Friday, July 24, 2009

Wilbur mine located!

Tonight I rode out to Wilbur to look--for about the fifth time--for evidence of the former Boyd Caldwell mine. As I passed the old house on the Wilbur Road I noticed a man sitting on the porch, so I stopped for a chat. John "Bud" Thomas and his wife Brenda are probably the only two people living in what's left of Wilbur. Bud is 75, friendly, and full of stories. He's agreed to let me record a conversation with him about his experiences growing up in the area.

Bud's mother and grandfather worked in the mine, so he was able to describe some good details of the mine operation and its location. The old train station was at the end of Bud's property along the K&P. There were another 22 houses at one time, but they weren't located where the map or remaining buildings would suggest. It seems that the village was actually a bit further south along the K&P. Thanks to Bud's instructions I found the rail spur bed. It comes in at a Y as I suspected, but near a flooded area south of Bud's house that doesn't look like where there should be anything of interest. I'm planning to do some better data collection on all these locations so there's a better record for posterity.

As for the mine itself, a beaver pond has long since covered some of the more important remains and the bush has all but reclaimed the rest. The landscape is now quite different from what it was, so it's really not obvious where to look and you're unlikely to stumble across the remains by accident. Bud told me there may still be foundations of the houses and some ore piles visible in the woods.

One footnote about placenames: Bud said that Lavant Station was of course called "Iron City" originally, but when Bud grew up it was known as "South Lavant". I think he said Lavant was called "North Lavant" or "Robertson" (same as the lake it sits on). He shook his head in disgust when I showed him my map, and said he doesn't understand why all the names were changed when the modern maps were made.

If it ever stops raining (the bush is soggy and the deer flies are many and merciless) I'll be back in a heartbeat to follow up on these findings.

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