Goldfield Cemetery Stories

Goldfield residents had the pleasure to meet with out of town visitors who have ancestors in the Goldfield Cemetery. These folks have been kind enough to share their experiences. Here are their stories~

A Sad Tale

Nana Long was a young prostitute from Texas working in the red light district of Goldfield. She went by the name Ray Raymond. On May 10, 1908 this unfortunate young women took a pistol and shot herself in the head. She died by her own hand because her lover had apparently abandoned her. Nana’s father refused to have her body returned to Texas for burial.  So, her earthly remains rest in the Goldfield Cemetery.

March 27, 1918  Goldfield Cemetery Grave Digger Dies in Grave Accident

John F. Meagher was found dead in a grave he was digging in the Catholic plot of the Goldfield Cemetery.  His death was caused by a rock that entered his brain while blasting a boulder in the grave. Meagher was 73 years of age and feeble.

It is supposed that he was unable to climb out of the grave in time to escape the blast. He was a native of Iowa and had been in Goldfield since 1905 or 1906.  During the winter of 1906, when the town had a large death list, he made a small fortune at his occupation and employed a number of men.  Information provided by Allen Metscher

Meagher was interred in the grave he was digging in the Goldfield Cemetery at the time of his unfortunate accident.


B 1839 – D 1906
By George Kuhn Joseph Bown and the Goldfield Historical Society

This is a story about my Great grandparents, Joseph Bown his wife Mary E. and family. Joseph traveled west to Telluride, Colorado before settling in Goldfield, Nevada around the early 1900s, not to mine for gold, but to satisfy his entrepreneurial desire. He and his wife Mary were excellent cooks and started a boarding house for miners in Jumbo Town, an area adjacent and north of Goldfield, until the death of Mary in 1919.

My Grandparents (George Frederick Kuhn, known as Fred, and Sara Eva Bown Kuhn, known as Sadie and also Joseph Bown’s daughter) — went to Goldfield to assist in the care of the boarding house in 1911, where my father George and his sister Nellie (their children) grew up. Family history says both rode a stagecoach to school; I wonder did the stage coach stop in front of the house and wait for them to come out, like so many school buses do today!

Mary being a very kind person paid for Nellie to have piano lessons, and Nellie became a very talented musician. My grandmother, Sadie, was a very dedicated Methodist and was instrumental in having the Methodist Church built in Goldfield. She later retired as president of the Methodist Ladies Aid.  In the years 1936 to 1942 my aunt Nellie Goodrich was the pianist for the Methodist Community Sunday School. Later my grandparents purchased a home in Goldfield, address unknown.

The boarding house was located on Fifth Avenue in Goldfield. This is the same street a saloon called The Santa Fe (owned by a German named Joe Fuesch) was located. It was patronized by the men in our family, and became somewhat of a cactus thorn in the side of the women folk.  I’m sure during that time, if only walls could talk, the stories could not be printed with a quality of modesty! As William Shakespeare once said “Discretion is the better part of valor”. My point in this is to stimulate your imagination and bring back the exciting stories of the old west. One of the stories is the purchase of a .41 caliber double action Colt lighting that Joseph Bown, found it irresistible to have. It has a grip that’s versatile enough for women to handle as well as the hand of the rough and tumble Jesse James. That revolver has been passed down through the family. Approximately 50 years ago my father allowed me to discharge it and somehow became my possession. I in turn passed it to my son Noah a few years back when he showed me how accurately the gun performed, a skill that has eluded me for many years.

Joseph Bown whom I never had the chance to meet also had a pocket watch he carried in the Civil War. It was relegated to family for safe-keeping and now my charge in life is to carry on that tradition.  My virtuous cousin, Ken Goodrich placed the watch in my hand to continue that honorable task of diligence.

