We took a trip back in history as we walked through the doors of an old schoolhouse that now houses the Rollo Jamison Museum. The museum is filled with dioramas, models, artifacts, photographs, and even antique vehicles. A tour guide explained the odd looking items and answered questions. Looking at antiques certainly makes one appreciate the more difficult times in which our own ancestors lived. Especially interesting are items dentists and doctors once used - ouch. And even the everyday items were fascinating. A totally different world existed only a hundred years ago.
While still pondering the artifacts and exhibits in the museum, we were led out of the building into what looked like a backyard. We followed a different tour guide as she took us into a small room and gave us hard hats to wear while exploring the mine. In the past a person would have to be lowered into the mine by standing in a huge bucket, holding onto the rope. Now however, visitors forego that experience and walk down 90 cement steps deeper and deeper into history.
As we walked the 90 steps [taking us 50 feet underground], we descend into another world down into the depths of a once very productive lead mine. It is easy to appreciate the sacrifices of health and the risks these men took daily to support their families.
A musty odor assaults your nostrils as you delve deeper into the cave. Dark, damp and cold. The walls dripping with moisture. Fresh air is not as plentiful deep in the mine so breathing is a little labored.
For safety reasons, the mine has been slightly altered. You will appreciate that the walls have been secured and braced so there is no danger of a cave-in. And the mine is equipped with electric lights, which prevent you from getting an authenic re-creation but much the effect is still there.
As we neared the end of this facinating tour, sitting on one of their ledges was a picture of miners who many years ago had mined in the Galena lead mine. Something made me take a closer look at the grubby, dirt-stained faces of the men as they were eating their lunches. The face of one of the miners looked familiar. I turned it over where they had written the names of the miners. I couldn't believe my luck - it was my grandfather, Philip Greibe. [They had extra copies available so I was able to purchase a picture.]
As we drove the backroads to return to our home, it gave us time to reflect upon all the differences that only 100 years can make in our everyday lives. A trip to the Mining Museum and Rollo Jamison Museum will take you into a not so distant past that seems light years away. It quickly puts back into perspective our own lack of appreciation for the ease of just the everyday things we take for granted.
The Mining Museum and Rollo Jamison Museum
Platteville, in the southwest corner of Wisconsin
Grant County, about 15 miles north of the Illinois-Wisconsin border
Have fun in your own backyard!
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