Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Picher, no, not that kind of Pitcher!
Picher was a city in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, United States. It was formerly a center of lead and zinc mining. The population was 1,640 at the 2000 census. Discoveries of ground contamination and the possibility of a cave-in of mines under the city have prompted all of its population to evacuate.n 1913, as the Tri-State district expanded, lead and zinc ore was discovered on Harry Crawfish's claim and mining began. A townsite developed overnight around the new workings and was named Picher in honor of O. S. Picher, owner of Picher Lead Company. Incorporated in 1918, by 1920 Picher had a population of 9,726. Peak population occurred at 14,252 in 1926 followed by a gradual decline paralleling a decrease in mining activity, to 2,553 by 1960.
The Picher area became the most productive lead-zinc mining field in the Tri-State district producing over $20 billion worth of ore between 1917 and 1947. More than fifty percent of the lead and zinc metal used during World War I were produced by the Picher district. At its peak over 14,000 miners worked the mines and another 4,000 worked in mining services. Many of these workers commuted by an extensive trolley system from as far away as Joplin and Carthage, Missouri. Mining ceased in 1967 and water pumping from the mines ceased. The contaminated water from some 14,000 abandoned mine shafts, 70 million tons of mine tailings, and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge remained as a huge environmental cleanup problem. The area became part of the Tar Creek Superfund site.
On April 24, 2006, Reuters reported that Picher had been scheduled to be closed and all residents removed. Due in large part to the removal of large amounts of subsurface material during mining operations, many of the city's structures have been deemed in imminent danger of caving in.
On May 10, 2008, Picher was struck by a tornado. There were eight confirmed deaths, possibly including one child, and many other injuries. Twenty blocks of the city suffered extensive damage with houses and businesses destroyed or flattened. At least 150 others were injured in Picher alone. This was the deadliest tornado in Oklahoma since the South Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999, which killed 36. The federal government also decided that there would be no aid given to rebuild homes.
Emerging Photographer M. Rodgers captures the remains of this broken town. The images are haunting yet peaceful as decay and erosion cover the once thriving city. Her style is simple, focusing on small focal points and each image displays a small memory hanging on. I love her ability to target the most interesting details including texture, color and movement in this now still town.
M. Rodgers images are represented by