Silver City, New Mexico
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Location in the State of New Mexico
Coordinates: 32°46'41?N 108°16'27?W? / ?32.77806°N 108.27417°W? / 32.77806; -108.27417Coordinates: 32°46'41?N 108°16'27?W? / ?32.77806°N 108.27417°W? / 32.77806; -108.27417
Founded - 1878
Area - Total 10.1 sq mi (26.3 km2) - Land 10.1 sq mi (26.3 km2)
Water- 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation -5,895 ft (1,797 m)
Population (2000)- Total 10,545
Density 1,040.1/sq mi (401.5/km2)
Silver City is a town in Grant County, New Mexico, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the town population was 10,545. It is the county seat of Grant County. The city is the home of Western New Mexico University.
The valley which is now the site of Silver City once served as an Apache campsite. With the arrival of the Spanish, a settlement developed and became known as San Vicente de la Ciénega (St. Vincent of the Marsh). With a wave of American prospectors in the 1860s, the pace of change increased, and Silver City was founded in the summer of 1870. The founding of the town occurred shortly after the discovery of silver ore deposits at Chloride Flats, on the hill just west of the farm of Captain John M. Bullard and his brother James. Following the silver strike, Captain Bullard laid out the streets of the Silver City, and a bustling tent city quickly sprang to life. Although the trajectory of Silver City's development was to be different from the hundreds of other mining boom towns established during the same period, Captain Bullard himself never lived to see even the beginnings of permanence, as he was killed in a confrontation with Apache raiders less than a year later, on February 23, 1871.
The town's violent crime rate was substantial during the 1870s, Grant County Sheriff Harvey Whitehill was elected in 1874, and gained a sizable reputation for his abilities at controlling trouble. In 1875, Whitehill became the first lawman to arrest Billy the Kid, known at the time as William Bonney. Whitehill arrested him twice, both times for theft in Silver City, and would later claim that Bonney was a likeable kid, whose stealing was a result more of necessity than criminality. His mother is buried in the town cemetery. In 1878 the town hired its first town marshal, "Dangerous Dan" Tucker, who had been working as a deputy for Whitehill since 1875.
Mrs. Lettie B. Morrill, in a talk given to the Daughters of the American Revolution chapter in Silver City on September 19, 1908, stated, "John Bullard was placed in the first grave dug in Silver City, having been killed while punishing the Indians for an attack upon the new town; the brothers were Prospectors about the country for many years. The last one left for the old home about 1885, saying, ‘It is only a matter of time until the Indians get me if I stay here.’" It was also known as the starting point for many expeditions hunting treasures such as the Lost Adams Diggings.
In 1893 New Mexico Normal School was established. Up until 1963 it was known as New Mexico Western State Teachers College. It later was renamed to Western New Mexico University in 1963. Today, WNMU offers 8 graduate degrees, 41 baccalaureate degrees, and 18 associate degree and certificate programs. The WNMU athletic team is referred to as the Mustangs. Recognition for the university includes the 2003 Zia Award, the 2005 Best Practice Award (for the School of Education), the 2006 Chamber of Commerce Large Business of the Year Award, the 2008 Piñon Award, and the 2008 Compañero Award.
