ART. V. — Lead Region and Lead Tribe of the Upper Mississippi.
That section of our country known as the Upper Mississippi lead region has, for many years, attracted much of the attention of the public, and of the government. The richness of the mineral deposits, the general fertility of the soil, and its adaptation to agricultural purposes, together with the healthful climate of the country, have given it an importance scarcely exceeded by any other section. Affording, as it does, so large a supply of an article which is subjected to so many useful purposes as that of lead, it could hardly be otherwise regarded than a very important portion of the country.
The mineral character of the country (called, in former times, the "Fevre River Mines") has long been known. More than a century and a half ago, the Indians found traces of lead ore on this side of the Mississippi, to which they directed the attention of the early French voyageurs and traders. Finding that lead could be made an article of traffic, they commenced searching for the ore; but, with the simple means then within their control, without much success. When they had collected together a small quantity of the mineral, they would reduce it by throwing it on to large tires. Large logs would be. placed on the ground, and smaller pieces of wood placed around, and the ore then heaped on. Fire would be set to it in the evening; and by the next morning, it having gone out, the melted lead would be found in shapeless pieces in the ashes, or in small holes scratched in the earth under the logs. These pieces of lead were then sold to the traders. As long ago as 1690, the traders at the old trading-post where Peoria now stands, purchased the product of these mines. Old "Indian diggings" are found indifferent portions of the mining region; and some of them, "proved up" by the whites, have turned out very valuable. The lode, or lead, as it is called here, which has produced more mineral than any ever yet found in the country, and known as the "buck lead," was an Indian discovery, within a mile of the present city of Galena. It was purchased of the Indians by Colonel James Johnson, of Kentucky, the brother of the late Vice-President, and one of the earliest pioneers of the Fevre River Mines.
Discoveries of mineral were made in the Louisiana Territory, (now Missouri,) about the lime of the early discoveries in the Upper Mississippi Mines; but the lead ore found there was converted, by the heated imaginations of the early adventurers, into the ore of the more precious metals. L'Ibberville was the first royal French governor of the Louisiana colony, and he arrived in 1699. Reports of vast mineral wealth in the unexplored regions of America having reached France before the departure of L'Ibberville, the Farmer-General was induced to send out
286with him some experienced metallurgists. Having orders to effect settlements in the vicinity of the mines, Governor L'Ibberville undertook the enterprise in 1702. In that year they built a fort named L'Huiller, on Blue River, which is now a rich mineral region. This was considered by the Indians an unwarrantable encroachment upon their rights; and the French, to avoid hostilities, retired further up, about one hundred miles above the "Ouisconsang," (Wisconsin River) where they built another fort, and commenced a settlement. The Indians still cherishing prejudices against them, and becoming very troublesome, they found it prudent to abandon that part of the country.
The death of L'Ibberville happened soon after, and the affairs of the colony fell into great confusion. The wars of Europe demanded all the attention and resources of France; and while the king was obliged to withhold from the colony the supplies of men and money, he was determined to keep it out of the hands of his enemies, as well as to relieve himself of a burden. Accordingly, Louis XIV., by letters patent, on the 14th of September, 1712, granted the colony to Anthony Crozat, a rich financier; a man of great enterprise, and who had rendered important services to the crown. It was confidently expected he would retrieve the falling fortunes of the colony, and prevent its extinction; but, after five years of the most desperate exertions, Crozat was convinced that he had nothing to expect from Louisiana. The great advances he had to make in order to keep up his settlement, soon tired him of his privilege: and in 1717, he relinquished his patent to the Mississippi Company, projected by the celebrated John Law. The history of the "Mississippi Scheme" is well known. After Law's company had obtained the grant of Crozat, the most exaggerated accounts of the inexhaustible riches that were concealed in the mines near the Mississippi, were scattered over Europe — travellers ascribed to the country riches in mines of gold and silver superior to those of Mexico and Peru; and Abby Raynal says, that in order "to give the greater weight to these false reports, which had already gained so much credit, a number of miners were sent over to work these mines, which were imagined so valuable, with a body of troops to defend them." Renault was sent, it is said, with five hundred miners, to search for minerals; and the nature and extent of his diggings attest the assiduity of his researches. Not being able to find gold and silver, he turned his attention to the raising of lead ore, of which, it is supposed, large quantities were found. But the "Mississippi Bubble" burst in 1720, and it appears, for a long time after, that the lead mines were very little attended to.
