THE COUDERSPORT, PA ICE MINESubmitted by M.E.Bryant
With permission from Robert Currin & Shirley Kay Reed Potter Co. Historians
Since the discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the westward trek of the 49ers. many Americans have looked forward to their great strike. Miners and speculators rushed hack and forth across western United States as each new discovery was made. Many fortunes were made and lost in the gold and silver fields of the west. Then came the discoveries in Alaska and the Klondike during the latter years of the nineteenth century. Many from the lower states began to migrate to this new frontier. Several Potter County men organized groups to look into investments in the new field, and some area men made the difficult journey over the deadly icy passes into the Klondike.
Here at home several Indians had shown specimens of silver ore to some citizens of Sweden Valley. This caused speculation as to the source of the valuable ore, and to the chances of finding their Elderado right here at home. Those who lacked the resources and the desire to travel for from home began to delve into the nearby hills looking for silver.
The late summer of l897 (About four miles east of Coudersport,Potter County, on the Roosevelt Highway, is a mountain which bears the name of Ice Mountain ) brought about a spectacular find that has caused much speculation about its source, hut did not cause a great rush to develop the area’s riches. On August 16. 1897, William O' Neil, who resided at Sweden Valley, appeared at the Enterprise Office hearing specimens of ore which he hoped were gold or silver. At the time it could not be identified as either, but Mr. O' Neil was confident that further tests would bring to light a rich mineral of some kind. He was determined to pursue the vein until he was satisfied of its Value.
Mr. O’ Neil made an excavation about eighteen feet into the mountainside, and at ten feet ice was found in layers between the rocks. It was said that it was like sitting down upon a cake of ice to recline upon the rocks inside the tunnel.
About a month after the first report on the mine. The Bradford Record reported that there was excitement in Sweden Valley over the discovery of a silver mine. A lady from that city had returned from a visit with relatives and brought with her several specimens of the quartz. A shaft had been sunk on the John Dodd farm, and a considerable quantity of the supposed metal —bearing rock had been sent to Buffalo and Elmira to be assayed. A Buffalo gentleman was reported to be in Sweden Valley interesting himself in the discovery.
None of the specimens proved to be of any value, so Mr.O'Neil and his companions deserted the site. Gold fever continued in the Klondike but the search for silver near Sweden Valley was abandoned.
The following spring, Mr. Dodd found a considerable amount of ice in the excavation. Thinking it was winter ice that had not melted, he paid little attention to it until July, when he was surprised that the quantity of ice had increased during the hot weather. The sides of the shaft were covered with a coating of ice a foot or more thick and large icicles were accumulating at the top of the shaft.
As winter approached, the ice began to disappear. This phenomenon has been regularly repeated each year since the discovery of the mine.
In 1889, Mr. Dodd erected a small building over the mine entrance. This caused the ice to begin to melt. The roof of the building was removed whereupon the ice promptly began to harden. The roof had shut off the natural circulation of the air which is evidently necessary for the ice to form.
Many theories have been advanced to explain the cause of this freak of nature. What would cause nature to form ice in such a way as to increase its output in direct ratio to the heat of the warm months? For a period of time after the discovery, theories and descriptions of the location were printed in magazines and newspapers. Even leading scientific journals contained articles about its cause.
Even the most logical explanations are sometimes puzzling. The hill upon which the Ice Mine is located has a very loose rock structure with numerous crevices extending back under the surface. From the fissures in this loose strata there issues, during the warm months, a draft of cold air which, when visible, appears white and frosty. Most of the time, the air or vapor is not visible. As this cold air emerges from the fissures and meets the warmer outside air, it condenses on the rocks around the edge of the excavation. The air emitted is cold enough to freeze the moisture formed by the condensation.
What causes the cold air to be forced from the earth at this particular place remains a mystery. If there was an easy, logical explanation, the mine would lose its mystery and perhaps the interest of the public would also diminish.
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