The Homestake Gold Mine was operated by the Homestake Mining Company which founded Lead as a “company town” for its employees. Phoebe Hearst, wife of one of the principal founders was instrumental in making Lead more livable. She established the Hearst Free Public Library in town and in 1900, the Hearst Free Kindergarten. She donated regularly to Lead’s churches, and provided college scholarships to the children of the Miners and Mill Workers. In addition, she arranged for the Homestake Mining Company, Homestake Opera House and Recreation Building to be constructed as gifts to the community from the company. Tickets had to be purchased for events in the Opera House, but use of the swimming pool, bowling alley, meeting rooms and library were free.
Throughout the decades to come, the City of Lead and the Homestake Mine were confronted with challenges ranging from an epidemic of Spanish influenza, nearby forest fires and even a fire in the mine, which was extinguished by a deliberate flooding of the mine and subsequent dewatering with no ill effects to the mine or its equipment. But on the whole, the city and its residents prospered as a result of the mine. In the early 1930s, as the rest of the nation suffered economic hardship throughout the Great Depression, the management of Homestake set a shorter work week with an increase in wages, and provided end of year bonuses to workers.
During World War II, gold mining operations were suspended by order of the War Production Board. The young men of the city joined the armed forces, moved to locations where copper mines were operating or worked in airplane factories. The older men who remained, in what was, then an almost deserted town worked in the Homestake foundry or machine shop producing goods needed for the war effort, including parts for airplanes, wrenches and hand grenades.
The following decades saw modernization of mining techniques and procedures, including the advent of computerization to the Homestake Mine.
Lead’s future lies in the Sanford Laboratory of Homestake and in its proximity to scenic hiking and biking trails, state and national monuments, memorials, parks and the quality of life unmatched by anywhere else in the nation.