In 1774, Julien Dubuque, a mineralogist, emigrated to the then province of Louisiana, and settled among the Sac and Fox Indians on the Upper Mississippi, near the site of the present town of Dubuque. At a full council of the Fox Indians, held at Prairie du Chien, in 1788, they granted to Dubuque, called by them The Little Night, ( Petite Nuit,) the contents of a mine "discovered by the wife of Peosta, so that no white man or Indian shall make any pretension to it without the consent of Sieur Julie" Dubuque; and, in case he shall find nothing, he shall be free to search wherever it shall seem good to him, and to work peaceably, without any one hurting him, or doing him any prejudice in his labors."
In 1796, Dubuque addressed a petition to Don Carondelet, the enlightened governor-general of Louisiana, stating that he had made a
287settlement upon the frontiers of his government, and had bought a tract of land from the Indians, and the mines it contained — that having surmounted all obstacles, as expensive as they were dangerous, he had come to the peaceable possession of a tract of land on the western bank, to which he had given the name "Los Mines D'Espagne" — the Mines of Spain. He therefore prayed a grant from the governor-general of the lands and mines from certain points; being about seven leagues on the west bank of the Mississippi, by a depth of three leagues; and, in closing his petition, says, in the quaint style of that early period, "I beseech this same goodness, which forms that happiness of so many, to endeavor to pardon my style, and to be pleased to accept the pure simplicity of my heart in default of my eloquence."
Carondelet referred this application, for information, to Don Andrew Todd, an Indian factor, who had the monopoly of the Indian trade on the Upper Mississippi; and he reported that there was no objection, provided that Dubuque should not trade with the Indians, without his (Todd's) con-sent. Governor Carondelet thereupon wrote at the foot of the request — "Granted as is asked, (concedido comose solicita,) under the restrictions expressed in the information given by the merchant, Don Andrew Todd."
Dubuque remained in possession of his grant from the time it was made, in 1788, until the time of his death, in 1809; during which time, he was engaged in working and proving his mines. He died in the country in which he had lived so long, and was buried on a high bluff just below the flourishing town which now bears his name. After the death of Dubuque, the Indians continued in possession of the country in which the grant was situated, until they evacuated it under the treaty of September 21st, 1832, when his legal representatives took possession of the land, and commenced large improvements. The United States, however, claimed the same land by virtue of a subsequent purchase from the Indians; and in 1833 they forcibly ejected the settlers by the strong arm of military power.
The greater portion of the Upper Mississippi lead region, which may be justly considered as the great lead region of North America, lies chiefly in the present territory of Wisconsin. It includes, however, a strip of about eight townships of land in Iowa, along the western bank of the Mississippi, embracing a large portion of the "Dubuque claim." It also embraces about ten townships in the North-west corner of Illinois. The portion of this lead region in Wisconsin, includes about sixty-two town-snips. The whole region, therefore, embraces about eighty townships, or two thousand eight hundred and eighty square miles. Its extreme length, from East to West, is eighty-seven miles, and its greatest width, from North to South, fifty-four miles. The points farthest North where lead ore has been found to any extent, are Blue River and Blue Mound, in Wisconsin Territory.
The Apple River Diggings, in Illinois, about fifteen miles South-east from Galena, are the farthest South of any mines of consequence yet
288discovered. No lead has been found further East than the Sugar River Diggings; and on the West, the mineral discoveries are mostly confined to the vicinity of Dubuque.
At the time of the purchase of Louisiana, in 1803, our government made great calculations upon the richness of the mines embraced therein; and a law was immediately passed reserving them from sale. In the following year, 1804, our government, by a treaty with the Sac and Fox Indians, negotiated at St. Louis by General Harrison, acquired all the land lying between the Illinois and Wisconsin Rivers, and extending from the Mississippi East to Fox River. But many disputes having arisen among various tribes in regard to the cession of 1804, the United States, by a treaty made in 1816, ceded back to the Indians all the country North of a line running West from the Southern extremity of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, with the exception of a reservation of a league square at the mouth of the Wisconsin River, and five leagues square on or near to the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. This last reservation was in. tended to cover certain lead mines worked by the Indians, and known to the United States at the time of the purchase, in 1804, and of which the government had but a very indefinite idea in 1816.
