Rush to Rust

The “Old West” of the US is not the only place with ghost towns. Where ever money could be made by the rapid exploitation of scarce resources, there will be found the remnants and leftovers where people lived and died while grubbing in the ground for those who laid claim to those publicly owned natural resources. One such place is what is left of Rush, Arkansas.

A lot of people know Arkansas is home to the only diamond mine in the United States but few remember about the 17 zinc mines that once made Rush the largest city in Northern Arkansas.

The first ore was dug from the ground at Rush in 1880. The miners mistakenly believed they had discovered silver. Zinc, while not as valuable as silver, still was worth digging because miners were only being paid about 75 cents a day and zinc ore brought $14 a ton. Then WWI kicked the price to $160 a ton. The population of Rush went to 5,000. One report says this population was 95% men.

This is a small chunk of Smithsonite, also known as zinc. The Morning Star Mine at Rush produced the largest piece of Smithsonite ever known. It weighed an unbelievable 12,750 pounds. It was named “Jumbo” by the miners. It was hauled out of the Ozark Mountains using a combination of streams, rivers, and a team of 16 oxen. When it finally was exhibited at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893 it won a gold ribbon.

Like most mining boom towns, Rush came to a sudden end. By 1920 World War One was over and the price for zinc bottomed out. The mines were fairly well exhausted anyway. It is said that people left town so fast their breakfast was still on the table.

The old town of Rush and the surrounding mines are now federally owned. What is left of it is protected by the National Park Service. However, anyone who hikes through here can see this public treasure will soon be gone and forgotten just as few remember the zinc that brought it into being.

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