in October 1718, an act to promote the improvement of the copper mines within this colony was passed, with the following preamble:

(An act to promote the improvement of the copper mines within this colony)

For as much as the copper mines within this Colony, by the orderly and effectual management of them, may in time to come be of great use and advantage, not only to the immediate proprietors and undertakers therein, but also to this and neighboring Provinces in general, although at the present they be of small advantage to anybody, and a fruitless expense of money to the proprietors and undertakers: Therefore to remedy the same, and for the more orderly and effectual management of the said copper mines, and to encourage, countenance and gratify the undertakers therein.

The act enabled companies to be formed and stock sold in order to defray the costs of exploration, excavation, etc.

The importance of mining in the Colonies was also emphasized by granting military deferment to mine workers, and is mentioned in the Colonial Records of Connecticut, May 1712.

(Colonial Records of Connecticut -- May 1712)

"This Assembly, for the encouragement of William Partridge, Esquire, of Newberry, Mr. Jonathan Belcher, of Boston, merchant, both of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, in their opening copper mines within this Colony, do grant, that all such operators, artificers, miners, and labourers, (who do not belong to this Colony) which may be improved by them or their agents in that said work, shall be exempted from all military duties for the term of four years, to be granted from the end of this present assembly."

The most exhaustive account of copper mining in Connecticut is a work entitled "Connecticut's Iron and Copper" by Charles Rufus Harte, and very little mention is made of the Wyllys Copper Mine. Harte quotes the Reverend S.W. Robbins who wrote the chapter on Manchester in "The Memorial History of Hartford County' and in speaking of Highland Park:

"Here the stream falls sixty-five feet over the rocks into the valley below, grass covered, and enclosed for some distance by wooded bluffs - a miniature Yosemite- admired by all observers. At the base of these bluffs are excavations that have been made for ore (sulphide of copper) which being found in limited quantity was supposed to indicate the existence of valuable mines."

Marie de Valcherville, writing in the Connecticut Quarterly in 1825 mentions that "The Wyllys mines were operated to some extent in the first half of the century (19th), and one across the brook from the still remains open for the investigation of those who have the temerity to explore its depths."

Charles Shepard in "A Report on the Geological Survey of Connecticut" published in 1837 noted, "Several ores of copper are known to exist in Connecticut, and extensive mining operations have been conducted with a view to this metal, but it still remains an uncertainty whether a sufficient quantity of copper has been realized to reimburse the expenditures thus far made, although the indications are highly favorable to the existence of valuable mines in the state." He discussed the various types of copper ore found in Connecticut, and states that the green malachite form is the variety found in the Wyllys mine. "Another deposit was wrought about the middle of last century (1750), and has been reworked to some extent within a few years, situated in Manchester, on the land of E. Willis, and included in gneiss, through which specular iron and iron pyrites are disseminated. A pit was formerly sunk into the rock on the hill, and at its foot nearby, a level was carried in for a distance of several rods."

Shepard cautions the individual or small groups to resist any desire to engage in mining in the following words:

"Their discovery however as it probably will be by much scientific research and by more or less of hazard, and demanding as it must large pecuniary resources, should in no case be attempted by or individuals of limited means, who, should they engage in these enterprises, would be likely in nearly every instance not only to fail of success but finally to be overwhelmed by embarrassment and ruin. Undertakings of this nature must be kept to joint stock companies of ample capital, by whom the highest degrees of practice, skill and science will always be commanded, and where the shares are so great that adventurers are scarcely affected by temporary losses. Such associations are already beginning to be organized in the country, and will increase in number as the value of copper rises, and as soon as our people become better informed regarding the success of English companies."

