Early last fall, local author and historian Larry James produced the first volume of a book on area mining activity.
This summer, James has produced part 2 of the story.
"Earth's Hidden Treasures: Mining in Newton County, Missouri, Part 2: The Granby Experience" takes a look at the 100 year-plus history of lead mining in Granby. Mining activity may have begun as early as 1848, James said, but 1850 is the commonly accepted date of the commencement of lead mining.
"Before the Civil War, the biggest smelter in the world, it's said, was built there," James said. "The town grew to about 8,000 people before the Civil War, living all in tents."
Much of the mining of this period was in shallow "diggings," with the deepest shafts going down a mere 20 feet or so. The activity continued for about a decade until halted by the Civil War.
"It was a coveted place by both the North and the South, for obvious reasons: both wanted and needed lead for munitions," James said.
On Oct. 14 1861, some 32,000 pounds of lead was shipped from the Granby mines to the Confederacy. But by August the following year, mining activity had all but ceased. This is because while the lead was there, the personnel to retrieve and process it was not. Most of the smelter workers and miners answered their causes' call and became soldiers: some for the Union, others, the Confederacy. But by war's end, mining was back in full swing as two brothers, Henry and Peter Blow — along with others, most notably, James B. Eads, builder of the first road and railroad bridge to cross the Mississippi — formed the Granby Mining and Smelting Company.
This company operated throughout the latter 19th and into the early 20th century. However, near the end of World War I, stockholders sold out as lead sales began to plummet. Mining hit a resurgence during World War II as the need for munitions again was felt, but began tapering off afterward, James said.
James said during the century-long mining heyday, about 5,000 mines were reported in the Granby area.
"It would be impossible to give a detailed account of all the mines in such a limited space," James said. "Some were in existence for only a few months, while some operated for a number of years. Records for most have long since disappeared."
Thousands of miners from near and far flocked to the area to find wealth. A few did, but many left disappointed. Desperadoes and others hoping to prey on the miners also were prevalent.
Perhaps the most successful business leaders never ventured to the mines. Instead, they ran the stores, saloons, gambling halls and other establishments that catered to miners.
"The true heroes of this story are the miners, who worked many long days," James said.
Page 2 of 2 - The work was tedious, dirty and dangerous. Deadly accidents were commonplace. A July 5, 1877, story in the Neosho Times, reprinted from an earlier edition of the Granby Miner, outlines a steam boiler explosion which killed four young miners.
"At half past 7 o'clock, a dull, heavy report and shock, like a single thunderbolt, was heard and felt by many of our citizens; and soon two flying messengers came on swift horses … and shot like arrows into the offices of Drs. Ray, McDaniel and Berry …," the account states.
The messengers bore bad news: a boiler had exploded at a mine. Four men were found dying of their wounds, while a fifth was blinded. Pieces of the boiler were scattered over 100 yards.
The book also tells of the centennial celebration of mining, held July 1-4, 1950, in Granby. The crowning event was the parade on July 4, witnessed by about 10,000 people.
The book also features many photographs of the mines, and miners, of the area. These were collected by James over a period of several years.
The book costs $15 per copy and is available at the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, Rod's Place, Neosho Gifts Etc., Tim Mitchell's Downtown Pharmacy, the Neosho National Fish Hatchery Gift Shop, the Newton County Historical Society Museum, the Granby Flea Market and the Granby Miner's Museum.