SLATE IN NORTHAMPTON COUNTY
Slateford Farm tells two local and regional stories: one of farming, characteristic of Northampton County and Pennsylvania, and the other of slate quarrying, also characteristic of the region and state. Farming, of course, is Slateford Farm's primary theme, and it was farming which provided a livelihood for the Piphers and tenant farmers. Slate quarrying, however, was developed in the nearby town of Slateford during the nineteenth century, and this industry had an effect on Slateford Farm. Quarrying occurred on the farm property after Samuel Pipher sold it in 1868 and one, and possibly two, subsequent owners exploited the slate resources on the property. After the quarries were worked and abandoned Slateford Farm's agricultural potential regained dominance as twentieth century owners and renters returned to farming the land.
At least three quarries have been tentatively identified on Slateford Farm, and they fit into a larger context of slate quarrying in Northampton County and the state of Pennsylvania. (See appendix 24 for listing of quarries.) Three primary slate districts exist in the state, being located in: 1) Lancaster and York counties, near the Maryland border (a quarry opened there in 1734 was the first in the United States; 2) Lehigh County, centering around Slatington and Danielsville; and 3) Northampton County, centering around Pen Argyl, Bangor, Bath and Nazareth. (See illustrations 3 and 4 for Pennsylvania and Delaware Water Gap Slate areas.) The quarries in Northampton County are soft slate, or soft belt, quarries and thus yield a greater variety of slate products. The Slateford Group of quarries, including those on Slateford Farm, were soft slate quarries. 
These quarries provided slate for many types of products, with the exception of slate pencils. Roofing slate; slate for sinks, mantels and shower stalls; grave vaults; billiard table tops; electrical insulation and switchboard material; blackboards; school slates; and marbleized, crushed and ground slate were all produced from quarries in Northampton County. When slate was first being quarried in the county, almost all of it was roofing slate, but the industry soon grew to include the myriad of other slate uses. Pennsylvania, and more specifically Northampton County, became the leading producer of slate in the nation, a distinction held into the first quarter of the twentieth century. 
Efforts of James Madison Porter
The history of the quarries in Northampton County at Slateford is filled with discrepancies concerning dates of company incorporations, years of operation and even location, but the name of one man is inexorably linked with the early slate quarrying in the eastern portion of the county. James Madison Porter headed early quarrying efforts, and is generally considered to be the founder of Slateford,  which is one mile from Slateford Farm.
The early date of 1805 is given to the opening of a quarry by the Pennsylvania Slate Company in a newspaper article dated April 12, 1806. The Northampton Farmer & Easton Weekly Advertiser article placed the quarry's location "in Upper Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County, near the Water Gap," and remarked that the slate was "of a quality in every respect equal to that imported from Europe," and that "Some of the best houses in Philadelphia are covered with this slate." Orders for slate were to be left with Thomas J. Rogers, a printer in Easton, Pennsylvania; Thomas Gordon of Belvidere, New Jersey; James Bell, the quarry superintendent; or Adrian Taquair, the company's treasurer in Philadelphia. 
A local historian, Matthew S. Henry, writing in 1851, stated that a slate quarry "At the northern line of the Township along the Delaware River at the Gap" was incorporated on April 16, 1808, under the title "the President Managers & Co for the purpose of obtaining Slate from quarries within the County of Northampton." This title was changed on April 1, 1836, and again on February 22, 1853, to the Kittatinny Slate Company. The organization of this company was believed to be the first attempt at quarrying slate "in this Country." 
Henry also wrote that the company suffered financially because both the organizers and the workmen were "inexperienced & unskilfull." The company stopped operations after several years, but the quarries had been worked "for the last 10 or 12 years" by private individuals. By 1851 the company had resumed quarrying and Henry stated the company owned "227 acres of land immediately below the Delaware Water Gap, bordering on the River about 3/4 of a mile." The present (1851) officers of the company included, "Honble James M. Porter President, under the auspices of whom the manufacture of School Slates had originally been established (& to whose exertions the present company is indebted for their successfull operations)." The company's managers were Samuel Taylor, David Barnet, George Taylor, M. H. Jones, J. N. Hutchison and James M. Porter Jr., and the treasurer and secretary were, respectively, Samuel Taylor and J. N. Hutchison. 
