by Mike Magers
Silver City is located in the center Grant County in the southwest part of the state. It was founded in 1870 after the Civil War, but has been inhabited since long before that, including long periods by the Apache tribe and later by Spanish settlers. Early Spanish and Anglo inhabitants were drawn by the prospect of mineral deposits and this was the main attraction for the area. The prospect of wealth from mining also attracted criminal elements to the area, including William Bonney, more popularly known as Billy the Kid, among his other aliases.
The first rail lines reached the area around 1883 via the Silver City, Deming and Pacific Railroad, followed in 1886 by the Santa Fe Railroad. The mining industry once dominated the economy and is still a key factor of it. Silver and later copper deposits have attracted major mining companies to the area, throughout the years.
It is home to several high schools, including Cliff and Silver in addition to several others that are located nearby, including Cobre which is in Ft. Bayard, a few miles to the west.
Notable individuals from the area include lunar astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Major League Baseball player and announcer Ralph Kiner, Apache warriors Geronimo, Vitorio, Cochise and others. Other historical figures who lived or operated in the area are General Pershing and General Crook of the US Army, Judge Roy Bean, Kit Carson, Butch Cassidy and his gang.
Silver High School was where one of the more unusual school administration situations occurred within seven days, earlier this year. The following timeline is as reported in the Silver City Sun-Times. On May 23, Silver’s school superintendent placed the Silver principal and athletic director on leave for failing to follow his direction to terminate three high school coaches. The following day, 17 other coaches signed a letter threatening to resign in protest of the firing. The superintendent accepted their “resignations” and terminated all 20 coaches. On the 25th, students started a petition calling for the reinstatement of the coaches. The next day, May 26, Silver held a special school board meeting the result of which was a decision to buy out the remainder of the superintendent’s contract. Finally, on May 27, the new Silver superintendent reinstated all 20 coaches, the principal and athletic director.
Silver City is also home to Western New Mexico University, formerly known as New Mexico State Teachers College. The current high school originated on the campus of the college and was known as Western High School before relocating and adopting the name of Silver High School around 1960. Its mascot is the Fighting Colts.
Silver’s football team has competed in the state championship game some 10 times, taking the title in 2005 when they defeated Aztec. In boys basketball, they have reached the final four times, winning over NMMI in 1975. In girls basketball, they won over Kirkland in their only appearance in 2000. The current coaching lineup includes Claudie Thompson in baseball, Brandon Siqueiros in boys basketball, Butch Branson in football, Chris Salas in girls basketball, Duane Trewern in softball and Tiana Sanchez in volleyball.