Last spring we visited what was called the toughest mining camp in the West. One report said in Frisco’s heyday there were 12 men killed a night. That might be an exaggeration, but it is agreed there were killings most nights.
In 2012, we drove the “Loneliest Road” from Delta, Utah to Fallon, Nevada. That stretch of highway might have the official designation, but this spring we drove over roads with even less to offer. For example, a sign outside Winnemucca says there are no gas stations for nearly 200 miles on Route 140 to Lakeview, Oregon. We like these roads.
Returning east, we stopped for a picnic lunch at Great Basin National Park. Nevada 487 and Utah 21 run from Great Basin National Park to Milford, Utah without a gas station and not much else. It was lonely too.
About twenty miles before Milford, you climb over the San Francisco Mountains past Indian Grave Peak. Near the top, you will see a sign for Frisco. We almost went by, but this would be our fourth ghost town for the trip [a nice even number]. We spotted these unusual cones on the hillside and turned up a dirt road.
A streak of pure silver was found at Frisco in 1875. That year the Horn Sliver Mine opened. It reportedly produced half the sliver in the United States. Before long, there was a town of 6000 people. There was a rail terminus and a post office. There were numerous saloons, gambling dens and brothels. Everything, including water, had to be shipped in.
An 1877 smelter used five charcoal kilns shaped like beehives, the cones we saw on the hillside. The shape concentrated the heat from 35 cords of wood burned per day.
Legend has it there were so many murders, the town fathers collected bodies in a wagon in the mornings. But straight out of a movie, they brought in a tough marshal. He told them he had no need of a jail; he would not be arresting anyone. Villains had a choice to get out of town or be shot. Supposedly, he killed six men his first night, and the tough town quickly became quiet.
The 900-feet deep Horn Sliver Mine collapsed in February 1885. There had been tremors, the night shift left the mine, and the day shift was told to wait, so there were no deaths. However the fortunes of the area went steadily downhill after that.
By 1912, there were only twelve businesses and 150 people. By 1929, it was a ghost town.
In 2002, a company bought the rights to the mines and began to rework them, but there was no sign of activity while we were there. Most of the area is fenced off. Just outside the fence is the Frisco Cemetery.
Many tombstones are broken by the weather and/or vandalism. Other graves still have flowers and pennies placed on them, perhaps by the descendants of miners who moved but stayed in the area. Sadly, the most common graves seem to be those of small children. Yes, families lived in the toughest mining camp in the West.
Click on photos to enlarge.