Another local history, published in 1877, stated the Slateford settlement consisted of "a small cluster of houses, most of which were erected by Hon. James M. Porter, who owned and opened the slate quarries at that place, about 1805." Porter's quarry employees lived in the village's houses, and his quarry, "about half a mile northwest of the village," was "considered one of the best in the township." In 1877 this quarry was owned by J. L. Williams. 
Later historians of the county place the first quarrying in 1806 by the Pennsylvania Slate Company and in 1808 by an unnamed company.  Geologist R. H. Sanders, writing in 1883, stated that J. W. Williams' quarry was a half mile northwest of Slateford and was the first slate quarry opened in Pennsylvania "about the year 1812." Another geologist, Charles Behre Jr., wrote in 1927 that the date of 1812 for the Williams quarry was "probably incorrect." According to Behre, "It was first opened in 1832 by Sam Taylor, then came into the hands of John Williams in 1850, and is at present  on the property of Frank Williams of Slateford." Another local historian stated in 1940 that the Williams Quarry was opened in 1832 by Samuel Taylor, "who in 1836 was joined by James M. Porter in operating the quarry." 
Further confusion concerning the history of early slate quarrying in Upper Mount Bethel Township occurs when James Madison Porter's history is considered. If, indeed Porter founded the town of Slateford and opened the first quarry there in 1805, he would have done so at the ripe young age of 12, for he was born January 6, 1793, near Norristown, Pennsylvania.
James Madison Porter was the youngest son of General Andrew Porter and his second wife Elizabeth Parker Porter. One of his brothers, David Rittenhouse Porter, was governor of Pennsylvania; another brother, George Bryan Porter, was governor of Michigan Territory; while a third brother, Robert Porter, was a Philadelphia lawyer. Porter studied law, was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar on April 23, 1813, and served as a commissioned officer, reaching the rank of colonel during the War of 1812. In 1818 he moved to Easton, Pennsylvania where he practiced law for more than 40 years. Porter and his wife, Eliza Michler of Easton, raised seven children. 
In Easton James Madison Porter served as the deputy attorney general for Northampton County. His success as a lawyer was due, in part, to his "phenomenal memory and the gift of eloquence." He served in the Pennsylvania Legislature and served in the state constitutional convention which developed the 1838 Pennsylvania Constitution. In June 1839 Porter was appointed president judge of the 12th Judicial District of Pennsylvania (Dauphin, Schuylkill and Lebanon counties) and in 1853 was elected president judge of the 22nd judicial district (Wayne, Pike, Monroe and Carbon counties). President John Tyler appointed Porter secretary of war in 1843 but he only served nine months because the Senate did not confirm him for political reasons. 
The law was not Porter's only interest, for he was involved with both educational and business ventures. He is considered the founder of Lafayette College, chartered in 1826, in Easton. He served as president of the board of trustees from 1826 to 1852, and was professor of jurisprudence and political economy from 1837 to 1852. Porter's interest in canals and railroads led him to become the first president of the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad, chartered in 1847. He was also president of this company's successor, the Lehigh Valley Railroad, from 1853 to 1856, and president of the Belvidere Delaware Railroad. Porter suffered from ill health during his last years and died in Easton on November 11, 1862. 
The brief biographies of James Madison Porter do not mention any involvement with slate quarrying in Upper Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County. As early as 1815, however, Porter organized a company "for the purpose of purchasing and working a quarry of slate, of superior quality, situate near the banks of the river Delaware in Upper Mount Bethel township." The company was capitalized at $15,000 selling 300 shares of stock at $50 each. The stockholders, besides Porter, were businessmen of Philadelphia and Easton. The first $1,500 raised was to be used for the purpose of opening a quarry, erecting sheds, purchasing tools, quarrying, and dressing the slate. 
