Franklin T Oldt.

History of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryFranklin T OldtHistory of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 56)
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Dubuque occurs almost entirely in crevices and openings and within
the corporate limits of the city. It is also found at Durango and
in Jefferson, Table Mound and Mosalem townships. The crevices
are vertical and are nearly always found extending east and west
and in the long, finger-like ridges reaching out toward the river.
There are "top," "middle" and "third" openings. The first is
worked at West Dubuque. The "middle" is forty to fifty feet
farther down. The "third" is twenty-five to thirty feet below the
"middle." The richest deposits have been found at the cre\ice

There was no market for zinc ore previous to i860, in which
year the La Salle smelter began operations ; later the ones at Mineral
Point. W^aukegan and Peru were built and buyers were sent here.
The rise in the price of zinc ore in 1887 caused miners here to begin

John P. Sheldon, register of the Dubuque District previous to
1838, in his report to the General Land Office said: "The mining
country on the west sicle of the Mississippi in the Wisconsin Terri-
tory was opened to the miners in June, 1833, under my superin-
tendence as sub-agent ; the duties of which office I continued to
perform until the month of September, 1834, during which time
rent lead to the value of about $30,000 was collected. The regula-
tions were in all respects like those which had been in force on the
east side of the river, and permits were given to those who had
subscribed to them, to mine, to build cabins, to make gardens, and
in several instances to enclose and cultivate fields and raise grain
for their teams. The number of permits gi\-en I cannot recollect,
but they were numerous, perhaps over a thousand. . . . On the
west side of the Mississippi lead ore has been discovered in the tract
of country extending north and south about thirty-five miles and


lying between the waters of Turkey and Big Maquoketa rivers.
The main diggings, however, are adjacent to the Mississippi and
near the towns of Dubuque and Peru." He further said that the
mining lots embraced ten acres each, had been more or less dug up
and cultivated, and now the claimants wanted the benefits of pre-
emption. "When the act of June 24, 1834, was passed, there were
many \aluable mining lots in the possession of miners who had a
legal vested right in them, because they had complied with the
terms required by the government ; and in law this right could not be
invalidated unless it could be shown that the President had no right
to suffer the lots to be occupied. In the eye of justice certainly the
rigiits of the miners were sacred. These lots may be considered a
species of grant, and if they be not so considered the act alluded to
must be characterized as improvident, unjust, and, in view of the
previous laws and proceedings of the government in relation to the
lead mines, illegal." The land office at Mineral Point was opened
October 21, 1834. "It is necessary that provision be made for
settling the claims of the miners (in Dubuque county on the west
side of the Mississippi) simultaneously with those of the other
settlers who may claim under the pre-emption law."

In 1835 several very promising mineral leads were discovered
near Durango. These discoveries caused many miners in this
vicinity to flock to that locality and as a result thirty to forty houses
were erected there, two general stores, five groceries, shops, etc., and
the growth of the place seemed assured. But the mineral was soon
exhausted and the miners went elsewhere. The four or five families
that remained turned their attention to farming. — (Iowa Nczvs,
quoting the Peoria (111.) Register, November 18, 1837.)

In the neigliborhood of Dubuque in November, 1836, there were
five blast furnaces that smelted seventy pigs per week each. Of
these the one owned by Mr. Hulett smelted 70,000 pounds per week;
a cupola furnace conducted by Mr. McKnight smelted about the
same ; the one owned by Mr. Lorimier at Rip Row smelted 60,000
pounds per week ; several log furnaces smelted each week seventy
pigs of seventy pounds each. Mr. O'Ferrall's furnace smelted
100,000 pounds per week; it was 70 x t,^ feet and new. Although
there were five sawmills and two grist mills in this vicinity, the bulk
of the supplies of all sorts still came from the river. Morrison &
Prentice bought and shipped mineral in 1836, paying about ^2;^ per
1,000 pounds. "The Maquoketa mines situated in the neighborhood
of Peru (a handsome village a few miles above us) we are glad to
learn continue to yield large quantities of mineral." — (Visitor, May
II, 1835. ) At this date valuable leads were being discovered almost
weekly by O'Farrall, Saucier & Morrison half a mile from Du-
buque; Taylor, Nix & Co., near Center Grove; another was on
Rocky Mount Lot, three miles distant ; Van Buren Diggings, five
miles north, and many others. It was noted that many of the best



leads were found in east and west crevices and that the mineral
often appeared in blocks.

