On the Old Mine Road

I think I’ve mentioned here before that the Old Mine Road is one of my ‘haunts” that I visit frequently. With the coming of spring, I have two nice birding survey routes of this area that I take nearly every day. Nice to live within a few minutes of such opportunities.

The Old Mine Road (OMR) is thought to be the oldest commercial road in the United States, used to transport iron ore from mines along the Delaware river as early as the 1640s. It is now part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area which was created after the Tocks Island dam fiasco. In the capsule-version of what occurred, the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to build a dam at Tocks Island and flood the valley resulted in the government ‘acquiring’ by various means the homes and farms from families living in the area to be flooded. People were removed from their homes; some historical homes were razed by government bulldozers, others were burned to the ground by arsonists. The dam proposal was defeated after about 30 years of fighting. The surviving houses have (with the exception of a handful that have been restored) fallen victim to “benign neglect” and those that are too far gone are slated to be demolished when funds are available.


This is a typical scene along the OMR. Sometimes all that is left are a patch of daffodils blooming next to two or three steps that lead nowhere – but once was the entrance of a historical home. The Delaware River flows behind the bit of greenery in the background of this photo.

The ‘up’ side of the Tocks fiasco is that this land had been preserved, and has been, so far, saved from development. Most of it would be under water had the dam been built. It is an area rich in wildlife and of course – birding is good.

First stop was the beaver pond – no beaver active today, as I was there too early in the afternoon, but the buffleheads, wood ducks, mallards, and Canadian geese were still there. A belted kingfisher was fishing the far shore.


Another stop was this historical home, called the Depue house. It is not in very good condition. The first northern flickers were seen here today, just under the old beehive oven at the end of the house.


The ground was a little damp there and sunny. Two flickers were on the ground poking at the moss – looking for insects. Lots of eastern phoebes, a few juncos, and not much else was moving.

Just down the road a little way from the Depue house is Black’s Minisink Farm. I love this old house, but when I first returned to NJ and drove the OMR, I was surprised to see the black shutters had all been removed. Somewhere in my slide collection, I have photos of this house in a slightly better day. The black shutters on every window really made it a stately looking old place.


I guess it reminds me a little of my old childhood house. On the far end of this house stands a small stone building, with the name of the farm still visible on the side.


I don’t recall the exact age of this place, but I do remember that this little stone house was thought to have been used to hide slaves in the “underground railroad.” It’s been about 20 years since I was very involved in this area, and it may take a few more trips to jog the old memory until I can get my notes and photos out of storage in Kentucky.

As might be expected, several eastern phoebes singing at Black’s Farm. I also noticed day lilies up about half an inch. Can’t wait for the real greening to start!


10 Responses to “On the Old Mine Road”

  1. KGMom Says:

    I love reading this–I am always interested in history, and in architecture. You combined both with a dash of nature as well.
    Thanks for the lesson.

  2. Laura Says:

    I’ve heard about all the great breeding birds along Old Mine Road, but didn’t know anything about the history of the place – thanks for that. Do you ever give private tours?


  3. obi4240 Says:

    Private tours? Yes.

  4. British Soldiers and Historic Preservation « Natural Notes Says:

    […] Milford Bridge to Flatbrookville and back again, checking the historic homes I’ve mentioned in this post for weather damage and vandalism which, if discovered, is reported to the Park Service so it can be […]

  5. Yikes « Natural Notes Says:

    […] result of the Army Corps of Engineers building a dam across the Cumberland River back in 1950.  A “Tocks Island”  project that went through.  In fact, our little town of Burnside was moved from the river bank […]

  6. Patte Haggerty Frato, Sandyston Historian Says:

    Sandyston Township holds a key part of the this Old Mine Road and has an active historical society. Please check out Sandytontownship.org. We have established the Sandyston Township Historical Society and have quarterly newsletters. During the summer we have programs that link to the wonderful history of the families of the Old Mine Road. The society is housed at the Sandyston Municipal Building in Hainesville, NJ. Please refer any questions concerning the history of this area to patte@nac.net.

  7. Adrienne Says:

    Hi, I am in need of more information on the Black’s Minisink Farm. You mentioned you had older photos of this little gem. May we see them?

  8. obi4240 Says:

    Adrienne, the photos I mentioned are old slides and I don’t have them with me here in KY where I live now – they are in storage in NJ. Sorry. Check with Walpack Historical Society, they surely have some older photos.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: