Galena, Kansas: Old mining town gets that ol sinking feeling

May 24, 2007

              Ken-Oglesby.jpg                    
This town was made for lead and named for lead. Occasionally, bits of it still sink into the ground because of lead.

This is what made this town what it once was, said Ken Oglesby (left), 52, owner of the Main Street Deli in the center of town, shaking a small glass jar nearly full of small scraps of bluish-grey lead.

From time to time, tunnels in the mines that used to produce it collapse and take parts of Galena with them.

Lead was discovered here in the very south-eastern corner of Kansas back in the spring of 1877 and before long mining companies moved in and settlement sprang up almost overnight. Called Galena after the lead ore mineral of the same name, this town grew rapidly to reach 30,000 people by 1898, plus more than 250 active mines.

Galena also apparently received an extra boost from the opening of Route 66 back in 1926.

But during the mid-twentieth century, the lead and zinc was mined out in the area and Galena went into decline. And in 1985 Route 66 was decommissioned.

TodaEric-Durbin.jpgy, the population numbers a little over 3,000 and not all of the town’s Green Parrot.jpgon solid ground.

Just up Main Street from Oglesbys delicatessen stands the Green Parrot (right), a bar that up until July 2006 did fairly brisk trade here.

Then this sinkhole started to open up behind the bar, said Eric Durbin (left), 25, doing renovation work on an old eatery down the street.

They kept the bar open for a while, but the sinkhole kept growing untiGreen Parrot3.jpgl it became unsafe to work there, he added.

The Green Parrot is now surrounded by a bright, orange plastic perimeter warning people to stay out. While the front of the building seems normal, the back wall has literally fallen off and the rear portion of the building is tilting toward the sinkhole. More of the former local business will slide into the sinkhole, the only question seems to be when.

This happens once in a while, Durbin said. I can recall at least three times in my lifetime. When it happens we just try to fill in the holes and carry on.”

One comment

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My father grew up in Galena. I lived there for a few months when I was younger. It’s just one of those towns that no one cares to fix because it doesn’t impact anyone but itself. Too bad…I know it makes me dad sad whenever he goes back.