The Silver City Cemetery looks as if it were pulled directly from a Western movie: worn headstones, scraggly trees, and peeling picket fences which create a beautiful, yet nostalgic, portrait of the American southwest. Nestled in a grove of trees just off US Highway 50, the site sits as a sad final reminder of what was once a booming mining town.
Silver City was a silver mining town about 90 miles (140 km) south-southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, an area considered part of the Tintic Mining District that also produced bismuth, copper, gold, and lead. Settlement began with the first mining strikes here in 1869. The city’s population hit a peak of 1,500 in 1908, nearly 40 years after its settlement during the heyday of silver and ore mining.
Jessie Knight, known as “Mormon Wizard” around mining camps because of his tendency to find ore sites, established there the foundations of the mining operations. He decided to build a smelter in Silver City because it had the flattest ground in all of the Tintic Mining District.
However, freight rates in the Salt Lake Valley beat out those of Silver City and initiated its decline. A few years later, the mines began to run dry or flood and records show that by 1912 the population was already down to 300.
By 1930, the town was virtually empty.
Today, the remains of Silver City include only a few stone foundations, a few holes where mines were, a number of tailings piles and the cemetery.
The graves, from the two to three dozen, date back to the 1880s and many of the headstones attest to the difficulties of living during this time, as many belong to infants and children, finely ornated with designs such as flowers and lambs. However, a few have been damaged or have fallen victim to the elements.
As simple as the lonely cemetery may appear, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 because of its significance to Utah and its once-thriving mining communities. And, in addition, it is one of the last remnants of Silver City still standing, as the last witness to a community full of families, mining workers, and life stories that vanished as quickly as it was established.
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