By Heidi Bunch
On Saturday, Sept. 15, members of Copper Queen 1915 E. Clampus Vitus outpost donated their time to clean up the 9-Mile Ranch area.
Members cleaned up behind the ranch house, which suffered damage after a pair of 5.7 magnitude earthquakes had hit the area after midnight on Dec. 28, 2016. Though the members did not take anything from the home, which had walls that crumbled but whose buildings still remained standing after being built since the 1860’s.
Copper Queen 1915 members filled a roll-off with many items of junk left behind by previous owners, including a greenhouse, shed and many tires.
The Copper Queen 1915 E. Clampus Vitus are named after a historically prominent woman in Mineral County’s history. Named after Ferminia Sarras, a native of Nicaragua, she immigrated to the United States through San Francisco in 1876 and made her way to Virginia City.
The first record of her being in Esmeralda County (from which Mineral County was cut from) was in 1881 when the “Copper Queen” was residing in Belleville, though there are accounts of her being in Candelaria.
The boom of rich ore in the Tonopah and Goldfield area caused a great demand for rail transportation. The Carson and Colorado Railroad “The Slim Princess” created a town. From her popular stand with local men in the area, the town was named after Sarras and the town of Mina was created.
The successful prospector filed many claims and operated several operational mines. In a time of when men would work alone for a speck of ore, Sarras stood toe to toe and proved that mining just insn’t a “man’s game”.
At one point, she sold 25 claims at $8,000 each for a grand total of $200,000. She headed off to San Francisco where she lived like royalty. When the money ran out – she would sell off her lavish clothing and head back to the Nevada desert.
On Feb. 1, 1915, the “Copper Queen” died and was buried in Luning with a massive monument over her grave. Vandals would demolish the headstone and Sarras would lay unknown within the cemetery which overlook the valley which made her rich. In September of 2017, members of the E. Clampus Vitus came forth to honor their namesake by placing a plaque outside of her resting place.
“We are a historical society,” said James “Gunny” Utterback, member of the Copper Queen 1915 chapter. “The whole purpose of our group is to preserve and protect history.”
The ranch also has a rich history, claiming to have housed Mark Twain, who had resided in neighboring Aurora. The property was first called “Cobbs Rancho” during its time before Mineral County was formed. It would continue to be used as a hotel until The Esmeralda Herald reported in December of 1878 that “Geo. A. Green, of the 9-mile ranch, says he cut a crop of timothy hay from his land that is seldom excelled in California. It is reclaimed sage-brush land, and required but little irrigation.” The property would be owned by such people as Max C. Fleischmann, Stewart Abercrombie and Barron Hilton.
It was purchased by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and later donated to the State of Nevada for the development of a new state park.
“We also wanted to volunteer at the newly developed Walker River State Park to help with the Nine Mile Ranch,” Utterback concluded.