Crawford County Kansas is known for its coal mining heritage and the settlement of many different ethnic groups who came to the United States in search of work in the coal fields.
Most Kansas coal mining took place in the southeast counties of Cherokee, Crawford and Bourbon, where hundreds of underground shafts and above-ground strip mines were dug. Around those mines, communities and camps were built for workers and their families. Mining companies set up camps for workers near the mines. They built houses, sometimes little more than shacks, for their families. At the turn of the 20th century, Cherokee County’s population was at least double what it is now.
Galena, Baxter Springs and Treece in southeastern Cherokee County were found to be rich in lead and zinc. The area became part of the Tri-State Lead and Zinc Mining District, which includes parts of southwest Missouri and northeast Oklahoma. During the first half of the 20th century the Tri-State District was the world’s leader in zinc production.
In the coal mining areas there were camps and villages with the names such as 42 Camp, Ringo, Foxtown, Capaldo, East and West Mineral, Weir and Little Italy. Lead and zinc mines near Treece along the Oklahoma border were called Turkey Fat, Tiger, Rebecca and Silver Fox.
Census records show Cherokee County’s population was more than 42,600 in 1900. Crawford County’s population was nearly 40,000. In the 1920s and 1930s the counties’ populations were still above 30,000. Population then steadily declined in Cherokee County, to 21,555 in the 2005 census. Crawford County’s population was 38,200 in 2005.
By the time the last lead and zinc mines closed in Cherokee County in 1970 nearly 2.9 million tons of zinc and 700,000 tons of lead had been produced, according to KGS.