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Manganese and Markhamville

The community of Markhamville south of Sussex takes its name from Alfred Markham, a remarkable man and manager of the manganese mines that opened there in about 1862. Born in England, Markham had a number of careers in railway and fishing before moving to the United States. He moved to New Brunswick to become manager of the manganese mines in 1866. The mine was a significant manganese producer exporting 55,000 tons of ore. Manganese was used in the production of glass, varnish, cement and steel.

George Matthew discovered the deposit when he uncovered pyrolusite outcropping beneath tree roots. The manganese ore is found in Gays River Formation, a limestone deposited in the Windsor Sea. From 340 to 325 million years ago low-lying areas of the Maritimes Basin were flooded by seawater and the Windsor Sea occupied the Maritimes Basin into New Brunswick as far inland as the area around Sussex. The manganese mineralization, associated with calcite, iron oxides and barite, was found in vein-like masses and layers within the limestone.

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Newspaper stories written about the mines provide a glimpse of mining operation and the life of miners.

S.J. Daily News - Jan. 8, 1868 EXPLOSION IN A MINE. - We understand that a rather serious accident occurred at the Manganese Mines, Markhamville, King's Co. on Saturday, 4th inst., and in this wise. Five men were working at the time of the accident in one of the pits two hundred and fifty feet below the surface of the earth. One of the miners was engaged in charging a hole which had just been drilled for a blast. Mr. Markham stood alongside this man, while in the rear of both, a distance of some 6 feet, stood the companion of the man arranging the charge. Towards the mouth of the level were two other men shovelling out ore. Just as the miner had got the charge home and commenced to tamp up the hole, the gun-cotton exploded. For some little time after the explosion the men were oblivious to everything; but regaining consciousness they moved as fast as they could in the darkness in which they were enshrouded towards the mouth of the level. Mr. Markham, who, strange to say, was uninjured, managed on getting out to procure lights, and returning met the two miners. The site was a painful one. Both the men were covered with blood and dirt, and deprived at the time of the power of seeing. Mr. Markham aided them to regain the surface, and did all in his power to relieve the sufferers. Dr. Taylor, for whom a messenger had been despatched, soon arrived from Sussex, and exerted his utmost skill on the wounded men. Christy Leeson, one of the sufferers, is covered with flesh wounds, but there is no doubt that he will turn up all right if his sight can be retained. William Dodd, the other miner, an Englishman by birth, had two of his fingers blown off, but is expected soon to recover, although at present he is very low. The mystery of the whole affair is the escape of Mr. Markham. He stood close beside the miner tamping the hole, in a pit not more than 10 feet square, with the tamping bar a piece of 11.8 iron four feet long, and a number of rocks driven about by the explosion with great force, and yet was not wounded! His escape may certainly be regarded among things sometimes termed miraculous."

Daily Telegraph - Aug. 31, 1886 Manganese Mining. - A Visit to the Thriving Village of Markhamville. - How the Ore is Found and Taken Out. - A Walk Through Pits and Drifts. - Ten miles from the pleasant valley of Sussex, on the road leading to Hammond, are the celebrated manganese mines of Kings county, Markhamville … “

“… The workings are distributed at various points around the hill. In fact one cannot walk a hundred feet in any direction without stumbling over a trial pit or a huge cutting from which manganese in large or small quantities has not been taken. The mining of this ore differs materially from other classes of mining in this country, in as much as it is never found in regular veins but generally pockets - though sometimes it runs in irregular veins. Therefore, a large amount of prospecting has to be done each year in the search for new pockets when the old ones have become exhausted. Sometimes a pocket is supposed to be exhausted when another blast reveals a ton or more of first quality ore, which, when ready for the market, is as nearly valuable as silver. Manganese is found in many parts of the world, but the mines at Markhamville are the only mines that produce every known grade of manganese from the lowest to the most valuable qualities.”