"A few months ago times were so good that many heretofore
industrious miners had acquired a considerable quantity of the
ready and seated themselves down to enjoy it as gentlemen of
leisure, but the hard times and constant complaints of those around
them have brought them to the conclusion that by industry is the
most secure mode of obtaining a living and have accordingly taken
up the pick and shovel and gone to work like good fellows. Alineral
is now selling at $15 per thousand pounds and we understand the
miners are beginning to draw it out in fine style." — (Iowa Ncti's,
July 29, 1837.)

"We are glad to perceive the fair prospects of better tmies m the
lead mines. Mining operations are greatly increased and we under-
stand that many more lately made discoveries likely to prove val-
uable. At the Snake Diggings the times are much better. Mineral
is sold at about $18 per thousand pounds." — (Iowa Nezi's, August
19. 1837.)

"We observe general activity in mining. .Ml the smelting fur-
naces are actively engaged in making lead and large quantities of
ore are being raised. Though money is very scarce and the pressure
severe, the energy of our citizens remains unabated." — (Iowa Ncxvs,
August 26, 1837.)

In August, 1836, a new and very valuable mine two miles north-
west of Dubuque was discovered by Mr. O'Mara. Mineral was
found on Sleator's lot, Wootton's lot, Herd's lot, and in scores of
other places, no record of which was kept. O'Ferrall & Cox, gen-
eral merchants, bought and shipped the mineral. Two men — Cole-
man and Carpenter — were killed near Dubuque in May, 1839, by
the caving in of the mine where they were working. In August,
1837, Wilson & Wharton took out on the South Fork of Little
Maquoketa 8,000 pounds of mineral in twenty-four hours.
Chauncey Swan & Co. discovered near Dubuque in January, 1838,
a valuable lead and raised over 10,000 pounds in a few days.

In 1838, according to the Visitor, not less than six million pounds
of lead were shipped from Dubuque. It was said in the Visitor that
"men are as numerous here as blackberries in summer, but females
are quite scarce. This fact is observable in the houses of worship
where there are five males in attendance to one female. ... In
this county females receive from $16 to $24 per month for house-
work and are glad to be had for that." In the autumn of 1836,
wlicn tlie first territorial election in Wisconsin was held, there were
polled here 621 votes, "and the entire population could not have
doubled those figures."

In the spring of 1841 there were many new mineral discoveries;
it was noted by the News that there was four times as much min-
eral raised then as at anv time during the previous four years.


New discoveries almost daily caused a sudden "boom" in this
industry at this time. In Fefcruary, 1840, lead was quoted in St.
Louis at $4.37>2 per hundred.

In the spring of 1843 mining was very successful — had never
been better. The hard times drove the miners and loafers to work
and all made money.

According to Lucius H. Langworthy, the amount of lead ex-
ported from the Dubuque mining district from 1833 to 1856 varied
from 40,000,000 to 60.000,000 pounds annually. He said that this
result was reached by "surface scratching" and "dry diggings" and
that a greater profit would probably result from deep mining. —
(Express and Herald, February 28, 1856.) If the average price
during this period was $20 per thousand pounds, and it could not
have been less, the annual receipts from this source varied from
$800,000 to $1,200,000. In a large measure it was this mineral that
enriched many of the first capitalists and laid the foundation for the
prosperity of Dubuque from 1833 to 1857 and enabled the city to
recover itself during the Civil war and ever since that period.

The government had no authority to lease the Dubuque lead
mines. The act of Congress did not apply to this locality. A
government leasing agent came here in 1836, but did not do much.
In 1842 another came, but before this date the citizens had staked
off their claims — Langworthys, Waller, Bonson, Parker, Carter,
Booth, Ewing and hosts of others. Two agents appeared under
authority of John C. Spencer, Secretary of War, put up at a hotel
and proposed to lease, and did lease, some of the mines discovered
by the above claimants. They paid no attention to the rights of the
claimants, but leased to whoever would pay the most. The result
was disturbance and legal controversy. It was decided in the district
court of the county that there existed no such right to lease the
luines and so the controversy ended. Richard Bonson suggested
that the development of the mines added to the value of the lands
and that therefore the damage to the government was nominal.
This was shown at the trial. — (Herald, March 19, 1875.)

