Silver City, New Mexico
Silver City is a town in Grant County
Grant County, New Mexico
-2010:Whereas according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau:*84.9% White*0.9% Black*1.4% Native American*0.4% Asian*0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander*2.8% Two or more races*9.8% Other races*48.3% Hispanic or Latino -2000:...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. As of the 2000 census
United States Census, 2000
The Twenty-second United States Census, known as Census 2000 and conducted by the Census Bureau, determined the resident population of the United States on April 1, 2000, to be 281,421,906, an increase of 13.2% over the 248,709,873 persons enumerated during the 1990 Census...

, the town population was 10,545. It is the county seat
County seat
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States....

 of Grant County
Grant County, New Mexico
-2010:Whereas according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau:*84.9% White*0.9% Black*1.4% Native American*0.4% Asian*0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander*2.8% Two or more races*9.8% Other races*48.3% Hispanic or Latino -2000:...

. The city is the home of Western New Mexico University
Western New Mexico University
Western New Mexico University, a public university located in Silver City, New Mexico, has served the people of the state of New Mexico and its surrounding areas as a comprehensive, regional, rural, public coeducational university since 1893 and caters to a student body diverse in age, culture,...



The valley which is now the site of Silver City once served as an Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

 campsite. With the arrival of the Spanish, a settlement developed and became known as San Vicente de la Ciénega (St. Vincent of the Marsh). With a wave of American prospectors in the 1860s, the pace of change increased, and Silver City was founded in the summer of 1870. The founding of the town occurred shortly after the discovery of silver ore deposits at Chloride Flats, on the hill just west of the farm of Captain John M. Bullard and his brother James. Following the silver strike, Captain Bullard laid out the streets of the Silver City, and a bustling tent city quickly sprang to life. Although the trajectory of Silver City's development was to be different from the hundreds of other mining boom towns established during the same period, Captain Bullard himself never lived to see even the beginnings of permanence, as he was killed in a confrontation with Apache raiders less than a year later, on February 23, 1871.

The town's violent crime rate was substantial during the 1870s, Grant County Sheriff Harvey Whitehill
Harvey Whitehill
Harvey Whitehill was a sheriff of the American Old West, whose life as a lawman was documented in the book Sheriff Harvey Whitehill; Silver City Stalwart, by author Robert Alexander...

 was elected in 1874, and gained a sizable reputation for his abilities at controlling trouble. In 1875, Whitehill became the first lawman to arrest Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid
William H. Bonney William H. Bonney William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr. est. November 23, 1859 – c. July 14, 1881, better known as Billy the Kid but also known as Henry Antrim, was a 19th-century American gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War and became a frontier...

, known at the time as William Bonney. Whitehill arrested him twice, both times for theft in Silver City, and would later claim that Bonney was a likeable kid, whose stealing was a result more of necessity than criminality. His mother is buried in the town cemetery. In 1878 the town hired its first town marshal, "Dangerous Dan" Tucker
Dan Tucker (lawman)
Dan Tucker, better known as "Dangerous Dan" Tucker, , is a little known lawman and gunfighter of the Old West. Author Bob Alexander, who wrote the biography Dangerous Dan" Tucker, New Mexico's Deadly Lawman, proclaimed Tucker was more dangerous and more effective than better known lawmen, including...

, who had been working as a deputy for Whitehill since 1875.

Mrs. Lettie B. Morrill, in a talk given to the Daughters of the American Revolution
Daughters of the American Revolution
The Daughters of the American Revolution is a lineage-based membership organization for women who are descended from a person involved in United States' independence....

 chapter in Silver City on September 19, 1908, stated, "John Bullard was placed in the first grave dug in Silver City, having been killed while punishing the Indians for an attack upon the new town; the brothers were Prospectors about the country for many years. The last one left for the old home about 1885, saying, ‘It is only a matter of time until the Indians get me if I stay here.’" It was also known as the starting point for many expeditions hunting treasures such as the Lost Adams Diggings
Lost Adams Diggings
The Lost Adams Diggings is a Southwestern treasure story that refers to the existence of a canyon rich in gold deposits somewhere in western New Mexico in the early 1860s.- The Legend :...


