8 Wonders of Kansas history

An 8 Wonder of Kansas History

Lead and Zinc mining, Baxter Springs and Galena museums

Address: 740 E. Avenue, Baxter Springs, KS 66713
Phone: 620.856.2385
Website: www.baxterspringsmuseum.org/Tri-state-mining.html

The lead and zinc mining exhibits at the Baxter Springs and Galena museums are a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas History because from 1870 to 1945 the region was rated as the leading producer of lead and zinc concentrates in the world.


The discovery of lead and zinc was first made in southwest Missouri. Mining was big in Joplin, Mo. from the 1870s forward (Joplin is 20 miles east of us). Shortly after, major deposits of rich ore were found in Galena and the mining boom was on there, from the late 1870s on. Meanwhile, geologists were saying that there would not be any deposits west of Spring River (it flows between Galena and Baxter), but from the 1880s, strikes were being made, and by the turn of the century, all the farm land to the west of town became mines. Thus, all the pioneer farm families who came to Baxter Springs in the days after the Civil War became very wealthy.

While Baxter Springs was surrounded by mines, there was very little effort to mine inside the city limits. Thus, Baxter Springs avoided the desolation and pollution that has plagued Galena, in Kansas, and many towns in northwest Missouri and northeast Oklahoma. The mine owners, engineers, movers and shakers in the mining industry made their homes in Baxter Springs. Several major mining companies had their offices here. It is difficult to completely separate the mining in Kansas from that in the northeast Oklahoma field, as we are virtually on the Oklahoma border.

  • The value of Tri-State mineral production from 1850 to 1950 exceeded one billion dollars and until 1945, the region was rated as the leading producer of lead and zinc concentrates in the world, accounting for one-half of the zinc and 1/10 of the lead produced in the United States.
  • Baxter Springs housed most of the mining company offices, the research facilities, and a large portion of the district's labor force. Mine owners and engineers made their homes in Baxter Springs, bringing to the city fine homes and considerable wealth. At the peak of the mining era, Baxter Springs was believed to be one of the wealthiest towns in Kansas, and was reputed to have more millionaires per capita than any city in the United States.
  • The railroads became the railroad hub for the Frisco Railroad to transport ores from the smelters to the world market.
  • Eighty one mining camps existed at one time or another in the Tri-State Districts. Camps that were located in southeast Kansas included Galena, Badger, Peacock, Empire City, Crestline, Baxter Springs, and Treece.
  • Most of the villages and towns in southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma owe their existence in the first place to the discovery of lead and zinc deposits in the vicinity of each. Of the 81 camps, only 30 remained by 1950.
  • Lead and zinc concentrates from Peoria were hauled by wagon to Baxter Springs to the railroad since Oklahoma first mining camp lacked a railroad.
  • Zinc ore delivered to the railhead in Baxter Springs in 1873 brought $8 a ton. By 1879, this had increased to $12, $21 in 1886, and in 1888, zinc ore brought $27 a ton.
  • In 1907, mine operators organized through the Baxter Springs mining exchange, lobbied for a relaxation of the leasing restrictions and general government control over Quapaw lands in the Picher field.
  • Mining exchanges were formed more specifically for transactions in lead and zinc properties and royalties worked for markets and furnished production statistics and these were in Galena and Baxter Springs.
  • When the Quapaw Indian lands were opened to mining, these exchanges lobbied for a relaxation of regulations on the use of these lands.
  • The vastness of some of the caverns left by the mining operations is illustrated by the size of the Eagle-Picher West Side Mine in Treece, Kansas, less than a mile form the Oklahoma border to its south. The 428 foot deep mine had a ceiling height of 125 feet. The cavern's floor space was estimated at about 5 acres, or over 2,000,000 square feet, more than enough to hold the 175,000 square feet of the United States Capitol Building's footprint.


If you're intrigued with the lead and zinc mining store, spend time in both the Baxter Springs and Galena museums. They are very different museums so you'll get a unique perspective from each.


The heritage center already had a significant collection of lead and zinc mining when they were given the entire world-class Picher, Oklahoma mining museum collection three years ago. The collection included 2,000 mining photos and hundreds of underground maps, all of which are being digitized. A large area of their museum is dedicated to mining exhibits.

Open April 1-October 31, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.; November 1-March 31, Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.

GALENA MUSEUM, 319 W. 7th (K-26), 620.783.2192

The Galena Museum is located on the edge of what was once the richest mine field for lead and zinc in the world. The land has all been reclaimed. The museum, located in a restored vintage train station, has some amazing photos and artifacts of the mining days.

Official hours now are Monday, Wednesday, Friday 1-3:30 p.m. but someone is almost always there working on the news construction and glad to open. 
Hours after May 1, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Source: Baxter Springs Heritage Center & Museum

Photo courtesy Baxter Springs Heritage Center & Museum & Galena Museum