Picher, OK

105
City/Town: Picher
Location Class: Disappearing Town
Year Built: 1918
Year Abandoned: 2009
Status: AbandonedDisappearing Town
Photojournalist: Billy DixonDavid LindeJohnny Fletcher

Located eight miles north of Miami on U.S. Highway 69 in Ottawa County, Picher is Oklahoma’s most northeastern incorporated city. Its city limits adjoin the Kansas state line. In late 1913 the town developed around the lead and zinc ore strike on Harry Crawfish’s allotment. Picher’s name honored O. S. Picher, owner of the Picher Lead Company. Statewide newspapers reported that the town was born overnight. Picher incorporated in March 1918. It had a population of 9,726 in 1920, which peaked at 14,252 in 1926, at the height of mining. As mining activity decreased, the population dropped steadily to 5,848 in 1940 and to 2,553 in 1960.

Picher was the most productive mining field in the Tri-State Lead and Zinc District (Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri) and produced more than $20 billion in ore from 1917 to 1947. Over 50 percent of the lead and zinc metal consumed in World War I came from the Picher Field. During the mining boom years more than fourteen thousand men worked in its mines, and another four thousand worked in approximately fifteen hundred mining service businesses. Many of these workers commuted to work using an extensive trolley car system that ran all the way to Carthage, Missouri. In the subsequent years Picher could not attract new industry, because a majority of the real estate belonged to restricted Quapaw heirs and because the town had many mines distributed underneath the surface.

O. S. Picher provided the city’s first deep water well, thereby providing the beginning of a municipal water system. The leasing system employed for mining dictated that an ore reduction mill be built on each forty-acre tract. In 1927 there were 248 mills operating in the Picher Field, and this continued until the late 1930s when centralized milling resulted in mill consolidation. When lead and zinc mining finally ceased in 1967, pumping water from the mines ceased and they began to fill with water, accumulating 76,800 acre-feet of mine water under ground. This contaminated water began to seep from the mines in 1973. In 1983 the Picher area became part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Site program. With 1,400 mine shafts in the Picher area, 70 million tons of waste tailings, and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge, environmental clean up was a monumental task.

In 2008, The EPA finished the clean up of the Superfund site. This was done by a mixture of buyouts, chat sales, on-site disposals, rural residential yard contamination cleanup, soil cleansing, and rural residential well sanitization. Overall totaling over one hundred and sixty million dollars before it was completed. Those who were willing to be bought out did so. Those who stayed behind were supplied with alternative ways to utilizing the wells that were contaminated. Additionally, ย“chatย” that had once been piled on top of the soil was put back into the mines to support the land and reduce human exposure to lead dust.

After all of the work that was completed to make the town livable again, an F4 tornado came through the town of Picher on May 10, 2008. The tornado tragically took the lives of six people and injured at least one-hundred and fifty others.

In May of 2009 The Picher-Cardin school systems hosted its final graduating class & on July 1st the 90 year old district closed its doors forever.

Today, all that can be seen in the town is overgrown house foundations, and a few remaining buildings, which are now crudely spray painted as government property.

Other Links:

Fredas Cook, a long time resident, has put together a great database of history and pictures. For a lot of great information about Picher and Cardin, visit his siteHere.

Liked it? Help AOK take action to save some of these places on Patreon! Donations will help fund clean ups, securing of buildings and hopeful restorations as we work with the owners who want to bring them back to life.
Share.

105
Leave a Reply

avatar
78 Comment threads
27 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
  Subscribe  
Notify of
kent neisen
Guest
kent neisen

it just sad what has happen to the town

Lady Lelouch
Guest
Lady Lelouch

That face thing is really creepy.

Lorra
Guest
Lorra

My grandfather, Mark Larkin, was a mechanic in Picher back in the 60s(and since I’d never seen the town’s name spelled, I always thought it was “Pitcher.”)

Did anyone know my grandpa?

I’m so sorry for the loss of the town.

Roy
Guest
Roy

I believe your Grampa Mark worked for my Dad in his salvage in the early 60s. My Dad had his salvage and garage from 1961 till June 1967. The salvage was on west B street just short of the state line. I remember The Mark Larkin that worked for my Dad would buy me and my brothers, Snowball snack cakes at Cicil Norths station on Stale line Road. We would have to share them with Cicils monkey that he always had at the station.Or the Monkey would always go after Marks hair and pull it.. lol It always seemed so… Read more »

Guest
Guest
Guest

Thanks for the photos. My mom and her parents were from Picher; my grandfather worked in the mines from the 20s through the 60s. I hope to get down there myself soon to have a look around and take photos. Until then, your photos help fill in a lot of gaps. Thanks again.

Gerald
Guest
Gerald

That was in 1919

Gerald
Guest
Gerald

does anybody knom anything about Greenlesf Mining Co.?
My grandmother had 100 shares in that Co.,Is there any thing to it?
Like to know if there is money there.

JOHN WARE
Guest
JOHN WARE

I WAS BORN IN DOUTHAT OK…. MOVED TO MISSOURI AN THEN TO CALIF .. I WILL BE A CHAT RAT TILL THE DAY I DIE.. J W

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

I went to Picher today and let me tell you there is less and less of it. They were tearing down buildings left and right out there. By the end of the summer, I doubt anything is still standing. Tried to take all the pictures I could but I also stayed out of most of the buildings.