In 1893 New Mexico Normal School was established. Up until 1963 it was known as New Mexico Western State Teachers College. It later was renamed to Western New Mexico University in 1963. Today, WNMU offers 8 graduate degrees, 41 baccalaureate degrees, and 18 associate degree and certificate programs. The WNMU athletic team is referred to as the Mustangs. Recognition for the university includes the 2003 Zia Award, the 2005 Best Practice Award (for the School of Education), the 2006 Chamber of Commerce Large Business of the Year Award, the 2008 Piñon Award, and the 2008 Compañero Award.

The town had originally been designed with the streets running north to south. The town was also built in the path of normal water runoff. Businesses sprang up and people learned to deal with the inconveniences of the summer rain. Silver City was built with high sidewalks in the downtown area to accommodate high flood waters. Meanwhile, uncontrolled grazing thinned down plant life on hills surrounding the town. During the night of July 21, 1895, a heavy wall of water rushed through the downtown business district, leaving a trail of destruction. A ditch 55 feet (16.8 m) lower than the original street level was created in what was once known as Main Street. Businesses on Main Street began using their back doors on Bullard Street as main entrances and eventually, were permanently used as the new front entrances. To this day, the incorrect odd/even addressing conventions on the east side of Bullard Street are a reminder that the buildings were addressed on Main Street originally, not Bullard Street. Main Street now ends near the back of the Silver City Police Station, where the Big Ditch Park begins.

The Anasazi Indians once lived in the area. They predated the Apaches by several hundred years. Pot shards can still be seen at various sites throughout the surrounding area. Beads, arrowhead pieces and pot shards were once visible, scattered all over the hill above the old hospital. Early cowboys often used the exposed ancient pots for target practice and many archeological artifacts were sadly destroyed. This happened during the time when major conflicts occurred between the Apache Indians and local settlers. Anything "Indian" was considered something to be destroyed


The local geology of the Silver City area is complex. Sedimentary gravels are found in the form of alluvial gravels called the Mangus Valley gravels. Metamorphic schist and gneiss is also found. The downtown area is mostly made of granite outcrops.
Silver City lies just east of the continental divide.


The lowest average high temperature is in Jan., 50.7 °F (10.4 °C), to a high of 87.3 in July. The lowest low is in Jan., 24.0. The highest low is in July, 59.6 °F (15.3 °C). Average total precipitation is 16.08 in. per year.


As of the census of 2000, there were 10,545 people, 4,227 households, and 2,730 families residing in the town. The population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 was 1,040.1 people per square mile (401.5/km²). There were 4,757 housing units at an average density of 469.2 per square mile (181.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 71.72% White, 0.86% African American, 1.14% Native American, 0.45% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 22.42% from other races
Race (United States Census)
Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, as defined by the Federal Office of Management and Budget and the United States Census Bureau, are self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether or not they are...

, and 3.37% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 52.43% of the population.

There were 4,227 households out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 living together, 15.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the town the population by age was: 25.0% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.7 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $25,881, and the median income for a family was $31,374. Males had a median income of $28,476 versus $18,434 for females. The per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

 for the town was $13,813. About 17.7% of families and 21.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.2% of those under age 18 and 10.0% of those age 65 or over.

Economy and culture

Silver City was founded as a mining town, and the nearby mining operations of Phelps Dodge
Phelps Dodge
Phelps Dodge Corporation was an American mining company founded in 1834 by Anson Greene Phelps and William Earle Dodge, Sr.. On March 19, 2007, it was acquired by Freeport-McMoRan and now operates under the name Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.-History:...

 are still the basis for the local economy. In 2006, the Chino
El Chino Mine
The Chino Mine , also known as the Santa Rita mine, is an open-pit copper mine located in the town of Santa Rita, New Mexico east of Silver City. The mine was started as the Chino Copper Company in 1909 by mining engineer John M. Sully, and is currently owned and operated by Freeport-McMoRan...

