Monday, September 16, 2013

A living ghost town ...

Marlene Terry
With cooler weather arriving in the Treasure Valley I'm feeling the effects of wanderlust. You know those times when distant hills and valleys seem to beckon for us to abandon our normal routine, come explore and soak in the atmosphere.

A fun and easy weekend ride in the early fall a few years ago took us 6,000 feet straight up into the craggy Owyhees to an honest-to-goodness living ghost town.

In 1864, Silver City was beginning to boom. The recent discovery of silver at War Eagle Mountain had quickly brought thousands of hopeful prospectors to work there.
Then, over 75 businesses served the needs of residents. Now, those who still live there are few, and most, the modern day members of generations of the same families that once mined there.

I have to admit the feeling at Silver City took my breath away. The sight of old decaying buildings located next to those that had been restored and are still viable, was unnerving at the very least. ... It was as if those who dwelt there long ago were still walking the dirt streets, mumbling about their hardships and still hoping to find the Mother Lode.

Some of those early dwellers are still there for sure, resting in peace, at various burial sites. And it was interesting to see gravestones of all types, from the elaborate and well carved to the simple markers provided by simple folks.

One especially rough and primitive stone bore the name of Simon Harris.
Here's the story behind the stone as told to me by wonderful friends Jim and Mary Bledsoe.

Simon Harris, was one of Silver City’s most colorful characters, who came to the city for one reason ... to make his fortune.
Back then, with the prime objective being to work hard every day until you made a strike, Silver City celebrated just two holidays, Christmas and the Fourth of July.
The July celebration was the most important to miners. So important that they, and especially Simon Harris, gladly gave up their working hours to participate in the town's annual drill contest.

The object of the contest?

To drill a hole through a large stone faster than anyone else could. It was a sign of superiority to win. And Simon was one of the top dogs in the contest many times.

When Simon Harris died, his wife being of limited means, persuaded some of the men in town to move one of Simon's drill stones to the Silver City Cemetery. There it would placed to mark her husband's grave ... an appropriate representation of his life and times.
However, halfway to the destination, which was up hill all the way, the men abandoned the project, deeming the stone much too heavy to move any further.

Their solution?

The stone was cut in half right there, leaving part of it beside the roadway where it remains today. The men continued on with the other half to the cemetery.

So if you ever have the chance to visit Silver City, make the trip up the hill and look for that roughly split stone at Simon's grave site.
It's easy to locate. It's the one that's very simply inscribed so as not to intrude on drill holes made by a Silver City miner ... over a century ago.

... And I ask you. How cool is that?

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