The Trials and Tribulations of a pioneer in copper mining
at Simsbury, Connecticut, in the early 1700's



The mines were located at Copper Hill, East Granby in Connecticut,
now the site of the Newgate Prison museum

Thanks to the thorough work of mining researcher, Jay Robbins of Massachussets, a large quantity of documents have been brought to light which record the business dealings and legal problems of Charles Crommelin in early America when this land was still very much a British colony.

For his book "Ye Hills of Dreams and Lamentations" which Jay Robbins began 15 years ago, he came across the mining list of Elias Boudinot in the archives of the Connecticut State Library which he carefully re-typed with all its quaint, archaic spelling. If the name "Crommelin" was mispelled as "Cromline", "Cromelin", "Crumlin" or "Crommeline", he preserved that too.

Elias Boudinot's mining list deals with expenses made from 1716-1718. Jay learned of Charles Crommelin's involvment as his partner via a brief entry which said "Cash paid Mr. Crommelin to go to Virginia" and then "cash recd from Mr. Crommelin". Elias' father (also named Elias Boudinot) was a Huguenot who escaped persecution following repeal of the Edict of Nantes and was one of the first founders of the Huguenot colony of Manakin, Virginia.

The mining lists of Elias Boudinot are his only known surviving papers. Among many other things, it lists food such as "cheaser cheas, vielle, flower" [cheshire cheese, veal, flour] and their "chimely clock and son dyal" [chime clock and sun dial]. By studying the legal documents which still exist, one gets a good idea of how Charles Crommelin occupied himself for almost ten years, including innumerable legal problems with the third partner, Rhode Islander, Jahleel Brenton of Newport. Jahleel was the son of Rhode Island Governor, William Brenton.

Some 98% of the research done by Jay Robbins was done by traditional means, namely reading old documents. But when he finished his manuscript on Copper Hill, Jay was saddened by the fact that he had no background on Charles Crommelin until he came across the Crommelin family history website on the internet.

In Robbins' volume one can gain a better understanding of the other individuals at Copper Hill such as local Rev. Timothy Woodbridge of Simsbury, Gov. Belcher and Andrew Fresneau. Most of his transcriptions have the original handwritten documents to accompany them, and the total pages amount to about 100, plus some indexes, notes on sources, and also a 1928 university thesis by Creel Richardson which clarifies the legal entanglements encountered by Charles.

A significant document dated Dec. 22, 1718 comments on the role Jacob Crommelin had in bringing German miners to Connecticut. How this was accomplished is unknown, but perhaps via Rotterdam. Anyway, in this document signed by Elias Boudinot and Charles Crommelin, they say, "Agree that if Jahleel Brenton of Newport...shall pay or cause to be paid to Mr. Frederick Pigou, Merchantt in London 348 Guilders-Hollands money etc."

Also included is the Last Will and Testament of Charles Crommelin written in London. This significant document reads in part:

Charles Crommelin of Prov. of NY...but now in London. Will 27 May 1732; proved 22, April 1740. Having by various Losses and misfortunes in trade been thrown into many and great debts which have driven me from home to seek for succour among my relations in Europe...
See Chronology for 1732

Charles' latter years were marked by extensive travels around the world in search of monies to pay for the debts he incurred in his mining venture. Charles' battle with Denmark is also quite complex, being involved in the seizure of his assets.

In April, 2003 Jay Robbins found a wealth of information on Daniel and Charles Crommelin at the New York Historical Society. While trying to prove or disprove that it was Elias Boudinot who influenced Daniel on mining [who then spoke to Charles about it], a number of important leads turned up. Jay found that his last days (or years) were spent as a merchant in the town of Rye, NY. This is on the coast opposite Long Island. Today it is considered an affluent NYC commuter town, close to the fashionable bedroom community of Greenwich and not too far from New Rochelle as well.

The archivist sent Jay index cards of the holding of the N.Y. Historical Society regarding Daniel, Charles, and Daniel Crommelin & Sons. These are important records consisting of miscellaneous documents regarding the last Will of Daniel, the business interests of Daniel Crommelin & Sons, and other important papers regarding the Verplancks. Among these papers is even more information on the whereabouts of Charles besides Rye, NY, Wawayanda Patent (Orange County).

In his trip to the prestigious Connecticut State Library Jay further discovered that Daniel, the father of Charles, was a Justice of the Peace in Orange County. He brought back almost 75 pages pertaining to Daniel and his son Charles.

