Missouri Mines State Historic Site
The mining industry has been important to Missouri's economic and social fabric for 260 years. In fact, Missouri's first miners were the Indians and their aboriginal ancestors. Early Indian miners gathered flint for arrowheads, and dug out iron oxide for war paint and clay for their ceremonial and storage vessels. They traded these commodities throughout much of the mid-continent.
Pierre Charles LeSeur, a Frenchman, led the first European mineralogical expedition into the mineral-rich Mississippi Valley in early 1700. Two decades later, word came of a 'shiny gray mineral...that was everywhere, often lying on the surface of-the ground. These early explorers discovered that wide lodes of this mineral, several feet thick, lay only a few feet below the earth's surface. This plentiful mineral was galena, the primary lead ore mined in Missouri both yester-day and today.
Missouri has been the nation's major source of lead for approximately 90 years. Owing to the United States� demand for lead, economic development in the Old Lead Belt and the New Lead Belt in southeast Missouri brought major corporate enterprises, deep multileveled underground mines, sophisticated underground railroads, and the influx of thousands of workers. St. Joseph Lead Co. is one of the major corporate enterprises that came to Missouri to mine lead. This company, which had been incorporated in New York in 1864, purchased nearly 950 acres that same year at Bonne Terre, MO., a few miles north of today's Missouri Mines State Historic Site, for $75,000. After a slow and relatively unproductive start, the company began to overtake its competitors because of its innovations in ore-smelting, in underground engineering technology, and in the development and use of mechanical equipment, such as the efficient diamond drill, machinery that allowed deep rock exploration.
In 1923, St. Joseph Lead Co. bought the Federal Mill No. 3 lead-concentrating An 1877 lithograph of a miner complex from its competitor, Federal Lead Co. This complex, built in 1906- 1907, then came under the operation of St. Joseph Lead Co. from 1923 to 1972. This complex consisted of 25 buildings, including the powerhouse, mill, foundry, electrical shop, carpenter shop, sawmill, machine shop, primary crusher, filter and dryer building, and flotation plant. All operations in these buildings were aimed at crushing, grinding and concentrating the lead ore, a process that separated the valuable minerals.
Federal Mill No. 3 represents only one of many mining operations in this area. The nearly 1,000 miles of multi- Federal Mill No. 3 in 1907 level mine tunnels that traverse the region are testimony to the many operations in this area. Today these mines, flooded naturally with ground water, provide a water supply for Park Hills and surrounding communities. In addition to the thousands of miles of tunnels, there were 250 miles of underground railroad tracks that connected various mills. These rail tracks ran beneath the towns of Flat River, Leadwood, Desloge, Rivermines, and Elvins.
On Oct. 1, 1972, the renamed St. Joe Minerals Corp. officially closed its Federal Division mining and ore-processing operations in St. Francois County to move to the more productive New Lead Belt, or Viburnum Trend, further to the west, primarily in Iron and Reynolds counties. In late 1975, the company donated Federal Mill No. 3, along with adjoining lands, to Missouri for use as a state park. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources for-mally took possession of the 8,244-acre tract in September 1976, subsequently naming it St. Joe State Park. Then, in November 1980, the department designated the mill area as Missouri Mines State Historic Site in recognition of its significance in the history of the state's mining industry, and in industrial architecture and technology.