The town had originally been designed with the streets running north to south. The town was also built in the path of normal water runoff. Businesses sprang up and people learned to deal with the inconveniences of the summer rain. Silver City was built with high sidewalks in the downtown area to accommodate high flood waters. Meanwhile, uncontrolled grazing thinned down plant life on hills surrounding the town. During the night of July 21, 1895, a heavy wall of water rushed through the downtown business district, leaving a trail of destruction. A ditch 55 feet (17 m) lower than the original street level was created in what was once known as Main Street. Businesses on Main Street began using their back doors on Bullard Street as main entrances and eventually, were permanently used as the new front entrances. To this day, the incorrect odd/even addressing conventions on the east side of Bullard Street are a reminder that the buildings were addressed on Main Street originally, not Bullard Street. Main Street now ends near the back of the Silver City Police Station, where the Big Ditch Park begins. The Anasazi Indians once lived in the area. They predated the Apaches by several hundred years. Pot shards can still be seen at various sites throughout the surrounding area. Beads, arrowhead pieces and pot shards were once visible, scattered all over the hill above the old hospital. Early cowboys often used the exposed ancient pots for target practice and many archeological artifacts were sadly destroyed. This happened during the time when major conflicts occurred between the Apache Indians and local settlers. Anything "Indian" was considered something to be destroyed
The local geology of the Silver City area is complex. Sedimentary gravels are found in the form of alluvial gravels called the Mangus Valley gravels. Metamorphic schist and gneiss is also found. The downtown area is mostly made of granite outcrops. Silver City lies just east of the continental divide.
The lowest average high temperature is in Jan., 50.7 °F (10.4 °C), to a high of 87.3 in July. The lowest low is in Jan., 24.0. The highest low is in July, 59.6 °F (15.3 °C). Average total precipitation is 16.08 in. per year.
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,545 people, 4,227 households, and 2,730 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,040.1 people per square mile (401.5/km²). There were 4,757 housing units at an average density of 469.2/sq mi (181.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 71.72% White, 0.86% African American, 1.14% Native American, 0.45% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 22.42% from other races, and 3.37% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 52.43% of the population.
There were 4,227 households out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 15.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the town the population by age was: 25.0% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.7 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $25,881, and the median income for a family was $31,374. Males had a median income of $28,476 versus $18,434 for females. The per capita income for the town was $13,813. About 17.7% of families and 21.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.2% of those under age 18 and 10.0% of those age 65 or over.
Economy & Culture
Silver City was founded as a mining town, and the nearby mining operations of Phelps Dodge are still the basis for the local economy. In 2006, the Chino and Tyrone mines produced 125,400 long tons (127,400 t) of copper. Mine employment was 1,250, with wages and salaries totaling $73 million. However, a Phelps-Dodge spokesman recently remarked that "based on current economic projections, our properties in New Mexico will not be operating in 25 years". Phelps-Dodge was acquired by international mining firm Freeport-McMoRan in March 2007, and operations at the Chino and Tyrone operations are continuing under the Freeport name.
Despite its small population, the town prides itself on its ability to bring in high quality cultural offerings, including the Grant County Community Concert Association, which presents numerous events each year.
Tourism, retirement and trade are the other major components of Silver City's economy. In 2006, an average home sold for about $160,000 for a three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot (140 m2) house.
Public schools are in the Silver Consolidated School District. The District covers the city of Silver City as well as Cliff, Pinos Altos, Tyrone, and White Signal. The system has five elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools.
Grant County Airport, located 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Silver City.
U.S. Route 180
New Mexico State Road 90
Points of Interest
The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is about 44 miles (71 km) north of Silver City, via NM 15. At the monument, the remains of Indian inhabitants within five caves in a cliff can be found. They were built sometime between 1275 and 1300 AD by the Mogollon culture. In addition to ancient ruins, there are plenty of places to camp, hike and fish within the Gila Wilderness.
The Catwalk is a trail enclosed by a metal walkway that suspends 25 feet (7.6 m) above the Whitewater Canyon hugging the canyon walls. It follows waterpipe routes built by miners in 1893. When the pipes needed repair, the miners walked on them. Visitors can explore the walkway and trail, picnic and enjoy the river. It is located 70 miles (110 km) north of Silver City on U.S. Route 180.
There are several lakes in the area. Lake Roberts is 72-acre (290,000 m2) lake about 27 miles (43 km) north of Silver City on NM 15 near the NM 35 junction. Other lakes in the Silver City area include Bill Evans Lake, Snow Lake, Wall Lake, Bear Canyon Dam. Anglers have a choice of brown and rainbow trout, catfish and bass. In addition, several mountainous rivers can be found nearby. Some of note are the Gila River, Negrito Creek, San Francisco River, and Willow Creek.
