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History of Spelter, an American Asturian Community
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Ken Menendez



Joined: 14 Jul 2003
Posts: 108
Location: Overland Park, Kansas (formerly from Spelter, WV)

PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 12:53 pm    Post subject: History of Spelter, an American Asturian Community Reply with quote

The current community of Spelter, West Virginia, had several names prior to becoming Spelter around 1928. Previous names were Meadowbrook and later Ziesing. The land that included the zinc factory and town site was land-grant property assigned to individuals by the then Commonwealth of Virginia. Earlier farmers were from the Smith family (Wesley, John and F. M.) as taken from early maps for the Coal and Clark Magisterial Districts of Harrison County. Spelter is surrounded by two rivers, the West Fork and Simpson Creek.

The following story about Spelter and the coming of the zinc industry to West Virginia is taken from the book, "History of Harrison County", as written by Dorothy Upton Davis in 1970.

Powder
Fairmont (DuPont) Powder Company

"The first chemical plant in the middle Appalachian area(52) was established by the DuPont Company on land leased from the Monongah Company and the Fairmont Coal Company seven miles north of Clarksburg at Meadowbrook in 1899. The DuPont Company built a mill to manufacture black powder and five large homes for their employees on a site known as "Powder Hill" (Spelter). (Note: the homes are still being lived in today). The mill operated for two years before a disastrous explosion in 1901 closed it down.

The land where the plant had stood was sold to the DuPont Company on February 9, 1910, which sold the entire property to the Grasselli Chemical Company on April 7, 1910. Six buildings built by the Fairmont Powder Company were in use in 1969: four residences; the Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company Yard Office building; and a structure used by the zinc company as a garage for trucks.(53)

Zinc
Grasselli Chemical Company
Grasselli (Anmoore) Plant

At the turn of the century (20th Century) the Grasselli Chemical Company of Cleveland (Ohio) roasted zinc ore, which was 30 percent sulphur, in order to produce sulphuric acid. An employee of the firm, Richard Ziesing, who has been called one of the fathers of present-day middle Appalachian chemical industry, (54) urged the firm to branch out into a new industry--the smelting of zinc.

Lynn S. Hornor and Edward Davis bought 453 acres (the Ash and Smith farms) east of Clarksburg in August 1903. Guided by Thomas G. Brady, industrial promoter, the men named the site "Steelton" and gave 68.08 acres to the Grasselli Chemical Company. The B.&O. Railroad Company built two miles of track to the area where future industries would locate.(55) Mr. Ziesing came to Clarksburg to establish the zinc plant east of Clarksburg in the area which would later be named "Anmoore." Although his official residence was Cleveland, Ziesing lived for many months of each year from 1903 until 1927 at the Waldo Hotel (Clarksburg). In 1913 "next to the largest spelter plant in the country is the Grasselli Chemical Company at Clarksburg; the largest is at Collinsville, Oklahoma, where gas is even cheaper." (56) The Grasselli Company owned and operated a natural gas field that extended over Wolf Summit, Lost Creek, Lumberport, Grasselli (Anmoore), Glen Falls, and Meadowbrook and operated a gas compressor station at Wolf Summit to supply fuel for the Grasselli and Meadowbrook plants. The gas wells and lines were sold to the Hope Natural Gas Company in 1927.

In 1927 the plant at Grasselli (Anmoore) was closed and all operations of the Grasselli Company moved to Spelter (Meadowbrook) four miles north of Clarksburg.

Meadowbrook (Spelter) Plant

In April 1910 the Grasselli Chemical Company purchased approximately 200 acres of land at Meadowbrook for $10,000 from the E. I. Du Pont Company and leased 300 acres of Pittsburgh coal to supply fuel for the zinc smelting plant that began operation in 1911 with eight horizontal retort furnaces.

Furnances were fired with natural gas until the coal mine (Maureen) was opened in 1916. Natural gas again was used for fuel beginning in 1946. The coal mine was sold to the Consolidated Coal Company which continued to supply coal to meet the needs of the plant.

Construction of the sixteen vertical type retorts began in 1929; a seventeenth was added in 1951; and an eighteenth in 1952, the year an extensive modernization of buildings was started.

Each of the following men had more than fifty years' service at the Meadowbrook Plant when he retired: Herman A. Gronemeyer, Albert B. Morrison, Samuel C. Loria, Eugenio Alvarez, and Joe M. Vasquez.

