“The wagon road from Silverton to Chattanooga is dangerous even to pedestrians.... The grade is four parts vertical and one part perpendicular.”
Chattanooga never had much of a chance. It's the same old story: bad transportation, a bad fire, a bad snow slide. That, and the silver panic of 1893.
Chattanooga started with the discovery of silver in 1878 at the Silver Crown group of mines. It was good silver, and a lot of it. Trouble was, there was no easy way to ship it out of town to be processed since the railroad had not yet reached Silverton. Instead, the ore had to be shipped nearly two hundred miles by wagon train.
Things got a bit better in 1883 when Otto Mears built his Million Dollar Highway over Red Mountain from Silverton to Ouray. After that, the town became a transportation hub for stage and freight companies running the route over the pass. Times were good too for a man named Jim Sheridan. He became a big man about town, operating a hotel here, also a saloon and a livery stable. The town was alternatively called Sheridan Junction for Jim.
The decline started in earnest with a fire in the summer of 1892 that wiped out most of the town. Because the town was on the decline, no one bothered to rebuild.
Following soon after the fire, the silver panic of 1893 was the town's second big blow. Most of the mines immediately shut down and people started moving elsewhere. Right at about the same time, however, gold was discovered in the Hoosier Boy Mine. According to the Silverton Standard, fifty-two properties were located. In an apparent effort to hype the find, the newspaper said that the gold here would outshine Cripple Creek. The problem was, it didn't. Even though it was high paying, there wasn't much of it. The gold quickly played out and people moved on to richer finds elsewhere.
The final blow came sometime later when a large snow slide wiped out most of what was left of the town after 1892's fire.
The Silver Ledge Mine kept producing for awhile. Its remains can be seen in two locations. Directly across the highway from Chattanooga is Silver Ledge's mill. Continuing north along Red Mountain Pass for about one and three quarter miles will bring you to the site of the Silver Ledge Mine, its shaft houses, and other assorted buildings.
Chattanooga today is a shell of its former self. Other than the buildings at the Silver Ledge Mine, an older barn, and a structure of much newer construction remain at the site.