It apparently was Porter's method to either lease or acquire outright any parcels of land that displayed evidences of promise for slate quarrying in Upper Mount Bethel Township. A random survey of deed books at the Northampton County Government Center in Easton reveals the frenetic activity of James Madison Porter in many fields of endeavor. He not only involved himself in slate, but made similar investments in limestone quarrying, the extraction of iron ore, and coal mining. Even though the slate quarries near Slateford eventually fell into other hands, Porter was probably instrumental in making the start at some sites. The earliest quarrying near the Delaware Water Gap occurred in 1805-1806 and any connection Porter might have had with these efforts have not been conclusively proved.  There is proof, however, that Porter was involved with quarrying by 1815 and that his company was called the Northampton Slate Quarry Company in 1817 and the Pennsylvania Slate Company in the 1830s.
Letters sent between Porter and Thomas J. Rogers, a member of the state legislature (and probably the same Rogers mentioned in connection with the 1805 quarry), in 1816 and 1817 reveal some details concerning their slate business in Northampton County. On June 25, 1816, Porter wrote Rogers about getting the business started:
Rogers answered Porter's letter on July 2, 1816, and his letter reveals more data about starting the quarry's operations:
Writing from Philadelphia on July 28, 1816, James Madison Porter told Rogers he had been to see D. Groves, the president of the company. He discussed financial matters and described the salability of the slate:
The final letter found was written by Porter on January 24, 1817, to Rogers, who was serving in the Senate in Harrisburg. This letter reveals data concerning the quarry company's incorporation:
An Easton newspaper article attested to the quality of Porter's slate in June 1829:
The chronicler of Lafayette College's history described a classroom in 1835-1836, but failed to mention Porter in connection with the slate used by students:
A local historian writing in 1845 also gave Porter's slate high praise:
A daybook entitled Slateford has been found for the year July 16, 1858 to June 30, 1859. James Madison Porter's name was not found in its pages, and it is not known which quarry activities in Northampton County the daybook chronicles. Data concerning Slateford quarrying is available, however. Names of employees, their tasks, rates of production and pay are given. Neighbors of the quarry often brought in food stuffs, for which they received credit for purchases in the company store. The names of Samuel, Aaron and Peter Pipher appear as having furnished food supplies and making purchases.  (See appendix 20 for sample pages of the Slateford Daybook.)
Porter and Frederick Pipher
James Madison Porter's growing enterprise came into contact with the Pipher family sometime previous to 1830, the year of Frederick's death. Because Frederick died intestate, the Orphan's Court ordered his land sold (land which originally was the western portion of Frederick's father, Samuel Pipher's estate). The acreage totaled 149 acres and 80 perches, which meant that Frederick had sold 50 acres of the land he inherited. James M. Porter was listed as the prospective buyer and a price was specified, but court records seem to indicate that the administrator of Frederick's estate, Isaac LaBar, obtained an even higher price from Porter. The court had settled on a sale price of $2,714.19, but LaBar obtained a mortgage of $3,194.46-1/2 from Porter, plus annual payments and a final lump sum payment of $579.54-1/2 plus interest to Frederick's widow Sarah. It is possible that LaBar got this improved settlement because of a rental debt that Porter owed Frederick Pipher. The mortgage records stated that Porter was in arrears $210 rent for the previous years. Frederick's inventory stated two-and-one-half years rent was due from the slate quarry. The rent worth $50, was due October 1, 1830. Thus it is possible that James Madison Porter was quarrying slate on Frederick Pipher's property earlier than 1828. 
In 1835 Porter transferred the former Frederick Pipher land to the Pennsylvania Slate Company for $20,000. This was probably Porter's way of protecting himself from some of the personal financial risk of holding various slate quarries in his name alone. By working through the name of his company, his risk was shared with the other stockholders. One of the deed provisions was that the company fulfill its indebtedness to Sarah, widow of Frederick Pipher. 
Another deed revealed that Peter Pipher, Samuel and Christina's youngest son, also sold some land, 59 acres and nine perches, to the Pennsylvania Slate Company in 1836 for $2,500. Peter had earlier acquired this land from neighbor George LaBar and it was along the Delaware River. 
