Coker Mine No. 1 Livingston, Wisconsin Martin Mine Benton, Wisconsin Martin Mine - Benton, Wisconsin. Biddick Mine - Livingston, Wisconsin Montreal Mine - Montreal, Wisconsin - 1888 Illinois Iron Mine - Larue, Sauk Co., Wisconsin Germania Mine - Hurley, Gogebic Range, Wisconsin Cary Mine - Hurley, Wisconsin Frontier Mine - Benton, WI Plummer Mine Headframe - Montreal, WI Montreal Mine - Montreal, Gogebic Range, Wisconsin Montreal Mine - Montreal, Wisconsin
Lead ore was the first metal ore mined in Wisconsin, followed by zinc and iron. Although southwestern Wisconsin is best known today for its rich farmlands, place names such as Mineral Point, Hardscrabble, New Diggings, Black Jack and Lead Mine evoke an earlier time when local mines produced much of the nation's lead. In the early nineteenth century, Wisconsin lead mining was more promising and attractive to potential settlers than either the fur trade or farming. Its potentially quick rewards lured a steady stream of settlers up the Mississippi River and into Grant, Crawford, Iowa, and Lafayette counties in the early nineteenth century. By 1829, more than 4,000 miners worked in southwestern Wisconsin, producing 13 million pounds of lead a year.
During the 1820s, lead was discovered around the Fever River (now the Galena River), in northwestern Illinois. By 1828, mining had spread north into southwestern Wisconsin, where more extensive lead deposits were found near Mineral Point and by 1829, more than 4,000 miners worked in southwestern Wisconsin, producing 13 million pounds of lead a year. By the mid-1830s, news of the “lead rush” in the Upper Mississippi Valley had reached all the way to Cornwall and a steady stream of skilled, hard-rock miners began to filter into Mineral Point. The Mineral Point, Wisconsin land office was opened in 1834.
In 1850, about 7,000 of the 27,000 British immigrants in Wisconsin were Cornish. Records show that by 1850, some 6,000 Cornish immigrants were living in the counties of Grant, Iowa and Lafayette in Wisconsin. Lead mining in the area went into decline during the 1850s, and many of the Cornish moved on to the copper mines of Upper Michigan and the gold mines of California. It is recorded that during the period, some 700 people left for California from Mineral Point. On one particular day, 60 wagons left, all headed west.
Using new technology in the 1850s, miners began to extract zinc ore from deposits where it was found with lead. For a short period of time in the 19th century, Mineral Point had the largest zinc smelter in the world.