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Fool’s Gold found along Quantico Creek

10 Jul 2014 | Tiffiney Wertz

The effects of the Civil War in the mid 1800s left the south in disarray and in search of economic stability. During this time of Reconstruction, John Detrick, from Baltimore, trekked along the Quantico Creek and spotted a shiny object in the water.

The object was iron pyrite, commonly known as Fool’s Gold, chemically it is called iron sulfide.

Because of Detrick’s findings, the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine opened its doors from 1889-1908 on a limited basis. It was discovered that sulfur was a necessity for products like glass, soap, bleach, textiles, paper, dye, medicine, sugar, rubber and fertilizer. Once World War I started, the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine helped contribute with the production of gunpowder.

Although Dumfries was segregated the pyrite mine was integrated. There, Italian and Irish immigrants and African Americans worked side-by-side. But, more importantly, because the unstable economy, the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine helped created jobs for struggling farmers who earned about $3.50 a day. When the mine closed in 1920, most of the workers returned to their farms, while some found work in Dumfries or Quantico.

Today the old Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine is located in Prince William Forest Park along a trail near the Quantico Creek. Hikers who take the short walk will find Geology Trail where they can learn about the mine after crossing over a bridge to the Quantico Creek visitors and see the old mine site and other foundations.

According to a publication from the National Park Service, when the mine was open, more than 200,000 tons of pyrite was dug out and processed into sulfuric acid.

Prince William Forest Park was originally the called the Chopawamsic Recreation Area for underprivileged youth during the Great Depression, before it was renamed in 1948. For information on the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine and Prince William Forest Park, visit

— Writer:


Marine Corps Base Quantico