After the acquisition of the country from the Indians in 1804, embracing the Fevre River Mines, Congress passed a law, approved March 3rd, 1807, reserving the several lead mines therein from sale, and authorizing the President of the United States to lease any lead mine that had been, or might hereafter be discovered, for a term not exceeding five years. (Laws U. States, vol. iv., page 127.) No leases, however, were granted until 1822. The superintendence of the lead mines having been transferred from the Treasury to the War Department in 1821, leases were granted January 4th, 1822, to some parties from Kentucky; and Lieut. Clark Bardine, of the army, was ordered by the Secretary of War to accompany them into the Upper Mississippi lead region, to assist them in making their locations, and to afford them the necessary protection. Such was the commencement of a system which grew up outside of all law, and was subjected to no control but the arbitrary will of the Secretary of War. The duties of granting leases, collecting rents, etc., instead of being confined to a lieutenant in the army, who it was supposed could attend to them with but little expense to the government, were finally extended to superintendents, special agents, clerks, surveyors, draughtsmen, attorneys, etc; some of which offices were mere sinecures, affording snug places for favorites. In 1835, the system fell by its own weight, and the government ceased to collect any more rents; but, upon the accession of the Tyler dynasty to power, in 1841, unfortunately both for the mining country and the government, some keen-scented office-seeker was attracted by the half buried remains of the old system, which he was authorized to exhume for the "benefit of all concerned." The consequence was, that the system was resuscitated in a more odious form than ever, and fastened upon the people by a strong corps of office-holders, all interested in perpetuating it. Efforts for the sale of the land, which had hitherto been made, but unsuccessfully, were renewed; but an indistinct idea of the great wealth of the mineral country, and its importance to the government, prevailed with many members of Congress; and that, together with an under-current influence emanating from some of the Bureaus of the War Department, prevented for many years the
289accomplishment of an object so desirable. But the President of the United States, in his annual message for 1845, called the attention of Congress to the system of managing the mineral lands of the United States, and recommended that they should be sold. Judge Shields, then Commissioner of the General Land Office, in his able report, exposed the iniquities and radical defects of the system, and strongly urged upon Congress an immediate and unconditional sale of the lands. The subject, however, was taken hold of in earnest in the Senate of the United States in the session of 1845-6, by the Hon. Sidney Breese, the present able and efficient senator from Illinois, to whose admirable and elaborate report upon that matter I am indebted for many facts stated herein. It is astonishing how a system of no benefit to the government, but so positively injurious to all the interests of the country and of the people, could "have been so long tolerated. The Committee of Public Lands in the Senate, in their report, submitted by Judge Breese, as above stated, after alluding to the commencement of the leasing system in 1822, go on to state —
"From this small beginning has arisen a vast and expensive system, creating great dissatisfaction — withdrawing more than a million of acres of most valuable public land from sale and permanent settlement, and promoting in no one particular, in the opinion of the committee, any one important national interest. Such is the extent of the system, with no laws to regulate it, that, up to this time, two thousand and ninety-three leases have been granted; of which, five hundred and eighteen are now outstanding. The quantity of land in each ranges from two hundred and thirty-eight acres to less, in one instance, than two acres — the whole having covered probably one hundred thousand acres, once possessed of timber or mineral, or both."
"The selections of land supposed to contain mineral are made by the agents of the War Department, frequently on such loose and inaccurate information as they may obtain from the miners, or from certain surface indications, often deceptive, on which they rely. The result is, that a large portion of the lands embraced in their list contains no mines, yet they are withheld from sale, and, although withheld, are settled upon for agricultural purposes only, and valuable farms made upon them. Being reserved, they are subject to be leased; and as in that region, and it is peculiar to it, the richest soil often conceals the best ores, adventurers are found willing to take leases on such lands, under the authority of which they enter upon the enclosures of the settlers and commence "prospecting" for mineral. This gives rise to controversy, irritation, and expensive litigation, and has contributed very much to make the system as odious as it is. On the other hand, some of the richest mines have escaped the notice of the agents, and have been sold as other government lands, out of which also arise controversy and licigation; for under the law, patents for land, as well as entries of land, are void, if it can be shown that such land was known at the time of the entry and purchase to contain a lead mine. Attorneys are feed by the United States to file a bill in chancery to set aside the patent and entry on the allegation of previous knowledge. The cause is continued in court for years, and by the time the government recover it, if that is the result, it is exhausted of its ore, and valueless. Suits for trespass are commenced, and bills for injunction filed against those who dig for ores without a license or lease; for the agents are instructed to adopt all legal measures to prevent persons from working the mines without leases."
