How the True West Town Was Won
We'd like to say "we told you so," but we suspect that would be a no-no in the Code of the West. Nonetheless, it's true that back in August 2004 we devoted six pages ("How the West Was Sold") to the possibilities of tourism based on the Wild West historical appeal of Southwest New Mexico in general and Silver City in particular. And now here comes the January/February issue of True West magazine, naming Silver City one of the "Top 10 True Western Towns of the Year."
The magazine's executive editor, Bob Boze Bell, explained, "Silver City has come a long way in a short period of time, in terms of recognizing and saving its history. This is one Old West mining town that's found new gold in the form of tourism."
Silver City ranked fourth on the magazine's first annual such list, behind only Sheridan and Cody, Wyo., and Carson City, Nev. True West praised Silver City for revitalizing its historic downtown, spearheaded by the MainStreet Project: "New owners bought the boarded-up buildings and made the best of their investments. . . . Citizens continue to find historic buildings to renovate and restore. The community spirit that brought Silver City back from the dead is alive and kickin' and looking for new challenges."
The magazine had previously cited Silver City as one of its "Top 10 Mining Towns" in 2003.
Of course, you have to have some history in the first place in order to preserve it, and (as we pointed out back in 2004) Silver City and its surrounding area are rich in almost every aspect of Old West history. But don't take our word for it. Here's Robert G. McCubbin, Western history expert and co-publisher of True West magazine, in the introduction he wrote for Six-Guns and Single-Jacks: A History of Silver City and Southwest New Mexico by Bob Alexander:
"From the time Spanish soldiers first traveled to the unexplored region in the early 1700s, seeking to punish the troublesome Apaches, to the days of the outlaws and gunfighters at the close of the 19th century, here is a story rarely equaled in the history of the Old West.
"A hunting ground of the Apaches for centuries, the area saw its first permanent settlers in the Spanish, attracted by the extensive copper deposits. American trappers came for the beaver in the mountain streams. The discovery of silver in 1870 brought a rush of American miners, and the sleepy village of San Vicente became the boom town of Silver City. Later, cattlemen from Texas found good ranges for their longhorns nearby. All along, the Apaches contested these intruders, making it a tough and dangerous country in which to survive. It was therefore peopled by tough adventurous individuals ... and that is a big part of why its history is so interesting.
"The reader will recognize familiar names in the history of Silver City, one of which is none other than 'Billy the Kid.' It was here that a very young 'kid' named Henry Antrim was first jailed for a minor 'crime,' and thus began an adventurous, lawless life that has propelled him into one of the most famous people in American history. The silver boom town of Tombstone, just across the border in Arizona Territory, shared many of its notorious desperadoes with Silver City during the 1880s. All in all, the area had more than its share of genuine outlaws and gunfighters, interestingly brought to life by the author.
"Although dominated by the violence and the lawlessness, there is much more to the Silver City story. The author gives us just enough of everything so we get a complete picture of the people and events that have brought Silver City and Grant County to where they are today. Still an isolated area, its beautiful setting and excellent climate today attract people to live and retire there. The violence is gone but there is still evidence everywhere of its exciting history and it is always worth a visit."
For the whole story, you'll have to read the book, which is available for $21.95 in paperback and $34.95 in limited-edition hardcover (almost all gone!) from local bookstores or direct online at www.gilabooks.com.
Read more Tumbleweeds this month:
Death Becomes Her
Tumbleweeds Top 10
Tumbleweeds in Brief
Return to top of page