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Penn Minerals! - Classic Minerals and More from Pennsylvania

Museum of Classic Pennsylvania Minerals!

Welcome to the museum!  Page one includes minerals from the Wheatley Mine, 
the French Creek Mines and the Cornwall Mine. 

Showcase Specimen!

Pyromorphite from Wheatley Mines Phoenixville, Chester County, PA

This is a wonderful Pyromorphite from the Wheatley Mine in Phoenixville, PA.  The Wheatley Mine is actually a series of lead, zinc mines in Pennsylvania.  The mines consisted of the Wheatley Mine, the Chester County Mine, the Phoenix Mine, the Montgomery Mine, the Brookdale Mine and a few smaller claims that were all located on the same vein of ore.  The Wheatley Mine was by far the most famous and productive mine.  All are long closed and considered Classic localities.  Today, collecting is restricted to the dumps of the Brookdale Mine which is now the property of the Pickering Country Club.  It is a pay per entry site and a very popular collecting locality.

This specimen is actually attributed to the Chester County Mine.  It is a very fine example of the pyromorphite that was recovered from these mines.  The specimen measures 4.75" x 3.25" (12cm x 8cm).

The Wheatley Mine, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Charles Moore Wheatley, owner and operator the the Wheatley mine, actually had his hand in many other mining operations around Pennsylvania in the mid to late 1800's, including the Perkiomen mine and Elizabeth mine of French Creek.  Today what is commonly called the Wheatley Mine on many mineral labels actually refers to many mines that operated in and around the Phoenixville district of Chester County.  These mines included the Wheatley mine, the Chester County mine, the Montgomery mine, the Brookdale mine, and the Phoenix mine.  The Wheatley mine started operation in 1851.  Primarily a lead mine, for economic reasons Wheatley billed the operation as a lead and silver mine.  Concentrations of silver in the galena ore were assayed at between 15 and 120 ounces per ton.  Mining in the entire Phoenixville district ceased sometime before 1870.  

During that time Charles Wheatley amassed a collection of over 6000 specimens of the most spectacular lead and zinc minerals the world had ever seen.  Most mineral specimens came from either the Wheatley mine or the Chester County mine.  Many specimens available today labeled as the Wheatley mine were actually collected at the Pickering Golf Club on the dumps of the Brookdale Mine, a popular collecting site.  

The French Creek Mines, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Located in Warwick Township, the French Creek Mines consisted of two ore bodies.  The first ore body was exposed at the surface and first worked by hand around 1717.  During the 1800's and a succession of land owners, the shallow pits known as the Crossley Iron Ore Pits developed into the Keim Mine and later the Elizabeth Mine.  Magnetite and chalcopyrite were the primary ores with the mine operating for both iron and copper. 

The Cornwall Mine, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania

In 1737 Peter Grubb, son of a miner from Cornwall, England, purchased the land that would become the most historically significant mine in the Western Hemisphere.  The Cornwall Iron Mine located in southern Lebanon County, Pennsylvania began operations around 1738.   Peter Grubb built the first of many furnaces In 1742.  The ore was exposed or close to the surface on "Big Hill" so several men using pick and shovel could keep one furnace operating.  By 1776 and the revolutionary war, many furnaces operated at Cornwall and the casting houses produced cannons and munitions instead of kettles and stove plates.  Captured German mercenaries, Hessians, were sent to work in the mines and settled into the German community after the war was over.   

In 1786 an Irish immigrant named Robert Coleman, bookkeeper at the Hopewell Furnace, acquired a 1/6th interest in the mining operation from his boss, Peter Grubb, grandson of the Peter the first.  In 1825, Robert died, but not before acquiring control over the company and becoming Pennsylvania's first millionaire.  

By the Civil war in 1860, mining in the open pit had produced over 1,000,000 tons of ore by hand, but technology was soon to change.  Pick, shovel and horse cart were replaced by steam drills, dynamite and railcar.  With this dramatically increased production high grade refining was needed.  1883 marked the end of the original Grubb furnace.  The Coleman Furnace, one of many, was built northwest of the mines.  Operations continued to expand.  

in 1916, the Bethlehem Steel Company purchased an interest in the Cornwall mine ushering in another boost in technology.  Over 1000 tons of ore a day was processed at the Lebanon concentrating plant alone.  Total production, 20,000,000 tons and counting.  The first underground shaft, Slope #3, opened in 1921.   Slope #4 soon followed in 1926.  Production increased to 2,400 tons a day.  In 1940, and the the 4th major war effort at the mine, 358,000 tons of ore was removed, more than the first 50 years of operations combined.  At its peak, the Cornwall mine produced over 1,000,000 tons of ore per year.  The #4 slope reached a depth of 1225 feet.

In 1972 Hurricane Agnus hit Pennsylvania and the Cornwall mine.  The large open pit and slope #3 and #4 were flooded.  Geologists had already determined the ore body would be exhausted within 20 years.  The flood and shear economics determined its fate.  The Cornwall mine came to an abrupt end.  234 years of uninterrupted mining had produced 106,000,000 tons of ore.   This record remains unparalleled in the history of this country.