City of Rocks State Park is a area of interesting rock formations created by volcanic eruptions long ago. People can enjoy climbing the rocks, picnicking, and camping. The City of Rocks is located off NM 61.
The Kneeling Nun is a natural rock formation located about 20 miles (32 km) to the east of Silver City along NM 152. Several legends have developed explaining its origin.
References in Popular Culture
Silver City was the finish line in the 2001 movie Rat Race, in which several people race from Las Vegas, Nevada to a locker containing $2 million in Silver City's train station. In actuality there is no longer a train station in Silver City.
Silver City is referenced in the 2007 movie There Will Be Blood, whose screenplay was written by Paul Thomas Anderson and was based on the 1927 novel, Oil! by Upton Sinclair. Upton Sinclair based his novel on the experiences of Edward L. Doheny, a prospector and oil tycoon living in the Silver City area (near Kingston, New Mexico). In the movie, Henry, the man claiming to be Daniel's half-brother, says that he had been in Silver City for two years drilling on his own.
("Billy the Kid"), aka: Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, William H. Bonney
Ben Lilly (1856–1936), hunter and mountain man.
James Tenney,composer,(1934–2006) was born in Silver City.
Norman Packard, physicist
Doyne Famer, physicist
Harrison Schmitt, astronaut
Karen Carr, artist
Phillip Parotti, fiction writer and educator
Jeff Bingaman, Senator of New Mexico, grew up in Silver City.
Paul Benedict, "Harry Bentley" on "The Jeffersons"
Ralph Kiner,born in Santa Rita (Silver City area),Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee, NY Mets announcer
William Harrell Nellis,born in Santa Rita (Silver City area)
Geronimo, born at the headwaters of the Gila River (North of Silver City)
Victorio, Apache war leader who roamed and attacked area
Cochise, Apache war leader who raided surrounding area
Mangas Coloradas or Dasoda-hae (known as Red Sleeves),Apache war leader who roamed the Silver City area
Nana, Apache war leader who roamed the Silver City area
Natchez, Apache war chief, second son of Cochise, Mother was daughter of Mangas Coloradas, Roamed area with Geronimo
General "Black Jack" Pershing, first duty station at Fort Bayard (9 miles west of Silver City), General of the Armies
General George Crook,U.S. Army Major General
Judge Roy Bean,operated a merchandise store and saloon on Main Street in Pinos Altos (just north of Silver City)
Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch,were familiar with every saloon and "soiled dove" in Silver City
Cathay Williams, first African-American female to enlist in the US Army (posed as a man).
Kit Carson, 1829 went into Apache country along the Gila River. There, Carson first saw combat.
"Find a County". National Association of Counties. http://www.naco.org/Template.cfm?Section=Find_a_County&Template=/cffiles/counties/usamap.cfm. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
“Destruction of Main Street”, Silver City Daily Press, July 9, 1975, p. 7
"American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
New Mexico Business Journal, 9-07, p. 31
Grant County Community Concert Association, another outstanding Chamber member and business in Silver City, NM!
New Mexico Business Journal, 9-07, p. 33
Southwest Crossroads: The Kneeling Nun.
Southwestern New Mexico: Kneeling Nun Legend.
"Reel NM: Dan Mayfield Talks Movies: Something Terrific in State of Utah, Friday, January 25, 2008." Dan Mayfield, The Albuquerque Journal,
a b c Bass, Thomas A., The Predictors, 1999, Henry Holt Publishing, p. 54
"Paul Benedict dies at 70; actor from 'The Jeffersons' and 'Sesame Street'," Los Angeles Times, retrieved online on January 5, 2009.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Silver City, New Mexico
Town of Silver City official website
Silver City & Grant County Chamber of Commerce
Silver City on New Mexico Dept. of Tourism website
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