In the spring of 1845 there were pending in the district court
here at one time four suits against individuals for mining lead on
government land. The people generally were indignant at the gov-
ernment and demanded that the mineral lands should be thrown into

In the summer of 1849 there were seven smelting furnaces near
Dubuque and it was estimated that they turned out a total of 30,000
pigs during that year. The price varied from $17 to $25 per thou-
sand pounds. In 1847 there were sent to market from Dubuque
140,000 pigs of lead and in 1848 there were shipped 30,000 pigs.
These figures show how the amount of ore raised per annum varied.
The most of these shipments, but not all, were mined near Dubuque.


At times as high as 3.000 men were thus employed, though usually
not so many.

From April i to July 28, 1857, West & Hopkins shipped 12,687
pigs of lead, the aggregate weight being 913,536 pounds.

In October, 1850, the Thomas Levins lead two and a half miles
northwest of the city, near Booth's cave, was struck and the crevice
was penetrated for 300 yards ; from 300,000 to 500,000 pounds of
ore was in sight at one time. This mine became renowned, and is
said to have yielded its owner $200,000. If mineral was worth $20
per thousand, this sum would represent about 10,000,000 pounds of
ore raised. The shaft was 120 feet deep and horse power was used
to raise the ore; there were caves and chambers below where the
walls were lined with the mineral ; in one cave were 90,000 pounds ;
small cars on rude tracks brought the ore to the shaft from a dis-
tance of several hundred feet. Other large leads at this date were
owned by Nightingale, Burton, McNear, Karrick & Company,
Fanning & Curran, Riley. The mining industry was very pros-
perous at this date and well repaid the land owners and the lessees.
In July, 1852, mineral was worth $26 per thousand. In the spring
of 1853 the price reached $40 per thousand. West & Shields bought
large quantities at that figure. This was the highest price up to that
date. George O. Karrick and John Richmond owned rich mines in
1853; there were a dozen others. In 1855 Hall and Whitney,
geologists, surveyed this locality.

Each spring, upon the opening of navigation, immense quantities
of pigs were shipped to St. Louis by the first steamers. On March
10, 1858, West & Hopkins shipped at one time 14,000 pigs. Old
lodes reworked yielded handsome profits.

"The lead mines of Dubuque have long made it like her neighbor,
Galena, well known. The country for fifty miles north and south
and twenty miles east and west seems underlaid with lead ore. At
times vast caverns are found, walled, ceiled and paved with crystal-
ized lead, so rich that it shines like silver, and so pure as to yield
85 per cent merchantable lead. The revenue of our city from this
source for some years back has increased from $500,000 to
$900,000."— (£. & H.. April 18, 1858.)

In the spring of 1858, while working upon the foundation of a
house at Caledonia and digging holes there for fence posts, work-
men threw out lead ore. Lodes as far back as thirty miles from the
river were discovered. The Fountain Hill Diggings near Peru were
very productive at this date. There was a great revival of the old
interest and excitement.

In May, 1858, the miners assembled at the court house and organ-
ized the Dubuque Miners' Association ; it was a joint stock organiza-
tion and started with about 250 members. At this date many mines
had been abandoned owing to water in the leads. There was no
approved method of getting rid of this water. The Karrick lead


was 250 feet above high water in the river and yet water was very
troublesome at the depth of 130 feet; pumping was too expensive.
The association considered horizontal shafts in order to drain off
the water. With the view of reopening the old mines the associa-
tion in May caused a complete survey of this locality to be made
and recommended horizontal shafts just above high water mark.
Early in the fall of 1858 C. D. Mullin struck a rich lode east of the
Karrick diggings. At a depth of sixty feet he struck a sheet five
feet high by two feet thick ; the prospect was estimated to be worth
$30,000. At this time there was a distinct revival of the old mining
spirit and enthusiasm.

Rich and valuable new leads were struck on the bluffs back of
Eagle Point in August, 1858. This ground had been prospected
over and over again, but now large yields were uncovered. They
were called "clay diggings" and were not considered so valuable as
"rock diggings." Baxter & Company took out on Mr. Thedinga's
land from May to August over 200,000 pounds of ore. Others with
valuable discoveries were Michael Karrick, Matthias Ham', Starr,
Karrick & Beckett, Horr & Brother, on whose grounds were twenty-
five windlasses at work. Masses raised weighed 300, 400 and 600
pounds. Thousands of pounds lay in heaps at the top of the shafts.

On September i, 1858, the miners held a big celebration at
Dubuque ; they came with their old mud-covered suits, carts, picks,
shovels, sledge hammers, etc., and enjoyed the day to the utmost.

