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Picher Mining Field Museum

Paging back through pictures I took over the last decade, I often return to those I took when traveling to Illinois on the back roads of back roads. Roads with names and towns with a stirring history. I’ve written about Picher before in this blog sometime ago. I’m not sure when but it’s far back in this old blog.

This image below of the Picher Mining Museum was shot July 26, 2011. I was headed from Texas to Illinois and wanted to go to Baxter Springs, KS to shoot some Route 66 landmarks. There are easier and quicker ways to get to Galena, but I hadn’t been on this road before, this road that passes through Picher. In fact, I randomly exited the Will Rogers Turnpike at Miami. Maybe it was lunch time. I don’t remember. I did have a baby in my car and I expect it was necessary to get out and stretch, make necessary changes. As I drove north, the landscape was pretty much the same but suddenly changed when I found mounds of what appeared to be sand. I had no idea what was ahead at the time. And there empty and abandoned structures sat along the road.

I slowed and took a few shots of outside. No one was around and I parked in middle of road, got out took some snaps and was overcome by a feeling of vacancy. After driving around what I discovered was an ghost town, I found the Picher Mining Museum.

In previous post, I didn’t do much research on the museum. It was simply a picture and drive-by documentation. However, much time has passed and being curious, I did some googling. Back in 2007 The Joplin Globe published and article,

“Buyout closing Picher’s museum; Baxter Springs new home for history of mining field.”

https://www.joplinglobe.com/archives/buyout-closing-picher-s-museum-baxter-springs-new-home-for-history-of-mining-field/article_6336a268-a7fe-5208-a99b-6cef7d3932f0.html

Relieved that the collection was moved to  Pittsburg State University and Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum, I was saddened to learn that in April of 2015 and arsonist destroyed the former Picher Museum.

I don’t make trips as before to Illinois or through any part of this country so I can’t say I’ll be driving again through Baxter Springs, Galena, or Joplin. Now that Covid is better controlled I may make another trip to Illinois and take the scenic route once again to see what’s left. But I did go back through there a few years later and bull dozers were leveling much of what was left.

If you are from Picher area, or have any stories of the area, please share in the comments below.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2021 in Oklahoma, Uncategorized

 

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Picher, OK — 2011

Bulldozing started in February. Most of the weathered vacant homes are gone.  Lots lay empty with nothing more than cracked cement driveways, beat up mailboxes, and some weeds swaying along the road.  Tractors can be heard chugging along in the distance on lonely streets.  The chat piles remain. 

This town’s story won’t be rewritten here.  These are some links you may connect to for a brief story of Picher.  PBS                   LA Times
Last summer I found this ghost town while driving toward Baxter Springs and Galena, Kansas.  It was an odd feeling driving on the main street through town.  Rather surreal.  Perhaps it was the ticking of time that kept me from stopping to learn more of this unforgotten place that some refuse to leave. 

The phamacy remains.  In fact, the pharmacy opens at 11.  I know this because I drove around the block at 10:50 a.m. and observed 4 or 5 cars sitting on the north parking lot occupied by locals.  I came around one more time and it was just a few minutes before the hour and several were getting out of their cars and walking toward the door where the “Closed” sign had been flipped around.  

The Mining museum remains.  Perhaps it always will. 

The ball park is nothing more than a field of overgrown trees and weeds, fence posts leaning and the old scoreboard full of memories hidden by nature’s constant change. 

I did not return in time to explore the area.  This is all that I recorded that warm morning of July 26, 2011.  A track hoe turned onto West A Street while I watched a paper cup bounce along the pavement by the wind. 

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Black and White, Oklahoma, Photography

 

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Picher, Oklahoma

As my readers know well enough, this blogger stays away from that boring interstate. Instead, she finds herself often without a map on the narrow two-lane roads winding through the fabric of America. I just returned from vacation a couple of days ago and now with much needed rest, I am ready to share my adventures.

My destination was Decatur, IL. Traveling with a baby, the scenic route is not always the most efficient choice. This time, I did take the faster route, but made one small detour: Route 66-Kansas. But this entry is about another little town with a very interesting story: Picher, Oklahoma.

I had no idea this was even on the map. I wasn’t lost exactly but had become concerned because even though the sign said 69, I felt that I may have driven to far East. It didn’t matter. I figured if you drive north far enough, you’ll end up somewhere.

And with that, I zigzagged on the 69 for a few miles and headed northbound crossing E30th Road. It was quite disturbing because there were only a few cars to be seen and about 4 or 5 adults sitting in the front of some empty storefronts. I’ve been through small very run-down towns but nothing quite like this. The large building to my right (in the photo below) looked like it had been hit by a tornado.

I slowed down while no one followed behind allowing me to stop in the middle of the street to examine my surroundings and take photos. My heart raced. It was a very eerie feeling; rather startling. All the structures appeared to be empty and each one had a mark on the front of them–a number. Homes, business, a museum. Windows broken out, some flattened, but most left empty neglected by society.

Once in Kansas, I called my husband to research this town on Google. You may find information on your own, but I will summarize what I found on Wikipedia. In short, Picher was once a successful mining town. Contamination forced evacuation of the town with fear of cave-ins. There have been a few documentaries made on this what one calls “the worst environmental disaster in the U.S.”

If my baby was not with me, I would have spent the rest of the day exploring this discovery. The day was bright with clear blue skies. A more appropriate day would include some large thunderheads hovering in the background in late day. One would not be wise to venture out alone either. Perhaps you would want to join me.


The first building in view driving north into town.


Picher Boys and Girls Club


Picher Mining Museum


Surrounding the town are these lead slags left from lead and zinc mining.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Oklahoma, Photography, small towns

 

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