Prior to the year of 1860, the new St. Joseph Lead Co., at Bonne Terre was owned by A. LeGrave and known as LeGrave's mines.
At that time there was only 3 houses in the place, as follows: the residence of one Pratt, the residence of Mr. LeGrave and an old time furnace that was used in smelting the mineral raised in the neighborhood, which was produced by the Independent or shallow miner. He getting permission of the owners of the land to dig for it, which was found from the grass roots to the rock. The clay mineral was known as Galena ore. When the miners reached the rock, they found the ore mixed with rock. The way of treating this kind of ore, they would quarry it and haul to the surface and put the rock on heaps of logs and burn or roast the ore, afterward they would hammer or beat the rock as best they could to the proper size and then cart it to the water and wash and separate the ore from the rock, but it was not a profitable process.
When the St. Joseph Lead Co. purchased the property, they operated similarly. Only on a large scale. They stripped off the surface in large spaces and in that way operated in a more extensive manner, yet it was not profitable. At about this time Mr. C. B. Parsons, who was the active superintendent of the property, obtained a diamond drill (and by the way, it was a rudely constructed thing as compared to the drill of today) and put down a hole in which at a depth of 280 feet he found a very large deposit of dessiminated ore and from that discovery the St. Joseph Lead Company has made a success.
The town of Bonne Terre has grown from the small numbers to a city of five thousand people.
The lead produced up to perhaps 1880 was hauled with mule teams to Cadet, Mo., on the I.M. R. R. to be shipped to the market and all merchandise, machinery, and etc., was hauled in this way back to Bonne Terre. However some time in the 80's the company built a narrow gauge railroad to Summit on the I.M.R.R. and they then did all their shipping over that road. Later it was abandoned and the company built a standard gauge railroad from Riverside to Doe Run.
During the 80's there was developed at Doe Run now a Lead mine which was taken over by a subsiderary of the St. Joe Lead Co., and is known as the Doe Run Lead Co. Again in the 80's there was quite a drilling campaign in the Flat River district and much ore was developed and from these developments the following mines sprang forth: The Desloge Lead Co. at Desloge; The St. Louis Smelting and Refining Co. midway between Desloge and Flat River; The Central Lead Mining Co. south of Flat River, which afterward was absorbed by the Federal Lead Co.
Flat River in 1890 had no population of consequence, but today we have a population of six thousand people. We have as fine churches and schools as are to be found anywhere, all modern.
Our merchantile houses are large and offer to the people as great an assortment as can be found any where within a radius of ten miles square. We have a population of over twenty thousand people.
These companies employ a great multitude of men and at good wages.
There are many people within 100 miles of the Lead Belt that know nothing of the magnitude of our lead production.