A series of courthouse documents from the 1840s reveal that the Pennsylvania Slate Company, James M. Porter, and several of his business partners were in financial difficulties which resulted in the return of some of the old Samuel Pipher properties to the Pipher family. Because of an unpaid debt of $793.06 by the Pennsylvania Slate Company to a Peter Zimmerman, the sheriff seized six pieces of land owned by the company. This took place in 1844. The sheriff, Peter Steckel, sold the properties at a sheriff's sale to Samuel Taylor, a business partner of James Madison Porter, for $1,401.  Taylor tried to breathe new life into the slate enterprise by taking out a mortgage for $16,646.20 with Philip H. Goepp. Taylor took out a second mortgage on the same six parcels of land, also in 1844, for $13,124.14, with Jacob Rice. Annotations in the margin of the mortgage book indicate that Taylor was able to satisfy the debt from the second mortgage but not the first. He continued to pay Rice even after he had lost the land, until October 30, 1852.  Taylor was forced to sell the land in 1898 and it was purchased by Aaron Pipher, the son of Peter and Elizabeth, and grandson of Samuel and Christina. Aaron paid $2,600 to get clear title to the six properties while Taylor remained indebted to Rice and Goepp. 
Five of the properties Aaron purchased were near the river while 140 acres were against Blue Mountain, being the western portion of the original Samuel Pipher farm inherited by Aaron's uncle, Frederick. This property had a slate quarry on it as well as a dwelling house, log barn and other outbuildings. Aaron Pipher's son Emory [Emery] held on to this property and in 1899 sold half of it to his two daughters, Maria and Mary. This deed mentions an adjacent tract owned by the Enterprise Slate Company.  There presently is a quarry located in a creek in this area known as the Enterprise or Emory Pipher quarry.
No other information concerning the connection between James Madison Porter and the Piphers is known. Porter evidently quarried slate on Frederick Pipher's property (the western portion of the original 1790 Samuel Pipher farm) in the late 1820s. At Frederick's death the Pennsylvania Slate Company bought the property, only to have it sold in a sheriff's sale to Aaron Pipher in 1844. It is possible that Aaron worked the quarry during the years he owned the farm. It is also possible that the Enterprise or Emory Pipher quarry may be the original Porter quarry on Frederick Pipher land.
Slate Quarrying on Slateford Farm
All of the quarrying thus far discussed was connected with James Madison Porter and the Pennsylvania Slate Company, and occurred on the western portion of Samuel Pipher property. Another company, however, began quarrying on the center portion of the original Pipher property in the late 1860s. This occurred when Samuel and Christina's grandson Samuel sold the property in 1868 to the New York and Delaware River Slate Company.
This company was formed by six men from New Jersey and New YorkUzal Corey, Julius S. Howell, Theodore D. Howell, Samuel R. Elton, Richard H. Stearns and Richard D. Wilson. Considering that the Pipher farm was on a known slate belt and that several successful slate quarries were in the area, these six businessmen probably had high aspirations for a profitable slating venture. Slate lands, however, are not worth more than their surface value until it is proven that slate in commercially profitable quantities can be quarried. Even so, such ventures are risky because one quarry may be profitable while one adjoining may not yield much slate. 
The New York and Delaware River Slate Company became operational and by 1871 was being assessed for tax purposes. In that year the 156 acres of land and improvements were assessed at $2,432 while the quarry value was assessed at $1,000. A horse worth $40 was added, which brought the value of the slate company's holdings to $3,472. In 1872 and 1873 the quarry and land assessments remained the same, but the horse was dropped, making the total assessment $3,432.  The company was running into trouble at this point, for in 1872 the principal stock owners were arguing and a suit was filed by one against the others. It is not known if they even had a knowledgeable slate expert to manage quarrying and production. The sheriff of Northampton County seized the land for back debt in 1873 and sold it to John A. Morison.
On the 1874 tax list the New York and Delaware River Slate Company's name was mentioned but John Morison was assessed for the land and the quarry from 1874 to 1879. The land was assessed at $9,360 and the quarry at $1,000. In 1880 the quarry was dropped from the assessment list and the value of the 156 acres and improvements dropped to $6,000.  It is not known if John Morison exploited the quarry's resources or not, and nothing else is known of the slate quarrying on the Pipher property. In all likelihood quarrying probably ceased at this time. Other than Mary Pittenger's remembrances of quarry workers being boarded on the property, no other documentation has been found which ties the main farmhouse to the quarry operation.
