Vinegar Hill Mine

Vinegar Hill Lead Mine Museum

Useful Information

Location: 8885 N. Three Pines Road, Galena, IL 61036.
(42.500562, -90.424965)
Open: closed.
Fee: closed.
Classification: MineLead Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=170 m.
Guided tours: L=130 m, VR=17 m.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Vinegar Hill Mine, 8885 N. Three Pines Road, Galena, IL 61036, Tel: +1-815-777-0855.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1822 mine opened by John Furlong, an immigrant from Ireland.
1934 end of mining.
2015 show mine closed.


The galena ore is hosted in sedimentary rocks, mostly dolomite, limestone, and shale. There are calcite crystal from the limestone. Ores are mostly galena, but also pyrite and sphalerite. The gangues are up to 15 cm wide and up to 2 m high.

The Vinegar Hill syncline was named for the Vinegar Hill mine. It trends northeast and extends at least 4 km southwest from the Wisconsin state-line near Galena River to near the Fox River Valley mine. Orebodies occur in a zone about 800 m wide, the Vinegar Hill mine is located close to the axis of the syncline.


Vinegar Hill Mine, IL, U.S.A. Public Domain.

Vinegar Hill Mine is visited on guided tours which include a walk into the mine. The museum shows a wide variety of lead ore samples and mining tools. It is located north of Galena, which was actually named after the lead ore which was mined in the area.

The mine was started by John Furlong, an immigrant from Ireland, around 1820. He named it Vinegar Hill, because he was in the Battle of Vinegar Hill (Irish: Cath Chnoc Fhíodh na gCaor) during the 1798 Irish Rebellion. He was caught, convicted, and deported to Canada to work in mines. He obviously saw himself as prisoner of war, while they British considered him an insurgent. When he escaped with some other prisoners, they followed the Mississippi downstream. They arrived here and stayed, probably it was similar to home, and they named the village Vinegar Hill to commemorate the battle.

He opened the mine, which was subsequently mined by the family until 1934. The mining was carried out by hand, and there were no pumps, so mining actually stopped at the water level. As a result, there is still galena ore in the mine, but it would require pumping to actually mine it.

The museum is just the collection of the family of the gear and tools they used during the mining, mineral samples and historic documents and photographs. There is a diesel engine with 3 or 4 horse powers, which was used to pull the lead ore out of the mine. Before it was pulled in buckets by hand. There is also a collection of light sources which were used during the decades. They started with candles, then sunshine lamps which also used wax. Then they modernized and used carbide lamps until the mining ended.

During the times there were hundreds of small mines operated in the area, this is the only one which is open to the public. Most of the others were closed with concrete for security reasons. Today it is owned by his great-great-great-grandson. Some time ago the museum and show mine were closed, it was still open in 2013, but was already closed in 2016.