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Mines and Mining in Greene County

Robert Neumann


R. I. Holcombe, in his History of Greene County, Missouri [1883], mentions French voyageurs coming here from Ste. Genevieve in 1785. He speculates that they came west as far as current Barry or McDonald Counties.

     By the early 1800s lead deposits were known to be in southwest Missouri. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft wrote of a place in 1819, later known as the Phelps Mines in Greene County, where Indians have been...procuring lead for smelting the ore in a kind of [pit] furnace. Moses Austin, an early lead miner near Potosi, Missouri, was said to have encouraged and/or financed Schoolcraft's journey to scope out potential lead-mining areas during his trek.

     By the 1840s and 50s lead mining, on a small scale, took place in southwest Missouri. At Hazelwood in Webster County, Charles McClurg smelted ore selling it in St. Louis. Shipping costs made the operation unprofitable. In Newton County at Granby, in the 1850s, thousands of pounds of lead were shipped out by wagon and mule up to the Civil War. Lead was discovered in the Joplin area in 1849 and at Oronogo in 1851.

     Concerning the Granby Mines there are some interesting deed book references from Greene County. Emile Berle conveyed mining property to John D. Noble for $1. [Book K, page 472] This July 16, 1860, agreement listed both men as residents of Granby Mines, Newton County, Missouri. They appeared to have been partners as there is a mention to Noble, Berle, and Company. On October 5, 1860, John D. Noble conveyed his property to William Gihou and Samuel R. Brown known as the firm of Gihou & Company. [Book K, page 475] This presumably included what he had gotten from Berle. The consideration price was $25,000.

     In addition to land in Newton County, Gihou & Company got furnaces, shops, houses, sheds, buildings & improvements . Also included were all the machinery, tools, rolling stock, goods and Described to wit, Steam Engine, & boilers crushing machinery air cylinder & Condenser pipes, Shafts, bitting picks, spades, Shovels & all other iron & steel tools...& all carpenters & Blacksmith tools...also all smelted lead & lead ore Sluggs carbonate of lead, lime, charcoal, Split wood & cord wood...household furniture & other chattels....

     Although this description of property at Granby is extensive, until the coming of cheap transportation, lead and other mineral mining, was not profitable in southwest Missouri. Since there were no major rivers for hauling it was only with the coming of the railroad that mining began on a large scale.

     Mining effectively began in Greene County after 1875. In Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri, published in 1915 by Fairbanks & Tuck, mention is made of the Phelps Mines being leased out to Charles and Henry Sheppard, Springfield, and Judge Picher of Joplin. [This is the area where Schoolcraft spotted primitive smelting pits.] In the middle 1880s Joseph O'Donnel leased the same property from Col. John E. Phelps.

     Fairbanks & Tuck mention other Greene County mines. There were the Pierson Creek Mines. They were on ground first leased to a Mr. Ball and Mr. Thomas of Springfield, then Nathalie Mining Company, then R. P. Bowyer. The Nathalie mine was also called the Gumbo mine.

The Bowyer & Company Mine, also involving R. P. Bowyer, was near the Pierson Creek Mines. A steam engine ran hoisting apparatus and also a drilling device.

     The Lewis Mine was on property owned by T. J. Kershner leased to J. T. Lewis. In 1896 a shaft was begun ultimately here reaching a depth of 84 feet.

     The Suffolk Shafts were run by the Suffolk Lead and Zinc Mining Company. They were also called the Mumford or Kershner mines. A handbill in a probate file, #6347, mentions the Kershner Mines as 2 miles West of Turner Station. The auction mentioned on the handbill was for November 1, 1904.

     The Daisy Mines, along with all the previously mentioned mining operations, were in southeast Greene County. All were also close to rail lines. Run by the Daisy Mining and Milling Company, the Daisy Mine produced an output valued at twenty-five thousand dollars in 1905-06. It was leased to Rathbun Mining Company the following year [August, 1906 to August, 1907] producing an output of zinc and lead valued at fifty-nine thousand six hundred and eighty-seven dollars. After a fire and flooding the mine was later leased to Bray Mining Company. It was still producing when Past and Present of Greene County Missouri went to press in 1914.

     Other mines mentioned by Fairbanks and Tuck are the Badger Mine, the Charles Meyer and Company Mines, and the Cook Mine. More will follow on the Badger Mine.

     Other lead and zinc areas were discovered and worked in Greene County. Around Ash Grove mineral deposits were discovered in 1859. Mining was done at the Corum Diggings [mines] but only small amounts of ore were obtained. More mining operations took place on the Hutchins/Murray tract. Golden Eagle mining company extracted about four hundred thousand pounds of lead. At this site also were diggings of the Gulf Company and the Clinton Company. Fairbanks and Tuck also mention the Taylor Shaft, the Dunlop shaft, the Getty Diggings, and the Pennsylvania Company Land shaft in the Ash Grove area.