Perhaps mindful of Shepard's admonition that mining calls for a corporate enterprise and a sharing of the risks, the land containing the Wyllys Copper Mine was leased by Ephraim Wyllys to Isaac R. Barbour, of Worcester, Massachusetts, on October 25, 1848 as follows:

"This Indenture made and entered into this the 25th day of October 1848, by and between Ephraim Wyllys of Manchester in the County of Hartford and State of Connecticut, on the one part, and Isaac R. Barbour of Worcester in the County of Worcester, Massachusetts, on the other part. Witnesseth:-

"That the said Wyllys, for himself, his heirs and assigns, in consideration of the covenants and agreements, on the other part, herein expressed has devised, leased and to farm-let and by these presents both devise, lease and to farm-let to the said Barbour his, the said Wyllys's, Mine Hill so-called and all that part of his farm on which he now resides, lying west and north of the said highway, for the purposes of mining, searching, exploring, and excavating for copper ores and other mineral substances.

"To have and to hold to him the said Barbour, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, to the exclusion of all other parties, the mining rights herein specified, so long as the covenants and agreements herein on the other part expressed are complied with; together with the right to use one acre of land in the meadow west of the Hill or elsewhere on the granted premises and the water power, and to erect, maintain and remove, at pleasure, any buildings, machinery or shops, wanted for mining purposes; the right of way, to and from any shaft or shafts that may be sunk, to the highway, by the nearest and best course, at the same time subjecting the said Wyllys to as little inconvenience as may be.

"And the said Barbour, for himself, his heirs and assigns, that he, the said Barbour, will keep fair and full records of all receipts and expenditures accruing in working the mine or mines that may be opened on said land, to be set, all reasonable times, open to the inspection of said Wyllys and to pay to said Wyllys five per cent of the net profits resulting from the working of said mine or mines, for the first ten years; seven and a half per cent of such profits for the next ten years; and ten per cent of such profits ever thereafter as long as the lease continues, said rents to be due and to be paid semi-annually, on the first day of March and the first day of September in each and every year. Also he engages to pay a yearly rent of one hundred dollars for the use of the water power, the one acre of land and other surface ights herein granted, said rent to be paid semi-annually on the first days of March and September in each and every year. And in case this rent on these stipulated portions of profits are not all times paid within thirty days after they become due and are demanded, the lease and all rights under it are forfeited. The lease is also to be forfeited by the suspension of ordinary mining work for more than one year at a time unless the said Barbour shall pay the stipulated semi-annual rents of fifty dollars in March and September for use of water power and land as provided. But if these last named rents are paid the lease shall continue in force whether the works are suspended or not.

"The Lessee shall also pay damages to Lessor for any unnecessary injury don to timber fences, buildings, or growing crops of Lessor, by parties in the employ of Lessee and while so employed. Also to be required to fill up any excavations he may make on cultivated land and abandoned. Also, to keep the cart path, which he may use, in good order and keep up a good gate at the head of it on the highway. He is also to have the right to use more than one acre of land if wanted for mining purposes by paying a reasonable compensation for the same and to follow any mineral veins that may be found into lands east and south of the road or any part of the lands of said Wyllys.

"It is hereby fully understood that the said Wyllys retains the full use of the granted premises for agricultural purposes except what may be necessary for the full enjoyment of the mining rights herein granted.

"And the said Wyllys, for himself, his heirs, executors, and administrators and assigns, covenants with the said Barbour, his heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, to warrant and defend the rights and privileges herein granted against all demands and claims whatsoever."

Less than one year later, on September 28, 1949, Augustus Whitlock and Frederick Hennell purchased the lease of Isaac Barbour in the name of the Manchester Mining Company:

