Rufus Fuller & The South Kent Ore Bed

Some of these investors in the Still River works were important in the development of the iron industry in Kent. Apparently they had opened the Ore Bed at South Kent as a source of ore for the Still River works before the town of Kent was formed in 1738. Stockholders in the Ore Bed in 1736 are listed as Alexander Woolcott of New Haven, Robert Walker of Stratford, Martin Kellog of Stratford, Elisha Williams of Yale, Jabez Hurd of Newtown, Jared Elliot of Killingly, David Lewis of Stratford. They formed a company and bought one hundred acres including the Ore Bed from Obadiah Weller, December 15, 1736. They built up a healthy business supplying the Still River Iron Works and other forges in the area.

Considering the slow means of transportation and communication in the 1700s it is surprising to find seven men from six different towns joining together to own South Kent ore hill. Jared Elliot of Killingly was not only a full pastor, but a much sought physician, an experimental farmer, and a leading writer of his day. Captain Martin Kellogg of Wethersfield, captured by the Indians when he was a young man and carried off with his family to Canada, he later escaped, although he was captured twice.

The Rev. Elisha Williams was rector of Yale from 1726 to 1729. Apparently it was in this period he was involved in most of his business trans-actions in the Northwest Region. (He was a Proprietor of Kent in the first land sales.) Later he practiced law in Wethersfield. (1)

In his short History of Kent written 1812, Barzillai Slosson writes:

In the south part of the town about three miles east of the river and one mile north rapidly to the northwest. Until within about ten years past, the ore has been raised by sinking shafts into the earth to the depth of 40 to 80 feet, drawing it up with a windlass. This mode was both dangerous and expensive. As the ore must be blasted from the rocks in these shafts, accidents of a serious nature sometimes happened.

About 10 to 12 years since, a brook which runs at the foot of the hills was turned at a very considerable expense so as to run on that part of the dell from whence the ore was taken. By means of this, a great portion of the earth which lay above the ore has been washed away and deposited in a swamp and pond about ¾ of a mile below. The ore is obtained in this manner at a much less expense than formerly.

The iron made from this ore is generally brittle and not proper for ship-building or for farming utensils. Mixed with ore from Salisbury or Frederickstown it makes iron of excellent quality for any use. The price of ore after it is taken from the earth is 20 to 40 dollars per ton. The amount sold is from 3000 to 3600 dollars per annum.

There are six forges for making iron. They make annually from 30 to 40 tons each. This iron when delivered at mills in Canaan and Washington has generally been worth 100 dollars per ton. The forges are supplied with ore principally from the iron mines before described. Some is brought from Salisbury and some from Frederickstown. Charcoal is made from the wood growing in the town and within a convenient distance from the forges.

The annual value of iron made in this town for several years has been between 20 & 30 thousand dollars. The market has generally been regular and the money paid for the iron within 6 months after it has been delivered at Canaan or Washington. Since the restrictions on commerce the market has been more irregular & sometimes entirely at a stand. (2)

The open pit mine became exhausted about 1854 when the Kent Iron Company acquired the property. Deep shafts were again sunk in a different area of the bed, with a series of galleries radiating from the central shaft. The mine was worked until the closing of the blast furnaces in the late 1800s.

Today the ore pit is a great amphitheater about eight hundred feet in diameter banked by winter fern, a beautiful backdrop for an open air theater but not very accessible.

In spite of Slosson’s estimate the Kent Furnace found “the quality of the ore taken from the Kent Ore bed and melted in the furnaces ran close to 60% iron and was unsurpassed by any other found in the region.” (3)

1. Empire Over the Dam by Howell and Carlson. 2. History of Kent by Barzillai Slosson. 3. Resume of Kent Iron Industry by William T. Hopson – Lure of the Litchfield Hill. Vol. IX, No. 1
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