     Two other mining areas in Greene County were around Pickerel Creek and Brookline. The Pickerel Mines were in township 29, range 24; western Greene County. A mine near Pickerel Creek was opened in 1887 by John McDaniel. Work at Brookline began about 1873. This was around the Potter Shaft. The Citizens shaft was sunk in 1887. Also nearby was the Line shaft. The Stogsdale Company also operated in this area. Near the Potter mine were of the Armstrong and the Old Silicate Diggings.

     It should be stated that without the work of Fairbanks and Tuck these descriptions of early Greene County mines would have been lost.

This has been a brief introduction to mining in Greene County. The following describes an incident at one of these mines.

     The Badger Mine was leased to a Mr. Daniel of Michigan. He might have been the same McDaniel who worked the Pickerel Creek mine in 1887. Fairbanks and Tuck said that the Badger Mine was leased in about 1907 to George Mutscheler and later to a Mr. Daniel of Michigan. They may be mistaken about the dates. A coroner's witness was working for this Daniel at the Badger Mine in 1907.

     On September 2, 1907, an coroner's inquest was held into a double fatality accident at the Daniel Mining Company's Mines. John Warren and Elmer Dickensheet were dead. This coroner's inquest has a good deal of mining information. The following condensed testimony, relative to mining, follows. Either the coroner or members of the jury asked the questions.

     James Brand was sworn in. He testified that he lived on this property, meaning the mine and was Foreman on top of the ground. He had been at this position one year and 8 months. He was in the boiler room when the accident happened. A question was asked about the condition of the cable [for lowering men into the mine.] He considered it safe. When asked if he had anything to do with the hoisting part of this business, Brand said the Hoister [man in control of machinery for raising and lowering items into the mine] keeps everything in good working order. A witness later attaches some blame to Brand presumably since he was a foreman.

     Brand was asked, "Did you inspect it [the cable] this morning?" He replied no. He later admitted that the cable had been repaired several times. When asked when it last broke he replied, "One day last week."


"How many times has this cable been repaired?"

"Four times."

"What is the depth of that shaft?"

"285 feet."


     Edwin Harry, who lived on the Rock Bridge Road, was sworn in. He was asked where he was employed and what his job was. He worked for Daniel Mining Company as a Hoisterman, apparently the man responsible for the apparatus which lowered and raised men in the mine.


"State what you know about the accident."

"When I went to work this morning I let the can down about 30 ft. and pulled it up again. Then the men got on the can, and I let them down. When they had gotten down, I guess about half way, I noticed the cable was gone [broken], and then I heard the can or tub hit the bottom."

"In what way, or by what do you control this cable?"

"By Friction lever, and if necessary there is a foot brake."


     Max Webber, employed by Daniel Mining Company, was sworn in.

"I work under the ground."

"Well what you see of the cable, did it look good or bad?"

"Well, it looked bad...It looked rusty."


     Jess Alexandra was sworn in.

"I have been working for this company, The Badger Lead & Zinc Company."

"...what do you know about it?" [the accident]

"I was ready to go down...I turned to go back in the boiler house, when I heard some one say the cable was off of the sheave wheel, then I heard the tub strike the bottom."

" ...sheave wheel?"

"That is the pully."

"...the condition of this cable?"

"It looked rusty, and there were some strands broken about the hook."


     Alexandra went on to say he had worked as a hoisterman but had quit because of trouble. 

" What caused you to quit?"

"It was an accident...the trouble was with the lubricator, the oil blew in the face of the wheel, when the men started in the ground, and caused the tub to drop about 30 ft."

"Do you consider that accident serious?"

"Yes sir."


     William Becker was the next witness.


"All I know about it was when I heard the tub strike the bottom, I asked who was on the tub, and someone said Elmer and Jack."


"Was it a new cable?"

"I understood it was second hand."


     L. Hanson was sworn. He said the cable had been cut off once.


"Who did you hear say that the cable was unsafe?"

"Billy Roberts and Harry Langston."

"How long have you worked in the mining business?"

"Eight or nine years."


   D. Brown also reported on the safety of the cable. He said one of the hoistermen said he did not like the way the cable was breaking.


"Who was that?"

"Billy Roberts."


     P. Emmerich was sworn. He lived Five miles this side of Ingrams Mills. He worked for the company under the ground.


"Did you work in the ground at this time?"

"I worked the crusher for them at the start." [A crusher was used to crush ore before smelting.]


     P. J. Reitz was asked about the Hoister machinery.


"Don't know much about it... but two men quit because they said it was not safe."

"Who were the men...?"

"Albert Lee and Al. Hanson."


     Harry Langston was sworn.


"What are you doing now?"

"Running the Jig."

"...should this cable have been repaired? Or replaced?"

"It should have been replaced."

"Did you tell the foreman that the cable was unsafe?"

"Yes, sir. I told both Mr. Brand and Mr. Langsford."


