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SILVER MINING

SILVER MINING. The discovery of silver in Texas is credited to the Franciscan friars who discovered and operated mines near El Paso about 1680. These mines were worked for a number of years until the Franciscans, fearing to lose control of them to the Jesuits, concealed them. In July 1793 one mine near El Paso was reopened and worked until Mexican independence in 1821, when its location was again lost. The mine was rediscovered from church records in 1872, and in 1880 the Presidio Mine near Shafter, Presidio County, was discovered. Opened in 1884, this mine produced $300,000 worth of silver annually for a number of years. About 1885 silver mining began in the Van Horn-Allamoore district of Hudspeth and Culberson counties and continued with periods of inactivity for some time. In 1892 some silver was produced on Little Llano Creek and at "Mexican Diggings" on Babyhead Creek in Llano and Mason counties. In 1889 traces of silver had been found on Silver Mine Creek in Gillespie County. In 1895 there was activity in the Cibola Mines in Presidio County, and in 1901–02 the Chinati and Montezuma Mines in Presidio County were developed. In 1902 the Hazel Mine, the second largest producing mine in the state, closed after producing $60,000 worth of silver. In 1905 387,576 ounces of silver were produced in the state, and in 1908 the Bonanza and Alice Ray Mines in the Quitman Mountains in Hudspeth County were producing ore valued at $60 to $65 per ton. In 1918 the Chinati and Montezuma mines closed. The Presidio Mine was one of the most consistent producers of silver in the country; from 1880 until it closed in 1942 it had produced 2,000,000 tons of ore from which 30,293,606 ounces of silver, about nine-tenths of the total output of the state, had been extracted, along with a small value in gold and lead. The Presidio Mine was the only extensively developed mine in the Trans-Pecos region, being 4,000 feet long and 1,500 feet deep. The Hazel Mine was second in the production of silver, prior to its closing. In connection with the effort to produce zinc and lead during World War II, there was increased activity in silver mining in the Trans-Pecos region. In 1942 Texas produced more silver in terms of value than any other metal. In 1943 10,284 fine ounces, valued at $7,313, were produced; and in 1945 23,265 fine ounces, valued at $16,544, were produced. Almost all of the silver produced in the state has come from the Trans-Pecos area where silver is the most widespread of any commercially produced metal. It is found in some quantity with other minerals in many localities in that region. The five silver mining districts of the Trans-Pecos region are the Shafter District in Presidio County, the Van Horn-Allamoore District and the Plata Verde District in Hudspeth and Culberson counties, the Quitman Mountains District in Hudspeth County, and the Altuda Mountain District in Brewster County. Some of the mines of the Trans-Pecos area that have produced silver are Presidio Mine, Hazel Mine, Sancho Panza Mine, Black Shaft Mine, Plata Verde Mine, and Bird Mine. No production of silver in Texas was reported by the United States Bureau of Mines after 1952, when 4,672 troy ounces valued at $4,228 were produced. Total production of silver during the period 1885–1952 was 33,303,173 fine ounces valued at $23,446,564. In the late 1970s interest in silver mining was renewed when the price of the mineral increased. As silver prices declined so did exploration. As of 1994 no silver mining exists in Texas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Thomas J. Evans, Gold and Silver in Texas (Mineral Resource Circular 56 [Austin: Bureau of Economic Geology, 1975]). University of Texas, Texas Looks Ahead: The Resources of Texas (Austin, 1944; rpt., Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1968).

John Q. Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

John Q. Anderson, "SILVER MINING," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dks02), accessed July 28, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.