The story starts in the mid 1840s when Friedensville farmer Jacob Ueberroth sought help in identifying strange rocks in his fields which did not burn normally in his limestone kilns. This search eventually lead, in 1853, to Philadelphia entrepreneur and scientific talent Samuel Wetherill building a plant in South Bethlehem to create zinc oxide out of ores mined in Friedensville ,the largest mine pit now named after the farmer who owned the property. After some failures, the South Bethlehem plant and the Friedensville Mines which feed it raw materials became known as Lehigh Zinc Company. This company grew and prospered in the Civil War period under the guidance of another famous Philadelphian entrepreneur, Joseph Wharton. Following Joseph Wharton's departure from the business in 1863, the mine began to encounter massive quantities of ground water. To solve this problem, technologists and engineers from Cornwall, in Great Britain, were hired and, in 1872, the largest and most powerful single cylinder rotative steam engine and pump ever built anywhere in the world was put into service with the challenge of removing up to 17,000 gallons a minute of water from what was now five separate mines in Friedensville. In part because of the cost of pumping water, the mines in Friedensville largely closed in 1876, but then reopened in 1881 under new management and continued operation until 1893. New Jersey Zinc Company bought the property in 1899, but did not commence mining operations until 1958. The New Jersey Zinc Company operated the Friedensville Mines, now entirely underground, until 1984 when the property became part of the Stabler Land Company. Stabler developed a business and commercial center on the former New Jersey Zinc properties. The Stabler Land Company closed operations and the undeveloped properties, including the site of the 19th century mining and the 20th mine plant and administrative buildings, were given to Lehigh University as a bequest from the Stabler estate. Lehigh University continues to seek development opportunities and is also exploring the prospect of creating an interpretative open air museum and park in the area designated by the Commonwealth as the Ueberroth Zinc Mine Historic District.
To learn more, the 2016 Mining History Journal article by L. Michael Kaas, to be found in the button titled Friedensville Mines History, provides an excellent summary of the mines rich history. Also attached, in the button titled Ueberroth Zinc Mine Historic District, is the Pennsylvania state recordation summary and inventory of the mining heritage assets in the Friedensville area.