Branchville Pre-Railroad Not Much to Report

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Branchville Pre-Railroad

  • Not Much to Report

Why was Branchville less traveled? Norwalk to Danbury Turnpike

  • The Main Route to Danbury at this time came up Old Mill Road.

  • Most Businesses/Mills are along Old Mill Road heading into Georgetown.

Sugar Hollow to Branchville

  • Sugar Hollow Highway created around 1818 to ease traffic on Danbury to Norwalk Turnpike. This was not successful until the railroad arrived. Later referred to as The Old Route 7, a.k.a. “State Road”

Railroad Workers Pay- 1851

The Mining Town

  • Branchville Becomes a Mining Town: First Granite, then Mica, then “Oh MY!” World Wide Fame.

The World Famous Branchville Mine

  • Some Redding Residents call themselves Reddingites… Very few know it actually means: “hydrated phosphate of manganese and iron”

  • Reddingite was one of the 8 unique minerals discovered at the Branchville mine.

Branchville Mine Timeline

  • First Excavation by Abijaha N. Fillow approx. 1876. Mined for Mica but ceased in the spring of 1878 because he thought the mica was of inferior quality.

  • George Brush and Edward Dana of Yale University become so enthused by the new minerals Fillow uncovers that they engage Fillow to resume excavations with Yale Funds.

  • Nine new minerals were discovered. Mineral types: pegmatite, and quartz, feldspar, mica, spodumene, beryl and columbite. Eight unique to Branchville location. Brush and Dana get famous, Fillow gets rich.

  • In 1926: 31 minerals excavated by Frank Schairer. Schairer, in addition to being a well known Mineralogist, was a key contributor to the stellite-lined machine gun barrel project.

Branchville Mine Timeline, cont.

  • From September 1943 to November 1944, Fred and Joseph Burrone and Carlo Rusconi, all of North Branford, Connecticut, operated the mine for mica

  • Sandy Ridge Mica and Mining Company, Inc., 927 15th Street N. W., Washington, D. C., worked the mine in November and December 1944. Minor mining projects would continue until 1954.

  • Sheet Mica was important in WWII because it was used to insulate electrical equipment…Spark Plugs, Radio Apparatus, Fuse Boxes, Heating Devices and Telephones.

  • Michael DeLuca attempted to open the mine again in 1979-80 but ran into zoning problems. Monaplastics, Inc. landowners

Quartz & Feldspar Mining

  • 1880 Union Porcelain Works of Greenpoint, New York, leased the Branchville Mine property and operate it for feldspar and quartz until at least 1890. Feldspar is used in making porcelain.

  • Soon after (1891) The Bridgeport Wood Finishing Company of New Milford, Connecticut, operated for quartz and feldspar until approx. 1917. BWFC also leased mining land to other companies during this time period.

Fine Powdered Quartz & Feldspar

Railroad Success = Community Growth

  • Branchville, fueled by the success of the RR & Mining Industry, attracts Italian Immigrants, Summer Residents, Service Related Businesses.

Where Could Immigrants Find Work?

  • Bridgeport Wood Finishing Company

  • Country Estates

  • Deland & Gilbert Soap

  • Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill

  • Gruman Ice Tools

Life’s Fresh Air Camp

  • John Ames Mitchell of Life Magazine opened the camp in 1899.

  • He originally raised $800 to send 266 under privileged city kids from NYC to Branchville.

  • Located where Branchville School is today.

  • Later Hidden Valley, the New York Herald Tribune’s Fresh Air Camp.

  • A version of the camp still exists to this day in other parts of the country…in Redding New Pond Farm runs a similar program each summer.

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