"Know all men by these presents that we, Augustus Whitlock and Frederick Hennell, of the City and State of New York, Trustees of the Manchester Mining Company, for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar, lawfully money of the United States, to us duly paid by the "Manchester Mining Company" of Manchester, County of Hartford and State of Connecticut, have sold and by these presents, do grant, convey, assign, transfer and set over unto the said Manchester Mining Company a certain Indenture of Lease, bearing date the twenty-fifth day of October in the year One Thousand and Eight Hundred and Forty Eight, made by Ephraim Wyllys of Manchester in the County of Hartford and State of Connecticut, on the one part, and Isaac R. Barbour of Worcester, in the County of Worcester, Massachusetts, on the other part - and recorded in Manchester Records of Lands Book 4th, page 331, October 25, 1848, and which said Indenture of Lease was assigned by the said Isaac R. Barbour unto us, the said Augustus Whitlock and Frederick Hennell, Trustees, by assignment - bearing date the Eighteenth day of January, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty Nine ad recorded in Manchester Records of Land Book 7th, 13th, (page), March 17th, 1849, with all and singular the rights, privileges, benefits, profits an advantages thereof and with all and singular the premises therein mentioned and described and the buildings thereon, together with the appurtenances. To have and to hold the same unto the said Manchester Mining Company, their successors and assigns from the day of the date hereof for and during all the rest-residue and remainder yet to come of and in the terms, and any renewals or extensions thereof mentioned in the said Indenture of Lease. Subject, nonetheless, to the rents, covenants, conditions and provisions therein also mentioned. And we do hereby covenant, grant, promise and agree to and with the said Manchester Mining Company that the said assignments, premises now and free and clear of and from all former and other gifts, grants, bargains, sales, leases, judgments, executions, back rents, taxes, assignments and encumbrances whatsoever except a certain mortgage upon the lands described in said Lease with other lands to secure the payment of Five hundred dollars executed by Ephraim Wyllys to or held by the Savings Bank of Hartford.

"In Witness Whereof we have here unto set our hands and seals this Twenty Eighth day of September in the year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty Nine."

No financial reports or progress reports of any kind were ever issued by the Manchester Mining Company, and it was liquidated in 1860 for failure to file reports.

Interest in mining in Manchester was revived in 1901 when a second Manchester Mining Company was formed.

"The undersigned being a majority of the directors of the Manchester Mining Company, a corporation organized under the Statute Laws of the State of Connecticut, regulating the formation of joint stock corporations, and located in the town of Manchester, Country of Hartford, in said State, in pursuance of said Statute Laws, hereby certify as follows: To wit:-

"1st. The following is a true copy of the articles of association of the Manchester Mining Company:

Articles of Association of the Manchester Mining Company.

The undersigned hereby associate as a joint stock corporation under the Statute Laws of this State by articles of agreement as follows:

Article I. The name of said Corporation shall be the Manchester Mining Company.

Article II. The capital stock of said corporation shall be three thousand dollars and said capital stock shall be divided into one hundred and twenty shares of twenty-five dollars each.

Article III.The purposes for which said corporation is formed are the following, to wit: Exploration, discovery ad gaining information relating or pertaining to Metallurgy, Geology, Geography and Chemistry, finding, acquiring, buying, selling, mining and dealing in ores, metals, rock, clay, sand and soil, and to manufacture any product which ores, metals, rock, clay, sand or soil enter, also to buy, sell, own real estate, personal estate, water rights; machinery, and means of transportation, necessary and convenient for the prosecution of said business.

Article IV. The Statute Laws of the State of Connecticut relating to joint stock corporations are made a part of these articles and are hereby particularly referred to, and the corporation hereby organized and established under and pursuant to said Statute Laws, shall have all powers, and proceed according to regulations described and specified therein.

Article V. Each subscriber to these articles agrees to take the number of shares annexed to his name of the capital stock of said corporation, each share to be the par value of twenty-five dollars as aforesaid, and to be paid for in cash at the time of subscription.

Article VI. The said corporation is located in the town of Manchester, County of Hartford, and State of Connecticut.

Dated at said Manchester, this 8 day of February, AD 1901.

Subscriber's Name

Residence

Number of Shares

Thomas H. Weldon

Manchester, Ct.

6

Charles E. Norton

Manchester, Ct.

6

James B. Foyer

Manchester, Ct.

3

Byron F. Darling

Manchester, Ct.

24

Clarence Heidacker

Manchester, Ct.

24

Jerry Dwyer

Manchester, Ct.

12

Charles Roemer

Bloomfield, Ct.

24

Edward House

Manchester, Ct.

12

Charles O. Treat

Manchester, Ct.

6

Charles O. Treat

Manchester, Ct.

3

120

"2nd. Said articles of association were, as the 9 day of February, AD 1901, published at full length in the Manchester Herald, a newspaper published in Hartford County, the same being the county in which said corporation is located.

