by Merle Ramsey, February 14, 1971]
FOUNDING OF SILVER
CITY, NEW MEXICO
"Time is a mystic lens which gradually diminishes mere
incidents until they vanish; but it magnifies events, destined
to survive, until they stand fourth in notable prominence, and
form the subjects of history. Each generation makes its own
history; the succeeding generations write it. The purpose of
this chronicle is to perpetuate, in convenient form, such salient
events in the past of Silver City, as have lived for more than
a century, and are deemed worthy of chronicle."
"Reminissing of the old west, which today is becoming faded
in the memories of many whom we believe should remember, yet,
they are unable to relate the facts of the records that should
be inscribed in printed word for posterity. One generation acted
the part, but is forgotten."
many years in California's dry desert land, but now a bustling
group of cities, highrises and freeways, the writer has lived
through the evolving periods, miraculously missing gunfire and
other dangers. Has traveled over the dry mesas that are now
subdivisions and freeways.
many years of the west, the writer has vivid recollections of
many events. Some experienced and some related in story by those
concerned. One of many years standing-----the origin of the
founding of Silver City, New Mexico ----- Joseph
Yankey, of Peebles, Ohio.
in Peebles, Ohio before the birth of the writer, he (Yankey)
was not able to withstand the urge of the goldrush of the west
and headed that way with a partner named Bullard. The (following)
story as told to my father approximately one hundred years ago.
their searching they (Yankey and
Bullard) became interested in silver that took them into New
Mexico. The story as told to my father was unique and followed
the true pattern of the wild and wooly west. History reveals
that those days were not always peaceful. The killing of a man
drew but a few lines in the newspaper. A stroke of gold or silver
was big news. Yankey and Bullard were in Indian country and
accepted the days as they came. Mr. Yankey said they had developed
a method of processing the silver upon a large rock, upon which
they had a good view of any activities of the Indians. There
was soon a hatred developed by the Indians. A Chief declared
he would kill Joe Yankey. Both
were prepared at all times. When they did meet --- Yankey
shot first, killing the Chief. Taking the Chief's rifle, extracted
the unshot shell, putting it in his pocket. For the remainder
of his life Yankey carried this
shell in his vest pocket and would exhibit it as the bullet
was meant for him had the Chief shot first. When he visited
the writer and father in California in 1915 he was still carrying
the shell in his vest pocket.
is the story he (Yankey) told of
his activities while mining silver.
after their arrival and mining, others arrived and soon there
were enough of a settlement they decided it should have a name.
Yankey said he decided it should
be named "Silver City" and Bullard also be recognized
by naming a street "Bullard Street". Others may have
a different version as to the naming of the city, but knowing
Joe Yankey, the writer has no doubt
this was the true fact.
There is an episode that reflects back to Silver City that the
writer has definite knowledge of. Before the beginning of the
century there was a barbershop in Silver City operated by a
J.B. Cox. Upon the arrival of the writer in 1902 in Santa Ana,
California, this same J.B. Cox had arrived in the same city
and operated a ten-cent barbershop. He cut the writer's hair
many times for ten-cents.) About 1912 he was elected Justice
of the Peace. He informed the people he did not know much about
law, but would administer it as the book read. He did just that.
Lawyer's arguments had little effect upon the old judge. If
the law said ten days, and/or ten dollars, that's what they
got. It was this Judge J.B. Cox that sent Miss Bebe Daniels
to jail for ten days for driving fifteen miles in a ten mile
zone. This became news over the entire nation. They both became
famous over the event. Miss Daniel's cell was furnished by a
local store fit for a queen. An orchestra played at her window
each day, and Judge Cox brought her flowers each morning. Remember,
Judge Cox originally came from Silver City, New Mexico.
Joseph Yankey did not lapse into
oblivion after his return to his family in Ohio. This story,
the writer believes can be told and cast no reflections upon
any as most have passed on.
the time of operations in the new Silver City, Yankey
contracted the measles. An Indian woman served as a nurse to
him. In her method of bringing out the measles she gave him
'sheep nanny'. Ask some Indian how it was made? the writer has
his own ideas.
long after, Yankey had arrived
home to his family in Ohio, he answered a knock on the door.
There stood the Indian woman holding a baby in her arms. Handing
the baby to him she said, 'This is your baby, you take it.'
Turning, she walked away. She was never seen again. It was assumed
she returned to New Mexico. It was reasonable to assume in this
small town the mystery would soon be gossiped among the people.
But life went on as usual. The family accepted the baby and
was raised the same as those of the family of five children,
she being the sixth. The writer knew them all. Although the
people knew her background, she was accepted as one of the Yankey
family and society. When the marriageable age, she married the
son of the leading business man of the town. Their son and daughter
today should be in their seventies.
goes the story of the man who founded Silver City, New Mexico.
never knew what became of Bullard, of whom the street was named."
1461 Glenneyre (Art Center),
Laguna Beach, California
* Dated Feb. 14, 1971 *
Addressed to Mr. James W. Harrison, Silver City, New Mexico
* Dear Mr. Harrison: * In answer to your letter I have assembled
my memories of what I have known for many * years of the history
of your city. I have enclosed it in full form to eliminate any
creases * by folding. *I have known of this naming of Silver
City for many years, and believe I am the only * one living
today that knows the true story. Perhaps I may be disputed.
