The Ingersoll Mine is well-preserved compared to other Black Hills mines and ghost towns. The buildings and mine are a short and easy hike from the parking area. The mill has several stories and all can be accessed. In several places, the floor has fallen through so proceed with caution. The highest floor can only be reached by climbing a few dozen thin wooden stairs. Several have been spray painted with frowning faces, indicating that it will break soon. The mine itself doesn’t go very deep into the mountain, but you’re still going to need a flashlight.
The Ingersoll Mine (also known as the Bob Ingersoll Mine, Horace Greeley Mine, and Ben Butler Mine) was discovered on August 24, 1880 by John W. Okey, John Schofield, and R.G. Williams.
In his paper, “A Mine With More Varieties than Heinz Has Pickles”, head mining engineer A.I. Johnson concisely described the Ingersoll Mine as “a mecca for geologists and a paradise for rock hounds.”
The most common, economically viable minerals found were feldspar and mica. Shockingly, about 2,200 tons of mica was produced at the site.
Beryl, a rare mineral, was plentiful in the Ingersoll Mine. Beryl can be found in crystals that vary greatly in size. The six-sided crystals are colorless when pure, but impurities can tint it colors like green, blue, yellow, red, or white. Emeralds are simply green beryl. In 1915, a large beryl crystal was found at the mine, measuring 44 inches high and 8 feet long. An even larger crystal was found in 1942 that was 19 feet long.
“Dr. Hess, head of the Rare Minerals Division of the Bureau of Mines, visited the site and wanted to make a national monument of the [large 1942 crystal] but, because of the strategic importance of beryl in the war effort, the crystal was mined and sold,” recalled Johnson.
The fall of 1944 was the stage for the mine’s largest ever beryl discovery. A crystal was found that was 28 feet long with faces being about 8 feet by 8 feet. Over 64 tons of beryl were mined from this crystal.
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