After long closure, Ruggles Mine reopens to public

Brothers Christian Seymour, 70, left, and Geoff Seymour, 64, right, of Chichester, N.H., examine a chunk of feldspar during their visit to Ruggles Mine on opening day in Grafton, N.H., on Friday, June 21, 2024.

Brothers Christian Seymour, 70, left, and Geoff Seymour, 64, right, of Chichester, N.H., examine a chunk of feldspar during their visit to Ruggles Mine on opening day in Grafton, N.H., on Friday, June 21, 2024. "I've been waiting 60 years to come back here," said Geoff Seymour, recalling a visit he made as a boy with his dad and six brothers. Feldspar was mined at the site in the mid-20th century and used as the scrubbing agent in Bon Ami powder cleaner. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

Ruggles Mine co-owner Joe Bodge enters the 90 foot deep pit through an arch on its main access road in Grafton, N.H., on its opening day on June 21, 2024. Bodge purchased the former mine and tourist attraction in 2023 with business partner Eric La Roche. In their first year the mine was open only by appointment to mineral clubs. On June 21 it opened to the general public and Bodge and LaRoche have plans to host drone races there and open a Jeep course in 2025. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Ruggles Mine co-owner Joe Bodge enters the 90 foot deep pit through an arch on its main access road in Grafton, N.H., on its opening day on June 21, 2024. Bodge purchased the former mine and tourist attraction in 2023 with business partner Eric La Roche. In their first year the mine was open only by appointment to mineral clubs. On June 21 it opened to the general public and Bodge and LaRoche have plans to host drone races there and open a Jeep course in 2025. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Courtney Warrington, of Hartland, left, and her boys Ethan McMahon, 7, middle, and Tristan Jewell, 13, right, look at stones found on the floor of a tunnel at Ruggles Mine in Grafton, Vt., on Friday, June 21, 2024. It was the mine's first day open to visitors from the general public since a closure that began prior to the COVID 19 pandemic. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Courtney Warrington, of Hartland, left, and her boys Ethan McMahon, 7, middle, and Tristan Jewell, 13, right, look at stones found on the floor of a tunnel at Ruggles Mine in Grafton, Vt., on Friday, June 21, 2024. It was the mine's first day open to visitors from the general public since a closure that began prior to the COVID 19 pandemic. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

A stone containing the mildly radioactive mineral autumite found by Ethan McMahon, right, at Ruggles Mine in Grafton, N.H., reflects a green glow under an ultraviolet flashlight held by his brother Tristan Jewell, 13, on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A stone containing the mildly radioactive mineral autumite found by Ethan McMahon, right, at Ruggles Mine in Grafton, N.H., reflects a green glow under an ultraviolet flashlight held by his brother Tristan Jewell, 13, on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Ruggles Mine co-owner Erich LaRoche shows, from left, Kathy Walker, her husband Nathan Walker, and their grandson Cooper Snyder, 8, of New London, a piece of the mineral beryl found at the mine in Grafton, N.H., on opneing day, Friday, June 21, 2024. LaRoche and his business partner Joe Bodge, purchased the mine in 2023. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Ruggles Mine co-owner Erich LaRoche shows, from left, Kathy Walker, her husband Nathan Walker, and their grandson Cooper Snyder, 8, of New London, a piece of the mineral beryl found at the mine in Grafton, N.H., on opneing day, Friday, June 21, 2024. LaRoche and his business partner Joe Bodge, purchased the mine in 2023. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

After enjoying the view from the Ruggles Mine parking lot at the top of Isinglass Mountain in Grafton, N.H., brothers Geoff, left, and Christian Seymour, right, of Chichester, N.H., depart on a second loop of the former mica mine on Friday, June 21, 2024.

After enjoying the view from the Ruggles Mine parking lot at the top of Isinglass Mountain in Grafton, N.H., brothers Geoff, left, and Christian Seymour, right, of Chichester, N.H., depart on a second loop of the former mica mine on Friday, June 21, 2024. "You couldn't have stopped us from coming up here," said Geoff Seymour of the attraction's opening day for the general public. "I'm enjoying myself as much as when I was three feet tall." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By CAROLINE FROST and HALEY CLOUGH

Valley News Correspondents

Published: 07-03-2024 6:02 PM

Modified: 07-04-2024 6:10 PM


GRAFTON — Following the closing of Ruggles Mine in 2016, there was much speculation in town about what the future held for what was once a hot spot for “rock hounds.”