"Mining. — We hear of several new prospects being struck in our
vicinity and learn that a large number of persons are profitably
engaged in mining. This is the time for miners to reap a golden
harvest. Mineral is now bringing $31 to %Tf2 per thousand and in
gold." — (Daily Ledger, September 14, 1858.)

A reorganization of miners was effected in Dubuque during
September, i860, for the purpose of arbitrating all minor differences
among themselves. Connected with this association were Richard
Bonson, John T. Everett, Joseph Herod, M. M. Hayden, W. G.
Stewart, J. H. Bartlett, C. Childs, James Carr, B. J. O'Halloran,
Charles Rose, S. Langworthy, Thomas Levins, Richard Waller,
J. L. Langworthy, George Wilde, John Palmer, J. H. Emerson,
Thomas Waters, R. O. Anderson, James Pratt, M. G. Karrick,
William Carter, Allen Leathers, J. H. Hollingsworth, John King,
James Thompson, H. L. Stout, P. A. Lorimier and others. They
had a constitution, by-laws and officials and kept their affairs in
order. A meeting of the miners was held October 2, on which
occasion George O. Karrick served as chairman and speeches were
delivered by himself, Solon Langworthy and others. Capt. M. M.
Hayden offered resolutions to perpetuate the memory of Julien
Dubuque ; they were adopted by acclamation. Solon Langworthy,
George W. Starr, George O. Karrick and T. McNear were appointed
a committee to prepare a constitution for the society.


In the Dubuque lead district in i860 there were four smehing
furnaces, as follows: Wild's, at the foot of Southern avenue;
Watters & Bronson's, a mile west of Catfish Mills; Brunskill &
Watters', a short distance east of Center Grove, and Fern & Sim-
son's, a mile or so west of W. G. Stewart's. All were located in
ravines, as water was needed in the operation of smelting. Lead
ore was composed of two parts or ingredients — lead and sulphur,
about 84 per cent of the former and 16 per cent of the latter.
Smelting was nothing more than a roasting process whereby the
sulphur was consumed by the action of fire and the residue thor-
oughly washed of dirt, ashes, etc.

"Since last November, or at the close of navigation, the Dubuque
lead region has yielded 4,500,000 pounds of mineral. The average
value of this has been $30.50 per 1,000 pounds, or a total of
$122,500. The mining interests employ about 1,000 men." —
(Herald, June, i860.) "John Owen has taken out of his new
discovery since last Tuesday morning 60,000 pounds of mineral." —
(Same.) Three miles from Dubuque was Pike's Peak, a mining

The Julien Mining Company was doing a large business in
February and March, i860. In one day they drew out 20,000
pounds of mineral. A new lead was struck a few miles south of
Catfish creek, where some lumps weighed over 1,000 pounds.

"The amount of mineral raised for the week ending June 30,
i860, was about 250,000 pounds, and the amount smelted aggre-
gated close to 200,000 pounds. In this connection it may not be
out of place to remark that from 5,000 to 10,000 men can find
profitable employment in the Dubuque lead mines. The Dubuque
lead region is contained within an irregular semicircle of not less
than twenty miles in diameter. Only comparatively a small por-
tion of the ground has been 'proved,' and it is no unreasonable
estimate to suppose that 5,000 miners would not exhaust the region
in a period less than one hundred years." — (Herald, July i, i860.)

"Week before last there were smelted here over 200,000 pounds
of lead. During the last week 201,600 pounds were smelted. The
amount raised during the same time is a little in advance of that
figure and will probably reach 250,000 pounds." — (Herald, June
24, i860.)

An excursion of the "Chicago Academy of Sciences" to the
Dubuque mining region was an event of October, i860. Several
hundred came and were formally received and entertained by com-
mittees of citizens appointed for that purpose.

Two Missouri miners — John Harrington and Peter Holman —
struck it rich in an old place near Southern avenue close to Mr.
Kcmpf's store and only twenty or thirty rods from the point of the
bluff. They were at first laughed at, but they found mineral withiiT
two feet of the top. By November 12 they had sold 17,000 jwunds


and had 5 000 more out. Two hundred men were now prospecting
in tlie mines in this vicinity.

The war in Missouri drove here many lead miners, several of
whom made big strikes. The melting of the deep snows and the
heavy rains seriously interfered with mining in the spring of 1861,
by flooding the mines and diggings. Near West Dubuque about
100 pound mass of iron ore was found in April, 1861. It was
strongly magnetic.

