Located within the Buffalo National River area of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, the Rush Historic District preserves a historic zinc mining district from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which served a major role in the development of modern railroads and infrastructure in the southeastern United States. Human inhabitation of the Ozark Mountain area dates back at least to 10,000 B.C. and the hunters of the Paleoindian period, though there is very little recorded history of peoples in the Ozarks prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America.
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Though major expedition and missionary groups passed through the southeastern United States during the 17th and 18th centuries, no record of European settlement along the Buffalo River was recorded until the 1820s, although displaced Cherokee indigenous people had begun to settle alongside native Osage people as early as 1800.
Early settlement in the Buffalo River area was regulated by federal surveys and stalled by the start of the American Civil War, with settlement primarily taking the form of small personal farms, but in 1880, large deposits of ore were discovered along the banks of the Buffalo River by John Wolfer, an early prospector in the area. Miners initially thought the discovered deposits were silver, but soon realized that they had found zinc instead. After the initial deposit claim was purchased by George Chase, who established the Morning Star Mining Company, a mining rush ensued to the Rush Valley and Clabber Creek areas. By the 1890s, the area had become a major mining and economic center, containing 2,000 to 5,000 people at its peak, with a large community of homes arising around the Morning Star mine facilities. At the height of its operation, 10 companies operated 13 minutes in the district, the most of any mining center in the North Arkansas District.
The mining district reached its peak during World War I, as mines worked to produce zinc for war efforts. The end of World War I saw the migration of many workers away from the Rush District, although free-oreing policies helped keep local mining activity alive throughout the early 20th century. Following World War II, however, several local processing mills were dismantled, and the closing of the area’s post office in the 1950s turned the area into a ghost town by the following decade.
As a result of campaigning by the Ozark Society in the late 1960s, the Buffalo River was protected as the United States’ first National River in 1972, ending plans for construction of a dam. The remaining zinc mining sites in the area were incorporated as a Historic District connected to the National River, preserving the district’s remaining mines, buildings, and ruins.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Today, several dozen extant structures are incorporated into the Historic District, including town buildings that showcase the life and community of area miners. Remnants of several of the original mine facilities are still visible, including the old engine of the Monte Cristo Mine, the remains of the McIntosh Mining Company’s processing mill, and ruins of the White Eagle Mine, one of the area’s earliest mining ventures. Foundational piers from the 1911 remodeling of the Morning Star Processing Mill are visible, along with the entrances to several other mines, viewable from a hiking trail that begins near the District’s parking lot. A short-lived processing mill transplanted from a Missouri facility in the 1960s is also visible. Other products of mining activity are visible in the district, including a stone silver smelter constructed in 1886, the remains of a livery barn destroyed by arson, and the Ore Wagon Road used to transport zinc to barges on the White River. A Tailing Mound also showcases residue from the mill concentration process.
Several preserved personal and commercial structures highlight the cultural life of miners in the district, including the Rush Ghost Town area, which showcases a row of clapboard houses dating back to around 1899. The Taylor-Medley Store was the site of the town’s post office until the 1950s, and the Hicks Store sold goods until it was remodeled as a personal residence in the 1960s. Part of the forge of a Blacksmith Shop from 1925 remains, and remains from the New Town Area, which sprung up around the Yellow and Edith processing mills, are also visible.
The district may be viewed either via a driving route or on foot through a number of walking and hiking trails. Mine ruins are fenced off for safety and may not be entered, and visitors are encouraged to exercise caution on trails due to hazards and river area conditions. Access to a primitive campground area is offered for a fee, equipped with cooking grills and picnic tables.
402 N. Walnut Street, Suite 136, Harrison, AR 72601, Phone: 870-439-2502