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marker is located just off Greene County Farm Road 193, near Kershner's
Spring close to the confluence of the James River and Pearson's
Creek. To reach this location proceed east on Sunshine (Hwy D) 2.1
miles from Hwy 65. Turn right on FR 199 and south to FR 193. Go
right about .4 miles to a private road across the tracks and then
left to the east side of the private house. The marker is down the
hill to the east near the old spring house. The text of the marker
reads as follows:
"HENRY SCHOOLCRAFT, GEOLOGIST, EXPLORER AND ETHNOLOGIST, CAMPED
HERE JAN. 1, 1819. SITE OF FIRST LEAD MINE AND PRIMITIVE SMELTER
IN SOUTHWEST MISSOURI. ALSO OF OSAGE CAMP. MARKER ERECTED 1921
BY ROTARY CLUB OF SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI.
A series of unfortunate business ventures (including an embarrassing
bankruptcy) and his perception that he could earn money by compiling
accounts of the western frontier, led Henry Rowe Schoolcraft to
migrate from upstate New York and seek a fresh start in the West.
His knowledge of mineralogy, gained through experience in glass
manufacturing, and a strong interest in geology induced him to explore
the mines of the Ozarks in 1818-1819. His goal was to obtain sufficient
knowledge of the area to secure a federal appointment as superintendent
of the mines.
During September and October of 1818, Schoolcraft and his equally
young and inexperienced companion, Levi Pettibone, stayed in the
home of Moses Austin in Potosi, During that time, Schoolcraft carried
out a detailed study of the lead mines in the eastern Ozarks.
Setting out from Potosi on November 5, 1818, the two adventurers
traveled southwest across the Ozarks to the mouth of the White River.
At that point, they acquired some guidance from James Fisher and
William Holt, two frontiersmen who lived on Beaver Creek at its
entry into the White River. Schoolcraft and Pettibone thereby made
their way up the James River to the site of the lead deposit exposed
in the riverbank near the mouth of Pearson's Creek. Schoolcraft
wrote in his journal that he and Pettibone camped there (also near
Kershner's Spring) from January 1 to 5, 1819. They returned to Potosi
on February 4, 1819.
Near the lead vein cited above, Schoolcraft found a primitive smelter
where, for many years, trappers and the native Osage people had
smelted the lead for bullets. The vein of lead ore described by
Schoolcraft proved to be one of many veins of galena distributed
through the parent limestone rock. The ore was mined briefly in
1844 by miners working for Joseph W. McClurg of Linn Creek. Mining
began again in 1875 when the property was owned by Colonel John
S. Phelps. McClurg served as governor of Missouri from 1869 to 1871,
Phelps from 1877 to 1881. Mining ceased at the Phelps diggings in
1891, but many new mines were opening nearby. During the 1890's,
the Bowyer and Company and the Lewis Mining Companies dug shafts
and worked extensive underground runs in other mines in the Pearson's
Creek Mining District. Mine tailings, mill foundations and other
remains of the old mining works may still be seen scattered in the
timber and among the houses east of Springfield.
While at the mine, Schoolcraft explored the surrounding area. His
description of the Kickapoo Prairie captured the magnificent grandeur
of the virgin prairie landscape that once occupied the upland where
the city of Springfield now sprawls. He wrote: "The prairies, which
commence at the distance of a mile west of this river (the James),
are the most extensive, rich and beautiful of any which I have ever
seen west of the Mississippi River. They are covered by a coarse
wild grass which attains so great a height that it completely hides
a man on horseback riding through it."
The upland prairies, like the river bottoms, were later plowed
and planted to corn and small grains. Today, dairy and feeder cattle
graze on fescue and other domestic grasses that now cover the uplands.
When placed within a lifetime of activities and accomplishments
such as explorer, recorder of Native American folklore and author
of 31 large literary works, Henry Schoolcraft's three-month-long
Ozarks expedition was a small episode, almost a youthful adventure.
However, the notes that he recorded and later organized and published
as a journal preserved one of the few contemporary records of the
natural setting and the manner of frontier settlement and activities
during their earliest stage of development.
Richard G. Bremer, Indian Agent and Wilderness Scholar: The Life
of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Mount Pleasant: Clark Historical Library,
University of Central Michigan, 1987.
Milton Rafferty, The Ozarks: Land and Life. Norman: University
of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
Henry R. Schoolcraft, Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri
and Arkansas in 1818 and 1819. London: Sir Richard Phillips and
Edward M. Shepard, A Report on Greene County. Jefferson City: Geological
Survey of Missouri, Vol. XII, Part I, December 1908.
--Prepared by Milton Rafferty
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