Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fall Break: Sliver Reef

After a busy day at Zions we headed back to Leeds, where we were staying. Our camp is only seven minutes away by car from Silver Reef.

Once a prominent town of 2,000 people Silver Reef is now a ghost town. In 1868 a few deposits of silver where discovered by prospector John Kemple along sandstone reefs. In that period, it was widely believed that silver wasn't found in sandstone, so it took several years for other prospectors and miners to become interested in Silver Reef. During its peak in the late 1800's, Silver Reef was larger than St. George and employed several profitable silver mines. Between 1875 and 1888, $10 million worth of silver was mined in this area.

Several fires along with the declining prices in silver, and the threats of strikes in the mines lead to the closing of several mines and eventually abandonment of the town.

The mines attracted people from all over the world. The town's main street was a mile long and included several stores, a hotel, a printing shop, bank that doubled as a jail, a saloon and a Wells Fargo Stage Coach office. A lot of Irishmen and Chinese settled in the area. In fact, Silver Reef had it's own china town.

By the time we arrived the sun was setting behind the mountains and the view from Silver Reef, down towards St. George was very beautiful. All around the Ghost Town, new extravagant homes have gone up, bringing life back into the area.

The old powder house was reconstructed and now holds several dioramas of the town and an audio presentation of the history of Silver Reef. The kids got a kick at seeing all of the outhouses behind each of the homes and businesses depicted in the miniature replica.

There is also a pavilion with information on the geology of the area, but the best and most creative part in my opinion is the view finders made out of pipes pointing different areas of town. The city was not settled by LDS pioneers, in fact Silver Reef never had an LDS meeting house in town. Methodist, Catholics and Chinese all had their own cemetery in Silver Reef. They are several miles from the old downtown, but still easily spotted through the viewfinder.

When Silver Reef went bankrupt, many of the buildings were purchased for their ready made stone, disassembled and re-used elsewhere. So, only a few of the original buildings' walls still stand. It was hard for the kids to imagine what the structures they were standing on, used to look like. I wish they would have placed plaques with pictures of the original buildings next to them. They must have had a record of them in order to create the diorama.

I was really interested in the story of the town, but the kids were not very amused by it, so once the sun when down and it got too dark to walk around we headed back to camp.