By 1870, another drive was brought up from Texas and cattle ranching had become a way of life in Owyhee County and the surrounding areas.
Struggling to deal with Native American attacks on livestock, cattlemen Matthew Joyce, Sr. and Mike Hyde led an effort to form a local cattle group to protect the stockmen, which resulted in the Owyhee County Cattle and Horse Growers' Association, headquartered in Silver City.
With a $5 membership fee, ranchers could join the group and receive protection from the potential threat. Though the group soon disbanded, they periodically reorganized over the years.
It was not until a regathering of stockmen in 1949 that Silver City again became home to the group, now called the Owyhee Cattlemen's Association.
After this final reorganization, a large celebration was held. Due to the large size of the county and limited ability to travel, the celebration allowed for a reunion of friends and a way to build community and comradery between cattle producers.
The idea caught on and this tradition continues to this day in the form of the Summer Meeting, which is held in Silver City.
First established, second largest
On December 31, 1863, Owyhee County became the first county created by the newly-formed Idaho territorial legislature. Covering 7,639 square miles, roughly the size of New Jersey, Owyhee County was originally settled due the presence of precious materials.
Silver ore and gold taken from the mountains made the mining district world famous. Owyhee County was once among the most populous areas in Idaho with nearly 5000 miners calling it home in 1866.
As the mining boom began to decline, livestock and agriculture became the distinguishing industry in Owyhee County, as it remains today.
The county seat of Owyhee County is Murphy, Idaho. A location central to the current 10,500 people who call Owyhee County home.
Railways and Stockyards
The town of Murphy developed around a railhead of the Boise, Nampa and Owyhee Railroad, built in 1899. Likely named after Cornelius 'Con' Murphy, the railroad crew boss, Murphy was location to the only railroad terminal in the county for passengers, mail, freight and cattle and sheep transport.
Boasting milder weather and a more central location the county seat was moved from Silver City to Murphy in 1934. Building a name as a livestock shipping hub, stockyards were built and Murphy soon became the leader for livestock shipment in the Pacific Northwest.
The last shipment of cattle left Murphy in 1947, and the railway shut down soon after in 1948.
Currently one of the smallest county seats in the country, Murphy is home to a population of 63.
Owyhee County's Ghost Town
Silver City was founded in 1864, after silver was discovered on War Eagle Mountain. County seat from 1866-1934, Silver City was once the epicenter of Owyhee County. At its peak, 75 businesses, 12 ore-processing mills, over 250 active mines and 2,500 people called Silver City home.
It is estimated that over $60 million, valued at early 1900's prices, worth of precious metals were taken from the area, which was the second highest producing mining area in the country.
By 1912, Silver City's population had declined to 1,200, and the mines were no longer yielding significant production. By the 1940s, there was only one permanent resident, Willie Hawes, who was born in town and was mayor, police chief and postman.
In 1972, Silver City was added to the National Register of Historical Places and The Idaho Hotel was restored & reopened to the public.
Today, Silver City is open to visitors seasonally and four business operate there during the summer months.