As we arrived in Zion, we were anxious to start some of the amazing hikes that we had read about. However, the weather had a different plan for us. We were greeted with 6 straight days of rain after we arrived which pretty much made everything a giant red mud bath. Hiking was more than difficult since you would come out with 6 inches of mud caked to your shoes and we were sliding all over. The dogs had so much mud caked between their toes that they could no longer walk. Needless to say, it was time for Plan B.
We decided to check out some ghost towns in the area. The first one we visited was called Silver Reef. It was discovered by John Kemple in 1866. It is still considered to this day to be one of the most unique silver mines in the United States. The reason for this is because it is the only place in the US where silver has been discovered in sandstone. Within a year of this discovery, the town flourished and grew to about 2,000 miners. The main street of town was over a mile long. It included a Wells Fargo, a restaurant and a Rice building among other businesses.
Remnants of some of the equipment used by the miners has been restored and placed on display.
As you can imagine, this town was quite full of bar fights, shootouts and the usual roughness that came with a western town. In 1879, fire destroyed most of the buildings but the residents re-built and remained in the area until 1884 when silver prices dropped dramatically, forcing the mine to close.
This was also considered an unusual town simply because it did not have a Mormon meeting house which is quite different for this part of Utah. There were several neighboring Mormon settlements, however, the only church in town was Catholic. Due to this very large gap in religious beliefs, there are actually separate cemeteries for each religious group. We drove down the road and the cemeteries were separated by fences and kept about 1/4 mile from each other and they were clearly designated the Catholic cemetery and the Prodestant Cemetery
We continued up through the main part of the town and took a walk up to what was called “Rockpile” hill. This is where many miners lived and it was also the heart of the mine. A few parts of the operation are still standing. Here is a picture of where the rocks were sent down to a belt that removed the silver from the large pieces of sandstone.
This town in now surrounded by a new housing development. Large homes are built and some people have incorporated pieces of the Silver Reef mine in their landscaping as a tribute to the former mining town. As we left, the weather cleared for a short time and we hiked up the side of the mountain with the dogs. The clouds moved in while we were on top and the rain began to fall again.
As we left Silver Reef, it was a town filled with hope and properity. They were a resiliant group of people who enjoyed great wealth during their time in this town.
Tomorrow, it’s on to Grafton. A ghost town that was quite haunting in many ways!