Saturday, October 17, 2015

Silver Reef, UT, 10/16/2015

Signs for Silver Reef Museum and Historic Site can be seen at the Leeds exit (#22) when traveling south on I-15. It is just short distance from the campground where we are staying, so we decided to check it out.

A vein of silver was found in a sandstone formation here by John Kemble, a Nevada prospector, in 1866. This is the only known in the US where this geologic formation has occurred. In 1875, two bankers from Salt Lake City sent William Barbee to Silver Reef where he staked 21 mining claims that proved to be profitable. 

Between 1876 and 1890, the mining town of Silver Reef flourished with a population of 1,500 to 2,000. There was a mile-long Main Street with the Wells Fargo building, Rice Bank, Cosmopolitan Restaurant and many other businesses. Today it is a ghost town with mostly stone walls and foundations of the original structures. The 1878 Wells Fargo Express building is the only remaining intact building. It is the oldest Wells Fargo Express Station still in existence. The silver bullion from the mines was guarded and exported from here. It also served as a stagecoach stop and housed the Woolley, Lund, and Judd Store. The small museum is housed here today.

As you enter the museum, this amazing bronze sculpture is displayed (sale price is $350,000) along with several other pieces by the same artist (who lives in a home nearby). 

In the few years that the mines were open in Silver Reef, more than 7 million ounces o silver were taken out of 33 mines. Copper was also mined here and in the 1950s uranium. This exhibit shows the current value of the ore that was mined here. 

The museum houses artifacts and information relating to the mining industry and town history including geologic samples, period clothing, photographs, and documents. The original Wells Fargo safe is also on display.

Trevor (the tarantula) was found in the area and now resides in a terrarium in the museum. Yikes!

The town basically closed down by 1884. In 1901 most buildings were demolished or moved to the nearby town of Leeds. In the 1980s, area residents organized an effort to restore existing buildings and structures, and reconstruct some. The Wells Fargo Express Office and 1877 Stone Powder House were restored. The Rice Building (bank) was reconstructed and restored. A replica of The Cosmopolitan Restaurant was also built.

We picked up an Interpretive Trail Guide and began our exploration of the ghost town.  The Cosmopolitan Restaurant was a popular restaurant (with reportedly the best hash in the territory) and owned by Margaret Grambs. The original building was dismantled in 1895. This building is a reconstruction on the original site. 

The Elkhorn Saloon was owned by German-born, George Miller, who provided free salty food at the bar so his customers would spend more on drinks. Next door was the jail, a convenient arrangement as the saloon often served as a courtroom. 

These ruins along Main Street were the P. Clancy Market, Schwartz & Goldberg Store, and Chinese Drug Store. There were numerous businesses operated by Chinese immigrants in the town. 

The Silver Reef Miner printing office was located here. We saw some original (and reproductions) of the newspaper in the museum. 

An array of mining equipment is next the Wells Fargo building. The Cassidy Powder House was used to store explosives during the mining years. Be sure to go in to see the dioramas of the town, mining mills and other structures. A model of St. John's Catholic Church is shown below.

Ruins of the Nichols/Lubbock Home show the finely cut stone walls that were used to build what was once a beautiful home. 

There is an overlook to the Barbee Walker Mine & Mill that we walked to from the museum. The first photo shows remnants of the mill built in the 1870s (across the gulch). And the second photo shows some of the remains of Western Gold and Uranium, Inc., in 1956. 

The original schoolhouse was moved to nearby Leeds. The stone walls shown here surrounded the playground. 

A marker at the original site of St. John's Catholic Church provides information about Bishop Scanlon, the priest that started the church and a hospital, too. 

Our last stop was at the reconstructed Rice Bank as the original was destroyed by fire. It served as not only the bank for Silver Reef, but also as a makeshift jail. The building is not open to visitors. 

Admission to the museum is $3/adult. We also bought a trail guide and some post cards for a couple of bucks. Since we love learning more about the Old West, we found this is be an enjoyable side trip. One of the best parts was that our dog, Sadie, was able to tag along with us as we walked around the town area. We spent a leisurely two hours here.

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