Frank Wilson "Bud" Phillips Jr
  May 23, 1934 - March 1st, 2014
Mitchell Lumber Company (owner/operator)
Spruce Pine, North Carolina

Last Updated: March 17th, 2014


Bud Phillips; landowner, forrester, miner, farmer, story teller, historian,  friend, and supporter of Bo''s Mine Tours died March 1st in his beloved mountains of North Carolina. 

Bud, I will miss our sessions in your office.  You taught me a lot about the mining, history, and culture of the Spruce Pine Mining District.

I met Bud Philllips in June, 2006.  After attending a Gem and Mineral Show in Asheville, I had come to Spruce Pine to learn about mineral collecting sites  associated with the Spruce Pine Pegmatite.  I was traveling with Michael Hall, another teacher. We were staying at the Richmond Inn Bed & Breakfast.  We had visited several mine sites using Richard Jacqot's "Rock, Gem, and Mineral Collecting Sites in Western North Carolina" as a reference and had learned about a marble mine which was known as the Bud Phillips' Marble Mine. We were interested in getting permission to access to the land.   Maggie Haskins, the B&B owner, recommended that we  try to meet with Bud personally.  She said that he was a local legend and we should not underestimate him due to his appearance as he was one of the largest landowners in North Carolina.  Maggie said that Bud could usuallly be found in his office at the Mitchell Lumber Company on Altapass Road only a few blocks from the inn.  The following day, a Saturday, we went to the Mitchell Lumber Company to meet Bud.  The front office spaces were crowded with several groups of men who were waiting to talk to him.  Michael and I waited at couple of hours for our turn.  Meanwhile, we were busy looking through Bud's outer office. Every horizontal surface was piled high with papers and mineral specimens.  The papers were stacked a couple of feet high in some places; oldest on the bottom, most recent on the top. There was a large periodic table banner on one wall.  Some of the mineral specimens were quite valuable, just sitting out in the open.  One was a large emerald crystal we later learned was from a pegmatite mine in New England.  We finally were invited in to his office.  He looked pretty much like the picture above except he had on bib coveralls and a short sleeved polo shirt with a pocket full of tree seedlings. The first thing he wanted to know was whether we were veterans.  We must have talked for a couple of hours about a whole range of topics;  how to avoid cancer (proper diet, don't use aluminum pots, sleep with a silver spoon in your mouth, drink ginsing tea), the importance of supporting local bee-keepers, the overreaching regulations of the federal government; all subjects I would hear often over the next eight years of our relationship.  He gave us several handouts about his favorite subjects and a few trinkets such as the first of many small folding pen knives I would eventaually have on every key chain I own.  After he had determined that we were trustworthy, I guess, he said he had no objection to our checking out the marble mine and in fact, he gave me a key to the mine gate so we could drive down to the mine.  Bud cautioned us to watch out for "yellow jackets" in the gate lock and that if we had any trouble to give him a call. Michael and I visited Bud's Marble Mine the next day!

Marble Mine Gate (picture taken Oct 2010)

Marble Mine outcrop (picture taken Oct 2010)

Beautiful white marble found at Bud's Marble Mine

I have used the
key for seven years now in developing my tours of Bud's Marble Mine and the McBee Mica Mine that was nearby.  That story is for later.

I was unable to see much of Bud in 2007 and 2008.  I made a trip to Spruce Pine in late July and early August of 2007 to attend the North Carolina Gem and Mineral Show and to continue to investigate mines in the area.  In addition to Richard Jacqot's book, I was using Lowell Presnell's "Mines, Miners, and Minerals of Western North Carolina" as a reference.  Lowell's book inspired me as to the importance of considering the Spruce Pine Pegmatite in the cultural context of not only the mines and the minerals but also of the miners and their families.  I began to appreciate the importance as getting to know as many of the old miners and the miner's families as I could.  Bud would prove to be invaluable in the future by introducing me to people who could give me access to their mines and tell me mining stories first hand.  I was unable to come to the mountains at all in the summer of 2008 as I was busy getting married to my wife, Diana.  Diana and I made a road trip in the fall which resulted in our buying a cabin in eastern Yancey County where we spend the summer and fall and really get to know mining history and culture of the Spruce Pine Mining District.

