University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Madison Public Schools (Wis.); Instructional Materials Center / The early history of the Madison area
(1960s)

Lead mining,   p. 4


Page 4

 
                                           Source: WHA TV Program 
                                           "When Our State Was Young"
                               LEAD MINING 
OVERVIEW 
     Before 1812, most lead used in America came from Cornwall in England.
After the war with England, however, the United States had to look elsewhere
for the lead it needed to make bullets, pewterware, and other important imple-
ments. 
      Explorers of the midwest had heard of richlead ore deposits, mined
on the 
surface by the Winnebago Indians, in what is now southwestern Wisconsin and
northwestern Illinois. As early as 1770, a Frenchman, Julien Dubuque, had
moved 
into the area to mine. It was not until the 1820's, however, when the demand
for 
lead increased, that people came into the area in great numbers. When the
first 
miners reported the richness of the mines, people came in droves from other
parts of the country and from Europe. These early miners were so eager to
make 
their fortunes they did not stop to build houses but merely dug deep burrows
in 
the ground to live in. This activity earned them the nickname of "Badgers".
Later, many of these men sent for their families and established some of
the 
first permanent settlements in the state. Mineral Point, New Diggings, Benton,
Shullsburg, and Dodgeville are all towns that date back to the early mining
days. 
      For a number of years the mining industry in Wisconsin grew and prospered
despite the numerous Indian skirmishes in southern Wisconsin. An early champion
of the miners, Henry Dodge, became the territory's first governor. A miner
is 
one of the two men depicted on the state flag. 
      But the lead mining boom in Wisconsin petered out in the middle of
the 
 19th century. Richer deposits of lead, discovered in other places, brought
down 
 the market price. Ore in Wisconsin shafts was becoming difficult to mine.
 But more important, gold was discovered in California. Miners left the state
 in large numbers to go West. Today, although some old mines are still in
 operation, it is another mineral, zinc, that is produced. 
      Our telecast takes us first to Galena, Illinois, once the thriving
center of 
 activity during the lead boom, then to a restored mine at Shullsburg, and
finally 
 to Mineral Point where we visit the buildings erected by the early Cornish
 settlers. The program also shows how lead was mined and smelted. 
4 


Go up to Top of Page