 and Tyrone mines produced 125400 long tons (127,412.7 MT) of copper. Mine employment was 1,250, with wages and salaries totaling $73 million. However, a Phelps-Dodge spokesman recently remarked that "based on current economic projections, our properties in New Mexico will not be operating in 25 years". Phelps-Dodge was acquired by international mining firm Freeport-McMoRan
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., often called simply Freeport, is the world's lowest-cost copper producer and one of the world's largest producers of gold...

 in March 2007, and operations at the Chino and Tyrone operations are continuing under the Freeport name.

Despite its small population, the town prides itself on its ability to bring in high quality cultural offerings, including the Grant County Community Concert Association, which presents numerous events each year.

Tourism, retirement and trade are the other major components of Silver City's economy. In 2006, an average home sold for about $160,000 for a three-bedroom, 1500 square feet (139.4 m²) house.

Public schools

Public schools are in the Silver Consolidated School District. The District covers the Town of Silver City as well as Cliff
Cliff, New Mexico
Cliff is an unincorporated community in Grant County, New Mexico, United States.-History:Cliff and the nearby town of Gila were settled in 1884, in the Gila River Valley. The area was and is primarily a ranching and farming community...

, Pinos Altos, Tyrone, and White Signal. The system has five elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools.

Elementary schools

  • Cliff Elementary
  • G.W. Stout Elementary
  • Harrison H. Schmitt Elementary
  • Jose Barrios, Jr. Elementary
  • Sixth Street Elementary

High schools

  • Cliff High School
  • Opportunity High School
  • Silver High School
    Silver High School (Silver City, NM)
    Silver High School is located on the corner of 32nd and Silver streets in Silver City, NM. The school was opened in its current location in 1967. It was previously known as Western High School and was part of Western New Mexico University.-History:...

Charter school
Charter school
Charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public money but are not subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school's charter...

s in the District include Aldo Leopold High School.

Private schools

Private school
Private school
Private schools, also known as independent schools or nonstate schools, are not administered by local, state or national governments; thus, they retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students' tuition, rather than relying on mandatory...

s include:


  • Grant County Airport, located 10 miles (16.1 km) southeast of Silver City.

Major highways
  • U.S. Route 180
    U.S. Route 180
    U.S. Route 180 is an east–west United States highway. Like many three-digit routes, US 180 no longer meets its "parent", US 80. US 80 was decommissioned west of Mesquite, Texas, and was replaced in Texas by Interstate 20 and Interstate 10. The highway's eastern terminus is in Hudson Oaks,...

  • New Mexico State Road 90

Points of interest

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a U.S. National Monument in the Gila Wilderness of southwestern New Mexico. The national monument was established by executive proclamation on November 16, 1907, by President Theodore Roosevelt. It is located in the extreme southern part of Catron County...

 is about 44 miles (70.8 km) north of Silver City, via NM 15. At the monument, the remains of Indian inhabitants within five caves in a cliff can be found. They were built sometime between 1275 and 1300 AD by the Mogollon culture. In addition to ancient ruins, there are plenty of places to camp, hike and fish within the Gila Wilderness
Gila Wilderness
Gila Wilderness was designated the world's first wilderness area on June 3, 1924. Along with Aldo Leopold Wilderness and Blue Range Wilderness, the wilderness is part of New Mexico's Gila National Forest. The wilderness is approximately from north to south and east to west...


The Catwalk is a trail enclosed by a metal walkway that suspends 25 feet (7.6 m) above the Whitewater Canyon hugging the canyon walls. It follows waterpipe routes built by miners in 1893. When the pipes needed repair, the miners walked on them. Visitors can explore the walkway and trail, picnic and enjoy the river. It is located 70 miles (112.7 km) north of Silver City on U.S. Route 180
U.S. Route 180
U.S. Route 180 is an east–west United States highway. Like many three-digit routes, US 180 no longer meets its "parent", US 80. US 80 was decommissioned west of Mesquite, Texas, and was replaced in Texas by Interstate 20 and Interstate 10. The highway's eastern terminus is in Hudson Oaks,...


