Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Located in Beaver County, Utah are the silent remains of the once booming mining camp of Frisco. Though its life was short, it is filled with history, from millions of dollars in ore taken from the Horn Silver Mine to shoot-outs in its dusty streets. Today its crumbling foundations, charcoal ovens, and silent cemetery speak eloquently of its rich and varied past.

Frisco's story starts with two prospectors by the names of James Ryan and Samuel Hawks in September, 1875. The pair worked at the Galena Mine in the San Francisco Mining District, which embraced approximately seven square miles on both flanks of the San Francisco Mountains. One day while on their way to work, they stopped to test a large outcropping for ore. When they found a solid ore body, they immediately staked a claim. Fearing that the mineral body was not very large, they decided to sell their claim rather than work it. Sadly for Ryan and Hawks, the new owners extracted some 25,000 tons of ore with high silver content by the end of the 1870s.

Near the mine, the town of Frisco soon sprouted up, named for the San Francisco Mountains. Another mine called the Horn Silver Mine was also discovered in 1875, and would soon become the largest producer in the area. With the success of the Horn Silver Mine, the Frisco Mining and Smelting Company expanded its workings in July 1877 by constructing a smelter that included five beehive charcoal kilns. Frisco soon developed as the post office and commercial center for the district, as well as the terminus of the Utah Southern Railroad extension from Milford, some fifteen miles to the east.
Other mines located in the district included the Blackbird, Cactus, Carbonate, Comet, Imperial, King David, Rattler and Yellow Jacket, but the Silver Horn was by far the largest. 

By 1879 the United States Annual Mining Review and Stock Ledger was calling the Silver Horn Mine "The richest silver mine in the world now being worked." Frisco was bustling and on June 23, 1880, the Utah Southern Railrorad Extension steamed into town, allowing the mines the opportunity for less expensive shipping.
Though there were a number of roaring mining camps in the San Francisco district, Frisco soon gained a reputation for being the wildest. Like many boomtowns, its streets were lined with over twenty saloons, gambling dens and brothels. Reaching a peak population of nearly 6,000, vice and crime became prevalent. One writer described it as "Dodge City, Tombstone, Sodom and Gomorrah all rolled into one."

Murders were said to have been so frequent that city officials contracted to have a wagon pick up the bodies and take them to boot hill for buriral. Eventually, a lawman from Pioche, Nevada, was hired and given free reign to "clearn up the town." When the tough marshal appeared on the scene, he allegedly told the town he had no intentions of making arrests or building a jail. Instead, the lawless element had two options--get out of town or get shot. Apparently, some of the wicked did not take the new marshal seriously as he reportedly killed six outlaws on his  first night in town. After that, most of the lawless moved on and Frisco became a milder place for its citizens. 

On the morning of February 12, 1885, when the miners reported for duty, they were told to wait as tremors were shaking the ground. Taking precautions, as several cave-ins had already occurred, the night shift exited the mine, and the day crew waited. Within minutes a massive cave-in collapsed tunnels down to the seventh level, and closed off the richest part of the mine. The cause of the collapse was blamed on inadequately timbered tunnels bearing the tremendous weight of the rain and snow soaked ground above. The collapse was so great that the cave-in was felt as far away as Milford, where some windows were said to be broken.

Fortunately, no one was killed, but the cave-in spelled the eventual demise of Frisco. By 1885, over $60,000,000 in zinc, copper, lead, silver and gold had been hauled away from Frisco by mule train and the Utah Southern Railroad. After the collapse of the mine, it began to produce again within a year, but never on the scale of its fabulous past. 

By the turn of the century, only fourteen busineses remained alive and Frisco's population declined to 500. By 1912, only twelve businesses existed, population 150. By the 1920s, Frisco was a ghost town. Frisco's kilns were placed on National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

No comments:

Post a Comment