Bonne Terre, Missouri
Bonne Terre Missouri was the historic center of the Southeastern Missouri lead district and home to the first large lead mine in the region. The Southeastern Missouri mining district was for periods in the late 1800s and early 1900s the most important lead producing area in the world. The St. Joseph Lead Company was formed in 1864 to begin large scale mining operations in Bonne Terre. Lead had been mined in the region on a small, not well organized scale since the early 1800s. The St. Joseph Lead Company dominated the lead mining and life in the area from it's formation until the 1970s. The company was originally head quartered in Bonne Terre. As ore reserves and mine productivity decreased around Bonne Terre, mining activity spread Southeast following the ore body and eventually centered around Park Hills (formerly Flat River). The Bonne Terre mine closed in 1962 and is now operated by a company that offers tours and scuba diving. The mines of the SE Missouri lead district were underground (hard rock) mines that consist of vast mazes of tunnels and long wide rooms supported by pillars. Where they are not actively being drained, they have filled with water. The Bonne Terre mine is apparently a popular diving location: Bonne Terre Mine.
The town of Bonne Terre seems remarkably healthy for a lead mining town that has lost all of it's lead mines. In spite of the town's interesting history, I didn't see many interesting historic buildings when I was there in 2013. Possibly many of the town's original buildings were destroyed in the fires of 1883-1884? I don't know. The low rise commercial district seems to have been built in the early to mid 1900s or was substantially altered during that period. I did see a few very old looking, modest homes in the residential areas. The Missouri Mines State Historic Site in Park Hills is the main reason I was in the area and was well worth the trip.
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