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The Sweetwater Mining District



Atlantic City was established on Rock Creek in the spring of 1868.  While the quick wealth may have been found in placer mining the creeks and gulches, hard rock miners attacked exposed quartz veins with vigor as well.  The power of Rock Creek was harnessed by several mills and arrastras that were erected to pulverize the ore.  Support industries like freighting, timber cutting, and blacksmithing also took root in the community.  For a time, Atlantic City could boast that it was home to all the frills of a long-established town.


With the bust of the early 1870’s, the town quickly dropped from several hundred residents to only several dozen.  Those remaining took over abandoned hard rock mines and claims on local creeks, content to augment their ordinary income with any proceeds from mining gold, rather than rely exclusively on fortune.  By the late 1880’s, Frenchman, Emile Granier revived the area with a massive hydraulic mining operation that yielded less gold than hoped, but delivered a temporary reprieve for local business and industry.  The next gold boom arrived with the Dexter Mining and Development Company of Rochester, New York in the early 20th Century.  The firm bought up claims, hired men, and erected a massive new mill.  Results were disappointing and operations ceased, returning Atlantic City to a more quiet existence once more.  Paradoxically, the true 20th Century gold boom in Atlantic City arrived during the years of the Great Depression when a dredge worked Rock Creek near town.  As a nation languished economically, Atlantic City hummed with steady activity and optimism.


In the late 1950’s, corporate giant, United States Steel, began development just outside Atlantic City.  Within a handful of years, the Atlantic City iron ore mine was Fremont County’s largest employer, and yet another wave of newcomers arrived.  The face of the former gold town changed once more.  When U.S. Steel closed down in the early 1980’s, Atlantic City’s new arrivals fled the area as quickly as they had come, leaving the area distinctly different from what they had found upon their arrival.




Two seasons of mining at the Sweetwater Mines resulted in the deaths of prospectors, wood cutter, freighters, and even children at the hands of Native war parties.  Nationally, both the gold rush and the local Indian problems received coverage by newspapers like The New York Times.  Wyoming Territory Governor, John Campbell, knew that once spring weather permitted,  Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Sioux mounted warriors would visit the Mines again.  Camp Stambaugh was established on June 20, 1870 and staffed with 2 companies of the 2nd Cavalry and one company of the 14th Infantry.  The bust of the early 1870’s made the post largely obsolete once it was completed.  The Plains Wars geared up, but most engagements took place far from the area.  Once tribes were pacified and placed on reservations, Camp Stambaugh was ordered closed on May 9, 1878.  Nothing remains of the post.


Miners Delight was established as Hamilton City in the gold rush season of 1868.  Placer miners scoured local gulches for placer gold, but there was a single big hard rock mine in the area; the Miners Delight.  The Miners Delight was recorded on September 13, 1867 by a party comprised in part by Francis McGovern, John Holbrook, and Jonathan Pugh.  The men made regular deposits at South Pass City’s Exchange Bank from 1870 through 1872.  The Federal Census conducted on June 17, 1870 identified Hamilton City as town of 75 inhabitants.  With the collapse of much of the local mining in the early 1870’s, the name of the settlement gradually shifted to that of the only major employer, the Miners Delight.  The mine was run by Hub Gold Mining Company from 1881 to 1882 with discouraging results.  The mining season in 1907 saw the arrival, and departure, of the Miners Delight Mining Company without actually mining any ore.  The Great Depression saw a resurgence of interest in local placer mining for the hard cash that it could provide.  Some locals remained, but by the 1970s, Miners Delight had become a true ghost own.


Gold discoveries were made on Strawberry Creek as early as the 1840s, but not followed up until some years later.  James L. Sherlock, assigns the origin of Lewiston to a placer miner by the name of Lewis.  Ore deposits were located by A.T. Burr, H.G. Nickerson, and others.  Boom and bust ensued.  While the town is now gone, rich ore may yet remain.

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