Minerva Nevada History and Photos

MINERVA - (1917-1957)
17 miles southeast of US 93, 4 miles south of its junction with US 50 and 6; 39 miles southeast of Ely. Minerva was begun by the Minerva Tungsten Corp. during World War I and sporadically existed until the 1950's. This camp had several cabins and about 60 people in 1937. A post office and school known as Shoshone (the Swallow Ranch) were located about 1 miles north of Minerva. Part of a mill, motorized equipment  and remains of several cabins can be seen today.

Silver was discovered in this area in 1869 but separating it from the gangue rock was difficult because of  an heavy white mineral which was found within the silver ore. This substance was much later identified as scheelite, an ore containing tungsten. World War I created a demand for tungsten to harden steel.  When the war was over, demand disappeared and tungsten mining in the area ceased until the 1930's.

During the depression, Paul Sirkegian, Consolidated Copper  Company's General Superintendent at Kimberly, Nevada,  organized the incorporation of the Tungsten Metals Corporation to mine and mill the tungsten in the Minerva Mining District. Stock in this venture was principally owned by Consolidated Copper Company's management people. Most of the mining claims in the area were either leased or purchased by the Tungsten Metals Corporation. Some of these were the two Everit mines, the Oriel, Silver Bell, and Chief mines. All were located on the western slope of the Snake Mountain Range south of the present townsite of Minerva.  Mules were used to haul the ore out of the mines in the early days.

The mill was constructed in 1936 and begin processing the ores from the mines. Tungsten Metals Corporation operations continued until May of 1945 at the end of World War II.  The camp originally consisted of the company's office and apartment, the mill foreman's cabin,  ten  two-man cabins, a boarding house, a dry room (change house) with showers and a laundry room, a bunk house with a reading room, and the mill and shop buildings. The powerhouse held two large diesel engines that drove the electric generators.

Meals were eaten in the boarding house when the cook banged on a large steel triangle. The workers sat on either side of  a long table and large platters were passed around. Food was plentiful and tasty at the boarding house but the lunches provided for the miners while working at the mines were not always appreciated. Apparently it always consisted of two pieces of buttered bread with two slices of baloney, a piece of cake and an orange.  

The large spring and pond owned by the Shoshone Ranch, just to the west of the townsite, provided the domestic and mill operations water. The scheelite could only be separated using a gravity concentration table. During the 1950's, children attended school at Shoshone.

For further reading, Walt Johnston has a fascinating chapter on life in the Minerva mining camp and the mines in his Copper Camp Kids. Write to Walt Johnson at 4798 Highgrove Road, Tallahassee, FL 32308 to purchase a copy for $28.00, includes postage and handling.

Click on photos to enlarge them.

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Lower Spring Valley between Minerva Townsite and the Shoshone Ranch. Shaputis Photo 2000

Minerva in 1957

Overview of the townsite of Minerva looking north. Shaputis Photo 2000

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2 views of the Minerva Mill in its heyday.

Black and White Photos courtesy of Walt Johnson.
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Minerva / Shoshone Additional comments:

 By Walt Johnson 

More on Minerva:

The metal market slumps in November 1917 resulting in no demand for tungsten. As a result U. S. Tungsten at Tungsten ceases operations and moves out, leaving no outlet for the milling of Nevada Scheelite' s ores. Nevada Scheelite stops mining and sells. The new owners are Oscar Weiner and C. B. Van Winkle of Los Angeles who take up all options and bonds on the Minerva properties. They plan to continue development and to build a mill. The new company's name is Minerva Tungsten Corporation. By August of 1918, the tungsten market revives due to the demand for metals when we entered WW I. The United States Bureau of Mines begins an investigation to further define the tungsten deposits along the western flank of the Snake Mountain Range (Mount Wheeler).

By Walt Johnson 

Spring months 1916:
Nevada Scheelite installs small testing mill at the Chief mine site in hopes of installing a much larger mill. Water for the mines and mill is hauled in from the Swallow Bros. ranch (Shoshone ranch) five miles distant. Meanwhile all three mines are producing ore which is being shipped to U. S. Tungsten at Tungsten. The three mines are the Scheelite Chief, The Oriol, and the Everit.

