The Milky Way Mine. I’m distracted by rocks. I really am. So when I have a chance to combine mining with the Milky Way, well you know I’m going to do it. This scene is set in Frisco Utah. Frisco is the location of one of the richest silver mines in the 1870’s.
I had found this spot of a drive back from nearby Great Basin National Park. I found the bristlecone pine grove there still snowed in so just shot one panorama there. On the way back I was determined to scout some new spots for shooting. I was told about Crystal Mountain and had gone to explore it. There was a little sign on the highway back to Utah that said Historical Marker Ahead. I stopped to read it and as soon as I saw it was a ghost mining town complete with graveyard, I was all in.
It took some exploring and some of the paint off of Jimmy to get back in there but what a cool place. Great piles of refuse ore all sparkly and stained with fantastic color. There was a collapsed mine, a stone school house, 5 stone smelting kilns and this fine headframe of the the Horn Silver Mine.
The Horn Silver Mine by 1885 had mined over over $60,000,000 worth of zinc, copper, lead, silver, and gold. There is a way cool backstory to all this and I’m going to include it even though its a pretty long read.
But before I do let me finish the scene here. It was very windy this night high on top of San Francisco mountain. Dust and sand blew about, the metal roof pieces creaked and clattered during the shots. The area I was shooting from was wedged back into a corner to get the right angle on the Milky Way. Being back in this corner made the sounds echo and appear to be from the left the right and even behind me at times. Most disorienting while waiting on the images to finish. I ran over a pit viper on the way up the hill to this spot so the noises actually did make me prick my ears up.
The breeze, or something else put up a wild green airglow behind the buildings (some light pollution back there which I reduced).
Beyond the buildings was a nearly intact series of ore sorting bins. There will be two more images from the area but what a cool night and location. I’ll give you the specs but please read the backstory, its unbelievable.
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Technical: Canon 6D ISO 8000, F1.6, 55mm 42 images
Back story: 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 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 bar 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 Railroad 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 in the town. 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 burial. Eventually, a lawman from Pioche, Nevada was hired and given free reign to “clean up the town.” When the tough marshal appeared on the scene, he allegedly told the town that he had no intentions of making arrests or building 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 previously occurred, the night shift came to the surface, and the day crew waited. Within minutes a massive cave-in occurred, collapsing tunnels down to the seventh level and shutting 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 reportedly 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 businesses were still alive in Frisco and its population had decline to 500. By 1912, only twelve businesses existed in the dwindling town of 150. By the 1920s, Frisco was a ghost town.
In 1982, Frisco’s kilns were placed on National Register of Historic Places.
In 2002, a mining company began to rework the mines of Frisco, so only the charcoal kilns and cemetery are accessible today. Frisco, Utah, is just off route 21, 15 miles west of Milford.