Tantiusques (Graphite Mine)

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Andri Kyrychok on September 17, 2008

Tantiusques ("tan-tas-qua") is now a 57-acre (23 ha) park in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The Trustees of Reservations owns and maintains the property.

The name comes from a Nipmuck word with a meaning close to "black stuff between the hills," referring to graphite deposits. The Nipmuck used the material to make ceremonial paints.

In 1644, John Winthrop the Younger, son of the first leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, purchased the mine and the surrounding land from the Nipmuck and began the first commercial mining operation on the site. Besides graphite, the mine yielded modest amounts of lead and iron. Despite difficulties extracting minerals and its poor financial return, the mine stayed in the hands of the Winthrop family until 1784.

In 1828, Frederick Tudor, a Boston merchant, purchased the property. He successfully mined the graphite for over a quarter of a century and employed Captain Joseph Dixon and his son, who would later found the J.D. Crucible Company of New Jersey. This company eventually evolved into Dixon Ticonderoga, the famous manufacturer of pencils.

By 1910 all mining operations at Tantiusques had ceased, but careful observers can still see the mine cuts, ditches, and tailings piles made by the various mining operations. The mineshaft that tunnels into the face of the low ridge is the most recent of all the excavations, dating to 1902. Most of the mining at Tantiusques was of the open trench variety. The cut along the top of the ridge is the partially filled-in remainder of what was once a several thousand foot-long trench, 20 to 50 feet (6 to 15 m) deep, and roughly 6 feet (2 m) wide, following the vein of graphite.

A meandering 1.5-mile (2 km) loop trail leads through woods filled with mountain laurel. This trail connects to a spur trail that passes through the adjacent Leadmine Wildlife Management Area and ends at the Crowd Site (purchased by the trustees in 2002), where visitors may view the foundations of Robert Crowd's house and barn. A man of mixed African American and Native American ancestry, Crowd worked at the Tantiusques mine in the 1850s.

Tantiusques was acquired by The Trustees of Reservations in 1962 through the generosity of Roger Chaffee. It was given in memory of his professor, George H. Haynes, of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Professor Haynes, a Sturbridge native, had a great interest in the history of the mine. In 1902, Haynes published The Tale of Tantiusques - An Early Mining Venture in Massachusetts. In 1983, through the efforts of the Sturbridge Historical Commission, the mine was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on September 15, 2008
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Andri Kyrychok
    • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
    • Taken on 2008/09/15 17:21:27
    • Exposure: 0.040s (1/25)
    • Focal Length: 59.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/5.600
    • ISO Speed: ISO400
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash