Faded Away: The Evolution of Silver City
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Silver City is a ghost town - a former rest haven on the Chisholm Trail for cattlemen with herds on the move North and hardy pioneer families looking for room to grow.
Once a major rest stop for cattlemen heading north, the only reminder of this once prosperous town is a small cemetery tucked away on the lush farmland north of Tuttle, Oklahoma.
Settlers arrived circa 1870 and the township grew robust near the Canadian River crossing just off the Chisholm Trail. Within a few short decades citizens had established a community with some semblance of civility. They boasted a post office, a smithy, shops and ferries.
Cattlemen found Silver City a welcome respite from the trail with prime grazing and plenty of fresh water. The Canadian River was treacherous crossing at the best of times and most held their journey until morning. Cattle thieves roamed the land near such crossings using the ratio of cattle to men and darkness to their advantage. Oft times, the thieves would daringly cross the Canadian for their booty at the risk of their own lives. The banks of the river are notorious for quick sand and the river for rapid flooding.
Benson Pikey, a landowner with 1,000 acres in the Silver City area, built a 50-yard fence along the Canadian River with permission from the Chickasaw Nation. The barrier protected livestock and deterred criminal activity. He later established Pikey's Crossing, an important ferry crossing along the Chisholm Trail. Pikey's Crossing remained in use until 1932 when bridges made the ferry obsolete.
Silver City cemetery was not the epicenter of the town, but serves as a guide post for a map drawn by J.C. Malcom as he remembered the area in 1889. The Silver City school house lay due west of the cemetery by 300 yards and little beyond that the Bond Ranch, other houses and several dugout homes, like the ones we read about in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. The Tuttle's Ranch House lay 1/2 mile east and just next to the Chisholm Trail. Silver City Store and Cornett Hotel were another 1/2 mile south of the cemetery.
Malcom's map of Silver City is now posted just outside of the cemetery gate. Looking at it you can almost see the town laid out before you.
Yet... no one living knows why it disappeared.
Perhaps the town dried up from the more prosperous ventures nearby. The Chickasaw Nation began to provide its citizens allotted lands, which began taking over the grazing lands. A railroad also entered the area nearer to Minco.
No evidence of the actual town itself is left - at least not on the surface. The few legacies include a large arrow-shaped boulder marking the spot of the Silver City trading post and the town's first school, the impressive Italian marble headstones in this cherished cemetery, and memories of the local centenarians.
Several families in Tuttle, Oklahoma, claim ancestors that are buried in the Silver City cemetery. Jeanette Haywood and Bettie Black, sisters and longtime residents of Tuttle, claim to have roots that stretch back to pre-statehood in the area.
Their maternal grandfather, Stephen Burl Fryrear, was buried in the Silver City cemetery in 1941.
"The story we were told is that Grandpa Fryrear was a Marshall and was buried with his saddle and horse," says Haywood.
David S. Turk, a Historian with United States Marshall's Service, looked into Mr. Fryrear. He found that Mr. Fryrear was most likely a deputy Marshall and is not in the archives. Given the time period, he may have worked as a Deputy Marshall or posse member under another Marshall and U.S. District Judge Isaac "Hanging Judge" Parker (term 1875-1896). Records for deputies during this era are scarce.
Haywood and Black can only speculate when or how their grandfather got to Oklahoma, but an association with the United States Marshall Service would fit. Stephen Burl Fryrear was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, a descendant of one of three original Fryrear brothers who hailed from France, likely around the time of Bonaparte. After 1871, he is no longer found in Kentucky and then shows up in the late 1890s in Oklahoma. He married a Chickasaw woman by the name of Rosa. Then, after her death married another Chickasaw woman, Francis Pikey (daughter of Benson Pikey above), who is Haywood's and Black's maternal grandmother.
Like many Silver City citizens, he likely made his way to Oklahoma as a pioneer looking for opportunity. They also created a small community that is arguably still running today.
With the way frontier towns evolve and change, it may be argued that Silver City is not truly gone. The spirit of the frontiersmen lives on in the descendants of the original Silver City.