Area History
Mining History in Newton County

Even though there were many small or even one-man mining operations in the early years of Newton County, the undisputed center of mining was in and around Granby. Billed as the "Oldest Mining Town in the Southwest", Granby has a proud mining history. According to local historians, Madison Vickery found lead in what is now Granby in 1840, but he did not establish a mine. In 1853, William Foster came to the Granby area and started mining in what turned out to be a very rich deposit.

Mining History in Newton CountyThe discovery of this huge deposit of lead attracted hundreds of miners and, in 1855, what became known as the Granby Stampede brought many hundreds of prospectors to the area. Some ten years later, during the Civil War, the lead mines of Granby were highly prized by both sides in the fight. Gaining control of Granby meant having access to abundant amounts of lead for making bullets.

Waste, tons of which came up out of the lead mines, was called "black jack". This material was dumped into great piles around all the mines. Then, after the Civil War, miners learned that "black jack" was not waste - it was zinc. This created another mining boom, and by 1880 more than 100 million pounds of zinc had been shipped out of Granby by rail.

Mining History in Newton CountyFor the most part, the mines in Granby closed at the end of World War II. Although individual miners worked their small mines, the mining heyday was over by 1946. Only old photographs and memories remain of the wild and wooly mining day in Granby and many of these are displayed in the Granby Miners Museum. Today, visitors are charmed by the colorful names of the mines. These names, no doubt, have a story of their own. Some of the more interesting names for local mines included: Red Rooster, Fortune Teller, Morning Glory, Dutch Girl, Grasshopper and Blue Goose.

On the western side of the county, another mineral was discovered that also proved to be profitable. Locally called "cotton rock", a large deposit of tripoli was discovered in 1871. A mineral used for grinding and polishing, tripoli is vital material in such processes as finishing and buffing new automobiles and in manufacturing household cleaning agents. Tripoli is still mined and processed in Seneca.

In various parts of the county, limestone is mined. One of the largest and most unusual quarries is located near Neosho. This quarry was opened by Russell Hunt, a mining engineer. When Mr. Hunt opened his mining operation, he created huge underground rooms, leaving large pillars of limestone in strategic places as roof supports. Once a large area is mined out, these underground rooms are ideal warehousing space. A cool and constant temperature makes these caverns perfect storage areas for perishable goods and for such things as explosives. This idea of creating underground warehousing, fathered by Russell Hunt, caught on, and now hundreds of limestone and other mines have a second life as underground storage.