"3rd. The names and residences of the subscribers to the capital stock of said corporation and the amount of stock taken by each is as follows:-

Names of Stockholders

Residence

Number of Shares

Thomas H. Weldon

Manchester, Ct.

6

Charles E. Norton

Manchester, Ct.

6

James B. Foyer

Manchester, Ct.

3

Byron F. Darling

Manchester, Ct.

24

Clarence Heidacker

Manchester, Ct.

24

Jerry Dwyer

Manchester, Ct.

12

Charles Roemer

Bloomfield, Ct.

24

Edward House

Manchester, Ct.

12

Charles O. Treat

Manchester, Ct.

6

Charles O. Treat

Manchester, Ct.

3

120

"4th. The amount of capital stock actually paid for in cash is Three Thousand Dollars.

"And in further pursuance of said Statute Laws, we cause this certificate to be deposited with the secretary of this state and a duplicate thereof with the town clerk of the town of Manchester, in which said corporation is to transact its business.

Dated at said Manchester this 9 day of February, AD 1901.

Byron F. Darling )

Jerry Dwyer ) Directors

Edward House )

This second effort at mining was also a failure in that it failed to file any reports and was liquidated out of existence.

An anonymous writer in the Waterbury Republican of February 28, 1937 made this colorful account of copper mining in Connecticut:

"Behind the history of copper in Connecticut lies a legend of dead men's ambitions and dead men's failures studded into suicide and possible murder, almost as colorful as the stories that came back from California in the late 40's or from Alaska many years later.

"Nuggets of pure copper fermented lush dreams of quick fortunes; huge corporations floated stock issues to elevate pay-dirt from the banks of nearby ridges, crevices, foreclosures, tears and heartaches, rejuvenated old folks disillusioned youths, all stalked the highways and home fires during the peak years of Connecticut's mining century. The whole drama of mining from debacle to death unfolded before our grandfathers' and fathers' doors."

To this day it remains a mystery as to who originally excavated the Wyllys Copper Mine, but it is probably safe to say that it was, no doubt, done by some enterprising early settlers in Hartford. The presence of the beautiful deep apple or emerald green maladchite ore was undoubtedly known to the Indians as the outcroppings along the banks of the stream or, at least, the old workings of the mine are still apparent today.

Today the vertical pits have been filled in, and the entrance to the horizontal shaft of the mine is almost concealed by a landslide. The floor of the shaft of the mine is covered with water, and inside no supports are in evidence.

It is more likely that the mine was never profitable and was alternately abandoned and reworked from time to time until this fact was finally established.

Webmaster's Note: Manchester resident and retiree Patrick Clancy emailed the following to us on March 8, 2016, concerning the Copper Mine. We're presenting it here as a contemporary commentary on the mine.

Interesting article. It also mentioned a pit on top of the hill. The pit still exists and is roughly aligned with the mine. I had always assumed it was a collapsed vertical shaft but a simple mining pit would make more sense.

I was in the mine two or three times in the early 60's. The mouth had been covered over for years by hillside slippage, but some ambitious teenagers had dug down exposing 18" or so of the top curvature. You could slide in on your back but you were quickly brought to a halt by two feet of water at the bottom of the shaft. It was very cold and I couldn't bring myself to wade through it in jeans and sneakers. There was also the fear that there could be a hidden pit under the water.

However, I heard through the neighborhood kidvine that the boys who had exposed the entrance had walked all the way to its end, so fears of a pit subsided. I borrowed a pair of hip waders from my father and explored to the end of the shaft. Despite knowing it was a man-made tunnel, I still had some vague hope that it would open out into a cavern with stalagmites and stalactites. Looking in from the mouth, the tunnel gently curved to the left and a heavy fog hung in the air due to all the water. My flashlight beam could only penetrate 20 or 30 feet. The mystery soon ended when after approximately 100 feet I came to a dead end. The rock face revealed a number of drill holes left when the work was abandoned.

After just a year or two, the hillside above slipped enough to cover the entrance again. To my knowledge it has not been reopened for the last 50 years. But, I'm confident I can locate it within a few feet.

Pat