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Silverton. Old silver mining town established in 1883. These are the ruins of the Silverton Anglican Church built in 1886.
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Image by denisbin
Silverton.
Its story begins with white stock men sinking wells on Thackaringa sheep station in 1875 when they discovered rich silver-lead ores. A short time later the shop keeper from Menindee found silver. In 1880 a few other mining claims were pegged and by 1883 about 130 miners were working on Thackaringa station claims. Silverton nearby gradually emerged as a central spot for a town as it had some water and in 1883 locals asked for a post office at meeting in the Umberumberka Hotel which already existed. The new post office was called Silverton and locals were glad to be rid of the difficult name of Umberumberka. Since 1880 a police officer had lived at Umberumberka. In 1883 Silverton was surveyed and it soon had 250 residents and then 500 a few months later. By 1884 it had over 1,700 residents. Hotels and stores were erected quickly while most miners lived in tents. It had a coach service to the railhead at Terowie and it had harness makers, saddle makes, lawyers, engineers, timber merchants and blacksmiths. S Kidman and Co had a butcher shop in the main street and a stock and station agent opened in 1884.The Commercial Banking Company of SA opened a bank in 1884. Within a few years solid stone buildings were being erected and a few still stand in the ghost town. For example starting at Campbell’s Store (now the Horizon Gallery),the classic single storey section of De Baun’s Silverton Hotel (1884), nearby the Methodist Church (1885 built as Presbyterian and sold to the Wesleyan Methodists in 1891), the old stone school (1888) and up the hill from the school the former Catholic church ( 1886), across the street from it is the Catholic Presbytery and in the same street is the former Masonic Hall( 1886) with only tiny windows opposite a house now a gallery. Up the hill from here is a group of stone houses of which one is a café. Back in the main street you can see an old general store made of course stone but with modern windows and an almost flat roof, next is the Surveyor’s Cottage and the Municipal Chambers (1887), the Courthouse ( 1889) with the lockups out back and the Silverton Gaol ( 1889 and now a museum). The Silverton cemetery reflects the early rise of the town and then quick decline. It has over 400 recorded burials and most of those were in the first two decades of the town’s history from 1884 to 1900.

The school is especially interesting as it began in 1884 in a tent. It was 1887 before an iron and timber school was built and this was replaced in 1888 with a large stone school. Appointed to the old iron school in 1887 was Mary Cameron (21 years of age) who had just passed her teachers’ examination. She remained there until the end of 1889 when she moved back to Sydney. She began an affair with Henry Lawson in 1890. She recalled in 1923 “it was a strange meeting that between young Lawson and me. I had come down permanently to the city from Silverton”. Mary Cameron took an interest in going to a Utopian community in Paraguay and 1896 she sailed to Cosme in Paraguay. Here she married fellow Utopian William Gilmore in 1897. She returned to Australia in 1902 and for her literary works, poems and Labor party political writings she was made Dame Mary Gilmore. She is still depicted on our ten dollar note. Silverton School closed in 1970 with the realignment of the railway line from Cockburn to Broken Hill and the demise of the Silverton Tramway Company. It is now a museum. A few of the many demolished buildings in Silverton are: the two storey Bank of Australasia – removed and re-erected in Broken Hill in 1904; the massive two storey section of De Baun’s Silverton Hotel was burnt out in 1918 and finally demolished in 1967; the Lion Brewery; the grand 14 bed brick hospital built in 1887 closed in the early 1900s and was demolished in 1914; St Stephens Anglican Church built in 1886 is now demolished; and the Police Station closed in 1943 and demolished.

By the mid-1880s Silverton peaked with a population of 2,000 people and ten hotels. The Silverton Tramway Company was a major town investment and the service from the SA border to Broken Hill began in 1888. With the rise of Broken Hill in the late 1880s Silverton waned until it became a virtual ghost town and then the silver ran out with the main mine closed in 1892 and most of the others by 1897. By 1901 it had just 300 residents down from around 2,000 residents. The Council stopped meeting in 1895 although it only formally ceased in 1907. The prison closed around 1930 but it had been little used after the prison opened in Broken Hill in 1892. In the 1930s it was used as a home for delinquent boys. The Courthouse was seldom used after 1892. The Post Office closed in 1979. The final death knell for the town was the standardisation of the railway line from Sydney to Adelaide and the demise of the Silverton Tramway Company in 1970. The last freight train operated on January 10 1970. The school closed that year. Silverton lives on it past glory and now mainly relies on tourism and its closeness to Broken Hill.

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