LOOKING BACK – Doe Run ending long run in Herculaneum


LOOKING BACK is a Leader online feature that highlights historic photos. Readers are invited to submit their historic Jefferson County photos for online publication.

With the recent announcement that the Doe Run Co. will not build a new plant to produce lead in Herculaneum to replace the existing plant, which will close at the end of 2013, LOOKING BACK this week turns its attention to the St. Joe Lead Co., which built the original facility, seen here in a photo dated around 1914.

St. Joe Lead, a New York company, was organized to produce lead in Missouri’s Lead Belt area in 1864 and it bought a huge tract of land in southeast Missouri to mine its lead deposits.

In 1887, the company acquired a 540-acre piece of land along the Mississippi River in Herculaneum for a new lead smelter. Construction began three years later. The smelter opened in 1892.

A 350-foot smokestack was added to the factory in 1910 (the present 550-foot stack was built in 1996).

By the start of the 1920s, the company consolidated all of its smelting operations in Herculaneum.

When did St. Joe become Doe Run? That’s a bit more involved.

According to the company’s website, in 1981, St. Joe was acquired by the Fluor Corp. Five years later, St. Joe entered into what was a short-lived partnership with Homestake Lead Co. and took the name of a former St. Joe subsidiary, the Doe Run Co. The partnership also is notable because it brought Homestake’s Buick mine, mill and smelter into St. Joe. After the partnership fell apart, St. Joe converted the smelter in Boss. Mo., to recycle lead, which it still does today. In 1994, the Renco Group, the present owners, acquired St. Joe from Fluor and renamed the company the Doe Run Resources Corp., registered to do business as the Doe Run Co.

By any name, the history of the smelter has been intertwined with the history of Herculaneum. The last chapter of that joint history will be recorded over the next couple of years.

Send submissions (or if you have any information on this photo) to LOOKING BACK at nvrweakly@aol.com or bring or mail them to the Leader office, 503 N. Second St., Festus (P.O. Box 159, 63028). Please include your name, phone number, a brief description of what’s in the photo and tell us how you came by it. Please also include when it was taken, where and by whom (if known). A new LOOKING BACK photo is posted each Thursday.

– Steve Taylor