View of the cabin from the south

View of the Black Moutains (Mt. Celo on the left) from the back porch of the cabin

In June, 2009, Bud told me about the Goog Rock Feldspar Mine which was known for its high quality almost translucent Feldspar.  The famous ceramic company, Wedgewood used Goog Rock feldspar exclusively at one time.  I asked him how I could get access to the mine and Bud introduced me to Lud Leiner who owns land next to the Goog Rock and had access to the mine.  Lud took me to the Goog Rock which is a large cave like opening due to the extensive feldspar mining there.  I toured the mine and the tailings with another new friend, Don Wyatt whose father and uncle worked at the mine. Lud has become a good friend and I've spent a lot of time over the last few years checking out several mines on his beautiful property.

Don Wyatt (left) and Lud Leiner at Goog Rock tailings

Small mine on Lud Leiner's land

Beautiful S.Toe River flows next to most of Lud's land
Lud has another feldspar mine site which is located next to the South Toe River.  The mine is known as the Martin Mine. Lud has constructed a beautiful walking trail which connects the mine sites and has set up a small business, Rock Mine Tours, to offer tours to the public. Lud asked me to be a tour guide for Rock Mine Tours on several occasions in 2010 and 2011.

Martin Mine trail provides a fun family experience

Student fascinated during school field trip

Young tour participant with nice mica sample

I enjoyed my experiences leading tours for Lud at the Martin Mine for Rock Mine Tours so much that I decided in the late summer of 2011 to start my own mine tours business.

Molybednum ore deposits, the Russians, and Vodka:  Molybdenum is an important element used in making steel alloys for use in high temperature applications such as jet engine turbine blades.  One of the ore minerals of Molybdenum is Molybdenite (MoS2) which sometimes occurs in quartz veins.  During one of my talks with Bud, I noticed a specimen of Molybdenite and milky quartz in a small pile of rocks and minerals on a shelf next to the guest chair (standard metal office chair with arms and lots of  duct tape).  He said that the sample came from a location in Mitchell County which he was keeping secret for the "right time".  The "right time" for Bud meant when there was a demand so great that the "feds" wouldn't bother him with extreme environmental regulations which would prevent him from mining it.  He said that he had once been contacted by a group of Russians who had noticed a similarity in the topography of a known Molybdenite loaction in the Ural Mountains and a location in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Spruce Pine.  They wanted Bud to show them the location.  They negotiated and Bud demanded ten cases of vodka.  The Russians said that they couldn't do that.  Thus ended the negotiations.  Bud wanted to keep the location secret.  He once told me that he wanted to pass along some of the information that only he knew.  He did tell me a lot about mines and mining in the Spruce Pine Pegmatite but unfortunately not the secret location of the Molybdenite!

Bud Phillip's Gold Mine:  A few years ago, Bud told me he had a gold mine on some of his land on Grandfather Mountain.  He said that it consisted of high grade gold bearing pyrite that he had mined years ago.  He thought that it was worth taking another look at since the price of gold had risen significantly since it was mined.  He alsd told me that he had found some beautiful rock crystal quartz crystals with inclusions of galena (lead sulfide, PbS) near the mine.  That really got me interested because I had some experience with the silver sulfide ore minerals near Wallace, Idaho which contained chalcopyrite (copper pyrite), galena, and Argentite (silver sulfide, AgS).  I thought that the galena near Bud's pyrite mine may contain some silver. I made two trips looking for Bud's Gold Mine but was never able to find it.  I  got close on one trip (within one ridge line) but was too tired to continue so decided to wait for the next trip.  I wonder, with Bud gone now, whether there will be a next trip.

To Be Continued