Thursday, January 29, 2009


Saw an historical marker for this place and decided to take the time to explore and find out what Silver Reef was all about. It really is amazing to discover all of these exciting places. Notice the ATV speed sign.

Silver Reef is located about 18 miles northeast of St. George, Utah just off Highway 15. It was once a silver mining boom town. John Kemple discovered silver here in the spring of 1866. He was never able to find the source of the silver vein however. The picture to the right is of the building that was the Wells Fargo Station during the town's boom days.

The news of silver ore being found in the sandstone caught the attention of two bankers, the Walker brothers, from Salt Lake City. They provided the grubstake for a well known prospector, William T. Barbee. Late in 1875 there were 21 claims staked where the potential for mining silver was rich. Barbee quickly set up a town and called it Bonanza City. There wasn't much to Bonanza City, but the property values were high anyway. Most of the miners couldn't afford property there so they set up a tent city in a rocky section of land and named it "Rockpile". It was aptly named because at that time a rock pile with tents is exactly what it was.

Mines closed in Pioche, Nevada in November of 1875, and many of the miners and business owners came to this area. They changed the name of the "Rockpile" to Silver Reef. Almost instantly, there were 9 grocery stores, 6 saloons, a newspaper, and 5 restaurants. I find it interesting that the grocery stores outnumbered the saloons. There is still a restaurant in Silver Reef, called the Cosmopolitan. You see it pictured to the left.
This picture is one of the old ruins still standing in Silver Reef. It's a bit hard to tell exactly what it was, but from it's location, it may have been one of the businessmen's home. From 1878 to 1882, Silver Reef's population reached over 1,500. Six miles were being actively mined, and over a million dollars came from those mines every year. People lived the highlife in Silver Reef until around late 1881 when several factors caused the economy to take a downward slide. It went the way of many of the old boomtowns.

Three things contributed to the demise of Silver Reef. The world silver market dropped, the mines were filling with water faster than it could be pumped, and the mine stockholders lowered wages until the miners couldn't afford to stay. The majority of the mines had completely closed by 1884.
Today, the rich have discovered Silver Reef. Numerous huge homes back in the hills. Stopped at one that was for sale and picked up the flyer - 6,050 square feet, 4 bedroom/4 bath with an 850 sq foot Casita, theatre room and a 4 car garage. It was marked down to $884,900. And what I found so interesting is that there is not a gas station or restaurant until you are almost to St. George.
Wonder what we'll find next to explore. Life is great!

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