Term: mining in southwestern Wisconsin
Cross Section of Lead Mine, 1844 (WHI-9026)
Father Jacques Marquette commented on the mineral deposits of the lower Wisconsin in the summer of 1673, and the Ho-Chunk, Mesquakie (Fox), Sauk, and other tribes were already mining lead there when French fur trader Nicolas Perrot began trading with them in the 1680s. For the next century, the Indians guarded the mines' locations carefully, revealing them only to a few favored traders such as Pierre Le Sueur and Julien Dubuque. Between 1804 and 1832, all the land south of the Wisconsin River came into the hands of the U.S. government. This coincided with a strong demand for lead, which was widely used in the manufacture of pewter, pipes, weights, paint, and ammunition for the firearms of an expanding U.S. military. The U.S. began to lease lead mining rights in Wisconsin in 1822, and miners flooded into southwestern Wisconsin in the 1820s and 1830s, many from Missouri which had experienced a similar lead boom a few years earlier. By 1829, more than 4,000 miners working in southwestern Wisconsin produced 13 million pounds of lead a year. In the 1830s, experienced miners began arriving from Cornwall, in southwestern England. Wisconsin lead mining peaked in the 1840s, when the state's mines yielded more than half the national lead output. View more information elsewhere at wisconsinhistory.org.
View pictures relating to mining at Wisconsin Historical Images.
View related articles at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.
[Source: Turning Points in Wisconsin History]