Owners of Meadowbrook Plant

Grasselli Chemical Company 1910-1928
E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co. 1928-1950
Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Co. 1950-

Superintendents of Meadowbrook Plant

E. W. Eaken 1911-1919
Herman E. Gronemeyer 1919-1957
Thomas R. Ferguson 1957-1967
David C. Kinder 1967-1968
William E. Coolbaught 1969 (57)

(Comment: This book was published in 1970 prior to the plant ceasing operations in 1970-1971. After which T. L. Diamond Company resumed operations in a small section of the facilites to fabricate zinc dust until the early 2000's when total operations ceased and a demolition and reclamation of the factory site started. The reclamation is near completion at this writing.)

(Comment: DuPont, during the reclamation project, left the original office building from the Powder Hill days to be used as a possible museum to tell the tale of Spelter and its workers. Also, DuPont is redeveloping the old reservoir that supplied water to the plant, and one time the town, into a lake, and the old school athletic fields into a new baseball field complete with lights. Plans are to donate the lake and baseball field to the Harrison County Park Commission. I have pictures taken in 1917 of the plant and town being built and other photos of Spelter from that era that I will be donating to the museum. DuPont has been a good corporate citizen to Spelter in the past and present.)

Spelter Townsite

In 1910 the Grasselli Company started construction of the town of Spelter near its plant on "Powder Hill" in Meadowbrook. By 1911, eighty houses existed; in 1915, when the town had a population of 1,500, 175 houses had been built. The houses rented for $11 a month. Occupants were provided with free water, free garbage disposal, and major repairs to the houses.

The company built a swinging footbridge across the West Fork River in 1910 to connect the town of Spelter with the Fairmont-Clarksburg interurban trolley line. The trolley stop was called "Ziesing". Wagons forded the river to bring supplies not carried into the town by the B.&O. Railroad. A school house was built on the hill.

Three stores existed in the town in 1913, the same year a new school building was constructed. In 1914 an old iron vehicular bridge was moved from the Lumberport-Haywood area and installed to span the West Fork River. A post office was established in Spelter in 1928.

DuPont sold the townsite in 1950, including the swinging bridge, to John J. Moschetta who immediately sold the houses to the employees occupying them at the time. Mr. Moschetta dismantled the swinging bridge in 1951.

In 1962 a new cement bridge was constructed north of the old vehicular bridge.(58)"

(Comment: The three stores mentioned in this book where the Standard Supply Company (previously Knight Brothers), Joe Alvarez Grocery and Scarnati's. Two other stores also existed, Fesslers and one other).

In Ms Davis' book she mentions another zinc factory and the following is about that plant and location:

"In March 1907 Joseph Loudourette and Company purchased six acres of land in North View (a section of Clarksburg), constructed a small zinc smelting plant, and moved its zinc plant from Marion, Ohio, to North View. (59) A group of Clarksburg men, S. C. Denham, Virgil L. Highland and William E. Oesterle leased the plant in 1908 and purchased it in 1909 for $40,122. The Clarksburg Zinc Company employed seventy men in 1909. (60) Martin M. Pearlman of Phildelphia, Pennsvlvania, purchased the plant June 29, 1911, and operated it under the name of Pearlman Company, Inc. The plant was closed down during 1918 and was sold on June 12, 1920."

Credits: (52) Charles Carpenter, "Coming of the Chemcial Industry to Middle Appalachia," West Virginia History, vol. xxx, no. 3, April 1969, p.537; (53) Albert B. Morrison, "Brief History of the Meadowbrook Plant, 1964; (54) Carpenter, "Coming of the Chemical Industry," p.537; (55) Clarksburg Telegram, August 21, 1903; (56) The Daily Telegram, Clarksburg, W. Va., January 3, 1913; (57) Morrison, Brief History of the Meadowbrook Plant; (58) Albert B. Morrison, Spelter Townsite; (59) Clarksburg Telegram, March 7, 1907; (60) Ibid., September 28, 1909

This summer (2004) the State of West Virginia and Du Pont erected a highway plaque on US Highway Route 19 at the entrance to the Spelter road giving the history of both the zinc plant and town. The following are pictures from that site (Also in our Photo Album in American Places).





There are a couple of errors in the signage, one being the year the plant ceased operations. The year listed is 1960, and actually it was 1970 into 1971. Also, the name of the company was not Meadowbrooks Works, but Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company, also known as M&H Zinc Co. Hopefully a correction will be made so history will not be distorted.

The side of the sign about Spelter mentions two churches: Ziesing Methodist Church and Holy Family Catholic Church. The school was named Ziesing Grade and Junior High School (grades 1-9), and the stores were Standard Supply Company, Joe Alvarez Grocery (read about "Joe "Mike" Alvarez, Spelter Merchant" in the Forum) and Scarnati Grocery. Only the churches exist today, and Scarnati's is now the town post office (see picture in the Photo Album under American Places).


