The Livermore Tripoli Co. was established, and owned for it's entire existence, by Charles B. Henry, youngest son of J.E. Henry. Little documentation has as yet been uncovered about the company's early days. Mr. Henry bought about 12 acres of land around, and including, East Pond, in the town of Livermore, NH from the Publisher's Paper Company, who owned thousands of acres of forest land in the White Mountains. The actually purchase took place in March, 1912. The deed, however, states that included were any buildings, pipe lines, and other improvements on the property which had been made prior to Jan. 17,1912. It's unclear at this time what the significance of this statement is. Only one of the accompanying photos of the mill is dated, 1912, which may, or may not, support that date as being the beginning of the enterprise.
Photo from the Katherine Henry Benedict Album, UPHS
Steve Wingate, formerly assistant Ranger for Ecosysytems Management, WMNF, who has studied the site and the photos, believes that the actual starting date might be about three years earlier, based on his interpretation of the vegetation in the photos. If so, we've not located any records that would indicate the enterprise started earlier. Steve was the first person to actually write about this site and has been very helpful with this research.
What was the Livermore Tripoli Company? It was a mining company, the only one of it's type in the White Mountains, and one of only two in New Hampshire. It mined diatomaceous earth from East Pond. Diatomaceous earth is formed from the skeletons of very tiny aquatic plants, (actually a type of algae) that lived millions of years ago and, as they died, formed a sediment at the bottom of many bodies of water. It had many uses in the 19th century and still does. It's main use then was as an abrasive, used primarily in silver polish. It's still used in silver polish, as an abrasive in jewelry polishing, metal polishing, and other applications requiring a very fine abrasive. It's also been used in the paint industry, and was used in the early days of photography to polish daguerreotype plates. One of it's major uses today is as a filtering agent in water purification systems, food processing and beer brewing. It was also apparently used in the paper making industry in coating paper and as a filler.
As can be seen in the photos, the mining enterprise was fairly extensive. There may have been as many as 10-12 buildings. The diatomaceous earth was dug from East Pond and transported to the mill complex, adjacent to a railroad siding, probably as a slurry, through a 4" pipe raised on standards. This pipe can be seen in the photo of the mill building. The slurry would then have been processed, dried, and made ready for use. A price list found with Henry family papers at the UPHS indicates that 7 grades of "Tripoli" were being produced, and the finest grade, AAA, was "Twice Water Floated" and sold for $75.00 a ton. (This may sound vague; it is. No contemporary records have thus far come to light describing the process.) One of the photos shows a "kiln", probably used to dry the slurry. There probably was heavy grinding equipment, "water floating" equipment, and power generating equipment. Track from the Woodstock Lumber Company logging railroad is visible in on the photos. Material and supplies were brought in via the railroad, from nearby Woodstock, NH, and finished products were hauled off.
Perhaps it was the use of this material in the paper making industry that interested Charles Henry. Mr. James B. Wright is currently the President of J.A Wright & Co. of Keene, NH, (in business since 1876) the other company that mined and used diatomaceous earth. He stated that the product was at one time used in the production of high quality paper. And high quality paper was one of the products of the J.E. Henry Paper Company. But we have no definitive evidence that Charles Henry's mining venture aided the family paper company. In fact, we don't know whether the venture was successful or not, although it appears not to have been a profitable enterprise. But we don't even really know what Charles Henry hoped that the company would produce. The articles of incorporation are quite general as to the purposes for which the company was formed and do not mention paper making.
Local tradition says that the company was not a success, and that it was not able to solve the technical problems of turning the pond sediment into a useful product.
We've found little certain documentation about the company. It was incorporated in 1911. The corporation was dissolved in 1919. The Forest Service files concerning land aquistion for the White Mountain National Forest provides most of the information. Charles Henry (who died in 1922) purchased about 12 acres of land, including East Pond, from Publishers Paper Co. in 1912. In 1915, he sold that land to the Livermore Tripoli Co. and in 1919, he bought the land back from the company. Although the Henry family retained the land, it appears that mining had ended by that date. The photos of the mining company site recently came to light in a Henry family photo album in the UPHS. The album was the property of Katherine Henry Benedict, the daughter of Charles Henry, and grand daughter of James E. Henry. The descriptions on the photos were written by Mrs. Benedict at the time she assembled the album. Careful examination of these photos shows that the site changed and was enlarged over time.
Katherine Henry Benedict's role is interesting. East Pond, in Livermore, is surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. The Forest Service bought the land that is now the WMNF a piece at a time-sometimes in tracts of thousands of acres, sometimes in tracts as small as acre or two. In 1921, the Forest Service negotiated with Publishers Paper Company to acquire over 13,000 acres. East Pond was in that tract of land, but was not part of the sale, since it was owned by the Henry family. It appears that the Forest Service tried on several occasions over the years to purchase that East Pond site from the Henry family but did not succeed until 1994-it took over 70 years! One of the main reasons that it took so long was that Katherine Henry Benedict wanted to retain certain rights that would allow her to re-start the mining of diatomaceous earth from the pond. It was not until after her death, in 1990, that the Forest Service was eventually able to purchase the 11 or 12 acres of land and the pond. It's interesting to note that when the Forest Service first acquired land from the Publisher's Paper Co., 1921, it paid $2.75 an acre. When they finally bought the 12 acre East Pond site, they paid the Henry heirs $65,000.
The fact that Katherine Benedict was so reluctant to part with the pond and land is one of the issues that raises several questions about what we don't know (yet):
1. If the original venture was unsuccessful, why would Mrs. Benedict have been so reluctant to sell to the government?
2. If the original venture was unsuccessful, why would her father, Charles Henry, have kept expanding it? Was he throwing good money after bad in the hopes of a technological "breakthrough" just around the corner? Perhaps.
3. If there were technological problems, why didn't Charles Henry communicate with the J.A. Wright Co. in Keene, only about 100 miles away? Since 1876, they had been producing a very successful silver polish from diatomaceous earth mined from a pond they owned.
4. Would one expect to find several photos of a failed business venture in a family photo album, the rest of which was filled with personal photos of family pets, family vacations, etc?