Sunday, May 23, 2010
Silver City, Idaho once a boom town
One of my historical western stories ends in Silver City, Idaho. Miners flocked to Silver and Ruby City after 1863 digging over 250 mines in the Owyhee mountains. During the boom the town boasted 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.
It's hard to believe all those buildings fit in the narrow canyon I found when I visited the town. There is only one way into Silver City. The town sets at the end of a windy gravel road that snakes up a mountain. Visitors traveled from Boise, Idaho by stage (four horse coaches) and crossed the Snake River (1/2 way between Boise and Silver) on a ferry at Walter’s Ferry. Paiute/Bannock Indians were a threat to the stage coaches after they crossed the river through 1878.
In Silver City the Idaho Hotel was one of the most famous in the west because of its luxurious accommodations and good food. Other accommodations were the War Eagle Hotel and Brook’s Restaurant and Lodging.
I toured the Idaho Hotel which is being revived to look as it did back during the boom. The bedrooms weren’t large, but they had good beds, matching rose painted porcelain pitcher & bowl, and chamber pots. Marble topped writing desks. The lobby opened to an office area behind an L-shaped counter on the left. Straight ahead were double doors into the bar, a door to the right opened into the restaurant. To the left guests went through a door that led straight into a 12x12 parlor with a beautiful Beatty piano and landscape paintings. A room in the far back northern corner on the first floor of the building sat the bathing room. It was a large room with partitions between the tubs. Chinese men filled and drained the tubs.
Many social functions were held at the Hotel including balls, weddings, funerals, musicals, literary club meetings, socials, and banquets
The roads and dirt in the area sparkle from flecks of mica that's in the dirt. Two creeks run through the town/gulch. One is Jordan Creek and the other is Sinker Creek. But Jordan is the main one that runs right down the bottom of the gulch, it’s the one that made the gulch over the years.
Locals called the town Silver. People who didn’t live there were called “Outsiders” And if they were going to travel off the mountain they were going “Outside”.
While the trip to Silver City was and still is arduous, many people visited the boom town, including me and my dog, Tink.
I enjoy visiting the areas where I set stories.