Silver City started out as San Vicente de la Cienega, a Hispanic campsite in a formerly Apache neighborhood. That changed when the Americans began arriving around 1860. Silver ore was discovered at Chloride Flats and a Captain John M. Bullard soon had the streets of Silver City laid out on his farm just over the hill from the mine site. Bullard was killed less than a year later (1871) in a confrontation with Apache raiders and never lived to see Silver City get beyond the tent city stage.
In the early days, with all the miners, prospectors and gamblers in town, Silver City was a violent place. Sheriff Harvey Whitehill was elected to the office in 1874 and became the first lawman to arrest William Bonney (later known as Billy the Kid). In Silver City, Whitehill arrested Billy twice for theft. In later years, Whitehill said Bonney was a likeable kid who stole only to feed himself and not because he was a "born criminal."
The Normal School was established in Silver City in 1893 (in those days a "Normal School" was a school that taught teachers to be teachers). In 1963 the Normal School became Western New Mexico University.
Silver City was platted with the streets running north-south and east-west, in a location where normal rain and snowmelt runoff came straight through town. The folks built high sidewalks downtown to help mitigate the problem but during the night of July 21, 1895, a wall of water rushed through town and turned Main Street into a ditch 55-feet deep. Businesses that had previously fronted on Main Street started using their back doors on Bullard Street as their main entrances. To this day, the usual odd/even addressing conventions still in use are incorrect (because the buildings were addressed originally on Main Street, not on Bullard Street), and what was once Main Street is now Big Ditch Park.
When the silver ores ran out, mining operations turned to copper after copper was found nearby. Major copper mines were built at the Chino and Tyrone sites outside of Silver City. Originally this was Phelps-Dodge country but the Phelps-Dodge Corporation was bought by international operator Freeport-McMoRan in 2007 and operations are still continuing under that name.
Silver City Public Library