Morefield Mine History
We are often asked how the mine was discovered. The story, as written by Mr. Silas Morefield in Lapidary Journal, says he was hunting on his land in September 1929 when he came across an outcrop of quartz with a large beryl crystal exposed. He was very familiar with the minerals of the older Rutherford Mine and Champion Mine, also in Amelia County , and he suspected that this outcrop may be a pegmatite. At some point, he drilled a hole in the outcrop, loaded the hole with dynamite, and shot it. He exposed large masses of mica and weathered amazonite.
Mr. Morefield operated a store and gas station in Amelia Court House and he set some of his new-found mineral specimens in front of the store. Within two weeks of his discovery, a vehicle with travelers from the U.S. Bureau of Standards stopped by and they saw the flashy specimens and enquired about the source of the specimens. Later, back in Washington , D.C. , they told coworkers at the U.S. Geological Survey about their find and the mine was then known to the geological world.
Mr. Morefield operated the mine by open cut methods from 1929 until 1931 when it was leased by the Seaboard Feldspar Corp. and mined for amazonite, beryl, mica and tantalite for about 3 years. Mr. Morefield resumed operations then leased it to Minerals Separation of North America in 1942. This company was taken over by the Metals Reserve Company in and they returned the mine to Mr. Morefield in 1943. The Metals Reserve Company was a government agency under the Reconstruction Finance Corp. that was in charge of the National Stockpile of “strategic and critical materials” for the WW II war effort and national mineral security. The critical minerals at the Morefield mine were mica, beryl, and tantalum minerals.
The U.S. Bureau of Mines first explored the deposit during the summer and fall of 1943 during which time they drilled four diamond drill holes and excavated four trenches crosscutting the pegmatite. Then two more definition diamond drill holes were drilled and an additional trench added.
In 1948, the U.S. Bureau of Mines returned to the mine and conducted experimental development and mining at which time they deepened the shaft to 115 feet, conducted underground diamond drilling to establish the wall rock/pegmatite contacts, drove a drift 75 feet at the 100 foot level, and extracted a large bulk sample by selectively shooting long drill holes (‘longholes’) in the high grade part of pegmatite. The purpose of this work was to test underground methods of mining pegmatite should mica, beryl and tantalum should they become in critical supply.
Deck Boyles of Amelia County bought the property from the Morefield Estate and used the shaft as a water source for serving customers with swimming pools for many years. He sold it to Warren (Bill) D. Baltzley in 1985 and who developed the mine as a recreational and commercial operation very much as it is seen today. Mr. Baltzley sank the 45 foot deep Baltzley Shaft and extended the stub drifts excavated by the U.S. Bureau of Mines at the 45 foot level and connected the old and new shafts.
Mr. Baltzley sold the mine to the present owners Sam and Sharon Dunaway in March of 1996 and they have operated the mine ever since. In the intervening 19 years, the mine has been expanded and lengthened to 425feet on the 45 foot level, 85 feet on the 32 foot level, and a new 60 foot level has been driven 135 feet in excellent pegmatite. This level has produced a number of very nice, large topaz crystals. The largest is now in James Madison University ’s museum and Virginia collection.
Present work consists of two projects, the first, removing a very high grade sill between the 45foot and 60 foot level which contains rare minerals and high quality amazonite, and the second, extending the 60’ foot level Northeast to break into the old U.S. Bureau of Mines test stope. The top of the Bureau of Mines stope is visible on the 45 foot level. Preparatory work is also taking place to examine and explore the 100 foot level which is the present source of water for sluicing (flume) operations. This includes installing pumps to dewater the 100 foot level, removing rock and mud that has fallen in and filled the shaft bottom over many years when the mine was inactive. Mining in the years to come may well come from this level. No one has explored this level since 1949 when the U.S. Bureau of Mines ceased operations.