Jefferson M. Rightnour left his wife and six children at their home in Fruitville, a small collection of houses in Limerick Township, Montgomery County, on Sept. 1, 1880, and walked to his job in what is now Pottstown.
The 6-mile trek must have been a hardship, but it was nothing compared to what was waiting for him. Rightnour was the boss of a copper mine; he worked underground with a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow, busting through sandstone to get to copper ore.
The mine was located on a 40-acre farm owned by James Gilbert in what was then Pottsgrove Township. An 1877 atlas of Montgomery County shows that Gilbert’s farmhouse was probably what is now the business office for Highland Memorial Park at 701 Farmington Ave. The precise location of the mine isn’t known, but it was probably somewhere along the slope of the hill in that area.
Copper had been mined there in the mid-1850s, but the endeavor was unprofitable and was soon abandoned. In July of 1874, a group of investors from Phoenixville took a crack it. The Daily Pottstown Ledger reported that excavators reopening the shaft found, at a depth of 18 feet, a wheelbarrow and box of potatoes — reportedly still “in good condition” — relics entombed in the 1850s workings.