A New Hampshire Oddity: Grafton’s “Ruggles Mine”

Samuel Ruggles discovered mica in New Hampshire in 1803, while digging around in his field near the town of Grafton, Grafton County, NH. From such small beginnings arose the first commercial mica mine in the United States. Ruggles Mine is considered the nation’s oldest mica, feldspar and beryl mine.


The Ruggles Mine web site [at the time of the first writing of this story] states that “It is not certain who owned the mine after the death of Sam Ruggles and for much of the rest of the nineteenth century.” Perhaps I can shed a little light on this.

In the 1850 U.S. census, I found  the following:
1850 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Grafton > Grafton
Martin Davis 23 M Farmer NH
Lydia Davis 24 F NH
G.H. Ruggles 48 M Merchant 3000 MA [b abt 1802]
Intrigued by finding a Ruggles living in Grafton, I went a step further and looked at the next census of ten years later.
U.S. Census > 1860 United States Federal Census > Massachusetts > Suffolk > Boston Ward 4 [boarding in the Marlboro Hotel]
Geo. H. Ruggles 59 M Isinglass b. Mass
The term, “Isinglass” jumped out at me.  No doubt this man was probably a relative or even a son of the famed Samuel Ruggles.  The initials of the Grafton man and the age were the same. Taking a look at the Boston MA records, I found:
1863 Deaths City of Boston
George H. Ruggles of Roxbury MA, age 61, cong of lungs, merchant, single, b. Boston, son of Samuel & Elizabeth Ruggles.  Father b. Billerica, mother b. Haverhill.
I’m sure I’ve found the correct Ruggles family.  And in addition, I’d learned that Samuel Ruggles of “Mine fame” was not a foreigner from England, but rather born nearby in Billerica MA.  Further research showed the death dates of both a Samuel and an Elizabeth Ruggles in Cambridge MA.

The family ancestry of George H. Ruggles can be found at the bottom of this article.  At any rate, by 1863 when George H. Ruggles died, the mine ownership passed on.  George was single and so he had no wife or children to inherit it.

According to the History of Grafton County NH, in 1886 George H. Randall was the superintendent of the mine, and indeed in the 1880 census, George H. Randall and wife Rebecca are living in Grafton, he being shown as “overseer of mine.”   In 1892 it was called the ‘Ruggles and Randall’ Mica Mine.  In fact George H. Randall was the grandson of Samuel Ruggles the original owner, through his daughter Sarah Ann, who married Henry Randall [see genealogy below].

The Ruggles Mine history page does a nice job of continuing with the history of ownership.  As of 2005, the owner of the mine was Gerry Searles.


In 1803 mica was then widely used to make isenglass, [often incorrectly spelled isinglass, which is a gelatinous substance], a product which was very much in demand during the early 19th century, for lamp chimneys, stove windows, furnace viewing glass, and the like. I had an antique wood stove that I used in the 1970s that had one of these nifty isenglass windows.

In the early years of our country window pane glass was difficult to obtain, even if you could afford it, because it had to be shipped from Europe. Early settlers frequently greased paper, and used that on window openings.

And lets clear up a rumor about the mine…. colonial law indeed required that most if not all manufactured goods had to be imported. By 1803 when this mine was “discovered,” fear of this law had passed (following the American Revolution), and so there was no reason for the “find” to be kept secret, other than to insure that locals did not scavenge freely. Reportedly Samuel Ruggles “smuggled [the mica] through Portsmouth NH and into Boston where it was sold as imported goods.” [Makes for an interesting story, but the facts just don’t add up].  Another theory found on the Ruggles Mine web site talks about land claim issues.  We may never know the truth.

Although older uses of mica (such as for window panes) became a thing of the past, new uses for mica were soon discovered. By 1904 Mica was used as spacers and insulators in the diode vacuum tube, and in the triode of 1906. Since these were used in radios of the time, at the outbreak of World War I, mica was an important commodity. During World War II mica demand became even greater, but rapidly decreased in use with the development of solid-state electronics.

Today ground mica is used in the well drilling industry, the rubber industry, the plastics industry, and in the production of rolled roofing and asphalt shingles. High-quality scrap mica is used in the manufacturing of mica paper from which built-up plates are made for use as electrical insulation.


The mine itself is located in the northwestern part of the town of Grafton, in Grafton County, New Hampshire. Here is found a remarkable ledge, [in 1886] called the “Pinnacle.” On the south side the ground rises by a gradual ascent to the summit; but on the north side it rises nearly perpendicular over one hundred and fifty feet.

Drive to the top of Isinglass Mountain [in 1886 this was instead called “Glass Mountain“] over an access road off Route 4 and park on the summit plateau to see a lovely panoramic view, including Cardigan, Kearsarge and Ragged mountains. After a short walk past a museum of old mining equipment, you are in Pit A, a man-made canyon with walls of white quartz and feldspar.