Tim
Guest
Tim

I wish there more pictures of the better days of Picher. I grew up there in the 60's and 70's. It was never Manhattan or Vail but, it was a neat town and in the winters when it snowed, the Chat Piles looked like snow covered mini-mountains. I was there after the big tornado and it was hard to recognize then, I don't even know if I would want to go back now and see the "Life After People" conditions.

Chat Rat forever

Don't you wish you know..
Guest
Don't you wish you know..

I feel for the families…

Don't you wish you knew..
Guest
Don't you wish you knew..

It’s such a sad story… You drive by and it kinda makes you want to stop and look around ๐Ÿ™

Melody Brown
Guest
Melody Brown

I too use to live in Picher Ok with my first husband Tim Dewayne Sharbutt but now me and my daughter from my second marriage live in Joplin, Mo. believe me i may have missed the Picher tornado but didnt miss the Joplin one. Thank god me and my daughter survived but our apt complex was heavily damaged. If any of you know where John Harvey is he would be around my age which is 37 ive been looking for him…my email is sweetmelody74@hotmail.com. He took me to my junior prom in Miami Ok.

Mick
Guest
Mick

It's a sad thing to see ones hometown torn down and hauled away. I live in Joplin, Mo. now but, Picher, Ok. is my hometown! Always will be even if it's gone, Picher is alive in all of us that grew up there. I believe things could have been done to save Picher but, big brother had his way. I'll miss going there and seeing all the old buildings and places I played as a child and of course I miss ALL the people! My family and I go there at least twice a month to see how much more… Read more »

DIANA JOHNSON
Guest
DIANA JOHNSON

Did anyone know Elizabeth "Lizzie" BEdegrew Jones that ran a grocery store in Picher with her husband William Jones? Later her son Bert Luther ran the store. Lizzie died in 1946. Does anyone have any pictures of the original "Main Street"?

Sammi
Guest
Sammi

We went to Picher today and there weren't any police/security to be found patroling the area. The only ones we noticed seemed to reside at the old high school when we drove by. And for the couple hours we drove around their vehicles never moved. There were a couple of roads that had closure signs so we didn't press our luck but for the most part a lot of the older houses by the school were wide open and FULL of stuff. Its like they got up one morning, walked out the door and never came back. Super weird. But… Read more »

Zeus13
Guest
Zeus13

do they allow people there to do documentation

aurum79
Guest
aurum79

I worked on the cleanup, testing the soils for lead for 4 years. We should all be proud of the work our government did cleaning up the school yards, public grounds, homesteads and tribal sacred places in the surrounding area around Picher. The people of Picher paid a heavy price for providing more than half of the lead and zinc for World War 1 and beyond. My team and I were happy to do this tough work and make life better for the next generation of children in this area, and I have fond memories of the people and the… Read more »

shilling
Guest
shilling

Clean up? What clean up? Thank you for trying but there will be no next generation there. Picher is still a major source of contamination, it's still poising the water supplies of other towns and still has miles of chat piles. There was very little clean up. The government walked away.

larry conley
Guest
larry conley

yah there is a dirt road close by playing with RC cars there just on the outside of picher helicopter was flying over head thought nothing of it then ottawa county police showed up said we had 5 minutes to leave or we would be arrested wtf since when is it agaisnt the law to play with RC cars that close to picher on a dirt road? the ottawa police followed us till we were out of picher drive through there all the time the ottawa county police harrass ppl that drive through there its rediculous i grew up in… Read more »

blendene
Guest
blendene

your not a criminal or kiss ass is why they harrased you the criminals that do real crimes are allowed to nothing get done to them or will just the way county is ran has been for a long time

al thomas
Guest
al thomas

what a tragedy… and i thought that i had it bad growing up at the Love Canal Site in new york…….

Michael
Guest
Michael

I'd like to know if someone here might recognize the young girl whose picture I took when I toured Picher in 1997 for a photo class. I was always really happy with how the shot came out, and wished that I could somehow she could get to see it.
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1608412806

Michael
Guest
Michael

delete "I could" ๐Ÿ™‚

Richard todd
Guest
Richard todd

I was born in picher now live in sedro woolley washington i will never for get my home town i love picher that will always my frist love

william carver
Guest
william carver

hey my name is william i grew uo in picher as well as all my family i find it hard to look back and see where i played football and ate icecream went on my first date i didnt spend the time that i would of liked to this is to all the chat rats like me have a beer and enjoy what you got while it last carver1981

David Lizama
Guest

Anyone know who posted on YouTube the video of Real Goblin at Picher, Oklahoma?


Am a producer with SyFy Channel and want to source the footage. Any info please call 818-333-5794 and ask for David.

Copyright 2008-2020 by AbandonedOK.com - info@AbandonedOK.com - Designed By Michael Schwarz - Disclaimer

error: Content is copyright protected by The Abandoned Atlas Foundation. To request the use of information/media: AbandonedOK.com/request