The Doe Run Company celebrates its 150th anniversary today and Tammy Stankey seems ready to shout the news from the rooftops.
That’s because, along with being the company’s senior communications liaison, she is also chair of Doe Run’s 150th Anniversary Team tasked with preparing for this major milestone in the company’s history.
“I’m really excited about the 150th anniversary of Doe Run, as is the whole company,” said Stankey. “I’ve had the opportunity to head up a team from all aspects of our business to determine how we would approach this anniversary year.”
She said the most interesting and enjoyable part of preparing for this day was looking back on the company’s rich history in this part of southeast Missouri.
“We trace our roots back to 1864 when St. Joseph Lead Company was formed based just on the purchase of about 946 acres in and around Bonne Terre, which was only a really small community at that time,” said Stankey. “Soon after that, a number of mining companies were started in Bonne Terre, Desloge, Flat River and later parts of Washington County.”
This was the modern start of lead mining in Missouri, but its roots run so much deeper.
“You can actually trace mining in the area back to Native Americans who found galena on the surface of the ground in those counties,” Stankey explained. “Galena, the mineral you form lead from, was part of what attracted both the French and Spanish settlers to the area.”
For a long period of time after 1864, the mining district in Missouri was centered in St. Francois and Washington County.
“It was around the 1960s that St. Joe started looking beyond those two counties and began looking down towards the Viburnum Trend area,” said Stankey. “That area today is the second largest lead mining district in the world. If you look at the amount of lead that’s been produced from what we now call the “Old Leadbelt” — around Bonne Terre and its neighboring communities in St. Francois County — and combine that with the Viburnum Trend, those two areas have produced 90 percent of our nation’s primary lead supply. Bonne Terre means ‘good earth’ and it got its name from the value of the minerals in the soil. This became a prosperous area.”
Stankey said in addition to uncovering the company’s long history she has also enjoyed interviewing employees and retirees in preparation for the anniversary — some of them multi-generational.
“We have an employee still working at our Herculaneum location who is a fifth generation employee,” she said. “He traces his grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather all the way back to when the company had its own cattle company. St. Joseph Cattle Company was initiated to provide good meat and dairy products to the communities and the employees who lived in those communities. It later expanded and became the purchasing arm of the company. There were company stores and so forth. The communities and this company grew up together.”
Stankey explained that Doe Run believes this anniversary celebrates something much greater than the recognition of just one company.
“What we want to celebrate this year is not just our history, but the histories of the communities in which we’ve operated across these 150 years,” she explained. “We have a whole slew of activities we have planned for the year. On our birthday — March 25 — each of our divisions is celebrating with birthday cake for the employees. We’re also going to be launching some new content on our website.”
Stankey said the company has created an interactive timeline that will be available on its website, at www.doerun.com, as well as on the microsite Doe Run Celebrates 150.com.
“People will be able to pick and choose looking at nearly 50 events across our history,” she said. “Some of them have video interviews from retirees or employees. Some of them have black and white footage we’ve uncovered that was produced, we think, back in the 40s and 50s. It shows what the towns and mines looked like — mules underground and early technologies. There’s a video we’ve just produced that talks about why we still need lead, where the future for lead is and our approach for being responsible stewards, not just of the minerals that we mine, but also the 70,000 acres of land that we manage. We’re hoping people will take a look at our website and look at the high points of the past 150 years.”
Stankey emphasized that this anniversary is an opportunity for Doe Run to set its sights on what is yet to come. As it reflects on the past 150 years and looks forward to what is hoped to be a long, bright future ahead, she said there are three standards of conduct that will be used to guide its direction:
“What’s important to us is not only to be thinking about what we’re doing to produce minerals and metals that we need today, but also how are we going to manage these sites when we’re finished operating in them,” said Stankey. “If you take a look at Herculaneum, this past year we closed the last primary smelter in the United States,” she continued. “Part of our stewardship of that area is to return that piece of property into some sort of economic value for the community. We’ve got a port operating there now with Mississippi Sand, sort of on a small scale, but we’re looking at how we can expand that piece of property working with Jefferson County to make a port for the whole area and provide jobs there to replace far greater than were removed by the closure of that smelter.”
“When you think about integrity, we’re really committed as individuals as well as practitioners working for Doe Run to say what we mean and to mean what we say,” Stankey explained. “When we talk about supporting education, we’re doing those things through mineral education in elementary schools and middle schools. We’re supporting scholarships. We’re making donations, whether it’s to Missouri University of Science and Technology or Mineral Area College.”
“We depend upon the communities to supply workforce, great vendors and suppliers and to support our activities,” Stankey said. “We see this as an integrated relationship with our communities. A lot of what we’re going to be doing this year is going to be participating in those communities’ events. We just wrapped up the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Rolla. We were very active in that parade. We’ve basically got six months of activities that we’re going to be participating in.
Those activities include the Spring Fever Days Parade, May 10, in Ellington; Moses Austin Heritage Day, June 14, in Potosi; July 4th Parades in Bonne Terre and Herculaneum; Old Miners’ Day Parade, Oct. 4, in Viburnum; Fall Rocks in the month of October at the Missouri Mines State Historic Site in Park Hills; and the Oktoberfest Parade in the month of October in Bunker.
“This isn’t just Doe Run’s anniversary,” said Stankey. “This is an anniversary we are sharing with all of our communities.”
Key Words: Doe Run Company, 150th Anniversary, Tammy Stankey, St. Joseph Lead Company, Bonne Terre
“What we want to celebrate this year is not just our history, but the histories of the communities in which we’ve operated across these 150 years.” – Tammy Stankey, Doe Run Company senior communications liaison
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org