Last edited by Ken Menendez on Thu Sep 16, 2004 8:23 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Barbara Alonso Novellino



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 324
Location: Long Island, New York

PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I read your posting there were some names that I remember reading in my father's journal.

"The big days in town was when the men from Zeisling would come to town for a bowling challenge. Zeisling was built after Grasselli and built with men from Gasselli working there. It was considered very inferior to Grasselli. Even though by street car it was only about an hour away, people would seldom travel there. We also had soccer games with them which we always won. Mr. Woodford and I spent part of a summer hauling lumber from Clarksburg to Zeisling to help build Fessler's store. (this store was mentioned in the book) He had a branch there. Fessler made a good amount of money cashing checks each payday. He cashed them for nothing if the amount on your check came to within five cents. If there were any pennies, they were his fee."

Eakins Plant Superintendent..."The Eakin's home was always well supplied with maids. My sister, Tomasa worked there when she was single. After many other girls in the town. The Easkins kept a big garden in back of the house, and it was kept by Sherenko. As the plant in its process of making zinc let out a lot of chemicals in the form of smoke, ( remember this from Moundsville W.Va.)the farmers all started to sue the company for killing all their land. The Eakins garden was a test to show that things would grow near the plant. This was surely a falacy for the country three miles around the plant became a dust bowl in the summer. Even now, years after the plant closed, in some sections of the town no grass grows." I'm not sure what year he was talking about...

My father wrote a journal Memories of West Virginia. It takes place primarly in that area...he never was able to finish it but there are a lot of names and stories in it.
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Ken Menendez



Joined: 14 Jul 2003
Posts: 108
Location: Overland Park, Kansas (formerly from Spelter, WV)

PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barbara, thank you for the reply and information from your father's journal. I knew all of the plant superintendents, except Eaken. Herman Gronemeyer was the one that was highly respected and much admired by the workers and their families. Gronemeyer gave my father the chance to work in the office, which he did until the plant closed, managing the payroll. Dad had to quit school after completing the 9th grade to help support his family of five children.

My maternal grandfather, Joe Alvarez, sponsored the Spelter (Ziesing) soccer team.

As a kid growing up in Spelter (1941-1963) most families had gardens and lawns. My paternal grandfather's house was next to the factory and he always maintained a rather large vegetable garden. So I guess the year your father wrote about was probably in the late 1920's, early 1930's, and possibly the plant in Anmoore that closed in 1927.

Information in your father's journal could possibly be of use in the proposed Spelter museum. I would like to hear more so I can provide the information to Anita Menendez of Spelter, who is helping with that effort.
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Barbara Alonso Novellino



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 324
Location: Long Island, New York

PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Ken,

My father's journal goes way back...he was born in 1905 and he and his family came to this Country in 1906. This journal was written about the time he was a young boy in Grasselli...before 1920.

Unfortunately, he never was able to finish this journal. He wrote it because as he stated in the beginning:

"For many years I have wanted to record the history of the Asturianos in the United States. They are a people that came from the Province of Asturias in Spain and settled mostly in those states having zinc smelter plants. They came here in the early part of the 20th Century. Pedro Menendez, the founder of St. Augustine, Florida, came from Aviles, a seaport of Asturias, 60 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock."

This journal recalls many landmarks and people of that time. Its 38 pages long and if you think it would be helpful, please let me know. It would have been his fondest wish for people to know about that time.

His sister Luz Garcia Gonzalez stayed in Grasselli after the family left. She married Angel Gonzalez and they raised their children in Grasselli. His other sister Tomasa marred Jose Vallina and they settled in Moundsville West Virginia another zinc town.

Barbara
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jomaguca



Joined: 18 Nov 2003
Posts: 230

PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 12:32 pm    Post subject: traducir Reply with quote

Es una pena qué no haya más gente para traducir los textos ( INGLÉS A ESPAÑOL)de más amigos del foro ,yo de la mayoría no me entero de nada ,mi inglés es muy básico y cuando lo traduzco en Alta vista sigo sin enterarme de nada ,POR FAVOR QUÉ ALGUIEN TRADUZCA MÁS TEXTOS.saludos
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Barbara Alonso Novellino



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 324
Location: Long Island, New York

PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, sé es difícilmente... yo no lee a españoles. Encontré un lugar en Google para traducir) donde traducirán para usted. Aunque es una traducción muy áspera ayuda a pequeño. Estoy traduciendo esto con Google para usted... esperanza de I que viene fuera de la autorización

