Wisconsin May 26, 2018
Travel Back in Time With This Amazing Wisconsin Mine Tour
Way down in the corner in the southwest part of the state is the town of Platteville. Home to a University of Wisconsin campus, this area has a deep mining history that drew immigrants from across Europe. Starting in the mid-1840s and going well into the 1970s, this area was rife with lead and zinc mining. Today, you can visit a fascinating museum that’s preserved this history and even head down into an abandoned mine.
You've probably seen the very large white M on a hillside as you're passing through Platteville on Highway 151. The "world's largest M" is a symbol for mining, and what is now the School of Engineering and UW-Platteville.
Platteville has a deep mining history and the Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums do a spectacular job of recounting that part of the state's past. Platteville sits in the Upper Mississippi Lead-Zinc District. Today, the Mining Museum is the largest museum interpreting the tri-state mining district.
The story goes that in 1845, a local man who was jobless and hoping to support his family was picking around already abandoned mines without much luck — until he found a vein that ended up taking his mine 50 feet underground and producing two million pounds of lead ore in its first year.
When the lead dried up, some men moved west in search of gold, while others turned to mining zinc, which took them even further underground. These pictures from the 1940's show men who would be lowered 300 feet underground to mine zinc. There were pumps to remove water and it was a wet and dirty job.
The Museum here was established in 1946 to preserve and collect the history of this area, but it was in 1972 that they unearthed the lead mine. More than 100 years after it was first opened, the Bevans Lead Mine was found just south of the Museum's location. By 1976, it was open to the public.
According to the Museum's website, "The Platteville Optimists raised funds to acquire a 1931 mine locomotive which they donated to the museum. The train and passenger cars were rebuilt, and in 1978 aboveground train rides became a part of the mine tour."
Heading down into the mine is fascinating. There are 90 steps to get into and out of the 1845 Bevans Mine and stairs in the Headframe. There is a video tour available for those who can’t or choose not to take the stairs into the mine or up in the headframe. It's a good bit of walking, so keep that in mind for young kids with short legs and shorter attention spans.
The tour guides here know their stuff and provide a wonderful peek into this piece of history most of us have a difficult time wrapping our heads around. In the mine, you'll get an idea of what it was like for early miners. The tour provides a great insight into the workings of a lead mine, including what tools were used.
This really is a totally unique and wonderful piece of Wisconsin history that you aren't going to experience anywhere else.
From May through October, admission includes admission includes the underground mine, headframe, train ride (weather permitting), and exhibits galleries. The Museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays and hours Wednesdays through Sundays are 10:00 a.m. through 5 p.m. Mine Tours start at 10:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids 5-17 and $27 for a family with two adults and two or more dependent children. Offseason, mine tours are by appointment only and the museum hours are more limited. Check the website, linked at the bottom of this page, for more details.
Rollo Jamison was a local man who had a massive collection of local history and artifacts. When his health started to fail, a museum was created in nearby Beetown. Eventually, his collection joined the Mining Museum and now this area is a full experience to preserve and collect local history. In the summer you'll find re-enactments and encampments. Children of all ages will love getting to visit this amazing collection of local history and learn about life long before us.
Located at 405 E. Main St., Platteville, WI 53818. For more information,
check out their website here.
While you’re in the southwest part of the state,
you might want to consider checking out our Cheese Trail. This area is full of amazing and delicious cheesemakers.