Stay thy Weary feet Drink of
This fountain cool and sweet it
Flows for man and beast the same
Then go thy way remembering
Still the well beneath the hill.
The story of the Piermont Mine Hole is shrouded in mystery and legend. Several theories exist as to the origins of this mine from which, at one time, sprang crystal clear water that travelers, their horses and the local African American community drank. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the “Mysterious Mine Hole,” as some call it, was a popular Piermont tourist attraction and one of the “curiosities of Rockland” county. Its beauty and charm was attested to by a 19th Century journalist who, writing in 1855 in the Rockland County Journal, described the area around the spring as such: “...the reflection of the light is most beautiful. The whole presents the appearance of being covered with gold; the beads of water which cover the irregular roofing, and trickles down the sides, sparkle with a rich yellowish lustre, recalling to our minds childhood stories of enchanted caverns and of golden genii.” This description seems to support the theory that the mine was dug in search of gold or copper. However, there is little to no gold in the surrounding area (though early colonists certainly did look for it!). Instead, miners in the area were probably digging for iron and pyrites (often called “fool’s gold”) might have been found in the process, perhaps leading to the “gold” mine idea.
Another story of the mine’s origin, published in a 1974 Piermont newsletter, holds that John Moore, a free black man, dug the mine to get the rock used in making the grinding wheels of the gristmills he operated. Long tunnels have been found leading to the mine and it’s hypothesized that Moore “followed a single vein of rock deep into the hill so that his wheels would be perfect”. However, according to Grace Mitchell, writing in the Spring 2012 Piermont Newsletter, “other published histories refer to Moore as a mill wheel maker”, with “no reference to millstones” used in gristmills. She adds that, “early American mills generally used imported stones for grinding”. Furthermore, as Mitchell points out in her article, by “the time of the American Revolution, long before Moore’s day, [emphasis added] it was already old and abandoned”. It appears that the mine was dug by colonists and was already there by the time of the American Revolution.
Alas, the true story of the mine’s origin has been lost in the sands of time. Time itself has caught up with the mine... the entrance was sealed in 1943 when a sewer line from Camp Shank in Orangeburg contaminated the spring’s water. In 1976, the bricks sealing the entrance were removed and an iron gate now keeps people out. The original marble piece with the inscription above the mine has since been lost, replaced with the wooden sign you’ll see above the gate. The mine hole itself has also been filled up, and the water which once flowed from there is now re-routed across the road and into Sparkill Creek.
Sadly, the Mine Hole has deteriorated. “The wooden sign is faded, cracked and hard to read, and the interesting stonework that frames the entrance” is often “overgrown with weeds.” Perhaps bringing people to this place will move Piermont residents and visitors to help restore the mine as one of Rockland County’s curiosities.
**Many thanks to Grace Mitchell, Assistant Director of the Dennis P. McHugh Piermont Public Library, for granting me permission to use excerpts from her article in the Spring 2012 Issue of the Piermont Newsletter and for her help in editing this history.