Lead and Zinc Mining.Although the area of lead and zinc fields of Kansas is small, this district is one of the important wealth producing sections of the state. The first discovery of lead in this part of the country was made by LeSueur, who came up the Mississippi river from New Orleans in 1700. The mines he located are in Missouri. The mine LaMotte was discovered in 1720, and in 1723 a grant of it was made to Sieur De Lochon. This mine has been worked almost constantly ever since. The discovery of minerals gradually worked westward until the field reached Jasper county, Mo. The lead and zinc region of Kansasa part of the Louisiana purchase of 1803was reserved for the Osage Indians, and when they removed, was held for the Cherokee absentees, becoming known as the "Cherokee Strip." David Harlan, a member of the Cherokee tribe, who located on the Cherokee lands in 1835, discovered lead on his farm at the roots of some uprooted trees along Shoal creek, but nothing was said about it. A legend existed that the Indians used to make bullets from lead separated from the flint by a crude smelting process, but it was not until the rich fields of Missouri were opened on the Kansas border that any extensive prospecting was done in Kansas, although some men were thoroughly convinced that the ore deposits extended farther westward.
In 1870 William Cook discovered on the tract known as the "Cook forty" the first zinc ore, or "jack," as it is familiarly known, but little attention was given to it, as everyone was looking for lead ore. In 1871 a company was formed at Baxter Springs for the purpose of obtaining leases and operating mines. This company leased large bodies of land in the vicinity of Baxter Springs and Lowell, and northward along both sides of Spring river. In the spring of 1872 H. R. Crowell made examinations in many places along Short creek. More ore was taken from the Cook forty, and several tons were sold in Joplin to the agent of a smelting company of Lasalle, Ill, to which point it was shipped for smelting. Considerable excitement prevailed when a new discovery was made on the farm of Jesse Harper on Shoal creek. The place, afterward known as Bonanza, was located in a "bottom" northwest of the present city of Galena. It is reported that while a field was being plowed a piece of lead weighing two or three pounds was turned up. A shaft was immediately sunk and ore in paying quantities was found at a depth of from 15 to 20 feet. As soon as the discovery became known a party of men from Baxter Springs bought out those who had sunk the shaft and secured an option on the tract at $4,000. In the meantime parties from Joplin offered Harper $10,000, but he found that the option held by the Baxter Springs men was binding, and the Bonanza company was formed. Mining operations began immediately and great hopes were entertained by the stockholders for successful developments, but water was found in large quantities, which had to be pumped from the mine, hence progress was slow. A smelter was built and attempts were made to handle the ore on the ground, but fuel was too expensive, and a lull followed in mining' activities.
In the spring of 1877 John Shew and John McAllen put down a shaft on the farm of a man named Nichols, just south of Short creek, and on March 21 struck lead ore. No other discovery of ore in the Missouri-Kansas district ever attracted more wide-spread interest. Within a short time town sites were surveyed, mining lots mapped out, and a promiscuous population of several thousand people was on the ground. Miss Irene G. Stone, in her article "The Lead and Zinc Fields of Kansas," says: "About this time the news spread of the discovery of ore here, and it is estimated that within thirty days at least 10,000 people came pouring in from all directions, in all conceivable kinds of vehicles, some even coming, like the maiden lady of old, afoot and alone. Some rude structures called houses were hurriedly built, the less fortunate ones being compelled to repose upon Mother Earth when darkness overtook them. Those who did the most lucrative business at first were the ones who could secure a tent or shack and prepare any kind of food. The scenes following the discovery of ore in such rich bodies as that at this place have often been described as being the most exciting of any of the actual events of human life, and I have been told by those who have been through such experiences that, for intenseness of feeling, with some features rich in comedy, the strife following the discovery of ore on the Nichols tract would eclipse anything before written."
Just south of the Nichols tract, on the high ground above the creek valley, was the farm of a German named Moll, which seemed the natural location for a town and Moll had many applications to sell his farm. He made several contracts to that effect, the first for $2,500; the second for $5,000 and the third for $10,000. When it was found out that he had made so many agreements, each purchaser insisted on his rights, and it was some time before the town could be located. The first ore taken from the Nichols tract was sent to Joplin to be smelted. The Craig Mining and Smelting company was formed and secured from the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf railroad company a lease with option of purchase on 80 acres of land east of the Moll farm, which has since become well known as the property of the South Side Mining and Manufacturing company. All the claimants for the Moll site pooled their interests under the name of the Galena Mining and Smelting company. Another company purchased 200 acres of land on the north side of Short creek where the town of Empire was located. Miss Stone says: "It seemed to be a time when there was no other attraction of the kind, and those who had been through the California and other discoveries of valuable ores claimed never to have seen so large a collection of the tough element as was gathered in this territory at this time." By July 1, 1877, four paying shafts were in operation and the weekly sale of ore amounted to $3,000, all taken from an area of less than 2 acres and less than 50 feet below the surface. The first discovery of ore in another locality was on land belonging to the South Side company, just east of Galena. This led to more prospecting, with the result that there are now considerably more than 2,500 acres of developed ore-bearing territory, and competent geologists say that it will take at least another generation before the ore already in sight will he exhausted. About 3 miles southeast of Pleasanton, Linn county, a small quantity of lead and zinc ore has been found, and there are evidences that mining operations have been carried on there in the past, but by whom or at what date no one has been able to determine. A company was formed to operate the mines, but they did not pay and were abandoned.
Lead and zinc may be classified as kindred ores. The development of deposits of zinc ore in connection with those of lead was inevitable, for scarcely a shaft was lowered that did not produce ores of both metals and frequently one shovel of earth will have the two ores mixed in about equal proportions. In Kansas, lead usually predominates near the surface, but at the 100-foot level the order is reversed and at lower levels lead nearly always disappears. Some authorities believe that t a depth of 300 or 400 feet lead will again become the principal ore, as in some of the mines in southeastern Missouri.
The first mining and mining apparatus was of the crudest kind. The first horse power was not introduced until 1877, and in April, 1878, the first ordinary geared horse hoister was introduced for raising the ore from the bottom of the shaft. Finally the necessity for more rapid and economical methods of pulverizing the ores became apparent, and Patrick Murphy and S. L. Cheney, of the Empire Mining and Smelting company, contracted for the erection of a mill where the crushing and cleaning could be done by steam power. It was located on the north side of Short creek and was a success from the start. A more improved mill was soon afterward built on the property of the South Side company in Galena. In 1873 a zinc smelter was started at Weir City, and in 1879 the first modern smelter for the reduction of lead ore into pig lead was built by the Galena Lead and Zinc company, with a total capacity of 27,000 pounds a day. This was followed by the addition to "eyes" of other plants, until the capacity was raised to 72,000 pounds a day. In 1878 Robert Lanyon & Co. built two furnaces at Pittsburg, and added two more the following year, all for smelting zinc. Favored by the cheap fuel to be obtained, more smelters were built, but the revolutionizing and greatest development of the smelter industry did not come until the discovery and development of the natural gas fields, since which time the smelters of Kansas have more than quadrupled and given fresh stimulus to the mining industry. The area of the mines has increased from about 10 acres to over 10,000. The Missouri-Kansas lead and zinc region furnishes more than of the zinc ore and about one-third of the lead produced in the United States. In 1907 alone there were shipped from this field 286,587 tons of zinc and 42,034 tons of lead, valued at $15,419,727.Pages 117-119 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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