A new documentary depicting the mining history in the tri-state area will soon be ready to view at a premiere in Joplin.
The premiere of "The Ozarks Uplift... The Story of Tri-State Mining" will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, at Central Christian Center (formerly the old Fox Theatre), 415 S. Main St., Joplin. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the event is free and open to the public.
This documentary is presented by Newton County Tourism Council (NCTC) and is underwritten by Community Bank & Trust and Mercy. Paul Wannenmacher of Wannenmacher Advertising, Springfield, Mo., wrote and directed the documentary.
"It is not only important for folks in Southwest Missouri, but for all of our neighbors in Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma," said Steve Roark, president of the tourism council. "It is a common experience that we had in our past that unites all three of our states. Mining didn't recognize state boundaries. The mines were located in all three states and dozens and dozens of communities within those three states. Many of those communities no longer exist, but it is a common unifying experience that we had together living here in the tri-state area."
Granby was one of the Newton County towns which saw mining as a major industry in its heyday. Lead was mined first in Granby, from 1850 to 1870, then operators switched to zinc in 1870 before switching back to lead.
Local historian and author Larry James said after 1870, railroads were interested in zinc, so that mineral became a main item of interest for mine operators. James is the author of "Earth's Hidden Treasures: Mining in Newton County, Missouri," among other local history volumes.
Zinc was mined until World War I when lead, used to manufacture bullets needed for the war, returned. In Granby, the mines closed in 1950.
"I think what people will be most pleased about the number of personal interviews that we were able to get with people that actually worked in the mines," Roark said. "I think that people will also be very pleased about the importance that this region of the country played in the world when our mines were operating. The mines changed everyone's lives. No doubt, most of the people who worked in those mines came from this area of the country. There were a few immigrants, but most of them came from this area of the country."
The major hospitals in the area came about during the mining industry in the area, Roark said, as miners started experiencing health issues from breathing dust associated with the operations.
"Those, quite frankly, are the reasons why we have the major hospitals that we have right now, particularly Mercy Health Care here in our area," he said. "That all began as a result of the miners and the Sisters of Mercy being dispatched here to try to help care for the illnesses in the miners and to also help educate the children."
Page 2 of 3 - This is the fourth documentary put on by the tourism council.
Wannenmacher has written and produced three other documentaries — one about Thomas Hart Benton, one about Charles Banks Wilson and the other about the first Civil War battle in Newtonia — with Ozarks Public Television and the NCTC. Wannenmacher began the new documentary project earlier this year.
Roark said another source of information was museums in the region detailing mining history. He named several, including Miami, Okla., Galena, Kan., Baxter Springs, Kan., Pittsburg, Kan., and the Joplin Museum Complex.
"All of these museums have provided incredible help to us in getting materials rounded up to produce this documentary," he said. "They have all been involved in it."
Another museum with ties to the mining industry is Granby Miners Museum.
Soon, this documentary will be sold throughout the museums for the museum's benefit.
"Of those three that we have already produced, only the Newtonia documentary is allowed to be sold," said Roark. "The other two documentaries we cannot market them, we cannot sell them because we had to sign license agreements with the organizations that control Thomas Hart Benton's and Charles Banks Wilson's work."
Roark said while the documentary focuses on mining in the Ozarks region, it may be of interest to those in Appalachia as well, including the Virginias, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
"We think their public television stations will very much want to show this documentary," he said. "We make these documentaries available to public television stations at no charge. We will produce hundreds of copies of this to be distributed to various schools and libraries around the area and we will have them for sale to the public at a very nominal price of $15 so that they will be able to buy and keep them for themselves."
Overall, Roark said he is pleased with the outcome of the documentary and sees advantages in the long run.
"It is an incredible resource," he said. "Our next goal on this thing is to put all of the film footage together in some kind of organizational format. The film is an hour long, but we probably have 40 hours of film footage. And we want to put that in some location, make it available to people who want to do research in the past in the mining, for people who might like to get a glimpse of what some of the old communities looked like that they might have had families or relatives that lived there. We are going to put together some kind of a website film database that people can access the different film clips that we have put together for this documentary."
Some time after the Tuesday premiere, the documentary will appear on KOZJ, the local PBS station.
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