27 July 2011

Photo Essays: 19th Century Boom Town

By: Jacquie Rogers

Many of my western historical romances are set in the Silver City area of Idaho Territory, in Owyhee County (a large county in southwest Idaho with area about the same as New Jersey, but with one person per square mile).  This was a wild and wooly area of the West. 

The gold and silver strike sent prospectors, gamblers, painted ladies, merchants, Chinese miners and merchants, bankers, and newspapermen to Ruby City.  Problem is, the creek liked to flood there so the residents packed up the town, buildings and all and moved them to the Silver City site, where it still stands.

So let's take a tour.  On the right is the sign that tells you how to get there.  I'd advise not to miss the sign.  Oh, wait, there's only one road.  I'd advise you to stay on that road.  If you get lost, you have to pay Owhyee County to hunt for you.  They had to implement this because so many city people got themselves into fixes they couldn't get themselves out of.  It got costly, and the budget just didn't have room for people's errors in judgment.

These pictures are all taken by my daughter, Mercedes Christesen.  Special thanks to her husband, Rodney, for using his day off to chase after pictures for his mother-in-law.  Yes, you get points for that.

Drug Store
Here's the Drug Store.  She wasn't able to get any history on it, but it was either called the Knapp Drug Store or the Model Pharmacy.  Or maybe it was one and then the other.  I think it's just called the Drug Store now.  It's not open for business anymore.  It's a residence now, as so many formerly commercial buildings are. 

There's an open house the weekend after Labor Day every year.  I've been there--great fun!

Silver Slipper Saloon
To the right is the Silver Slipper Saloon.  This is a 20th Century saloon, open from 1918 to the early 1940s but it still looks cool so I included it.  Silver City had many, many saloons and of course also had cribs and a street called Virgin Alley where ladies of ill-repute plied their trade.  On Ghosttowns.com, you can see an older photo of this saloon and the drug store above.

Silver City Trivia:
Houses at its peak, 400: now, 67.  Businesses at its peak, 125: now, 2.  Working mines at its peak, 250: now, 1.  This informaton comes from a sign on the menu at the Idaho Hotel.  The building was constructed in Ruby City and moved to Idaho City in 1866.

Even though Silver City had telephone service by 1880, the telegraph business was thriving for longer distances.
Silver City, Idaho Territory, never did have rail service, but the train service was within a stage ride.  Here's a Union Pacific train ticket:

May 10th. 1869
Rail Road from the Atlantic to the Pacific
of the
Union Pacific Rail Road
Platte Valley Route

Passenger trains leave
on the arrival of trains from the East

In Less than Four Days, avoiding the Dangers of the Sea!
Travelers for Pleasure, Health or Business

Life was hard in the Old West, especially when you're a couple hundred miles off the beaten path, at over 6,000 feet in elevation.  But this wasn't empty country. A long-standing population of Native Americans from the Bannock and Paiutes were not all that happy about Europeans coming in and ruining their livelihood and cultures.  The next photo is the gravestone of Oliver Hazard Purdy, born September 12, 1824, and killed during the Bannock Indian War in 1879.

Sometimes bad things happen but instead of dying, the perpetrators were put in jail.  It looks as if this jail wouldn't be too secure these days, but it was formidible in its time.

For more cool photos and accompanying descriptions, I highly recommend EdnaPurviance.org and GhostTowns.com.  You can see the school and the church, too, where services are still held.  The Masonic Lodge is still in good condition and is in use as well.

I'll leave you with the coolest hotel ever.  I mean EVER.  This is the Idaho Hotel that I talked about above (menu board trivia).  Yes, you can still stay there--they have 13 rooms in service.  Go to the hotel's website for more cool history about Silver City.

Idaho Hotel, in Silver City, Idaho

Much Ado About Marshals takes place in Oreana, Idaho Territory, but the pre-story takes place right here in Silver City.  Stay tuned because another book in the Much Ado series will be set in Silver, and you can bet these buildings will have a strong say-so in how the story goes. :)

Jacquie Rogers writes western historical and fantasy romance.  Her latest release, MUCH ADO ABOUT MARSHALS, debuted #1 in Western Romance at Smashwords, and #2 in Humor. Available also are her contemporary western, DOWN HOME EVER LOVIN' MULE BLUES, a multi-era faery story, FAERY SPECIAL ROMANCES, and a Christmas story, FAERY MERRY CHRISTMAS. She's co-founder of 1st Turning Point, a pay-it-forward website where authors teach, share and learn promotion and marketing.