History Before the Silver Myth

5000 BC until 1872

 

Silver City Resort is a small historical retreat nestled deep in the Sequoia National Park just minutes away from the breathtaking high altitude Mineral King Valley. What makes this destination so unique is that it shares its history with two of the oldest alpine settlements in the western United States. Within the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, the Silver City Resort and the neighboring seasonal communities of Silver City and Mineral King, contain more chapters of shared human history than any other community in the High Sierras for over 130 years.

 


 

 

And before that…

The higher and lower elevation areas that surround the Mineral King and Silver City communities long ago had immigrants who fostered a sustainable relationship with this majestic landscape and its inhabitants for thousands of years. According to the foremost local organization devoted to recording the history of these alpine communities, the Mineral King Preservation Society, the origins of the first human inhabitants most likely originated from what is known as Siberia today. Known as the Hokans, these ancient people probably first settled in the Tule Lake region of the San Joaquin Valley, roughly a two hour drive away from the resort. The Hokans, later known as the Yokuts, are probably the most well-known group of original settlers in the foothills of the Kaweah River, and many other areas throughout central California. This dominant Yokut tribe later had many other offshoots over time that developed into their own distinctive communities with specific traditions and territories. One of the most relevant was the Wukchumni who had permanent villages along the Kaweah River in the lower foothills below Silver City.

 

 

...Hot weather took its toll

However, due to the summer heat of the San Joaquin Valley, the Wukchumni created summer settlements in the Silver City location, as well as several camps on the valley floor of Mineral King. They were joined through trade by the Monache and the Numic peoples who came over the Sierras from the eastern side to hunt deer, bear, mountain sheep and gather herbs and grasses for use during the harsh winter months. These are the people who have the longest historical record in the mountains. Yet their efforts and lives remain legend and history that will never be truly appreciated by the vast majority of current North American inhabitants on a scale that is proportionate to the scope and the depth of understanding of the region that these first inhabitants had.   Historical records are scant, but for a couple of centuries, the original settlers inexplicably never returned to the Mineral King area and it was not until 1856 that the first homesteader came into the area to escape the heat of the valley– and establish a presence once more. His name was Hale Thorpe, and he was followed two years later by his brother-in-law, John Swanson. During the next few years, valley ranchers such as the Blossom, Homer and Lovelace families all used Mineral King as their summer retreat and took advantage of the grazing opportunities for their cattle. The men and women that followed can be traced today as some of the founders of small towns and large companies located in central California. Many of the pioneers, miners and merchants were truly success-driven people that always followed opportunity and challenges. The next two chapters are a reflection of people who climbed a mountain, prepared for newly-generated wealth, and with the exception of a few businessmen and landowners who were supporting the infrastructure and service side of the brief mining period, did not achieve their goals. Luckily for Silver City and Mineral King in the 21st Century, the dreams of man’s desire to extract wealth from mountains that represent wealth, remained just that – a distant dream. But nonetheless, by 1873, ore deposits were found and a short-lived boom and bust period consolidated Mineral King and Silver City into viable communities that transformed themselves over time. Many years later, nothing has changed – except for the hunting of deer and black bears. Today, under the protection of the Sequoia National Park, a few of the current residents of central California continue to make the same annual trek to these majestic mountains to escape the heat and experience the authenticity of Silver City and Mineral King.