There are several lakes in the area. Lake Roberts is 72 acres (291,373.9 m²) lake about 27 miles (43.5 km) north of Silver City on NM 15 near the NM 35 junction. Other lakes in the Silver City area include Bill Evans Lake, Snow Lake, Wall Lake, Bear Canyon Dam. Anglers have a choice of brown and rainbow trout, catfish and bass. In addition, several mountainous rivers can be found nearby. Some of note are the Gila River
Gila River
The Gila River is a tributary of the Colorado River, 650 miles long, in the southwestern states of New Mexico and Arizona.-Description:...

, Negrito Creek, San Francisco River
San Francisco River
The San Francisco River is a river in the southwest United States, the largest tributary of the Upper Gila River. The river originates in Arizona and flows into New Mexico before it curves around and enters the Gila down stream from Clifton, Arizona....

, and Willow Creek.

City of Rocks State Park is an area of interesting rock formations created by volcanic eruptions long ago. People can enjoy climbing the rocks, picnicking, and camping. The City of Rocks is located off NM 61.

The Kneeling Nun is a natural rock formation located about 20 miles (32.2 km) to the east of Silver City along NM 152. Several legends have developed explaining its origin.

Notable inhabitants

  • ("Billy the Kid
    Billy the Kid
    William H. Bonney William H. Bonney William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr. est. November 23, 1859 – c. July 14, 1881, better known as Billy the Kid but also known as Henry Antrim, was a 19th-century American gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War and became a frontier...

    "), aka: Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, William H. Bonney
  • Ben Lilly
    Ben Lilly
    Benjamin Vernon Lilly or Ben Lilly , nicknamed Ol' Lilly, was a notorious big game hunter, houndsman and mountain man of the late American Old West. He remains famous for hunting down large numbers of grizzly, cougars and black bears...

     (1856–1936), hunter and mountain man.
  • James Tenney
    James Tenney
    James Tenney was an American composer and influential music theorist.-Biography:Tenney was born in Silver City, New Mexico, and grew up in Arizona and Colorado. He attended the University of Denver, the Juilliard School of Music, Bennington College and the University of Illinois...

    ,composer,(1934–2006) was born in Silver City.
  • Norman Packard
    Norman Packard
    Norman Harry Packard is a chaos theory physicist and one of the founders of the Prediction Company and ProtoLife. He is an alumnus of Reed College and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Packard is known for his contributions to both chaos theory and cellular automata...

    , physicist
  • Doyne Famer
    J. Doyne Farmer
    J. Doyne Farmer is an American physicist and entrepreneur, with interest in chaos theory and complexity. He is a professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He was also a member of Eudaemonic Enterprises.-Biography:...

    , physicist
  • Harrison Schmitt
    Harrison Schmitt
    Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt is an American geologist, a retired NASA astronaut, university professor, and a former U.S. senator from New Mexico....

    , astronaut
  • Karen Carr
    Karen Carr
    Karen Carr is a wildlife and natural history artist based in Silver City, New Mexico. Her artwork has been featured in traditional and electronic media, in publications, zoos, museums and parks across the United States, Japan and Europe....

    , artist
  • Phillip Parotti
    Phillip Parotti
    Phillip Elliott Parotti is an American fiction writer and educator.Parotti was born in Silver City, New Mexico, the son of Abramo Angelo Parotti, a college professor, and Jerry Ann , a pianist. He married Shirley Brewer in 1964. A former U.S. naval officer, Dr...

    , fiction writer and educator
  • Jeff Bingaman
    Jeff Bingaman
    Jesse Francis "Jeff" Bingaman, Jr. , is the senior U.S. Senator from New Mexico and a member of the Democratic Party...

    , Senator of New Mexico, grew up in Silver City.
  • Paul Benedict
    Paul Benedict
    Paul Benedict was an American actor who made numerous appearances in television and movies beginning in the 1960s...

