The Nye area was originally settled as a mining community around the 1860s when gold was discovered in the nearby mountains. All mining was suspended in 1868 due to controversy surrounding the western borders of the Crow Indian Reservation. In 1882 a new survey revealed that the mining operations were not located within the reservation boundries.
In 1883, Jack Nye and his partners discovered copper-nickel deposits on Mountain View, Benbow, and Initial Creek. In 1884, the Stillwater Mining Company was formed and began operations in 1885. By 1886 there were three mining companies in the area, and in 1887 the Minneapolis Mining and Smelting Company consolidated the mining claims. During this period Nye City was founded and began its mining boom. At its peak, the city had over 500 residents, 40-50 buildings, 7 saloons, a hotel, 5 restaurants, a post office, an assay office, and a Chinese laundry.
By 1889, the quality of the ore deposits was far inferior to the presumed values, and Nye City began to decline. In 1889 the government determined that the mining operations were, in fact, within the Crow Reservation borders and ordered a cease in all activities. Some miners stayed on but Nye City was abandoned. In 1904, political pressures forced a movement of the reservation boundries east and mining again started up. However, as in the past, ore analysis showed very poor returns and activity again ceased.
During World War I the demand for chromium increased which fueled new interest in the area. The renewed interest led to the Benow, Mouat Nickel, and Gish Mines. Interest in the area dropped after WWI and most of the mining operations closed. During World War II there was again a need for chromium, and the Anaconda Copper Mining Company operated the Benbow and Mouat mines during the war. By 1961 all government contracts were canceled and most mines were closed.
Anaconda Mining Company began exploritory mining in the area in 1967 around the previous Benbow, Mouat, and Gish mining areas. By 1971 they ceased operations in the area, but by 1977 additiional exploratory work showed rich deposits of platinum and pladium in the West Fork area. By 1986 full underground mining operations commenced in the present day Stillwater Mine.
Throughout the years, Nye has been a small community in the area. Just west of the post office, on the highway, can be seen a sign providing a location for the 1880s, Nye City. Even though the Stillwater Mine is the largest employer in the area, much of the land use is devoted to cattle ranching and hay farming. Stillwater County was once one of the largest sheep ranching areas in the nation, but this has substantially declined since WWII. As in other areas of the country, rural sub-divisions have sprouted up, providing homes for full and part time residents. Currently, there are approximately 300+ registered voters, a one room school house, a volunteer fire department, one community church, a post office, and a restaurant/bar with several motel rooms.
– Text courtesy of Nye Community Foundation
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