The Committee, after making an exhibit of a "corps of federal officeholders who had been introduced into that region without the warrant of express law, the number of whom, and their emoluments and powers, could be increased at the pleasure of the War Department," continue: —
"Your Committee cannot but believe, that under the operations of such a system, setting aside all consideration of the want of laws to regulate it, the onward
290prosperity of that section of our country cannot but be greatly retarded; and they have heard, with no surprise, that it has met for years with wide, extended, universal dissatisfaction, and given birth to much exasperated feeling.
"In Iowa, the system has not been carried on with corresponding industry. The agents of the government have not met with a friendly reception there. The local courts having decided that the second section of the act of 1807 does not authorize leasing the lead mines in that territory, a general refusal to take leases has been manifested. Your Committee has examined the provisions of that section, and, in their judgment, the courts are correct in the construction they have placed upon it. No authority whatever is given by it to lease lead mines in general; but only such tracts of land containing them as were actually occupied at the time of the enactment of the law, and nothing more.
"In addition to this, it may be stated as a fact necessary to be known, that the richest portions of these mineral lands are claimed by the legal representatives of Julien Dubuque, deceased, as having been ceded to him, while a subject of Spain, by the Fox tribe of Indians, at a full council held at Prairie du Chien, in 1788. A grant from the Spanish governor of Louisiana, the Baron de Carondelet, is also said to have been made to him in 1796 for the same, then known as "The Spanish Mines;" that he worked them for many years, and died in possession of them. On them many settlers have made valuable improvements, as upon other supposed parts of the national domain, expecting to purchase them when offered for sale. They are reduced to the necessity of defending their possessions, not only against the intrusions of government agents and their lessees, but also against such suits as the assignees of Dubuque may choose to bring.
"No interest that the government can possibly have in their mineral resources is deemed by your Committee of sufficient importance to justify any longer the restriction upon their sale; for if the sum total of the average annual receipts derived from the mines in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, was equally apportioned among them, the amount received from Iowa would not much exceed one thousand dollars per annum. In the event of a sale, the purchasers under the government will have a fair opportunity of litigating their titles thus to be acquired with those claiming under Dubuque, and a long, irritating, and vexed question be judicially and finally settled.
"Your Committee believe that it is bad policy to introduce or continue in any State or Territory in which the public lands are, any system, the effect of which shall be to establish the relation of landlord and tenant between the federal government and our citizens. Much might be said against it, but it will occur at once, to every one, as a dangerous relation, and which may become so strong and so extensive as to give to that government the power of controlling their elections and shaping all measures of municipal concern. An unjust and invidious distinction is made by it also between the farmer and the miner; the labor of the latter being taxed to the amount in value of the rent he pays, whilst both are occupying for beneficial purposes parts of the same section of land. There does not seem to be any necessity for the exercise of any such power, even if it be admitted the government possesses it, which is much questioned."
The Senate Committee also examined the subject as affecting the pecuniary interest of the United States supposed to be involved in it. They say: —
"To arrive at a correct knowledge of their extent, it is important to observe, that the lead region of the Upper Mississippi is, for the most part, a prairie country, destitute of large and connected bodies of timber and of coal; and, although the soil is of great fertility, yet, deprived of its ores and of its wood for smelting them, it would be comparatively valueless. The timbered lands are reserved as "contiguous lands" for fuel for smelting establishments, and those who use such tracts under government leases or permits (being tenants only for one year) have no motives of self-interest prompting them to its economical use; and it is, therefore, not surprising that its destruction should be immense. Accordingly, it is found, in the process of a few years under different tenants, many otherwise valuable
291tracts are entirely denuded of their timber and exhausted of their ores, and in this condition revert to the government a worthless possession and unsaleable. What the loss to the government may certainly be in this regard, your Committee have no means of precisely ascertaining: but, from the extent of operations there for the last twenty-four years, they could not estimate it at less than one hundred thousand dollars.
"This is upon the supposition that the lands will not, thus deprived of all that made them valuable, sell at the minimum price at any time, and is therefore stated as a total loss. If to this be added the enhanced price they would have sold for, before they were despoiled, under the influence of that sometimes wild and unreasonable" excitement and speculative views of which the desired ownership of such land is alike the author and the object, the loss is greatly increased, and may be safely estimated at four-fold the amount above stated. To all this is to be added the interest on the money which the government would have received on the sale of a large proportion of the million of acres reserved, the purchase money for which would probably have been received long before this time. These elements of loss amount to more than half a million of dollars, subject only to such deduction as the rents for the use of the land and timber really amount to, as received by the government. Of those, the information is more certain and authentic."
