Metuchen Edison History Features

Recollections of

Boyhood Days

In Old Metuchen


David Trumbull Marshall

Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930

(Second Edition)- (c) 1930


An Excursion to Mine Gully.

One day in 1879 Alfred and Gene and Harry and I went on an exploring expedition to Mine Gully.

Mine Gully is located about a mile north of the old Edison Laboratory at Menlo Park. The Gully is quite a deep cut in the red shale rock. This cut is about a mile long and there flows through it a clear, cold water brook which is in some places one or two feet deep and from three to six feet wide.

In this brook there are perch and suckers and the usual sunfish and catfish and shiners that one finds in most New Jersey brooks.

The sides of Mine Gully are in some places thirty feet high and the bottom from fifty to a hundred feet wide. Where the banks are steepest and highest the two mines are located, one at the east side and one at the west.

The mine at the east side does not go in very far, perhaps fifty feet, while the one at the west side goes in at the level of the bottom of the gully for a hundred feet and there meets a vertical shaft which goes down about a hundred feet and meets another gallery which leads to a shaft more than a hundred feet deep which was sunk about 200 feet south of the hole in the side of the bank.

Red shale is a soft, red rock which is softer than soap stone and which may be cut easily with a knife. In sinking a shaft in this rock the miner can loosen the rock with a pick.

When red shale is exposed to the air it crumbles- and when crumbled and wet forms a sticky, clayey, red mud, the typical Jersey mud which one sees on the shoes of the Jerseyites who come over the Ferry from Jersey.

The time we visited the mine was before Mr. Edison had had the old shaft pumped out and the whole mine, main shaft and all was flooded until there was water to the depth of a foot or less in the upper tunnel, the one which opened into the west side of the Gully. We boys had provided ourselves with matches and candles, and taking off our shoes and stockings we waded into the tunnel.

On the ceiling, which was at the height of a man's head, there were many bats hanging by the little hooks which are located at the joints of the wings, or what corresponds in a man to the hands.

These bats hang head downward.

They are soft, pretty little creatures covered like a mouse with a soft gray or reddish fur. Their faces are repulsive and if the weather be warm enough they will bite viciously when disturbed.

We boys waded along the tunnel and went in so far that we had to light candles, the boy ahead said "Be careful, the water is deep here!"

We clambered over the deep place in an old wheelbarrow.

What was our feeling the next time we went into the mine after the water had been pumped out to find that "the deep place" was a shaft which went plumb down for about a hundred feet.

It wouldn't have made any difference to any of us whether the water was one foot or one hundred for we could all swim like ducks.

The next time I visited the old copper mine was about a year afterward. At that time Mr. Edison was having the mine explored, for he had some scheme for recovering copper by electrical means and thought perhaps there was copper in the mine which it would pay to extract.

Old Man Horn, whom I had known for some years when he had charge of the locomotive filling tank near Dismal Swamp at Metuchen, was in charge of the pumping out of the mine.

The old shaft, which was sunk some hundred years or more ago, had been pumped out. This shaft was about six feet across and about one hundred feet deep. There were two tunnels running horizontally from the shaft, one near the upper level (the one we boys had explored), and the other running from the bottom. The bottom one I never explored.

When the miners explored the bottom level they found some old-fashioned shovels and other tools. Some copper ore was found but not enough to pay extraction even by Mr. Edison's electrical process.

The mine was allowed to fill with water and has remained pretty much as it was before, until this day.

The old, original dump heap for the debris of the mine is easily made out. Fifty years ago there were trees growing on this dump heap that must have been fifty years or more old.

There were copper mines at New Brunswick, N. J., in the same formation of red shale and sandstone which were opened at about the same period.



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Lasted updated 6/8/99 by Jim Halpin.