    , "Harry Bentley" on "The Jeffersons"
  • Ralph Bakshi
    Ralph Bakshi
    Ralph Bakshi is an Israeli-American director of animated and live-action films. In the 1970s, he established an alternative to mainstream animation through independent and adult-oriented productions. Between 1972 and 1992, he directed nine theatrically released feature films, five of which he wrote...

    , Animator, Director, Producer, Writer, Actor, Painter
  • Ralph Kiner
    Ralph Kiner
    Ralph McPherran Kiner is an American former Major League Baseball player and has been an announcer for the New York Mets since the team's inception. Though injuries forced his retirement from active play after 10 seasons, Kiner's tremendous slugging outpaced nearly all of his National League...

    ,born in Santa Rita (Silver City area), Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee, NY Mets announcer
  • William Harrell Nellis
    William Harrell Nellis
    William Harrell Nellis flew 70 World War II combat missions and was shot down three times, the last time fatally. On April 30, 1950, the Las Vegas Air Force Base in Nevada was renamed Nellis Air Force Base in his honor....

    , born in Santa Rita (Silver City area)
  • Geronimo
    Geronimo was a prominent Native American leader of the Chiricahua Apache who fought against Mexico and the United States for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars. Allegedly, "Geronimo" was the name given to him during a Mexican incident...

    , born at the headwaters of the Gila River (North of Silver City)
  • Victorio
    Victorio was a warrior and chief of the Chihenne band of the Chiricahua Apaches in what is now the American states of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua....

    , Apache war leader who roamed and attacked area
  • Cochise
    Cochise was a chief of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache and the leader of an uprising that began in 1861. Cochise County, Arizona is named after him.-Biography:...

    , Apache war leader who raided surrounding area
  • Mangas Coloradas
    Mangas Coloradas
    Mangas Coloradas, or Dasoda-hae , was an Apache tribal chief and a member of the Eastern Chiricahua nation, whose homeland stretched west from the Rio Grande to include most of what is present-day southwestern New Mexico...

     or Dasoda-hae (known as Red Sleeves),Apache war leader who roamed the Silver City area
  • Nana
    Nana (Apache)
    Kas-tziden or Haškɛnadɨltla , more widely known by his mexican-spanish appellation Nana , was a warrior and chief of the Chihenne band of the Chiricahua Apache...

    , Apache war leader who roamed the Silver City area
  • Natchez
    Natchez may refer to:* Natchez people, a Native American nation* Natchez language, the language of that Native American tribe* Natchez, Mississippi, United States* Natchez, Louisiana, United States* Natchez, Indiana, United States...

    , Apache war chief, second son of Cochise, Mother was daughter of Mangas Coloradas, Roamed area with Geronimo
  • General "Black Jack" Pershing, first duty station at Fort Bayard (9 miles west of Silver City), General of the Armies
  • General George Crook, U.S. Army Major General
  • Judge Roy Bean, operated a merchandise store and saloon on Main Street in Pinos Altos (just north of Silver City)
  • Butch Cassidy
    Butch Cassidy
    Robert LeRoy Parker , better known as Butch Cassidy, was a notorious American train robber, bank robber, and leader of the Wild Bunch Gang in the American Old West...

     and the Wild Bunch
    Wild Bunch
    The Wild Bunch, also known as the Doolin–Dalton Gang or the Oklahombres, was a gang of outlaws based in the Indian Territory that terrorized Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma Territory during the 1890s—robbing banks and stores, holding up trains, and killing lawmen. They were...

    , were familiar with every saloon and "soiled dove" in Silver City
  • Cathay Williams, first African-American female to enlist in the US Army (posed as a man).
  • Kit Carson
    Kit Carson
    Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was an American frontiersman and Indian fighter. Carson left home in rural present-day Missouri at age 16 and became a Mountain man and trapper in the West. Carson explored the west to California, and north through the Rocky Mountains. He lived among and married...

    , 1829 went into Apache country along the Gila River. There, Carson first saw combat.

External links

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