It was told to my * father about one hundred years ago by Joseph
Yankey (Some say Yankie).
I am 83,* and remember of my father telling the story when I
was a boy. Also of hearing * Yankey
tell it in later years. * Had my wife been in better health
we would have made a trip to your city and deliver the * story
personally. Perhaps we can make the trip later. * As for the
truth of the story, my wife knows it the same as I do as she
lived in the same * little town when Yankey
lived there. Peebles is a small town of many years of about
* 1000 people near the Ohio River in the tobacco region. Among
the Appalachian* Mountains.
* Hoping my story will be of interest to your city.*
I remain, sincerely yours. *
Merle Ramsey *
Written and compiled by
Gerald W. Yankie
suggest that you talk with Susan Berry, Silver City Museum Director,
about Joseph Trimble Yankie (sometimes
spelled Yankey, but never correctly
spelled Yankee). Joseph Trimble Yankie
was born in Adams County Ohio on July 24, 1844. My grandfather
(Jay Trimble Yankie) was the son
of his sister. Joseph was in the Union Army during the Civil
War and shortly after the war was over he went to New Mexico
with his cousin, John Swisshelm,
and his brother, James Minor Yankie,
to seek their fortune. The 1870s and 1880s were some wild times
in Silver City and surrounding territory. Hillsboro, NM is said
to have been named by Joseph Trimble Yankie,
after the county seat near his home, Hillsboro, Ohio. The Swisshelm
Mountains in eastern Arizona were named after his cousin, John
Swisshelm. This group from Ohio were extremely successful
in gold and silver prospecting as well as other businesses.
I do not know the whole story but will eventually learn more
about their activities in the region. Susan Berry has helped
me with some newspaper stories during the life of Joseph
Trimble Yankie in your town. With Billy the Kid roaming
the country and Apaches trying to protect their land, it was
a colorful and frightening time. What made Joseph
Trimble and James Minor Yankie
leave New Mexico we may never know but they both moved back
home, with a lot of money, and married local Ohio women and
raised families. Joseph Trimble married Margaret Vinton Patton
on Nov. 11, 1884 and James Minor married Anna Copeland on Feb.
2nd, 1887 (on Groundhog Day). These records are in the family
bible of their father and mother, Jonathan Yankie and Sarah
Armstrong Yankie. Joseph Trimble
Yankie died on June 12, 1926 and is buried in Ohio. His
brother, James Minor Yankie died
on Feb. 13, 1928 and buried in Los Angeles, CA. So, never allow
the city road department to change the spelling of Yankie Street.
I hope this history will add more meaning to the place that
you have chosen for your business. Bullard and Yankie were business
associates but I do not know the exact connection.
STREET or YANKIE CREEK?
by Victoria West, Yankie Creek Gallery
City was apparently built where it was built because of the
high water table here. Yankie Street,
in effect acts as an arroyo, drawing the excess water from streets
higher up. Our sidewalks are very high...from 12" to almost
3 feet in some places because during our "monsoon season" the
water rushes through town.
Street is interrupted by our "Big Ditch Park"...formerly
Main Street...which was washed away in a series of floods. Where
Yankie Street ends the water is channeled into Big Ditch where
it joins what is known as the Santa Rita River, but was once
an underground stream. At times the water gets high enough to
even pick up cars and move them. There are pictures of the water
on Yankie Street with vehicles floating from various time periods
summer before we opened the YANKIE CREEK GALLERY, one fellow
kyaked down Yankie Street from
the University end and through town.
the early days, there were wooden footbridges that were swung
into place so the ladies could shop in bad weather. Sometimes
the water is high and rushing enough we see whitecaps where
it swirls at our corner! That is why the gallery is named "Yankie
Creek"! We will be having our 10th Anniversary in business this
February. Our entire business history has been at the corner
of Yankie and Bullard Street, first on the Northwest corner,
and three summers ago we bought the building on the Southeast
corner. Although we were one of the very first, Yankie Street
is now "gallery row" and has a nice restaurant with outdoor
dining located just off the main drag (Bullard Street).
would be wonderful to add the history of its naming to our repertoire
of "Old West" stories as Silver City has become a bit of a tourist
attraction and people are always curious about it. Any information
you can share would be most welcome! We knew it was named after
someone, but didn't really know who. We have to make the road
dept change the signs every time they misspell it as "Yankee",
it would be easier to make them keep it right if we could verify
the naming! I could probably arrange to send some pictures if
you like, but it is worth a trip...we have a local museum with
lots of pictures of Yankie Street and the businesses that were
located there in the earlier days.
town hasn't changed tremendously much...most of the original
buildings are still in use. There is a little town near here
that was the center of the silver mining activity in those days
called Pinos Altos where the old school house serves as a mining
days museum. There are cliff dwellings and the National Forest
nearby also which are tourist attractions. The weather here
is great pretty much year round and there are still lots of
open spaces. If your great great uncle helped get this place
started, it was a pretty good thing! There are probably records
about him in the Silver City Museum and on deposit at the public
West, Yankie Creek Gallery