By Walt Johnson 

In 1915 several new discoveries of tungsten ore were made along the Western Flanks of the Snake Range. Some of these discoveries were made in old silver mine workings. Besides Scheelite, another tungsten mineral was also found in these workings called Hubernite. Four small mills were constructed at or near these discoveries, each having a capacity of 25 to 35 tons ore per day. One such mill belonged to U.S. Tungsten Corp. located at Tungsten several miles north of Minerva. Nevada Scheelite, (Minerva) began shipping ore to this mill in May 1916. Shipments were made by mule and horse drawn wagons. The first encampment of Minerva was established at the mouth of the Canyon where the Scheelite Chief Mine is located. The oriel and Everit mines of Nevada's began operations and producing ore in early 1916. The Oriol can be seen high upon the hillside about a half mile north of the Chief Mine. The Everit is in another canyon whose entrance is about one mile north of the Chief Canyon.

By Walt Johnson 

The Minerva campsite was quite small in the forties when my experience took place. I'm afraid the streets had no names so I am unable to help you. I'll add a little more history to the Minerva mines.

March 3, 1916. Ely Record.--"Pioneer of old Minerva District, Orson Hudson of Spring Valley, describes early operations for silver as they were plagued with this white spar, not knowing what it was."

March 17, 1916. Ely Record.--"Now four tungsten mills along the Western flank of the Snake Range."

April 28, 1916. Ely Record.--"The Nevada Scheelite Company is owner and operator of Minerva Mines. This is a Salt Lake Company. They hold twenty lode claims under bond and five under location. One of the veins known as the Scheelite Chief was first worked for it's silver ore and was later abandoned. It was relocated last year by the Millick s (of Ely?). North of The Chief is the Oriol and further north is the Everit vein."

By Walt Johnson 

I was in High school in the early forties and like all the young people in the county, we worked as Gandy Dancers, Bull Gang workers and ditch diggers and other menial laboring jobs for the Copper Companies. In 1942 I was under age and could not be hired in one of these jobs so I went to work for two summers, 1942 and 1943 for Tungsten Metals out in Minerva. Tungsten Metals was not as strict about age as were the Copper Mines. I worked both in the mill and in the Scheelite Chief Mine along with my friend Billy Stoops. We lived and boarded with the miners and other workers at the Minerva Campsite. A chapter in my book "Copper Camp Kids" describes our summertime adventures at Minerva.

By Walt Johnson 

Some things about the history of Minerva:

Sometime prior to 1916, the Mining Camp of Minerva was established at the mouth of the canyon in which the Scheelite Chief Mine is located. This is about 5 miles SE of present day Shoshone ranch and Minerva Ghost Camp along the flanks of the Snake Mountain Range. You can still find remnants of this old camp.

The new Minerva which June visited was established in May 1938 when an agreement was reached between the Swallow Brothers Ranch (Shoshone Ranch) and Tungsten Metals Corporation for use of water from a spring owned by the ranch. The Swallows also sold a parcel of land to Tungsten Metals which became the site of the mill And camp of Minerva.

Tungsten Metals operated several tungsten mines and a mill in the Minerva District from 1938 to 1945. They discontinued operations in 1945 at the end of WW II when the market for the metal collapsed. Tungsten Metals sold the properties to Robert Stopper of Ely in 1947. He built a small mill which burned and reconstructed it. Stopper in turn sold the property to Combined Metals (MIA) of Pioche who in turn sold it to John Franks of Pioche. Combined Metals built a camp again at the mouth of the canyon near the Scheelite Chief Mine. There has been no activity since early 1980s.

By Ray Smith 

I lived in Minerva during 1953 and 1954 and went to the school in Shoshone. Those were good times for me and I have a lot of fond memories of life there.
The families living in Minerva at that time were Bob Stopper, his wife, and their two sons, Eddie and Jimmy. Ray "Shorty" Beckstead, his wife Ellen; his sons, Raymond, Dell and Dennis and his daughters, Kathleen and Clara. Ray was my mother's brother. My dad, Joe Smith, my mother, Ivern Smith, my sister, Leah, my brother Richard and myself. The other family living there was named Martin (not sure, but seems to ring a bell).
What I remember most about Mrs. Martin was that she was the school bus driver and we used to drive her nuts. More than once I found myself walking home when she had enough of us. Also she used to raise chickens and one day she got mad at the rooster and when she got done beating on him she just took him into the house for supper.

By Walt Johnson 

You asked about Minerva and Shoshone. As a starter read Chapter 24 starting on page 194 of my book Copper camp Kids. The campsite of Minerva where you found the halftracks belonged to Tungsten Metals Corporation from about 1936 to 1945 and in later years to the Stopper family. It is located near the Shoshone Ranch which was previously named the Swallow Brothers Ranch. The settlement of Shoshone was within the confines of the ranch and included a post office and grade school. Some of the log buildings are still there as of a few years ago.

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