Iron Works in Wanaque
Built in 1838 by Martin J. Ryerson on Furnace Lane, this furnace was used to separate iron ore from rock. The ore came from both the Wanaque and Ringwood mines. One was called the Blue Mine in the section known as Westbrook Valley. Also called London Mine and Iron Hill Mine, it was opened around 1800 and was named for the bluish cast of the ore. The area on which the furnace stood is now under the Wanaque Reservoir. The Furnace had its last blast in 1855 and was demolished in the 1920’s, its materials being used as riprap for the construction of the Raymond Dam.
Vernon Royle was a well known photographer in the Wanaque area in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This is a photograph he took of Freedom Furnace in 1903. Iron ore had been mined and smelted in the Wanaque area since Colonial days when the iron was needed and used for the efforts of Washington’s Continental Army. The making of charcoal for use in the smelting process was another early industry.
Both of the photographs below were taken on January 12, 1927. They show, to the left, the south side of the Old Ryerson Furnace, and to the right, the west and south sides of the same structure, also called the Freedom Furnace.
The photograph below is from a postcard. The inscription identifies “Old Furnace built in 1731, Midvale, N.J.” However, local historian Bill Trusewicz affirms that the Furnace was actually built in 1838.
History of the Blue Mine
The Blue Mine, also called the Iron Hill Mine, Whynockie Mine, or London Mine, was discovered by Peter Hasenclever and was located in the area known as Westbrook Valley. Originally known as the London Mine, it was worked for a number of years before 1857 by Peter M. Ryerson. Ore from this mine was being processed by the Freedom Furnace until the Furnace ceased operation in 1855. Visitors to the mine in 1857 and 1867 reported it filled with water. At a later date, the shaft was extended almost 150 feet along the vein. The Mine was worked again in 1871 and 1872. In 1886, the Wynockie Iron Company Superintendent G.M. Miller reopened the Blue Mine, working it over 100 feet down the slope and through a drift at the bottom some 50 feet in length. This effort produced about 300 tons per month. Work halted until 1890 when the mine was again de-watered. After operations were resumed, over 8,000 tons of ore were raised before it was again shut down. Despite another de-watering in 1905, the Mine was not worked again. The overall length of the working area measures approximately 500 feet. At its widest part, the ore vein reaches 16 feet in thickness and is on the average 9 to 10 feet thick. The ore is characteristically hard, compact, and mixed with much rock.
Other Area Mines
The Beam Mine was located 3/4 mile southwest of Haskell in a small valley between the knolls. This old mine was reopened in 1875 and a small amount of ore was taken out before the Mine was abandoned that same year. A 20 foot shaft was worked on a vein 4 to 5 feet thick. Today, two shafts and a few sizable dumps can be seen. The Brown Mine had a shaft 26 feet deep and accessed a vein 12 feet thick. It was opened in 1874 when about 250 tons of ore were raised. It was then shut down until 1880 when it produced some 1,232 tons of ore. The Knouse Mine had four shafts operating between 1867 and 1872. By 1875, it had produced 2,000 tons of ore. The two main shafts were 1,500 feet apart and 100 feet deep. In 1890 it was de-watered but it was not worked again.(Excerpted from: Ransom, James Maxwell. Vanishing Ironworks of the Ramapos. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966.)