Kim Kuester

Kim Kuester wipes tears from her eyes Tuesday as she prepares to leave her home in the former mining boomtown of Cardin. She and her husband were the last residents of the town that was bought out because of the health and safety risks associated with the mining legacy.

Kim Kuester is turning the lights out in Cardin.

When she walked out the front door of her home on Tuesday and said goodbye to the town where she once vowed she would never live, it was with tears in her eyes.

“I raised my two children here,” she said. “I can still see them playing in the yard. It’s difficult to leave the whole world we have known behind.”

Kuester and her husband, Tony, are the last residents to leave Cardin. It is now a ghost town. About six or seven properties are still occupied in nearby Picher.

Over the past three years or so, the residents of both towns have been bought out by the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust. The trust was formed in 2006 after a study by the Army Corps of Engineers found that the abandoned mines under Picher, Cardin and Hockerville had a high risk of caving in.

Kuester had lived in the former lead and zinc mining field since 1983, and one might think that she would be happy to relocate. She’s not.

Cardin began in 1913 as a mining town by the name of Tar River. The town had grocery stores, rooming houses, drugstores, livery stables, banks, lumberyards, theaters, speakeasies, pool halls, gambling dens and dance halls. In June 1918, William Oscar Cardin, a Quapaw Indian, with his wife, Isa Wade Cardin, had his 40-acre allotment surveyed, platted, filed and recorded with the county clerk of Ottawa County. In 1920, when the town’s population registered 2,640, the name changed officially from Tar River to Cardin. By 1930, the number of residents had declined to 437. In 2000, the population stood at 150.

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