The History of Kirwin

Kirwin mainstreet, 1905

 

letter High at the head of the WoodRiver, just below the timberline, sleeps the historic town and mining district of Kirwin, Wyoming. This small ghost town is a treasure trove for historians, with much to tell about the area's settlement and development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Photo to the left is of the Tumlin Mineshaft.Kirwin sprang to life after gold and silver were discovered on Spar Muontain in the mid 1880s by William Kirwin and Harry Adams while on a deer hunting trip. Rumors of a rich gold strike spread rapidly after Adams boasted of their find. Streams of prospectors flooded in, staking claims all over the surrounding  mountains. In 1891, the Wood River Mining District was formed

At its peak, about 200 miners and their families lived in Kirwin. The town boasted a hotel, a boarding house, two general stores, a sawmill, an assay shop, a headquarters building, a post office, and a variety of cabins, stables, and meat storage sheds. Stagecoaches made the 34-mile trip between Kirwin and Meeteese every other day.

Life had its rewards and disappoinments for Kirwin's miners and their families. Although summers were pleasant in this high mountain valley, winters could be brutal with deep snows, freezing temperatures, long months of isolation, and the threat of avalanches. Sitting at the base of 12,000-foot peaks, Kirwin was continually menaced by avalanches, the "white death."

On February 5, 1907, after several days of heavy snowfall, a massive avalanche roared down Brown Mountain, sweeping several buildings into the Wood River and killing three people. Most of the miners and their families decided they'd had enough. That spring, they packed up and left. A few attemps were made to revive the mines in later years, but nothing came of them.

Stabilization and restoration of Kirwin began in 1999 through a cooperative effort between the Shoshone National Forest, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Abandoned Mine Lands Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, and numerous volunteers from Wyoming and across the country.





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