The amount of rent-lead received by the United States for twenty-four years, from November 29th, 1821, to the 30th of November, 1845, was 5,545,729 pounds; and the amount of money received in lieu of lead, was $5,531.18. The amount of expenses during that time, was $68,464 50. Estimating the price of rent-lead received as above stated, at $2 50 per hundred, and adding the amount received in cash in lieu of lead, the total amount of cash received within that time, is $145,174 40. Deducting the expenses during the same time, being $68,464 50, a balance is found in favor of the United States of $76,709 90; which, distributed over the twenty-four years, gives an annual product of only $3,196 24 to the government. Those receipts, small as they were, the Committee understood to be more apparent than real; the fact being that a great part of the lead thus stated as received by the government, was appropriated by some of the agents to their own use. The Committee conclude that branch of the subject as follows: — "From the best information, however, which your Committee can obtain, they are satisfied that, under the leases executed within the last fifteen years, the expenses of every description have nearly equalled the receipts, leaving entirely out of view the positive and irreparable injury done to the lands."
The President of the United States, in his message, as above referred to, thus adverted to the system, its revenues and expenses for the years 1841, 1842, 1843, and 1844: —
"The present system of managing the mineral lands of the United States is believed to be radically defective. More than a million of acres of the public lands, supposed to contain lead and other minerals, have been reserved from sale, and numerous leases upon them have been granted to individuals upon a stipulated rent. The system of granting leases has proved to be not only unprofitable to the government, but unsatisfactory to the citizens who have gone upon the lands, and must, if continued, lay the foundation of much future difficulty between the government and the lessees. According to the official records, the amount of rents received by the government for the years 1841, 1842, 1843, and 1844, was six thousand three hundred and fifty-four dollars and seventy-four cents; while the expenses of the system during the same period, including salaries of superintendents, agents, clerks, and incidental expenses, were twenty-six thousand one hundred and eleven dollars and eleven cents; the income being less than one-fourth of the expenses. To this pecuniary loss may be added the injury sustained by the public in consequence of the destruction of timber, and the careless and
292wasteful manner of working the mines. The system has given rise to much litigation between the United States and individual citizens, producing irritation and excitement in the mineral region, and involving the government in heavy additional expenditures."
These facts, brought to the attention of the country by the President, the Commissioner of the Land Office, and by the report of Senator Breese, illustrating, as they did, the practical operation of the system of leasing the lead mines, induced the early action of Congress. A law was accordingly passed July 11th, 1846, directing the President of the United States to sell the "reserved mineral lands of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa;" and they were accordingly sold in the spring of 1847, after being duly advertised according to law. Titles have now become quieted in the mining country, and the people, instead of being tenants of the government, are now freeholders, and there is nothing now to prevent that section from moving forward to its high destiny.
The following is a statement of the shipments of lead from Galena and Dubuque, and all other points on the Upper Mississippi, for the last seven years, and number of pigs shipped every month — also, the estimated value of the lead shipped each year: —
|Small bar lead equal to||2,750||840||2,410|
|Shot in kegs equal to||7,840||5,000|
|Shipped by Lakes||25,000||15,400||10,000||10,000||20,000||15,000|
|1841||of 452,814||pigs of lead of 70 pounds each at||3 cts. is||$950,909 40|
|"||2,750||" in small bars at||3 Ë cts is||6,737 50|
|"||7,840||" in shot at||4 Ë cts is||24,696 00|
|Total value||$992,342 90|
|1842||of 447,839||pigs of 70 pounds each at||$2 37 Ë is||744,532 33|
|"||840||" in small bars at||3 cts is||1,764 00|
|Total value||$746,296 33|
|1843||of 563,731||pigs of 70 pounds each at||$2 37 Ë is||937,202 00|
|1844||of 624,601||" "||2 82 1/2 is||1,235,184 47|
|1845||of 778,460||" "||3 cts is||1,634,766 00|
|1846||of 732,403||" "||$2 90 is||1,486,778 09|
|1847||of 787,656||" "||3 cts is||1,654,077 60|
|For the year||1841||$982,342||90||For the year||1845||$1,634,766 00|
|Total value produced in seven years||$8,676,647 39|
Such is the product of the Upper Mississippi Mines in their infancy, yielding for seven years an annual average of $1,239,521 worth of lead; and this, so far from exhausting the quantity, has served to prove the great richness of that mining country, and the vast amount of lead that can be produced — an amount sufficient to supply every demand for centuries to come. E. B. W.