Help us discover the history of Morris County miners – Morris County, NJ

Published on March 02, 2022

Historians seeking to uncover old photos, facts and stories

Morris County has a deep history of mining still visible today, from the names of places such as Mine Hill Township and Richard Mine Road, to the pits and sinkholes marking the landscape and the remains of historic mills that processed the bounty, including the Boonton Ironworks.

History has recorded the names of mining barons; however, the miners were largely forgotten.

Lost are the names, faces and stories of the people who migrated here from Europe in the early 1700s to dig the mineral-rich land by hand and those who followed, continuing to work in the mines, mills and supporting industries well into the 20and Century.

See the online history of the “Morris County Miners”, a work in progress

“Our invitations to the public to help us compile historical information for other projects have worked well, and we would like to have more information on the miners. The prize for us would be photographs,” said Jan Williams, specialist in cultural and historical resources for the Morris County Planning and Preservation Office, which is building the project online.

Boonton Ironworks.jpg Morris County historians have collected many names from census data in Morris County and in some cases, for example, the 1880 census for the Teabo Mine in Rockaway Township even made a distinction between an individual who “works in the mine” and a “miner”. An explanation of this distinction is not available, but Morris County has included them all in “Morris County’s Miners”.

“Also included are those who made their living in the service of miners: merchants, doctors and contractors,” Williams added.

The Office of Planning & Preservation has created online historical databases of everything from Morris County “Railroaders” and “Street Histories” to veterans of US military conflicts.

“The Miners of Morris County” delves into another rich part of Morris County history.

Did you know that one of the first iron mines in the United States was located around 1710 in the Mount Hope section of Rockaway Township? Iron ore was the primary target of diggers at the time, and Morris County was part of an entire region of northern New Jersey whose economy was fueled by local mining for more than two centuries.

Remnants of mining history, particularly iron mines, remain throughout Morris County.

Rockaway Township’s motto is “Iron Spirit”, and to this day its official seal includes a dark anvil. After separating from Randolph Township in 1923, Mine HillBridget Lockman Smith house Mine Hill.png The township takes its name from the industry by which it was born, although the community has more recently abandoned its former official seal, bearing mining tools, in favor of a more family-oriented image.

The town of Boonton, which owes its very existence to the Boonton Ironworks built in 1830, has undertaken the preservation and study of the ancient site and last year received a Historic Preservation Grant from Morris County to continue this effort.

If you have any information you would like to share, including photos, corrections to, or additions to, the online history page, please contact Jan Williams at:

[email protected].


Top right: Miners at Teabo Mine in Rockaway Township, cc 1880

Top left: The Boonton Iron Works cc 1880

Bottom right: After her husband died in a mining accident, Mrs. Bridget Lockman Smith began renting her double house in Mine Hill to boarders, trying to make ends meet. The house is significant to Morris County history as the only surviving example of an 1800s miner’s dwelling, and it is listed on both the New Jersey Register and the National Register of Historic Places.