Daniel Crommelin and son, Charles, were admitted Free men of N.Y. in 1698. Charles died on May 9, 1740 and was buried in the churchyard of Trinity Church in New York City which is situated only a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center tragedy. Daniel is buried with son Charles in section five somewhat near the graveyard cross. Anne, Daniel's wife died in 1702, as did their son Isaac, the year of the yellow fever epidemic in New York that claimed some 500 lives. Their bodies, no doubt, were buried in an unknown common grave. Jay Robbins found Daniel & Charles' tombstone, but the inscription on the Crommelin stone is barely legible due to the passing of some 275 years.

Trinity Church and cemetery, New York City
with the ill-fated World Trade Center in the background.

Jay Robbins believed that Charles Crommelin and Elias Boudinot had been neglected by historians for close to 300 years. When they are written about, it usually amounts to about 2 lines. Being dedicated in his efforts to print the first detailed study of "Copper Hill", Jay felt remiss if he did not expend every effort toward documenting Charles' participation in that chronicle.

He has a schematic diagram of the mine tunnels and a 1732 map showing where Charles and three miners whom Charles had brought out from Germany lived. And there was not just one mine. The large one extends under the road and under the tavern which dates to about 1753, but there are two other big ones north of it situated in the woods. The entrance to one is only about 14" high while the other mine is closed over. In addition to those there is another one called "Castine", likely named after one of the German miners whom Charles had brought out to work the mines. That mine is closed over though a blast of cold air can be felt some 10 feet out from a little hole. On top of the "Castine" mine is a very large deep open pit about 30' wide and 15 feet deep.

The Jacob Crommelin in Europe who handled the German miner transaction was likely the son of the Jacob Crommelin who completed the family's genealogical account (in French) on his 70th birthday. This is what was written about him up to 1712:

Jacob left France in 1685, went to Holland and shortly thereafter to London where he stayed for a little over one year. Then, wanting to see Italy he went to Venice from where he returned to London and then joined his father in Saint-Quentin. However, realizing that he was persecuted because of his religion, he fled for the second time to Holland where he went as commander on a ship to Batavia where he lived for eight years, partially in the service of the Compagnie and partially working for himself. He went back to Europe in 1700 and after three years of business in Amsterdam he married his first cousin Esther Torin in 1704 with whom he had no children, nor did he want to have any.

In correspondence with Miff Crommelin, Jay Robbins gives us an idea of the kind of terrain in which the Simsbury, Connecticut mines were situated.

Newgate Prison and Copper Mine is situated
behind the white buildings.

This set of photos was taken at the "North Hill" Copper mines on Newgate Road, East Granby. This place is distinctly different from the main large mine down the road, south of it. There are 7 mines pictured on an old map. Of these, many must be vertical shafts. I saw only two real mines and the indication of a third, but then it could have also been a vertical shaft.

This is difficult country to get through which is why I have not visited it often. Ten years elapsed before I tried again. It is property known to Charles Crommelin and others as "Luk's Hill", "Luck's Hill" , Luke's Place etc. etc. It took a long time to figure out who Luke was. Luke's last name was actually "Hill". It should now be renamed Tick's Hill as far as I am concerned, due to the enormous burgeoning of deer who have no hesitation in consuming valuable shrubbery in front yards of houses. The threat of the dreaded Lyme disease is high and it seems unlikely that I will ever go there again.

You will see on one of the photos a gully or ravine hidden behind trees. This was dug out by the miners and called a "drift". After hunkering down at the entrance which is in bad shape, I decided it would not be wise to excavate and go in, although I did the other one, as I mentioned.

Your maps include one drafted by local Dr. Samuel Higley and on which the German Hannover area (near ponds) is shown. Also a later map is included, which may be of interest as it actually says "Sims C. Mines." The general area is known as "The Wedge or Notch" as Connecticut and Massachusetts squabbled over it for years, hence its odd shape.

Map of Connecticut, 1774. Click to enlarge.

On another note. The entire area of Copper Hill encompasses 300 acres. The boundary was marked by piles of stones and "Black ock" trees. Black oak rarely live past 100 years. It is therefore impossible to see who mined which portion without a platt map of which half a dozen must have been made and surely C.C. had one too. Of course all his mining papers are gone. My last recourse to a mine map are the papers of the "Mining Commissioner's Court" which I mentioned.

The story of our ancestor, Charles Crommelin, is one of persistence, tenacity, risk-taking, hard work, a desire to see fairplay in business, entrepreneurship, adventure, travel, and ultimately...heartache - indeed, all of the qualities that helped to build a great nation.