I have been doing day hikes in Stokes State Forest all my life. Just recently I picked up the “A Guide to Stokes State Forest” at the park office and was intrigued by a section about the Snook Silver Mine. Apparently there is a trail from Kittle Field which leads to an old abandonded Silver Mine that John Snook created in 1875.
Even more interesting was a project that he started to dam a bubbling spring brook to create a lakeshore summer resort. The undertaking was never finished, but the remnants of the project can still be seen today.
Snook Silver Mine
On the lower slopes of a small hill located about 1/2 mile east of Kittle Field, John Snook discovered a large crack in a rock outcrop. Upon further investigation, he found traces of silver ore and in 1875 started a small mining operation.
Alternating a hand drill and hammer explosive charges placed in strategic locations, Snook fashioned a rectangular shaft approximately 4′ wide, 32′ deep and 10′ long. In dealing with blasting powder, he drilled the holes into the rock, measured the powder charge, and tamped the fuses, he sent his younger children into the shaft to the ignite the blast.
When he wasn’t working the mine, Snook filled the hole with water to keep trespassers from extracting the ore. A small pitcher pump powered by hand was used to drain the shaft when operations resumed. A wooden beam structure covered the hole and a pulley system carried the dirt, stone and ore out of the bottom. Oxen were used to cart the ore away from the mine for processing.
Recently, some of the mining tools were found wrapped in an oiled cloth beneath the roots of an old tree. Today the shaft is filled in with mud and water.
Snook’s silver mine was reported to be profitable to the extend of receiving $75.00 per tone of ore. Several other mines have been found in the area containing traces of lead, gold, and copper; however, the fines where usually too insignificant to develop.
In 1928 Hiram Snook discovered a large bubbling spring in a lowland area approximately 1-1/2 miles northwest of Kittle Field. He conceived an idea of building a summer vacation resort complex where rich city dwellers could lease lakeshore homes.
The construction of the lake was a great undertaking. Using a gasoline powered steam shovel, he dredged the muck soil from the site. A ditch fourteen feed deep and 450 feet long was dug so that the dam would have extra support in its foundation from the surrounding soil and rock. The dam was framed with rough cut lumber and concrete and poured one section at a time from a small portable mixer. A portable rock crusher ground rock aggregates taken from family owned stone fences and the sand used in the concreted was taken from a nearby stream bank.
The length of the completed portion of the damn runs 212′, with its highest point above the ground being 14′. The width of the damn varies from 7-12 inches. At the western edge, one can observe the original mold used in the operation. The foundation ditch continues to stretch westward for approximately 230′.
The development of hard times during the Great Depression forced Snook out of the business, unable to finish his vacation resort. The dam can still be seen as he left it over forty years ago. Today it stands as a tribute to the vision and fortitude possessed by the area’s former inhabitants.