Silver Reef Wells Fargo Museum
Silver Reef, today a ghost town, was a mining town that was established in Washington County in 1875 after silver was discovered in sandstone near Leeds by John Kemple several years earlier. With the establishment of the silver mines, the town grew rapidly to a population of a little over 1,000 in 1880 and a peak of around 1,500 residents at its height, mostly made up of Catholic and Protestant immigrants primarily from the British Isles. In 1879, a fire destroyed a large portion of the town, amounting to a quarter of a million dollars worth of property, including both residences and businesses; although the burned down portions were rebuilt, it was a blow that contributed to the town’s eventual downfall. After the fire, declining wages, a strike in 1881, a decrease in the quality of the ore mined, and a fall in worldwide silver prices all contributed to the closing of the various mining companies, leaving the town almost entirely abandoned, the last one closing in 1891. Overall, Silver Reef had a brief, but successful run; between 1877 and 1890, Silver Reef produced over $8,000,000 worth of silver, contributing greatly to the economy and history of Washington County.