The Mother of Mina – Ferminia Sarrias, will be honored on Saturday, Sept. 17 when members of Copper Queen 1915 E. Clampus Vitus (ECV) commemorates the life and history of Sarrias who was buried in the Luning Cemetery in 1915.
Sarrias was born in Nicaragua in July of 1840 and some reports say she was of “aristocratic” origins. In 1867 she finally made her way to the United States from her home country with the father of her four daughters, Pablo Flores.
Shortly afterwards, Flores drops from newspaper and other accounts but Sarrias continues to be written about.
She was attracted to the booming Comstock. The woman miner was known for her character but didn’t linger in the Comstock long. Instead, she placed two of her daughters into an orphanage and headed to Belleville, which was then located in Esmeralda County (now Mineral County). Here she made her first mining claims in the record books at the Amant and the Central American Mines in 1888. Many more would follow the ambitious woman.
Tonopah and Goldfield would soon start boasting of their rich discoveries and Sarrias’s mining claims attracted attention. She made her first sale in June of 1902. Investors bonded 25 of her copper claims at $8,000 each. Soon she was “Nevada’s Copper Queen” from the publicity and an icon for other women in the mining field of the late 1800’s.
A small railroad town would spring up in Soda Springs Valley in August 1905 when the Tonopah & Goldfield railroad decided to make a terminal north of Belleville. It would be named after Sarrias. Soon Mina (the nickname of Sarrias) would soon make its mark on Nevada’s maps.
A month after having a town named for her, Sarrias would again make newspaper headlines when a sale of the “Famous Sarrias group of 40 claims” would fetch $90,000 (worth $2,394,365.38 today).
The ambitious miner would sell another group of claims in 1907 for $65,000 (worth $1,667,564.02 today).
Near her claims in the northwest part of the property, she would build a smelter. The ores in her claims proved valuable. Production in the Santa Fe District from the period of 1906 to 1920 was estimated at roughly $2.5 million (approximately $55,506,282.26 today).
The lady miner knew her property. From 1988 to 1996 at claims in the Giroux Canyon (Gabbs Valley), Corona Gold and Homestake Mining a combined 299,000 ounces of gold and 644,000 ounces of silver were produced on land once owned by the Copper Queen.
When taking payment for her claims, the shrewd business woman insisted upon payment that was made in gold as she mistrusted the banks which often failed. It is rumored that once paid, “she would then stash the gold in her chicken house because the chickens always make a fuss if someone approached.”
The money didn’t last and Sarrias, known for donning men’s overalls would return to the desert to find another fortune.
She died in 1915 and left strict instructions in her will. “If any of her executors failed to work her mining property, they forfeited any right to her estate”. The Western Nevada Miner, published out of Mina, announced her death on Feb. 6, 1915.
“Mrs. Fermina Sarrias, who sank to her final rest at her late home in Luning on Monday, February 1st, 1915. For some time past she has been growing feeble and her death therefore was not unexpected.
The paper reports that Sarrias came to what is now Mineral County thirty years prior to her death, having lived in Belleville and Candelaria. At the time of her death, her first home still stood in Belleville.
“She amassed quite a fortune in those camps but later lost it in mining investments and stocks,” the Western Nevada Miner reported.
She was seventy seven years of age at the time of her death and left behind son, Joe Marshall of Hawthorne and daughter, Mrs. Ed Enright of Luning.
In honor of this frontier woman, the Copper Queen 1915 E. Clampus Vitus organization will place a plaque for Copper Queen 1915 at 2 p.m. at the Luning Cemetery on Saturday, Sept. 17.
All ECV red shirts are invited to attend. The rub for prepays is $60 and $10 more at the gate. Public is welcome and encouraged to attend.