Spanish Gold
  • Jack, Toby, and Me- the story of Hard Rock Mining in Ottawa County

The history of the Tri-State Mining District dates back to 1848 and has been traced even further with the findings of early explorers to the region. The first prospecting of ore discovery in Ottawa County was by John Patrick McNaughton who discovered ore near Peoria in 1881. He was led to the area by Indians speaking of the gold in the Spanish mines in the area. He would go on to marry the daughter of the Peoria chief.

After the turn of the century others would follow and discover the enormous deposits of lead and zinc within Ottawa County. In 1905, the Commerce discovery was made by the Coleman brothers who put their investments along with J.F. Robinson and C.M. Harvey to prospect the potential mining deposits in what is known today as Commerce. The four gentlemen would be known throughout the Tri-State Mining District as “the Big Four.”

In 1912, a large ore strike was made on the land of Benjamin Quapaw and this find was made by W.W. Dobson and S.C. Fullerton II. The mining boom became very active in Picher and Cardin around 1915-1916 and would become one of the most successful strikes in the district. The mines of Ottawa County would furnish the majority of lead and zinc used during both World Wars. The mines would be a bustling part of Ottawa County’s economy for decades until production gradually slowed down until all the mines were closed by the 1970s.

Now, the communities that once prospered as thriving settlements are only a vacant field and forever etched in our county’s history. This exhibit and the archives of the Dobson Memorial Complex are here to share their story and keep the memories alive for future generations.

Ottawa County Historical Society and Dobson Museum would like to recognize the following individuals and businesses for their contributions and assistance in making this exhibit a success!

Special Thanks
Action Graphics, Allen Signs Studio, Dorothy Amphlett, Dan Boyd, Danny Clinton, Gary Crow, Myron Johnson, Larry Roberts, Sally Rollins, RC Sales – Bob Smith, Springfield Blueprint, and to all the donors of the artifacts displayed from the permanent collection of the Ottawa County Historical Society who have contributed to the museum.

Other Exhibits

B.F. Goodrich