Acton Silver Mines

An excellent blueprint of what took place in Maine during the silver boom and bust is exemplified by the Acton Silver Mines, in Acton, Maine. What transpired at Acton was reproduced at hundreds of other potential mine sites in Maine. The Acton lode was discovered in 1878 by a Mr. Wiggins of Farmington, New Hampshire (King, 2000b). There were a total of 12 mines in operation during the peak of the boom between 1878 and 1892. Some of these mines were: Acton (later called Acton Consolidated), Boston Acton, El Dorado, and Portland Acton and Lebanon, the next town south, had 3 active mines along the same vein.

In 1880, it was estimated that there were 550 men working in the Acton mining district (King, 2000b). If this was truly the case you would have more than 36 people per mine, many more than were needed or who could actually be working the prospect. A more realistic number would have about 200 men working along the lodes each day.

The Acton district never made the same inflated claims on their assays as those of other mines in Maine. So the reports and historic data of these mines is more realistic in nature and gives a more accurate assessment of the operation.

The mines were crowded upon one another. Each mine was on a lot 600 by 600 feet, and operations at one mine would interfere with those of an adjoining operation. Also many of these mines, being speculative in nature, were sunk into veins of unknown value, an important fact that finally led to the demise of the silver boom. As with most mines, there was a frantic early push of activity to demonstrate to stock holders that "something" was being done and the mine was a good investment. They would do this by getting the shafts drilled as quickly as possible, even into veins of unknown quality. Whereas mines far away out west could report progress to their investors in the East on an irregular basis, the Acton mines didn't have this luxury, because investors from Portland could actually visit the site, conveniently done round-trip on horseback in a day (King, 2000b). As stated, it didn't always matter if ore was discovered immediately, so long as there was activity.

As time went on, a group of mine owners from the Acton, Boston Acton, Forest City, and Portland-Acton mining companies realized that they weren't making any money and that they were duplicating many activities. They figured that if they consolidated their companies, they would be able to cut costs and make the mines a more viable investment opportunity. So in April, 1880 they merged their companies into the Acton Consolidated Mine (King, 2000b). Most of the reports from the Maine Mining Journal for the remainder of 1880 showed that the mines were "progressing" and they had "great confidence" in future development. But in early October, 1880, a report came out saying all activity in the Acton Mining District had stopped, except for the Acton Consolidated. But only two weeks later a report came out stating that the Acton Consolidated mine had suspended operations due to "lack of necessary funds to prosecute further the work of development." What occurred was that some stockholders, realizing that the operation would not become economically viable, unloaded their stock and took the money, leaving inadequate funds to continue operations. Many attempts at reorganization occurred over the next year, and in January, 1882 the Acton Consolidated was dissolved. The Acton Mining District was never again operational.

The rise and subsequent failure of the Acton Mining District from 1878 to 1882, was played out at mines all over Maine. As stated above, several factors led to the demise of this mining "boom." Of course the bottom line for all of these ventures was economics, and whether the mines could produce enough silver to turn a profit. And in the end, they couldn't. All of these mines were wildcat and speculative in nature, though they knew from initial exploration and assays that at the very least, these mining sites had the potential for profitability. As they began operations, they saw that the ore bodies were not as rich as originally thought. Then in order to keep money coming in, some owners presented assay data from high-graded samples, which showed erroneously high values, not representative of the actual orebody. Many of the glowing newspaper reports in the Maine Mining Journal in those days reported that the ore veins were "widening with depth." This was said so often that it was practically regarded as a geologically rational state of affairs! Also, the Maine mines had no nearby smelting and refining works available, which would have added tremendous transportation expense to the venture. This, along with the low quality of the orebodies and the lack of return of the investors money, sealed the fate of the "Silver Boom." - State of Maine Geological Survey

Silver was discovered in 1877 at the Elder Goding Farm near the North Lebanon town line. The vein followed the high ridge on the east side of Goding Brook. The headwaters of the brook are in a swamp fed by drainage near the Lincoln School. Sixteen (16) silver mine sites are located between the Lincoln School and the Goding Farm.