The Pequea Silver Mine has been closed to tours for nearly a decade because of safety issues. Silver Mine Park board members recently contacted the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mines to ask what they need to do to reopen the resource.
Bureau officials were “just ecstatic” when they saw the mine, says Cynthia Evans-Herr, a Pequea Township supervisor and member of the Silver Mine Park board. “They made recommendations to protect the mine, and they favor opening it as a tourist attraction.”
The bureau’s reaction pleased Evans-Herr and Tim Weaver, chairman of the park board and the park’s manager. They have been working to reopen the mine and improve the park for several years.
The question is how to pay for it all.
They hope to tap the township’s supervisors and other possible sources for $30,000 to begin the process of readying the mine for tours, adding historical signage to an existing geology trail around the mine and improving the basement of a nearby stone house for use as an environmental center.
“My objective is to open this mine so the high schools and universities can bring their
students in here and bring geology to life,” Evans-Herr says.
“I think the history trail is equally important,” Weaver adds.
If a silver mine had not been located here, one could say— ahem — that the area is a gold mine of geological and historical lore.
Pequea Indians began digging for quartz to make weapons early in the 18th century, according to historians. Early European settlers were interested in other elements in the tons of quartz and galena in the mine.
Revolutionary soldiers mined lead to make musket balls. Miners removed more lead for ammunition during the Civil War. And then someone discovered silver in the rock and built a real mine shaft in the 1870s.
The silver turned out to be a minor part of the quartz. Extracting small amounts of silver proved to be more work than it was worth. The formally excavated mine closed a few years after it opened.
Now locked with a secure door, the mine extends more than 200 feet back to two deep, water-filled pits. Projected guided tours would go back toward those pits.
Evans-Herr, Weaver and John Coolidge, a structural mason who helped restore the mine, a mine-associated kiln and the foundation of the house and its barn, have contributed thousands of hours — many of them volunteer — to improve the silver mine area and the park in general.
Sometimes they get help, as they did with a recent planting of trees. Boy Scouts from Mount Joy are reworking some of the signage at the stone house and geology trail.
But, in lieu of greater financial support from the township, they do what needs to be done themselves.
Evans-Herr explains: “Tim and I just ignore the politics and just get it done.”
Among Lancaster County’s many interesting places, Silver Mines Park has few peers. The geology of the area and the mine’s history are fascinating, and walking back into that mine is just plain fun. Students on a high school or college field trip would have a blast while they learn.
Marjorie J. Birch, of Lancaster, notes that Monterey (“Scribbler” column, June 13) is not the only Lancaster County place named after a Mexican battle location. Carmargo is near Quarryville. Vera Cruz is near Denver. Buena Vista is near Gap.
Not to mention at least two villages named Mexico in Juniata and Montour counties.
Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes “The Scribbler” column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at firstname.lastname@example.org.