1800s - Present
Southeast Missouri contained one of the largest repositories of lead in the world. More than 1,000 miles of mine tunnels stretch across the region known as the Old Lead Belt. The first European mineralogical expeditions into the area were in 1700. Early explorers reported that a “shiny gray mineral… that was everywhere, often lying on the surface of the ground.” The rise of the mining industry in Missouri impacted the state’s economy for more than 280 years.
Southwest Missouri has a noteworthy history of mining. The Granby lead mining region, first documented in Newton County in 1854, was a strategic resource for Confederate military operations in the region from 1861 to 1862. Greene County prospectors found small deposits of iron ore, allowing for the establishment of Springfield’s iron foundry in 1858. Six miles south of Springfield the Pearson Creek Mining District was known for excavating $90,000 worth of high grade zinc and lead ore at the turn of the twentieth century. With the arrival of the railroad, Joplin’s mining industry first boomed in the 1870s, and by 1898 railroads hauled away 30,000 total carloads of minerals.
The Missouri Mines State Historic Site is on the location of the St. Joseph Lead Co. Established in 1864, the company became the largest lead milling operation in the world. Its complex included 25 buildings and 8,244 acres of land. The Missouri Mines State Historic Site preserves the company’s rich history, its structures, equipment, and artifacts, educating visitors about the role of mining in Missouri.
Creator: St. Joseph Lead Co.
Date: 1800s - Present
Contributing Institution: Missouri State Parks - Missouri Mines State Historic Site
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County: St. Francois