The history of quarrying in Upper Mount Bethel Township is fraught with confusion and conflicting evidence. Unfortunately, this is also true of various geological descriptions of the many Slateford quarries. Names and dimensions change with each account through the years, and the histories of most of them are not known. (See historical base map 5 for historic quarries.) The following descriptions of the known Porter quarry near Slateford and the two known quarries on historic Slateford Farm property are offered as guidelines to these quarries' dimensions, formation and histories of use. The three quarries being considered are:
Additionally, a second quarry/pond is located on the Peter Pipher farm, but its history is not known.
Geologist H. M. Chance described the Delaware River area slate quarries existing in 1875:
R. H. Sanders described the Williams, Morrison and Pipher quarries in 1883, but also described an additional quarry near Blue Mountain, the Washington Brown:
In 1927 Charles Behre Jr. added further confusion to the quarries identification when he described the Washington Brown and Williams quarries, but not the Pipher or Morrison. He also identified a much smaller unnamed quarry.
Another twentieth century geologist, Jack Epstein, described the Pipher, Williams and the unnamed quarry in 1970. He also described the Washington Brown, but cites Sanders' references to the Morrison and Brown.
In 1974 Epstein wrote further descriptions of the Pipher, unnamed and Washington Brown quarries. He again mentioned the discrepancy over the identity of the Brown quarry, noting that it was referred to as the Brown quarry by Behre in 1927, but as the Morrison quarry by Sanders in 1883. 
As previously stated, no thorough history of Northampton County's, and in particular, Upper Mount Bethel's quarry industry has been written. Extant sources agree, however, that the township's industry was one of the earliest in the state and that the county's industry was one of the largest suppliers in the nation. The three known quarries on Peter and Frederick Pipher property contributed to Northampton County's preeminent role as a slate supplier in the nineteenth century.
Technology of Slate
A general description of slate and methods of slate quarrying is offered here as background information concerning the quarrying which occurred on Slateford Farm. No specific data on quarrying techniques at Slateford Farm has been found but general data will provide an understanding of the process.
Slate consists of quartz and silicate minerals. It is a microgranular crystalline rock which is formed by metamorphism of shale. Slate's prominant characteristic is its ability to cleave along parallel and closely spaced planes which gives slate its industrial value. Other properties of slate include color, hardness, toughness, and electrical and chemical resistance.
Slate's color is of great importance. Preferred colors for roofing slate include deep brick red, grayish purple, olive green, gray green, dull-bluish green, brown or mottled in different color combinations. The different colors in slate are the result of different mineral elements such as carbon in black slate or chlorite in dark-green slate. The slate near Blue Mountain at the Delaware River has "characteristic dark color of ordinary roofing slate." 
Other factors influence the quality of slate for use, such as cleavage, grain, shear zones and joints.
An 1883 geological survey detailed quarrying methods in Northampton County. These methods could have been used by the New York and Delaware River Company less than ten years before on the Pipher farm. During those years the quarries were worked by day labor, by contract or by a mixed method of day labor and contract. In contract work the owner let out the quarry and agreed to pay a set price for the slate. The other more common method of contract was for the owner to let out sections of the quarry to workers who quarried and dressed the slate. The owners then hoisted the blocks and delivered them to the splitting shanties. Machinery needed to work a quarry in 1883 included a derrick, pump, mine cars, a short track, waste boxes, chains, drills, hammers, crowbars, sledges and splitting chisels. 
The first operation involved in starting a quarry was stripping the surface deposit. The depth of this material varied from 10 to 50 feet and averaged 20. The work was usually done with a pick and shovel. Horses and carts were used to move the dirt and weathered slate outcrop. The slate blocks were then quarried by drilling and blasting. Skill and good judgment on the quarryman's part was required in positioning the drilling holes to move a large amount of rock with the fewest holes possible, and without shattering the rock. 
The loosened block was then hoisted out of the quarry by the derrick and taken to the shanty for splitting. The thin pieces of slate were then squared off into regular sizes by dressing machines. There was, however, an "old method" of dressing slate by hand:
Larger quarries at Bangor and Slatington, Pennsylvania had facilities to saw and plane the slate, primarily for processing of tile, tanks, mantles and billiard tables. The blocks of slate were split, then sawed by circular, reciprocating, or hand saws, and then placed on a planing machine which shaved the slate to a proper thickness. The slate was then rubbed and polished. (See appendix 22 for details concerning the machinery used in hoisting, drilling practices and splitting in 1883.)