Barbara Alonso Novellino
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jomaguca



Joined: 18 Nov 2003
Posts: 230

PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barbara, le agradezco qué me escribiera en español,pero es qué en inglés no sé mucho y de verdad le digo qué me gustan sus comentarios pero no los puedo leer porqué no estan traducidos, de nuevo gracias.saludos
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Ken Menendez



Joined: 14 Jul 2003
Posts: 108
Location: Overland Park, Kansas (formerly from Spelter, WV)

PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2004 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Help, can someone translate jomaguca and Barbara's replies?
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Xose



Joined: 24 Oct 2003
Posts: 338
Location: Washington, D.C.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here you go, Ken,

Hi, sé es difícilmente... yo no lee a españoles. Encontré un lugar en Google para traducir) donde traducirán para usted. Aunque es una traducción muy áspera ayuda a pequeño. Estoy traduciendo esto con Google para usted... esperanza de I que viene fuera de la autorización

Barbara Alonso Novellino

------------------------------------------------------------
Hi, I know it is difficult. I don't read Spanish. I found a site on Google to do translations that I will use to translate for you. Although it is a very innaccurate translation, it helps a little. I'm translating this with Google for you...I hope that [I don't understand the last bit, sorry.]

Es una pena qué no haya más gente para traducir los textos ( INGLÉS A ESPAÑOL)de más amigos del foro ,yo de la mayoría no me entero de nada ,mi inglés es muy básico y cuando lo traduzco en Alta vista sigo sin enterarme de nada ,POR FAVOR QUÉ ALGUIEN TRADUZCA MÁS TEXTOS.saludos
----------------------------------------------------------------
It's a shame that we don't have more folks to translate the text (English to Spanish) for more friends of the forum, I don't understand much as my English is very basic and when I translate using Alta Vista I can't get anything out of it. PLEASE CAN SOMEONE TRANSLATE MORE TEXT. Thanks.[/i]
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Terechu
Moderator


Joined: 24 Jun 2003
Posts: 1557
Location: GIJON - ASTURIAS

PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, guys! I'm doing what I can, but I'm totally overworked. Of all the people who signed up to help translate, only Art and myself are actually doing it regularly. Since we are volunteers and have our jobs, households and families to look after as well, we can't translate 10 or 12 posts every day. It's impossible.

Cheers
Terechu
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Terechu
Moderator


Joined: 24 Jun 2003
Posts: 1557
Location: GIJON - ASTURIAS

PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2004 8:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ken, thanks for that wonderful account of Spelter and the pictures. I love everything related to mining towns and mining culture. Unfortunately I'm not assigned to translate this section, but if nobody else gets around to it, I'll volunteer.
By the way, is that awful strip mining still going on (and doing away with)WV?

--------------------------------------------

Ken, gracias por tu relato de Spelter y las fotos. Me encanta todo lo relacionado con los pueblos mineros y la cultura minera. La pena es que no tengo asignada esta sección para traducir, pero si nadie más puede, me presentaré voluntaria.
Por cierto, sigue existiendo en (y acabando con) Virginia Occidental aquella horrible minería a cielo abierto?

Saludos
Terechu
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Xose



Joined: 24 Oct 2003
Posts: 338
Location: Washington, D.C.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2004 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, mountaintop removal mining is going more than ever in WV. It's sickening. It makes my heart hurt to go home and see whole mountains leveled...I don't want to get into it, since this isn't the political forum.
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Ken Menendez



Joined: 14 Jul 2003
Posts: 108
Location: Overland Park, Kansas (formerly from Spelter, WV)

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2004 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From my original posting for this new subject, History of Spelter, a neighbor of my parents, Anita Menendez (a Forum member), recently sent me some additional information written on Spelter and its zinc factory. The following are some points from papers written by A. B. Morrison in the 1960's not contained in the book by Ms Davis:

--the early settlers in Spelter (formerly Ziesing) were: Eugenio Alvarez, F. M. Swisher, Antone Fernandez, George Hill, Guy McDaniel, Diago Vasquez, Angelo Perri, R. Blanco, R. Cueto, Ed Prack, Tony Wastro, Steve Shanto, John Poppa, Mary Bitonti, Kate Lepon, Joe Alvarez, Ralph Harper, Tony Fernandez, George Carpenter, Kinsey Greene, Jo Ovies, M. Ovies, Joe Medina, Joe Huerta, Joe Menendez, Jake Shingleton, DeWitt Shingleton, Antonio Loria, J. R. Palmer, and George Corbin.

--Eugenio Alvarez was one early settler, he moved to Spelter in 1911 from Asturias and he and his wife, Mary, occupied the same house for over 53 years. Both are now deceased.

