Silver City at Castle Mountain

These fields beneath Castle Mountain once were home to Western Canada’s largest city. The boom town of Silver City lived for just a few years, but had 3,000 residents at its heyday in the 1880s.

Photo by J.Borno

Back in 1881, a Stoney Indian had a piece of rock from the Castle Mountain area analysed for metal content. It was found to be rich with copper and lead. A claim was quickly staked on Copper Mountain, across the river from Mount Eisenhower. In 1883 A small town grew up near the site.

Following the pounding of the last spike and the introduction of rail travel and the CPR , Copper City grew to almost 3000 inhabitants and was renamed Silver City (the rumor is that the CPR renamed the town to complement Golden City, now called Golden, BC.

Photo taken 1884
Photograph | Silver City and Castle Mountain, near Banff, AB, 1884 | VIEW-1352Photo by W.M Notman – Courtesy of McCord Museum

Fortunes were made and lost at Silver City. And interesting facts remain. For example, for a town of almost 3,000 people, there were no dance halls, churches or schools and less than a dozen women ever lived there. But no less than six hotels complete with casinos and pool halls graced the streets of Silver City.

Photo by J.Borno

Started in 1885 by two partners, the mine was the site of a large gold strike. Very quickly over 2000 shares in the mine were sold at $5.00 per share. But while everybody else was looking for the gold, the two original partners, Patton and Pettigrew, skipped the country. No gold was ever found and the speculation was that Patton and Pettigrew salted the original samples. Just think that this was 100 years before the famous Bre-X golding mining fiasco! Today, only a marker indicates that Silver City ever existed.

Photo by J.Borno

The mountain was named in 1858 for its castle-like or fortress appearance. Following the post-war visit of U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, the name was changed to Mount Eisenhower by the then Canadian Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie-King. Eventually, public pressure forced the name to be changed back in 1979 to its original but an isolated pinnacle at the southeastern end is now called Eisenhower Tower.

Nearby is the site of a First World War internment camp where unnaturalized Ukrainian immigrants to Canada were confined. Life in the camps was often described as ‘grim’; with its isolated location far from the roads of the time, the Castle Mountain camp was an ideal place to confine ‘enemy aliens’ and ‘suspected enemy sympathizers’.

Photo by J.Borno

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