Nestled in the vast Elkhorn Mountains are the remains of the once booming mining town of the same name. At its peak, Elkhorn was home to more than 2,000 residents. The main street was lined with hotels, saloons, stores, churches, boarding houses, ice houses and even a two lane bowling alley! But, due to the falling price of silver and a bout with disease, the town’s population slowly dwindled. Today Elkhorn is still home to a handful of people.
It all began in 1870 when a Swiss immigrant by the name of Peter Wys discovered silver deposits in those hills. But, it would be the Norwegian Anton M. Holter who would develop the claim after Wys died within a couple years of his discovery. By 1888, Elkhorn was producing $30,000 in ore each month. In 1889, a diphtheria epidemic hit the town and stole the lives of many women and children. Nevertheless, in May of 1893, construction of the famous Fraternity Hall began. This would serve as a social center for the townspeople. It was built next to Gillian Hall which served as a store and saloon. Many meetings, dances and theater shows were enjoyed at Fraternity Hall. There is a rumor that at one of those dances, two men got into a fight over what kind of music the band should play. The squaredancer shot the waltzer dead.
The repeal of the Silver Purchase Act in 1893 was the beginning of the end for Elkhorn. The population steadily declined and production slowed to a dull roar. The mine shut down for good in 1912. But in its time, Elkhorn produced more than $14 million dollars in silver ore. Peter Wys would have been proud.