A description of quarrying methods more than 40 years later was provided by geologist Charles Behre Jr. In 1927 Northampton County was still a primary supplier of the nation's slate and new quarrying methods were being added to the old. As a quarry was opened or extended in any direction the overburden was removed and hauled away. This was usually still being done by hand, but by 1927 steam shovels were being used. Compressed air drills were used, although drilling could shatter the slate. For this reason, drilling occurred in less valuable slate beds. Blasting by dynamite and hand firing was done, although its use was diminishing by 1927 because blasting shattered the slate. Channeling machines were being employed in 1927 instead of "cruder methods" to cut the slate away from the quarry sides. The use of these machines depended upon the slate's structure and toughness. 
Techniques used in removing slate from the quarry floor varied because of the slate's structure and the quarry operator's preferences, but generally the first step taken was to "lay bare the cleavage surface" at the floor or base of the opening. In Northampton County quarries the floor was rarely horizontal, it generally sloped at angles less than 25°. The next step was cutting a block:
A series of holes were then drilled into the "key" face so that all the holes were in the same cleavage plane. A powder charge was exploded in the holes which feed the slate from that below the holes. The freed block was then pried up by workers who used crowbars as levers in unison. The block was then ready to be moved out of the quarry.
In 1927 all Northampton County quarries were equipped with steel or wooden masts which supported cables thrown across the quarry opening. These masts were anchored by heavy guy-ropes and the cables could carry from three to five tons. A chain, suspended from a carrier on the cable, was attached directly to the slate block. Drums mounted in engine houses were used in the hoisting. Workers in the quarry called or motioned to a "signal boy" who was stationed in a shed on the quarry's edge. The signal boy then passed along directions to the hoisting engineer by voice or by bell signals. Once the blocks were out of the quarry they were placed on tram cars to be hauled to a mill for processing into blackboards or structural or electrical slate. If roofing slate were to be made the blocks were taken to small houses called "shanties." 
Blocks sent to the shanties had to be cut into smaller sizes by saws for easier handling. Pieces one and a half or two feet in area by five inches or less in thickness were then carried into the shanties. According to Behre:
After the slate was split to the thickness of roofing slate it was trimmed into desired sizes by a heavy steel blade operated by a treadle. A spring pole placed outside the shanty made the blade swing. Generally the slate was "cut out to the largest size possible consonant with the standard roofing sizes." Metal plates attached to the trimming machine were attached to permit the rapid gauging of the dimensions for which the slate could best be used.
When soft belt slate blocks were sent to the mill they were graded according to color, which determined their use. At the mill the blocks were reduced in size, planed to a smooth surface and polished or buffed. Slate pieces were also shaped and drilled, according to their use. Blackboards, made from thick beds of light gray or greenish gray slate, were split like roofing slate, sand-polished and buffed. School slate was made from darker slate but not as dark as carbonaceous or siliceous slate, also known as "ribboned." Like roofing slate, school slate was split and then trimmed with a rotating saw. The size of the slates ranged from 4 x 6 inches to 9 x 13 inches. Each slate was bevelled, shaved to a desired thickness (1/6, 1/7, 1/8 inch), buffed and framed. 
Roofing slate was cut to many different sizes and specifications. (See appendix 23.) It was sold by a "square," which was defined as the slate necessary to cover 100 square feet with a three-inch overlap. The standard thickness was 3/16-inch, but thicker slates could be supplied. Northampton County soft belt roofing slates weighed 650 to 700 pounds per square and were blue-gray in color. 
Early methods of processing slate have changed with the evolution of machinery and other technologies, but the 1883 and 1927 descriptions provide clues as to how quarrying was once carried out. James Madison Porter's quarries produced school slates, as did the New York and Delaware River quarry on the Pipher property. Roofing slate was the leading product of both the soft and hard belt districts in Northampton County. These slates were probably produced by methods described above. Porter's workmen probably removed overburden by hand, used treadle-driven saws to cut slate, dressed slate with knives, and used horse- or steampower to hoist blocks from the quarries. Slateford Farm was once the scene of frenzied activity in the pursuit of quality slate. 
Last Updated: 31-Dec-2009