A History of the McIntyre Mine
Near Newcomb, NY

New: Photos of the McIntyre Mine!

In 1982, N.L. Industries closed the doors at Tahawus, the site of the "McIntyre Mine," more than 150 years after the first ore was mined from the site in 1827. The scars of the past mining activities are still clearly visible today; an enormous pile of tailings spills into the Hudson River at Sanford Lake, many of the buildings at the mine are still standing, and one of the 60-foot tall blast furnaces built in the middle half of the 19th century still stands in the trees next to the Upper Works Road, now traveled more by hikers heading to the High Peaks than by mining vehicles.

The story of the McIntyre mine begins in 1826, when David Henderson first met a Native American trapper by the name of Lewis Elijah Benedict. Lewis was the son of the Penobscot Native Sabael Benedict, the first known settler of what is now Hamilton County. The hamlet of Sabael is named after him, and Indian Lake derives its name because of his presence on its shore. One day late in 1826 Lewis Elijah Benedict produced a small piece of iron ore for Henderson, who was in the Lake Placid region in search of silver deposits. A previous iron-mining attempt by Henderson and his friend and relative Archibald McIntyre had failed, and Henderson was hoping silver would be a more profitable exploit. Lewis Elijah was paid $1.50 and a plug of tobacco for leading Henderson through Adirondack Pass (now known as Indian Pass) to where he had found the iron ore. For over a century it appeared that Benedict had been paid too much.

After being led to the site of the vein of iron ore, Henderson immediately staked claim for the land surrounding the site, and mining was started at the Upper Works in 1827 (the Lower Works, usually called Tahawus, were located 10 miles down the Hudson River). Until 1837, all the mined ore was shipped to Lake Champlain, where it was forged. This proved to be very expensive, and the owners of the mine were constantly pushing for a railroad to be built to the mine. In 1837, a puddling furnace was built, and not too long after, a blast furnace. It is the latter that still stands along the Upper Works Road near Newcomb for anyone to explore. Because of the
Monument to David 
This monument was placed near Calamity Pond around 1850
in memory of David Henderson. The monument reads, "This
monument, erected by filial affection, to the memory of our
dear father, David Henderson, who accidentally lost his life
on this spot 3rd September, 1845."
heat required to operate a blast furnace, it requires a tremendous amount of fuel to operate. At the McIntyre mine, as was true at most, if not all, of the Adirondack iron mines, this fuel came in the form of charcoal due to the readily available supply of wood. Thousands upon thousands of acres of prime Adirondack forest were clear-cut to fuel the furnaces at the mines. And because of accessibility issues, most of this clear-cutting was done along roads and railroads. As more and more people came to the Adirondacks, they saw that the forest was disappearing. This was a major cause of the push for conservation in the Adirondacks.

Aside from fuel, another necessity for a blast furnace is a large amount of moving water to power the bellows. The furnaces at the Upper Works were powered by the Hudson River, but in its upper reaches, the Hudson is not the mighty river that it is further south (I've walked across the Hudson where it is less than ten feet wide, and the outlet of its highest pond source, Lake Tear of the Clouds, can be crossed in a single step). David Henderson got the idea to try and combine the Opalescent River, which flows into the Hudson below the blast furnaces, and the Hudson itself, so as to divert more water past his furnaces. Henderson never lived to see this dream realized. On September 3, 1845, Henderson, his son, and guide John Cheney were scouting for places to join the Hudson and the Opalescent when they reached a small pond inhabited by some ducks. Henderson handed his gun to Cheney to shoot the birds, but he didn't get a shot off. Returning the firearm to Henderson, Henderson put it in his backpack, which he soon set on a rock. The gun went off, fatally wounding Henderson. The pond was named Calamity Pond, and the stream flowing through it became known as Calamity Brook. The monument you see at right was placed at the spot where Henderson lost his life; it was sledded in several winters after the accident. His scouting efforts weren't for naught, however. A dam was erected on the Opalescent River that was able to divert the entire flow of the Opalescent down Calamity Brook, into the Hudson near Henderson Lake, and past the McIntyre mine's blast furnaces. This dam, which was breached in 1984 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation due to safety concerns, created what is aptly known as Flowed Land. There are currently plans to partially rebuild the dam, which would bring the water level in Flowed Land to about half its original height.

The railroad still didn't come, and the inability of the mining operation to cost-effectively transport its iron took its toll. There was also some mysterious impurity in the iron, something that no one at the time could identify. Whatever it was made the iron difficult to process, and slowed production further. In 1857, operations ceased. One man remained in the employ of the enterprise; he was paid one dollar per day to watch over the mine and make sure nothing was vandalized.

The mine would lay dormant for the next three quarters of a century, before the National Lead Company took over. The renewal of operations was in large part spurred by the U.S. Government, which spent $50 million to kick-start the Adirondack mining industry during World War II. Part of this money was immediately used to build the railroad that McIntyre and Henderson had so desperately longed for but never received. National Lead didn't care much about the iron; far richer veins were plentiful in the western U.S. What they wanted was the titanium, that mysterious impurity that no one had any use for, or could even identify, a century earlier. After more than a century, the McIntyre mine was finally turning a profit. During World War II and for more than a decade after, several thousand tons of ore were mined daily. Slowly though, operations throughout the Adirondacks fizzled, and one by one, the mines closed their doors. In 1982, National Lead, now known as NL Industries, Inc., ceased operations at Tahawus, probably forever.
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