The town circa 1920's      
Courtesy Hoffman family
In 1910, John Gorman put his mine holdings up for sale.  There are several tales regarding the business dealings of the Gormans.  A US
Forest Service plaque located near the historic
Gorman cabin tells the story of how John Gorman sent his first load of ore to Denver
with his "best friend" only to never see or hear from either again!  Another account published in the
South Dakota Guide is as follows:

    An Eastern syndicate sent representatives to try to buy the holdings of the Gorman brothers, offering them $300,000.  History
    tells us that the Gormans were uneducated men who could not figure out whether the offer was more or less than a million
    dollars, which they insisted was their price.   They delayed their decision till one night their cabin caught on fire and the eldest
    brother was burned to death.  The other two brothers disappeared. (WPA, 407)

Many of the residents who settled in Silver City came to seek their fortunes in the nearby gulches.  Residents would often work at the
Homestake Gold Mine in Lead to earn enough money to buy supplies and dynamite.  As
mining activity grew, other businesses including
a general store and hote.  A sawmill (downstream from Leola Park) was established and provided lumber for building and mining.  A
post office, school and Catholic church were also organized.  In 1906, a railroad with a stop at Silver City was established (see

As years went by and many mining claims didn't pan out, the dreams of riches vanished.  As activity decreased in Silver City, it became
more of a recreational community.  Often considered a "ghost" town, many
original buildings from the turn of the century remain
standing today.

Picture of the Gorman cabin. In 2004 it was restored through a volunteer
effort organized by the Forest Service.   
The area map 1940 before
Pactola Lake                      
Courtesy John Clark
Why Silver City?
A "City" is normally a large place.
Maybe the early settlers had big plans
for the town.

There are conflicting stories about the
naming of the town but the most
plausible is that the mines had a
heavy yield of silver along with other
metals, hence the name.
The Underwater Town of Pactola
    Ever since the first settlers established Pactola, it has been a place for recreation.  It is one of the oldest settlements in Pennington County.
    Soon after the discovery of gold in the creek beds, prospectors and miners began to flock into this pleasant valley until it became a
    populous, thriving community. Owing to its isolation in the heart of the Hills, there was little law enforcement and the valley became the
    hiding place for many who, for various reasons, did not wish their whereabouts known. The miners made and administered their own law,
    but the two things they would not tolerate were claim-jumping and horse-stealing. (WPA, 409)

    At first the valley was called "0" Valley, because of its round shape.  In 1876 General Crook with his United States Cavalry, on their way to
    fight the Indians, made his headquarters here and called it Camp Crook. The development of placer mines, together with the establishment
    of the first post office in Pennington Co., and a tri-weekly stage service, made things boom; so the populace decided that the camp should
    have a more appropriate name. A mass meeting was called, and a lawyer who had recently moved into the community was asked to make
    the nominating speech. Having had a number of drinks and feeling fanciful he recited the legend of Midas; whose touch turned everything
    to gold; and he proposed, in view of the gold being taken from the sands of Rapid Creek, that the place should be called Pactola, for the
    Lydian river Pactolus, whose  golden sands were believed to be the source of the wealth of Croesus. (WPA, 409)

Around Pactola there was also a CCC camp (Civilian Conservation Corps) as well as other camps such as the Presbyterian Church Camp, Falvin's
Corner, Camp Judson, and the Methodist Camp.  When Pactola Reservoir was built in 1956, these historic sites were drowned under the reservoir.  
Many acres of land were condemned by the government in preparation for the building of the dam and the flooding of the valley. It was deemed
at the time that no new buildings for human habitation were to be built upstream of Pactola below the elevation of 4,621.5 feet.  Many of the
cabins and buildings that were to be flooded were moved (some to Silver City) and the remaining are now rotting underwater and providing sights
for the scuba divers that sometime take to Pactola Lake.

The water levels of Pactola vary from season to season.  The lake once again reached 100% capacity in Spring of 2009 and the shores reach across
the road from the Silver City Community Hall.
Silver City
est. 1876

Silver City was settled in 1876 by the Gorman brothers who came to the Black Hills from Canada in search of
precious metals.  They set up two mines: the Diana Lode and The Lady of the Hills.  Although initially called
Camp Gorman, the town was eventually platted and renamed Silver City.  By the year 1878, the population of
Silver City had grown to over 300 residents.  
Camp Wanzer
This camp for children suffering or at risk from tuberculosis and malnutrition was established in the 1930's just West of
town past the current day trailhead.