On March 22, 1861, George Wharton and Joseph Brunskill went
down into Brunskill & Watters' diggings at West Dubuque to
examine a cave that had just been struck. The cave was some
3,000 feet from the bottom of the shaft and was reached by a rough
crevice. They soon lost their supply of candles and those within
hands were soon burned up, leaving them in total darkness and
unable to find their way. After a reasonable time their friends went
after them, but they had spent the whole day there in great anxiety.

In April, 1861, it was complained that the land owners near
Dubuque charged too high a rent for their mineral lands — that it
worked too great a hardship on miners, particularly on those who
had bad luck — the bad luck and high rents combined to make the
lot of many worse and worse. The argument was that "the true
policy of the land owner was to be liberal with the miner, for the
more inducements that were held out for the production of any
article the more of that article will be produced. So with the
mineral; the lower the rent the more will engage in mining." The
mining association should have a system that would work and be
fair in all cases. And owners should give a bonus for big finds to
stimulate further discoveries. Owners should ask no rent for the
first 100,000 pounds of mineral ore. The miners at their public
meetings passed strong resolutions against the existing currency.
The lead caves were one of the attractions of Dubuque for visitors.

In May, 1862, mineral was worth %2>7 P^r thousand pounds; by
December it was $44. James Hughes built a shot tower in 1862 in
one of the old mining shafts. Mr. Mallett at the Durango Diggings
in 1862 made a rich strike and cleared up in less than six months
over $25,000. The mineral raised within the city limits in 1862 was
about 1,000,000 pounds, worth $40,000. Miners thoroughly ex-
plored the Maquoketa, Catteese and Catfish neighborhoods.

On February 1 1, 1863, mineral was worth here $48 per thousand.
By March 2 it had reached $53. In 1863 Judge Lovell and others
raised 150,000 pounds of mineral at Pike's Peak, this county. In
August, 1 86 1, the Dubuque Shot Manufacturing Company were
making drop shot of all sizes. In August, 1863, mineral had fallen
to $40 per thousand. Prof. James Dale Owen, son of Robert Dale
Owen, geologist, exhibited specimens at the State Fair here in 1863.
October 10, 1863, mineral was worth $52.50. Back of the city in


a mineral shaft ninety feet underground there were found in 1864
the molar teeth of a mammoth in a fair state of preservation.

In March, 1864, mineral was worth here $71 in greenbacks per
thousand pounds; on July i, 1864, it was quoted at $84 in green-
backs; on July 15 it was $90; this was about the highest point it
reached. As the reserved mineral lands of the county were now in
market and had been for some time, opportunity for fortune making
was not lacking.

Several very valuable discoveries were made in 1865 — one on the
south side of Dodge street ; another, the Wootton crevice, in which
Chapman, Ratcliff. Bunting, Peacock and others were interested.
By August, 1865, little mineral was being raised ; it was worth from
$53 to $55 per thousand.

In 1866 the old Burton mine was reworked; S. P. Smith and
General Vande\-er were interested in this work ; out of this shaft
there had been taken formerly 5,000,000 pounds of mineral worth
probably from $150,000 to $200,000. In six weeks in the fall of
1867 400,000 ])ounds were taken from the old Tom Kelly mines on
the bluffs. Valuable new leads were found near Center Grove in
1868. The famous Coakley & Faulhopper lode was discovered two
miles northeast of town in Langworthy Hollow in 187 1. The
miners held a festival in February, 1871, and a large attendance
enjoyed the occasion. T. C. Roberts was the principal speaker. He
said that for forty years about $250,000 worth of lead annually
had been taken from the mines of the Dubuque district. The fol-
lowing is an extract from a poem read at this festival :

"They're gone, they're gone to the unseen shore.

Their life work is all well done,
Brave Julien and Kelly and many more

Flave followed there one by one ;
But why, brave knights of the giant will,

Why not, ere you strike your tent.
Of the limestone rock they did cut and drill

Uprear them a monument?"

The drybone ore from which zinc is made is found in the hills
around Dubuque, in the old lead holes and near them, and for many
years was mined more than the lead mineral itself. Late in the
eighties George Perry, on the old Randall farm, took out consid-
erable drybone ore; he had found several paying crevices. It was

Online LibraryFranklin T OldtHistory of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 56)