Vanguards of the Frontier: A Social History of the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains from the Earliest White Contacts to the Coming of the Homemaker

By Everett Dick | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VI
THE SOURCE OF BULLETS

AMONG the other rich resources of the United States were lead deposits. This metal, of greater importance to the pioneer than gold itself, was to be found along the Mississippi River in two general regions. The Missouri mines were located about sixty miles southwest of St. Louis and the Fever River mines were located on the Upper Mississippi in the region where the present states of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin adjoin. From this metal Galena, Illinois, and Mineral Point, Wisconsin, get their names. Dubuque, Iowa, is named after an early lead miner.

The Missouri lead region was the first of the two to be worked by Americans. As early as 1719 a Frenchman by the name of Renault organized a company to exploit these mines. Leaving France in that year with two hundred artificers and their tools, he proceeded to Santo Domingo, where he purchased five hundred slaves, and arrived at the lead area in 1720. He opened up the mines of Potosi and St. Francis. He remained in the wilds for some years, returning to France in 1742. The greater part of the workmen returned with him, and the slaves were sold.1 About 1720 M. La Motte, acting under the authority of the Company of the West, discovered the famous La Motte mine.2 Then for a time little was done with the mines, but about 1779 the Mine a' Burton was discovered. These early mines were very crudely worked. Not more than fifty per cent of the lead was extracted from the ore by means of the open log furnace, and the lead ashes

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1
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, View of the Lead Mines of Missouri ( New York, 1819), pp. 15-17.
2
Ibid., p. 167.

-145-

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