Mica mining ended at Ruggles Mine in 1969. Now during the “nice weather” months, visitors enjoy a geological and mining experience, exploring the open pit mine’s caverns and tunnels and hammering away at rocks in search of minerals.

Over 150 minerals occur here, including feldspar, beryl, mica, amethyst, rose and smoky quartz, tourmaline, and garnet.  You can rent hammers and buckets at the mine entrance, keeping whatever minerals you collect.  The mine’s uranium minerals are prized by collectors and museums throughout the world.

In 2005 a 200-year-old ore cart was discovered while doing maintenance on one of the mineral slag piles. The cart has been added to the museum’s history of the mine.

Perhaps you will find a real treasure when you visit.  This is definitely fun for everyone in the family.


**Additional Reading*

History of Ruggles Mine
Family of Ruggles, by Frances Cowles, 1912 –
Genealogy of Thomas Ruggles of Roxbury, 1637, to Thomas Ruggles of Romfret Connecticut , etc. (1896) –
Ancestral lineage of Major John Ruggles of Rutland, Vermont, whose ancestor was Thomas Ruggles, esquire of Sudbury, Suffolk, England, A.D. 1547 .. (1920) –
New England Pegmatites

[for more details see the Genealogy of Thomas Ruggles above]

Thomas Ruggles, son of Thomas, b. abt 1584 in Sudbury, Suffolk England and d. 15 Nov 1644 in Roxbury, Suffolk Co MA. He died of consumption. He m. 1 Nov 1620 in Nazeing Essex England to Mary Curtis. The will of Thomas Ruggles stated: “Thomas Ruggles of Roxbury, Suffolk MA, 9/9/1644. To sonne John my lott weth lyeth behind the great pound contains my sixteene Acres more or lesse. To sonne Samuell, my lott butting vppon the left of Philip Eliot on the east & one Arthur Garis north–7 acres more or lesse. Also my land at Dedham, containing 12 acres more or lesse. Also my land at Dedham containing 12 acres more or lesse. To dau Sarah three pounds in such pay as my wife can best spare her at the age of one & twenty yeere. At decease of wife effects to be divided betweene my 3 children. — Thomas Ruggles
Children of Thomas & Mary (Curtis) Ruggles:
1. Thomas, b. abt 1623 in England
2. John, b. abt 1625 in England
3. Sarah, b. 1628
4. +Samuel Ruggles, b. abt 1629

Samuel Ruggles, son of Thomas & Mary (Curtis) Ruggles, b. abt 1629 and d. 15 Aug 1692. Tavern keeper of the Flower de Luce Tavern in Roxbury MA, that stood on the north-east corner of Bartlett and Blanchard streets.  He m1) 10 Jan 1654/55 to Hannah Fowle. He m2nd) 26 May 1670 in Roxbury MA to Hannah Bright.
Children by first wife, Hannah Fowle:
1.Hannah Ruggles
2.Mary Ruggles
3. +Samuel Ruggles, b. 1 June 1658 in Roxbury MA
4. Joseph Ruggles
5. Hannah Ruggles
6. Sarah Ruggles
7. Mary Ruggles
8. infant
9. Sarah Ruggles
Children by 2nd wife:
10. Thomas Ruggles
11. Anna Ruggles
12. Elizabeth Ruggles
13. Henry Ruggles
14. Huldah Ruggles

Samuel Ruggles, son of Samuel & Hannah (Fowle) Ruggles, b. 1 June 1658 in Roxbury MA and d. 25 Feb 1715/16 in Roxbury MA. Selectman, rep of Roxbury MA, Capt of Roxbury Militia. He m. 8 July 1680 in Roxbury MA to Martha Woodbridge.
Children: 11 children including:
1. +Samuel Ruggles, b. 3 Dec 1681 in Roxbury MA
2. Lucy Ruggles
3. Huldah Ruggles
4. Timothy Ruggles
5. Hannah Ruggles
6. Patience Ruggles
7. Martha Ruggles
8. Sarah Ruggles
9. Joseph Ruggles
10. Mary Ruggles
11. Benjamin Ruggles

Samuel Ruggles, son of Samuel & Martha (Woodbridge) Ruggles, b. 3 Dec 1681 Roxbury MA, d. 1 March 1748/49 Billerica MA; m. 19 Dec 1710 Billerca MA to Elizabeth Whiting; m2) 18 Apr 1728 to Elizabeth Williams.
Children of Samuel & Elizabeth (Whiting) Ruggles:
1. Elizabeth
2. Samuel
3. Nathaniel
4. Elizabeth 2nd
5. Martha
6. Dorothy
7. Lucy
8. +Joseph Ruggles, b. 9 Jan 1725/26 Billerica MA
Children of Samuel & Elizabeth (Williams) Ruggles:
9. Nathaniel
10. John
11. Sarah
12. William

