Thursday, March 27, 2008

Silver City NM History - Part I

In honor of the release of Golden Enchantment, I’m dedicating blog space to the history, artisans, nature, and beauty of the “Land of Enchantment”, New Mexico.

The title of my Western historical romance, Golden Enchantment was derived from the state’s nickname “Land of Enchantment”. The town outside of which Andrea Alexander and Jake Houston live, San Vicente Ciénega, is also based on a real town – Silver City, where I grew up.

Founded in 1870, La Ciénaga de San Vicente literally means “The Marsh of Saint Vincent”. Although little evidence of a marsh remains, this topographical feature would be the eventual downfall of Silver City’s main street. In 1896, the strip mining process most commonly used to find silver and gold ore, had desiccated the vegetation. All it took was one good storm for the rain water to come rushing through the middle of town. Another flood in 1903 saw the complete demise of Main Street. Years later the main thoroughfare through town and its buildings were relocated and “The Big Ditch” which remained with its steady flow of water was turned into a park. When I lived in Silver City, I often escaped down to the ditch for a quick picnic amidst lush greenery, a picturesque steel bridge, and rustic stone benches in the middle of the work day. I sure do miss that!

Originally, silver mining was the industry which brought settlers to the area in the 1860s, but it would be copper mining that kept it going for the next century and a half. In the early days, the miners who’d flocked to the area were hauling in ore so fast that bricks of gold and silver were often seen stacked on the sidewalks. Although copper had long been mined by the earliest inhabitants of the area, it was not as lucrative an ore as silver and gold.

When the Kennecott Company bought the ancient site of the largest copper mine, it was turned into an open pit operation. It was soon dubbed “the world’s most beautiful copper mine” due to the colors in the striations of rock left behind by the open pit mining procedure. When I was growing up, tours of the facility were available periodically. I’ll never forget the sheer magnitude of the mine and the trucks carrying ore up and down along the rocky ledges of the deep, open pit. Standing next to the tire of one of the smaller Euclid hauler trucks, my head barely reached the bottom of the hub cap.

There’s much more to Silver City and the surrounding areas these days and I’ll include further information in future blogs. Coming soon: "The Billy the Kid Connection" and "The Consquistadores".

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