--During the years 1911 to 1913 the three stores in Spelter were Hill Store Company, F. J. Fessler and Sam Billoti.

--The interurban trolley line ran cars from 6am to 11pm on an hourly schedule from Clarksburg, which is seven miles south of Spelter. There were also three passenger trains daily between Clarksburg and Fairmont.

--The cottages rented for $11 month and natural gas was 10 cents per 1000cu/ft. Larger homes rented for a little more.

--From the records in the Harrison County Clerk's Office the Fairmont Powder Company and the Du Pont Powder were both incorporated under the laws of Delaware and Alfred I. Du Pont was the president of both companies. Also, Alexis I. Du Pont was the secretary. For runner of E. I. Du Pont.

--Leased dated June 27, 1902, gave the Fairmont Powder Company a 98 year lease to the property. Deed dated Feb. 9, 1910, and signed by Fairmont Powder Co., Fairmont Coal Co., Monongah Co., and the Guaranty Trust Co. of New York, conveyed all the agreements, leases and property to the E. I. Du Pont Powder Company. On April 7, 1910, the entire property was conveyed to the Grasselli Chemical Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, and the same property was again owned by E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company on Nov. 1, 1928, by the merger of Grasselli Chemical Co. with du Pont. This included the townsite.

--Furnance Foreman were: Antone Fernandez (1911-1919); James Chinault (1919-1930); Fred Stalnaker (1930-1950); Richard Carrico (1950-1956 and Paul Craig (1956 to plant closing).

--Only labor disputes in 53 years (as of 1964) were: April 1913, down for 10 days; June to Aug. 1919, down for 75 days; and Aug. to Nov. 1920, for 87 days.

--The Salaried employees in 1966 were: John Brown, Marvin Carpenter, Hylmar Clifton, Lawrence Devol, Paul Dorsey, Cecil Fleming, Larry Fortney, Anthony Fratto, Giulio Giuliani, William Hersman, Donald Hutton, D. C. Kinder, Herbert Lambert, Sam Loria, Thomas Marshall, A. C. Matthey, Dearl Mayfield, John McIntyre, Warren McIntyre, Charles McDaniel, Andrew Menendez (my father), Bernard Monroe, Henry Muniz, Harry Orme, Joe Paushel, Louis Perri, William Perri, Fred Shingleton, Jane Smallwood, Willis Stalnaker, Robert Toth, Ronald VanGilder, Raymond Vasquez and John Walsh.

Anita also sent me an article from a newspaper in Asturias ( I do not have the date of the article). It is the La Nueva Espana ASTURIAS, which contained an article date line Oviedo about a visit of a Clarksburg high school Spanish teacher, Karla Smith, who visited a friend in Aviles. This friend arranged for Ms Smith to meet Director General of Social Services, Carlos Madera of Aviles and Antonio Trevin. According to Ms Smith, she was interviewed on camera as they (Madera and Trevin) were not aware that so many of their people (Asturians) had settled in W. V. The article while in Spanish and according to Anita reads as follows:

"The pioneros de Virginia" "Mineros asturiano trabajaron en los Appalaches a principios del siglo XX" Another sub-title reads: "En la ciudad de Clarksburg hay familias appelidadas Garcia, Alonso, Fernandez, Rodriguez o Llaneza"

The article reads as interpreted by Anita: "Between 1900 and 1920 a group of Asturians were the pioneers that settled in the state of Virginia of the West". It goes on to say they came to use modern technology (of the time) with their skills learned at Arnao. It says that little is know about these heroes who were few consdering immigration numbers from other countries. The Spaniards want to preseve this information for further generations.

If anyone would like a copy of this article send me an e-mail with your address and via the Forum and I will mail you a copy, or provide your fax number and I will fax a copy. It is one page.
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Ron Gonzalez



Joined: 25 Nov 2004
Posts: 377

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 7:08 pm    Post subject: Spelter Plant Reply with quote

Kenney,

How do I sumbmit my lung X-rays to the Spelter Museum ? After all, I have 46 years invested in the Spelter smelter, and the asbestos to prove it. I hope the museum accurately represents the industrial history as well as the plight of the men who worked the furnaces as I did.
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Ron Gonzalez



Joined: 25 Nov 2004
Posts: 377

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read some where on the Form that no one knew where the name Spelter came from.Spelter means indigenous zinc,the term Spelter is used when zinc is98.00%zinc.Spelter high grade is 99.99%zinc.There is a company in Canton,Ohio that is selling Spelter zinc today.

Ron Gonzalez
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