The Garnet Story

Garnet Mine Tours

Near North Creek, New York, five miles up Gore Mountain from the State Highway, Route 28, is the entrance to the Barton Mines Corporation, produces of garnet abrasives since 1878. Here the largest garnet mine in the world supplies about 90% of the world’s garnet. Some gem garnet is included in its products.

Barton Mines Corporation is the oldest continuous garnet mining operation in the world; it is the first and oldest industrial garnet mining operation in the world; it is the oldest continuous mining operation in the State of New York; it is the second oldest continuous mining operation in the United States under the same management and mining the same product throughout its history. The Gore Mountain Mine of the Barton Mines Corporation was first mined under the direction of H. H. Barton, Sr. in 1878 to produce garnet as the primary product. Garnet is still the primary product and since this date the company has undergone no reorganization, merger, or change of management of any kind. The business was incorporated in 1925.

The first Mr. Barton came to Boston from England in 1846 as an apprentice to a Boston jeweler. One day, a man visited the store and displayed some stones which he said were garnet from the Adirondacks. Several years later Mr. Barton moved to Philadelphia where in 1876 he became a dealer in woodworker’s supplies and a specialist in abrasives.

At this point he combines his knowledge of gem minerals and abrasives and concluded that garnet would be just the mineral he was looking for with which to produce a better type of sandpaper. By chance he was able to locate the source of the garnet stones displayed at the Boston jewelry store almost thirty years before hand.

Mr. Barton procured samples of this garnet which he pulverized and graded, then produced his first garnet coated abrasives by hand. Shortly, this was tested in several woodworking shops near Philadelphia. It proved a superior product and for two years thereafter he sold all the garnet paper he could make.

Before long he acquired mining rights and contracted with a Mr. Moore to conduct mine operations.

Many imitations of the garnet abrasives were soon made by competitors but all proved inferior in quality.

Shortly, garnet was mined in several states: North Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, but none equaled the mineable supply at Gore Mountain.

The Gore Mountain garnet crystals are laminated and split with keen chisel edges. No matter how small they are crushed, the crystals never have a blunt or worn edge. It is this selfsharpening characteristic that makes the Gore Mountain deposit the best source of industrial garnet found anywhere.

Knowing his competitors were eager to obtain this source, Mr. Barton made several visits to North Creek and to the outcroppings along the stream bed.

As the mining operations progressed, the extent of the deposit became more apparent, so that in 1887 Mr. Barton purchased the whole mountain.

In those early years all mining operations were manual. The garnet crystals, varying from a few ounces to fifty pounds, were separated from the waste rock by small picking hammers. Because of the obstacles in moving the ore from 2,600 feet up the mountain, the garnet was cobbled, broken by hand during the summer, and stored on the mountain until winter when it was taken by sleds down to the railroad siding at North Creek. From there it was shipped to the Barton Sandpaper plant at Philadelphia where it was crushed and graded.

Eventually power and good roads came to Gore Mountain with the increased demands for garnet abrasives. In 1924 the plant on Gore Mountain was built. Utilizing modern milling methods, crushing, separating and grading were done at the mine.

Under present day operations, garnet ore is mined from benches or huge steps about thirty feet in height. The garnet ore runs over 100 feet deep, a mile long, and up to 400 feet in width. The garnet crystal is dodecahedron in shape (twelve-sided). The deposit has been traced back five hundred million years to its geologic origin.

The garnet ore is blasted out by dynamite tapped into drill holes. The drills can go down to a depth of one hundred feet.

For every pound of explosives used, two tons of garnet ore is scooped up by power shovels. The larger boulders are broken up by a drop ball weighing two and one half tons. After the ore is hauled to the mill, it is crushed and ground until the garnet is liberated. In succeeding steps the garnet is then separated from the waste ore through applications of various gravity and chemical processes.

The final processing of garnet is grading and classifying to meet close technical standards of whichever industry uses it. For some applications the particle size of the garnet grade is as coarse as 1/4” in diameter while for other applications, it goes all the way down to 1/4 micron. This is several times finer than ladies’ face powder.

Woodworking is the largest market for garnet. It is also used on plate glass, plastics, copper, brass and bronze. Garnet in powder form is applied on pounding paper for the felt industry. It is used in paint to produce a non-skid surface. Television manufactures use garnet for grinding and sandblasting glass parts. It is used for polishing minerals, grinding instruments and eyeglass lenses, for ladies’ nail boards, as a depilatory, for dental grinding wheels, spark plug cleaning, lapping memory discs for computers and for many other simple and complex applications in home and factory. One unique use of garnet paper is the removal of red hulls which cover peanuts.

At 2,600 feet altitude, Barton Mines is the highest self-sufficient community in New York State. It is ten miles from North Creek. The last five miles, known as the Barton Mines Road, was built by the company and raises at an average of 300 feet to a (feldspar and hornblende) as are many roads in the vicinity. About eleven families live on the property. The company has its own water system and can produce its own electricity. The company has fire protection set up with exterior hydrants, sprinkler systems throughout all buildings, automatic fire alarm systems, and a modern fire engine. For enjoyment and recreation of employees and their families, the company maintains a ski trail, skating rink, tennis courts, trout ponds, swimming pools, posted hunting areas, and boating on water adjoining the property. For business purposes, the company has constructed a landing strip suitable for light planes.