Franklin Co., Massachusetts




Gary B. Speck

 THE DAVIS PYRITE MINE, once Massachusetts’ largest iron pyrite-mine, is located about three miles or so north of Charlemont and two miles south-southeast of Rowe.  Both Rowe (2000 pop - 351) and Charlemont (2000 pop - 1358) are picturesque small towns in the rolling hills of northwestern Massachusetts.  Rowe was established in 1762 and incorporated in 1785, and Charlemont was established in 1742 and incorporated in 1765.  This gives both communities a long heritage.


However, our interest does not lie with them as much as in the hills east of Davis Mine Road and west of Davis Mine Brook between the two towns.  Here in the wooded hills, an iron pyrite outcrop was discovered and a mine developed by H.J. Davis around 1882.  The Davis Mine was very busy supplying a major economic boost to both Rowe and Charlemont.


A good-sized mining camp developed at the site, but little remains today.  There were four mining shafts, and a period photo of Shaft #1 shows a large enclosed headframe (shafthouse) tram and what appears to be a reduction works of some kind (smokestack and large building). It is said the mine produced about 100 tons of pyrite a day, and the iron sulfide was used to produce sulfuric acid, a commercially important chemical.


The camp included a blacksmith shop, butcher shop, electric lighting, at least 150 homes, and was major consumer of local farm produce. Charlemont claims to be the first electrified town in Massachusetts, so it is possible that power was then run to the mining camp.  The miners are said to have earned $12-15 per day, which in those days was excellent pay.  (I have not been able to verify that claim.)


In 1911, a non-fatal collapse of the mine due to “poor mining practices” ended the nearly 30-year run.  The mining camp faded, and by 1937 all that remained were a blacksmith shop and about 150 cellar holes.


Today, the Davis Mine is a major study area as there are ecologic concerns due to a pollution plume exuding from the old workings down into Davis Mine Creek.  When the mine collapsed, ground water seeped into the old workings, and now flows out and downhill into the creek.  The University of Massachusetts has used this as a study site so I do not know what the accessibility to the site is like.


The quiet remains of the Davis Mine are on private property, so access may not be available.  If you do visit the site, PLEASE respect the site for what it is, and abide by any posted signs and local requirements.  If you are granted access, please follow the Ghost Towner’s Code of Ethics.   



This was our GHOST TOWN OF THE MONTH for August 2006.




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FIRST POSTED:  August 05, 2006

LAST UPDATED: August 05, 2006


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