February 24, 2016
Silver City, New Mexico
What's the buzz about Silver City? It started out like any other boom town in New Mexico in the late 1800's. The town grew up overnight as soon as silver was discovered in the vast mineral-rich Gila Forest region of New Mexico. Why did Silver City thrive and the other towns die? The town fathers planned Main Street in an arroyo making it a target for spring and summer floods ultimately wiping away the entire commerce district of the community. That couldn't be the reason. Could it be that early town fathers made the town safe from the Apaches? Well, the founder of Silver City was killed at the age of 24 by Apaches in 1883, and the judge and his wife were massacred by a band of Geronimo's Apaches, their 6-year old son being kidnapped and taken to Mexico. So, no, it was a not a safe place.
The speculation is that the establishment of Western New Mexico State University is the reason this settlement survived, and all the others became ghost towns. That's a huge factor because the economy here is based on the premise that this is a mecca for western culture. Yet other university towns across the US are also cultural icons.
Why is Silver City such a draw? It's probably because Silver City has marketed itself as being a tourist destination. It is a hub of the history of this area, but more than that! The city publishes a booklet of driving tours each one having significance from the historic '49'ers gold rush days, Gila's cliff dwellings, and forts to recreational birding, scenery, and biking to economic mining. All of the driving tours are mapped out and have descriptors of minute details giving the viewer a snapshot of the historic moment in time. However, tourism and culture are not the only reasons Silver City is still a “boom town”! Jobs are plentiful here because on the outskirts of town is an active copper mining site. Yes, the Santa Rita Mine is one of the largest open-pit copper mining sites in the US.
Lou and Bonnie Janelle (LBJ) are career professionals who are currently pursuing life-long interests in photography and digital imaging techniques, respectively.