Lead Mining in the Northwest Region

Along with its ready access to the Mississippi River, the predominance of lead ore, or “galena”, was largely responsible for Galena’s growth and development in the early to mid 1800s. The museum tells the story of lead mining around Galena and the tri-state region; how it fueled an economic boom, and how mining declined later in the 19th Century.

The museum has an original 1830s lead mine shaft, the only one in the State of Illinois. Get up close and personal with our 30-foot-deep mine shaft, a remnant from the days when lead mines flourished in the very heart of present-day Galena.

1830s Mine Shaft on the Museum Site

Lead mining built Galena. While Native Americans had sporadically mined lead for thousands of years, it was the arrival of Europeans that led to the first major mineral rush in U.S. history.

Our exhibits document this saga, with original mining tools displayed, as well as a life-size windlass.

Windlass in Mining Exhibit