Written for the February, 2015 WCGMC News
The month’s site article is leaving New York again and is headed for the Piedmont region of North Carolina. No, not because it is necessarily warmer there, although it probably is, but because I am the editor and I decided it would. But seriously, who doesn’t like pyrite cubes and when I discovered some in a bucket in the Weiler’s barn/club workshop last month I asked where they were collected. Turns out they came from the Standard Mineral Company Mine in Glendon, North Carolina. WCGMC had ventured south on at least two occasions (2009 and 2010) to dig pyrite on trips organized by the Mountain Area Gem and Mineral Association (M.A.G.M.A.) of North Carolina.
It sounded like an excellent opportunity to revisit some club history. And then I got really lucky. A visit to the M.A.G.M.A. website yielded photographs from those trips and bingo there was Bill Chapman in his orange collecting uniform holding up a 2” pyrite cube for all to see. The gentleman just behind his right shoulder is Bill Lesniak. I considered this is clear proof that they had actually made the trip south and I set off to learn something about the mine.
June, 2016 update on Land Ownership:
WCGMC has been informed by the new owner of the property off Route 20 in Alden that the Spring Creek area where we have enjoyed collecting pyritized fossils for a long time is now off limits to collecting. The new owner has informed us that in the future he will treat “fossil collectors as trespassers”. Given the new owner’s wishes, as of June, 2016 WCGMC is not planning any future trips to this area and the site should be considered closed to collecting.
Minerals and Fossils Together
Many of us have a special passion for collecting aesthetic and/or unusual minerals, while others prefer the varied forms and diverse variety offered by the early-mid Paleozoic fossil collecting that can be done in western New York. There is one site that can please both groups of collectors. Along Spring Creek in Alden, NY, the rich and diverse Devonian fossil assemblage we have all come to know and love is locally fully pyritized. Opening the fissile shale surface not only reveals a 380 MY old fossil, but a shiny mineral specimen as well. The prize is a pyritized fossil. Cephalopods, brachiopods, and ammonites are the most common, but two species of trilobites have also been found completely replaced by the iron sulfide mineral pyrite.
Just north of US Route 20 as it passes through the small town of Alden, NY, Spring Creek has carved itself deeply into the Middle Devonian Ledyard Shale Member of the Ludlowville Formation. Known for decades, the site is readily available to all with two legs, a hammer, a backpack (or even large pockets), and the willingness to perhaps get a little wet and mostly certainly muddy. A short hike along well beaten trails leads to the creek which can be accessed at several sites. Fourteen of us can be seen at one of those sites in the cover photo above.