Joseph Ruggles, son of Samuel & Elizabeth (Whiting) Ruggles, b. 9 Jan 1725-26 at Billerica MA; m. 2 Nov 1749 in Sudbury MA to Sarah Rob(e)y [recorded several places including  Billerica MA]
Children of Joseph & Sarah (Robey) Ruggles:
1. Sarah Ruggles, b. 29 Sep 1750 Billerica
2. Samuel Ruggles, b. 7 June 1752 Billerica
3. Samuel Ruggles, b. 23 Aug 1753, d. 23 Aug 1753
4. Samuel Ruggles, b. 12 May 1754 Billerica, d. 9 May 1755
5. Sarah Ruggles, b. 20 Jan 1756 Billerica, d. 25 Jan 1754
6. Molly “Mary” Ruggles b 22 Jan 1757 Billerica  [m. Joseph Shed]
7. Joseph Ruggles b 4 Apr 1759 Billerica
8. Samuel Ruggles b 8 Apr 1761 Billerica, d. 7 May 1761
9. Sarah Ruggles b 27 Apr 1762
10. Elizabeth Ruggles, b 4 Feb 1764 Billerica, d. 19 Apr 1813
11.Anna Ruggles, b. 10 Feb 1766 Billerica
12.Martha Ruggles, b. 30 Apr 1768 Billerica
13.+Samuel Ruggles, b. 3 Aug 1770 Billerica
14. ?Matthew Ruggles, bap 8 Nov 1772 [as son of Joseph, no birth rec]
15. Lucy Ruggles, b. 26 Oct 1774 Billerica MA

Samuel Ruggles, son of Joseph & Sarah (Robey) Ruggles, b. 3 Aug 1770 in Billerica MA. He d. 27 May 1843 in Cambridge MA, ae 72 years. His wife Elizabeth d. 24 Dec 1841 ae 67 years. Samuel Ruggles probably married Elizabeth Haskell 29 March 1798 in Boston MA.  According to her son’s death certificate she was born in Haverhill MA.  This Samuel Ruggles is the founder of Ruggles Mine in Grafton, Grafton Co. NHThe 1820 directory of Boston MA shows his occupation as ‘grocer’ on Cambridge Street.  By 1832 Samuel’s sons George and Charles were shown running  the 89 Cambridge Street grocery, while Samuel was listed at his home on Blossom Street.
Children of Samuel & Elizabeth (Haskell) Ruggles: [may be other children]
1. Eliza R.P. Ruggles, b. 1800 in Boston MA; died 17 April 1866 Boston MA; m. Samuel S.  Lawrence.
2. George H. Ruggles, b. abt 1802 in MA. He died in 1863 in Roxbury/Boston MA, age 61 of congestion of the lungs. He was single, an insinglass merchant.
3. William H. Ruggles, b abt 1805; d. 25 November 1878 Lincoln MA.
4. Charles Ruggles, b. abt 1809; d. 13 April 1869 in Medford MA.
5. Sarah Ann Ruggles, b. 2 May 1812 in Boston MA; d. 25 March 1864 Boston MA: m. 29 May 1834 in Boston, Suffolk Co. MA to Henry Randall. He was born 12 Feb 1807 and d. 12 Aug 1891.  He married 2nd) 15 Sep 1864 to Amelia P. (Hosley) Fitch. Children of Henry and Sarah (Ruggles) Randall include: 1) Mary E. Randall, b. 1835, d. Sep 1880; m. 21 June 1860 to Charles Harris, son of John & Zeruah Harris; 2) Samuel H. Randall, b. 1836; m. 13 Nov 1865 to Maggie MacLellan, dau of Cyrus J. and Harriet B. MacLellan; 3) George H. Randall, b 1838; m1) 4 July 1873 to Mary E. Butterfield, dau of Rodolphus & Lucretia (Edwards) Butterfield.  He m. 2nd) 28 April 1880 to Rebecca Delavante (De La Vante) dau of George and Elizabeth.  She was b. 1852 in NY and died Aug 1902.  She is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain MA; 4) Charles L. Randall, b. 1841 Boston, d. 13 Sep 1896 Boston MA;
6. Mary R. Ruggles, b abt 1816 Boston MA: d. 31 December 1887 Boston MA; m. 22 Jun 1876 in Brattleboro VT to Bryon Sariel Howard.


Updated July 2013 JWB

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One Response to A New Hampshire Oddity: Grafton’s “Ruggles Mine”

  1. Fred E. Davis says:

    I commend Janice Brown for a lot of hard work researching Ruggles mine. I have a bit of personal experience with that – I worked on it for about 5 years! I managed to trace both the family history and mining history of the two families that founded the U.S. mica industry in the 1800s, and have published a book on the topic: “U.S. Mica Industry Pioneers: The Ruggles and Bowers Families.” Sam Ruggles was a wealthy Boston merchant and grocer who purchased the Grafton property beginning in 1805. His only competition for over 60 years was James Bowers, a self-sufficient farmer & mineral dealer in S. Acworth, NH, and his family (son & grandsons). The Bowers worked mica mines in New Hampshire and North Carolina. If interested, check Amazon.com or other major booksellers.

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