    Here in the pine-scented air, where there is an abundance of clear cold water and good whole  some food, the
    less fortunate little ones of South Dakota came every summer. Under the supervision of doctors and trained
    nurses, they were given a chance to gather strength and health.  The camp closed in the 1940's. (WPA, 408-409).
    See Camp Wanzer Page.
Moonshining in the Gulches
According to an article in the now-defunct Deadwood Magazine, the Pactola Valley was known as the "Valley of a Thousand Smokes because of the
smoke rising from moonshine stills set up in every draw." (Webb, 2004)   Even today, one can still see moonshining artifacts scattered throughout
gulches along Rapid Creek.   John Clark, long-time Silver City resident, says there was a lot of activity in the area;  a 1/4 mile west of town one can see a
had a fair trickle of water. The moonshiner apparently had a supply of water to cool the vented steam and make the mash.                     

Bernice Musekamp, a well-known character in the Pactola area, had some stories to tell about moonshining including the one about a
Crouch Line train
engineer.  Ms. Musekamp told Deadwood Magazine that the engineer would leave a sign by the tracks at Pactola on his way to Mystic.  He would pick
up his moonshine on the return trip.

    He’d stow it (moonshine) in the tender and start to tap it. He’d be singing ‘Casey Jones’ about the time he reached Big Bend." There was an
    "awful curve" by Hisega, a few miles out of Rapid City, Bernice said, and "he rolled the damn train right off the track into the creek. (Webb, 2004)
The Unknown Land
Heading south out of town on Nugget (FSR 251) is an area called The Unknown Land.  In the late 1870's, the Scruton brothers built a cabin near the
mountain that still bears their name.  The brothers discovered gold there, but never disclosed the location of their mine.  To this day, the mine has
not been found, hence the name The Unknown Land. (WPA, 408)

This rugged area is best described in
A South Dakota Guide:

    Leaving Silver City there is a trail leading into THE UNKNOWN LANDS.  This is only a foot trail, since in many places it is overgrown with brush,
    blocked by fallen trees, and gullied out.  The Unknown Land is a region...practically inaccessible except to hikers and horseback rides (sic), and
    in many places it is hard for a horse to find footing.  High mountains, deep canyons, and tall timber are the principal features.  The region
    abounds in game, being the home of most of the blacktail deer, outside the Game Preserve, in the Hills.  Sometimes elk may be found hiding
    in some dark gulch.  There are no streams of any size, so there is no fishing; but springs of pure sparkling water are found in all the gulches.  
    Little lumbering has been done except along the edges, as the rough nature of the country prevents the transportation of timber without
    expensive roads or railroads.  The hiker or hunter who penetrates these hills and valleys to make his camp finds himself in woods and
    mountains much as they were in the days of '76. (WPA, 407-408)

Works Progress Administration (WPA) "American Guide Series". A South Dakota Guide/Compiled by The Federal Writers' Project
of the Works Progress Administration, State of South Dakota, with "Memoirs of a State Director", 2nd Edition. South Dakota
State Historical Society Press, 2005.

Webb, Rena.  "
Girls of the Gulch/Queen of the Rimrock". Deadwood Magazine, 2004.

Picture Gallery
1950 Silver City - Courtesy Hoffman family
Early Silver City - Courtesy Kevin Eilbeck
1920 Silver City - Courtesy Hoffman Family
1926 Silver City - Courtesy Hoffman Family
1940 Silver City looking east - Courtesy Hoffman Family
1940 Silver City - Courtesy Hoffman Family
1949 Blizzard - Location unknown
1949 Blizzard - Location unknown
1962 View from the road towards Silver City - Courtesy SD History
Town and Creek (date unknown) - from SD History
1916 Rapid City Journal headline "Silver City Bursts into Limelight as Big Mining Camp"
Brochure promoting the Hoffman cabins
1956 - Courtesy Jan Sohl
1960 - Courtesy Jan Sohl
1960 - Courtesy Jan Sohl
1960 - Courtesy Jan Sohl
From Harrier (unknown date)
1930 - Silver City Resort (Courtesy Jeff and Jodi Sugrue)
Silver City Bar - owned by John Melvin
1960 - Courtesy Jan Sohl
Courtesy of Edgar Simon (RCJ) - Postcard of President Coolidge hiking to Nebraska's Gov. McKelvie's camp near Mystic
Town History
From a 1946 Postcard - Courtesy of John Gomez