Many residents questioned whether the mine, which dates back to the early 1800s, had any future at all. They believed Ruggles was “all mined out,” particularly its reservoir of mica, leaving little of interest for amateur geologists and other visitors.

But Joe Bodge and Eric LaRoche didn’t want to see Ruggles go the way of so many other abandoned mines from a bygone era. Last July, the two New Hampshire residents bought the mine just before it was scheduled for a foreclosure auction.

“I originally bought it just because I like rocks,” Bodge said last week. “It wasn’t a business deal originally.”

When Bodge and LaRoche took over the property, which had been shuttered for seven years, they knew they had their work cut out for them. The site was littered with trash. Trespassers and squatters had looted an old gift shop and museum.

Bodge and LaRoche cleaned up mountains (no pun intended) of trash, cleared overgrown areas of trees and weeds, and replaced broken windows in the gift shop.

After putting in a lot of sweat equity, Bodge and LaRoche reopened Ruggles Mine to the public last month.

The mine is open Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mineral collectors pay a $30 per person fee. Kids under 10 are free. Camping is also available at $10 a night per person.

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“It was neat going in and seeing the (high cliffs) and unique rocks,” said John Cassidy, of Nashua, who spent last Sunday exploring Ruggles. “I’m glad I got a ride (on a golf cart) because it would’ve been a rough trek.”

Ruggles is part of a 235-acre parcel atop Isinglass Mountain in Grafton — home to a massive deposit of a variety of minerals, including mica — that was unearthed more than 200 years ago. Mica, a transparent mineral that separates easily into sheets, can endure high temperatures. It’s used in electrical appliances and lighting equipment, among other things.

A Boston businessman named Sam Ruggles began mining mica commercially on the mountain in 1803. It was the first mica mine in the country, remaining in operation for 150 years.

In 1961, Arvid and Geraldine Wahlstrom purchased Ruggles Mine for $20,000 and made it into a tourist attraction. So-called rock hounds brought their own pickaxes and shovels to collect samples.

After Ruggles was closed to the public in 2016, it was suggested the state buy the mine and turn it into a state park. New Hampshire officials ultimately passed on the proposal, citing concerns about liability and having the state’s parks department take on another property funded largely by user fees.

In 2019, the mine was sold to a New York-based production company called Exciglow for an estimated $500,000.

“From the outset, the dream of reopening Ruggles Mine to the public has been an uphill battle,” Chris DiPetta, former manager of Exciglow, said in a 2023 interview with the Concord Monitor, following the sale to Bodge and LaRoche. “The challenges were numerous, not the least of which was the pandemic striking just after acquiring it.”

Bodge and LaRoche “share my passion for Ruggles and bring substantial expertise,” DiPetta added. “I’m confident they will be successful in restoring this unique cultural asset to the people of New Hampshire.”

Bodge and LaRoche are committed to putting Ruggles back on the state tourism map. So much so, Bodge said, that “Eric and I are living here full time now in our campers, completely off-grid.”

They can’t turn the clock back completely, however. The mine’s walls are too fragile to expose to any form of chiseling or chipping into them, Bodge said.

But after decades of mining the land, “no one has even thought to really dig underneath the mine,” he said.

The property’s many hills and other areas are still full of minerals, with “wonderful” gems left to discover on the outer edges of the land and beneath it, Bodge said.

The mine itself is “known for really large crystals,” LaRoche said.

DiPetta, the former owner, told the Concord Monitor in 2023 that LaRoche has “expertise in minerals.”

He’s put that expertise to work at Ruggles. He serves as the mine’s tour guide, answering visitors’ questions and sharing information about what they’re seeing. People have a “greater appreciation, if they know what they’re looking at,” LaRoche said.

While mining inside Ruggles is no longer feasible, visitors are encouraged to explore, walk and dig in the land around it.

Areas deemed unsafe are being blocked off. Groups of rock and mineral specialists will be allowed into specific areas to break open potential rocks in search of gems and other stones.

In just the short time since the mine’s reopening, it’s hosted “rock and mineral clubs from everywhere,” Bodge said, noting clubs from Keene, Boston and Connecticut have already made the journey to Grafton.

The goal is to keep the land around the mine in its natural state wherever possible.

“We still have much work that needs to be done, many places to grow,” Bodge said. “But I love this place, and I am very excited for people to come and see it, and to share my love for Ruggles Mine with the rest of the world.”

Caroline Frost can be reached at neezyfrost@gmail.com. Haley Clough can be reached at haley.r.clough@gmail.com.