     John Langsford was produced and sworn. He lived at 567 E. Elm in Springfield. His position was superintendent at the mining company.


"When did you put on this cable?"

"Last December."

"...was it new or second hand?"

"It was second hand."

"What had it been used for prior to the time you got it?"

"For pulling stumps."


     This paper coroner's file does not include all the information about the accident.

     From the Coroner's book are more facts.

     For John Warren is written:

Right arm broken at elbow third finger on right hand broken. Middle third of upper left arm broken. Pelvic bone broken. Vicinity of rectum badly torn ribs on right side broken. Scalp wound at base of hair one wound on forehead about half way between eye and hair one wound on eyebrow of left eye.


     For Elmer Dickensheet is the following:

Left arm broken below elbow both legs broken both above and below the Knees. Right hip broken. Contusion about 2 inches above left eye. Also one in brow of right eye.


     The case was referred to criminal court. Charges were filed on September 16, 1907. The grand jurors upon their oath present...that John W. Langsford...on the 2nd day of September, A.D. 1907...then and there manager, superintendent...control of a certain mine...towit, ...the Badger Mine, located about five miles southeast in the City of Springfield...having a main shaft extending...two hundred feet...said mine being then and there equipped with a hoisting apparatus, consisting, in part, of a tub or can attached to a wire cable, by which said hoisting apparatus, towit, the tub or can and wire cable aforesaid, workman were lowered into and hoisted out of said mine, and that...John W. Langsford did then and there unlawfully, feloniously and with culpable negligence...permit the said hoisting apparatus to be equipped with a wire cable...old, weak, worn and rusted, rotten and broken [to be used on] September [2], A.D. 1907 [to] allow one Elmer Dickensheets, a be lowered into said mine [where] the [cable] parted and broke...thereby precipitating...Dickensheets to the bottom of the said mine, with great force and violence...mortally wounding, bruising, contusing and crushing the body of him..he the said Elmer Dickensheets then and there did instantly die.

     In spite of what would today seem like negligence, Langsford was acquitted. But he was back in court in 1908 in another mining-related case. Theodicia Rowden gave testimony in this civil case. She said that Langsford was the superintendent of the Badger Company. She said the mine was located near Mumford, Missouri, near Pierson Creek about six miles south east of town. She ran a boarding house about 300 yards from the mine, and had for the last six months. When asked if she had an arrangement with Mr. Langsford to board miners she said "Yes sir I met Mr. Langsford on one occasion and he asked me if I would keep some boarders."


"What arrangements if any was made for their board?"

"[He said] he would see that I got my money."


     The dispute arose over a miner, John McGeary, who went away leaving his board bill unpaid. When presented with the bill Langsford refused to pay without a written order from the miner. In the past he had paid without such an order. Rowden also stated that Mr. Langsford took his dinners at her place and would ask on pay day how much the boarders owed her. In spite of her testimony, on November 9, 1908, the case went for Langsford. From an Ozarks Genealogical Society (OGS) newspaper index comes the following information. Elmer Dickensheets was 30 years old when killed on September 2, 1907. He had a wife and two children.. There is a probate file, #2544, at the Archives. Carl and Hazel were his two children. Lulu was his wife.

Lula Becker and Elmer E. Dickensheet had been married on September 22, 1895. She sued John Daniel and others after her husband's death over an issue involving mining property. It probably had some connection with Dickensheet's death. Daniel had delivered a deed to Elmer Dickensheet which contained an error in the legal description. After her husband's death Lula requested a correction of the deed but the defendant refused. Daniel Saved and reserved and excepted unto himself all ores, metals or mineral substances, particularly lead and zinc ore from land she claimed as rightfully hers. She claimed that Daniel had also promised 2% of the gross value of the ore to Dickensheet and to reimburse him for all damages to the farm crop.

Circuit Court book 94, page 567, records the outcome of the case. It directed that the real intention of the parties in the execution of said deed be binding. It ordered the correction of the deed to read as intended. This order was issued September 30, 1907. From the court record there was no amount of damages stated, or if Lula Dickensheet was ever paid anything by John Daniel.

     John Warren was the other man killed on September 2, 1907. The OGS newspaper index stated he had come from Michigan and left a family. An Alphonsine Warren was in court against the Badger Lead and Zinc company in early 1909. She may have been Warren's wife. She was not successful in her suit. The paper file of this case, which would contain why she brought the suit, has been destroyed. Therefore it is possible this case had no connection with Warren's death. Still, it seems likely that it is.

     A great amount of information about mining remains to be compiled from Greene County records. More mining accidents happened in Greene County and are recorded in coroner's files. Incorporation papers still exist from early mining companies. There are also numerous court cases involving litigation concerning the mines. Further inquiry, from both public and private records, will be needed to provide a better history on Greene County mining.

Robert Neumann is the former Director of the Greene County Archives and Record Center. 

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