In 1894 Haywood left his family with Nevada Jane's relatives and headed north on horseback to Silver City, Idaho. He haunted the employment agencies of the town, planning to hold out for a better paying miner's job. But, as elsewhere during the nineties, Silver City's mines were mechanizing and there were few jobs for skilled miners. When Haywood's stake was exhausted he settled for an opening as a car man at the Blaine Mine. It was unskilled and tedious work. The car men shoveled ore into cars and transported them to the mouth of the shaft, from where the ore was taken to a nearby mill.
Eventually a miner's job opened at the Blaine Mine and the extra fifty cents a day enabled Haywood to send for his wife and daughter. Another girl was born soon after their arrival. On June 19, 1896, Haywood was injured while riding a car to the surface. His hand was badly mangled and the doctor suggested a partial amputation. Haywood insisted that he try to save the hand: "I told him that I did not want to go through life doubly crippled. I was already handicapped by the loss of an eye." His hand was saved, but Haywood lost his income while convalescing. At about this time, in mid-August, 1896, Ed Boyce of the Western Federation of Miners visited Silver City and called two organizational rallies. To the harried union leader, Haywood was just one of several hundred weary miners who attended his meetings. But Haywood was impressed by Boyce's message. Perhaps because he was out of work at the time, Haywood was elected to the new local's