For months, I have been thinking about posting an article about the history of Silver City and decided this is probably a good time especially for those who were not at our Boise ATV Trail Riders Club (BATRC) monthly meeting last night (June 18, 2013). For those who missed, we had a guest speaker, John Larsen, the education coordinator for the Owyhee County Historical Society, who shared information about the Silver City mining industry and some personal stories of the area. Thanks John, the information you provided was interesting. Here is a link for those who would like more information about Owyhee County Historical Society: http://owyheemuseum.org/default.asp?pageName=Home
A Moment of Reflection
A couple of years ago, I found an old black and white postcard of Silver City in one of my parent’s old photograph albums. Instead of tossing it, I kept it and placed it with a bunch of ATV photographs thinking someday, I would like to post it on our website. The scanned postcard has a date of July, 1950. Notice the condition of many of the buildings in the postcard?
As a child in the 1950s, I remember my parents taking us to Silver City for an annual square dance festival. At that time, only a few people were living there. Like in the postcard, many of the buildings had either fallen down or were beginning to; and many were built on the side hills. Of course, our parents said we could walk around and look at the buildings, but not go into them! Some were really scary looking and of course, unsafe. An “outhouse” was really an outhouse hanging from a building held together by a few rotting boards. If I remember correctly, this was about the time when several groups and owners started to take an interest in restoring the old buildings.
Today, our Boise ATV Trail Riders Club, as well as other OHV groups are enjoying the “fruits of labor” from those people who have spent many hours and dollars in restoring the old buildings. Frequently, we ride to Silver City and the surrounding areas throughout the year when weather permits. Many enjoy walking around town, visiting Pat at Pat’s What Not Shop, buying a cool drink at the Hotel or a piece of pie, and just “setting for a spell.”
In appreciation of being able to ride our ATVs in and around Silver City, BATRC has been involved with “our sister clubs” in helping to clean-up several Silver City cemeteries and assisting the County in installing speed limit signs on the Reynold’s Creek road. ATV Clubs in Nampa and Kuna have sponsored annual trail cleanups where they pick up trash along the roadside and trails, as well as clear brush from the trails. Thanks to all those who have helped with these projects over the years. — BATRC Ghost Writer
A Short History of Silver City, Idaho
Information Source: http://www.historicsilvercityidaho.com/
Silver City, Idaho is one of the few old mining towns that did not burn down or become commercialized into a modern city. Visiting Silver City is like going back into history. Rugged and picturesque, the 8,000 feet-high Owyhee Mountains surround Silver City, elevation 6,200′.
The history-filled town contains about seventy-five structures that date from the 1860’s to the early 1900’s. During its “heydays”, Silver City had about a dozen streets, seventy-five businesses, three hundred homes, a population of around 2,500, twelve ore-processing mills, and was the Owyhee County seat from 1866 to 1934. Some of the largest stage lines in the West operated in the area, and Silver City had the first telegraph and the first daily newspaper in the territory in 1874. Telephones were in use here at least by 1880, and the town was “electrified” in the 1890’s (Swan Falls Dam).
There were four separate burial areas nearby, with a few very interesting stones remaining; some quite large and elaborately carved. All are well worth the hike to see and photograph. More that two dozen camps provided shelter, supplies and amusement for the thousands of people who came to the mountains seeking their fortunes in one way or another. The ruins of some of these can still be found though nature is reclaiming most of them at an accelerated rate. Almost a dozen cemeteries and many more remote burial sites attest to the hard and sometimes dangerous and violent lives led by many.
Hundreds of mines pock-mark and honeycomb the mountains; one had upwards of seventy miles of tunnels laboriously hand-dug through it.
Between 1863 and 1865, more than two hundred and fifty mines were in operation and hundreds more were developed thereafter. Through the seventy-odd years of mining, more than twelve ore-processing mills gleaned rich rewards in tons of gold and silver. Large stacks of gold and silver ingots were photographed for posterity. At the very least, sixty million dollars worth of precious metals were taken from the area. At today’s prices, that amount would be even more impressive. At the present time, there are no major mines operating in the area. The De Lamar Silver Mine began operation in 1977, shut down in 2000, and is one of the largest open pit gold and silver mines in the U.S.
Today, four businesses are open in Silver City. The historic Idaho Hotel, Sinker Creek Outfitter’s, Pat’s What Not Shop and Silver City Fire & Rescue Store. Click on link below for more information. Also visit ghosttowns.com for more information on Silver City, Idaho and surrounding mining and ghost towns.
The Idaho Hotel is as it was 100 years ago with a few modern amenities. Sinker Creek Outfitters will provide you with a historic ride back into history on horse back exploring the Owyhee Mountains, Silver City, Empire City, Ruby City and more.
At Pat’s What Not Shop, books, souvenirs, local mineral samples are available. Silver City Fire and Rescue Store provides Art, Antiques, Gifts & Backroom Bargains.Personal Tours: Sinker Creek Outfitter, LLC – Paul Nettleton, Licensed Outfitter (Paul has been a member of the Boise ATV Trail Riders Club for many years.)
Silver City Schoolhouse Museum:
- Silver City Open House – Second weekend after Labor Day Weekend:
Ten or more private buildings and homes are usually open to the public for tours. Most decorated and outfitted as they were at the turn of the century with a few modern amenities. Hours: 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Fees: Adults $10 and children under 12 $5. Children carried by parents is no charge. Parking: Parking is somewhat limited, but is usually not a problem. Carpooling is recommended. The campground area at the south end of town can accommodate several vehicles. When parking, ensure you are not blocking entrance or exit of the home owner’s property or other vehicles.
- Historic Swan Falls Dam Open House:
Idaho Power annually hosts an Open House at Swan Falls as part of the State Historical Society’s Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month. Starting June 1, 2013 through August 31, 2013, the powerhouse will be open every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for those who would like to see the inside of the first hydroelectric project built on the Snake River.
Swan Falls was built in 1901 to provide electricity to nearby mines (Silver City), and was upgraded in the mid-1990s with a new power plant that has a capacity of 25 megawatts. Visitors to the historic powerhouse can see one of the original 10th-century turbines as well as other equipment. Shaded picnic areas and expansive views of the Snake River make Swan Falls a great day-trip destination. The plant lies within the Snake river Birds of Prey National Conservative Area. Swan Falls Dam is located 21 miles south of Kuna, on Swan Falls Road. For more information: www.idahopower.com/swanfalls
Silver City Area Phone Numbers:
- Winter message number: 208-863-4768
Sinker Creek Outfitters:
Pats’ What Not Shop:
- 208-583-2510, Cell 208-850-5679 or 208-375-0162
Silver City Fire & Rescue:
Our Lady of Tears Catholic Church:
- Father Gerald Funke at St.Pauls in Nampa: 208-466-7031