My wife Dayle and I visited my cousin Kenneth Goodrich and his wife Martha, (Reiley) Goodrich of Sparks Nevada, in October 2009. They wanted us to replace the grave markers of Joseph and Mary Bown with new wooden markers made by Martha. Dayle and I decided the graves needed a more permanent head stone. Our good friend Maryann Phillips of Phillips Monument Co cut and donated the head stone. My wife and I decided to make the trip from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Goldfield to bring the marker and combine it with a vacation. Our daughter Sally and her husband Ken Sennett joined up with us in Sparks, not only to meet the cousins, but to participate in the exiting event. We arrived in Tonopah, Nevada on April 22, 2010 to visit the Central Nevada mine museum. My wife mentioned to the curator the reason we were in Nevada, and she said, with an exited voice “We have been waiting for you!” and to please call Angela Haag. Angela and John Ekman  (pictured right), the President of the Goldfield Historical Society, met us at the Goldfield cemetery with tools, water, and cement to set the marker. Dayle and I were elated to have such enthusiasm from people we didn’t know. How refreshing!

Upon our arrival at the Goldfield cemetery, we were also greeted by three local grounds keepers working tirelessly to rid the unsightly undergrowth. Although the snow was falling in the desert, they continued to meticulously manicure the pathways. We were particularly impressed to discover they were working without a contract, and I even thought I recognized them from the movies. The names Bessie, Gus and Francis are thrust upon my grey cells.

Some people pass away all too soon. My great grand parents were no exception to the rule, and are fortunate enough to be buried in the Goldfield cemetery, (The Knights of Pythias section). I’m grateful for dedicated and excellent people to oversee the care and continuous preservation of a worthy cause.

Afterwards we had the privilege to receive a personally guided tour, of the old Goldfield’s high school in the process of restoration, from John and Amanda Elsea. They have an unyielding strength of character to embrace this project with complete devotion.

When our cousins, Ken and Martha Goodrich attended the school, they either signed in pencil or scratched their names on a door frame with other graduates in the past, which are still very visible today. Who said graffiti tag art is the work of today’s young people? The only difference is that kids now are afraid to sign their real names.

In closing, my entire family has been honored, not in the usual way with the pin on your chest or the fanfare of a parade, but with the genuine dedication of the members of the Goldfield Historical Society and the people of Goldfield.


George F. Kuhn

The Story of Joy~

In the town of Goldfield on August 30, 1907, Mildred Joy Fleming, a young girl whose family was getting ready to move to the East, passed away from diphtheria. The family could ill afford a headstone. Her mother was very distraught about her daughter being left behind and forgotten in an unmarked grave. So, waiting until the town was asleep, she borrowed a child’s wagon and took it to a local school under construction, where she took a block of stone. She brought the stone home, carved the name “JOY” and later hired a horse drawn wagon to take the stone to the Cemetery where she then placed in on her daughter’s grave. Her daughter would now not be forgotten.
On Decoration Day, Schoolchildren and other town’s people decorated Joy’s grave with flowers on Decoration Day a tradition that started in about the 1930’s.
In later years members of the Goldfield Elks Lodge along with the Nevada Highway Department replaced the crumbling stone with a proper tombstone that features the girl’s nickname and a toy wagon. Recently a Goldfield Resident added a flat marble marker over the grave that tells tourists about the legend. Goldfield has never forgotten Joy.

Anne Ellis, who taught herself to read and write, went on to become a fairly well-known author of early Western lore. She followed up her 1929 book with “Plain Anne Ellis: More About the Life of an Ordinary Woman” in 1931 and “Sunshine Preferred: The Philosophy of an Ordinary Woman” in 1934. She and her second husband , Herbert Ellis, left Goldfield shortly after Joy’s death and settled in Bonanza, Colo., where they raised their other children, Neita Fleming and Earl Ellis.  Ellis taught school, operated a boarding house for miners and became Bonanza’s first telephone operator. After Herbert Ellis died during surgery, she became a women’s rights activist and politician, serving three terms as the elected treasurer of Saguache County , Colo. In 1938, she died in Denver at age 63.

The Trip to Joy’s Grave by Joan Lee and Barbara Ellis

On  May 17, 2010, two sisters,  Joan (Ellis) Lee and Barbara Ellis, and a mostly patient and understanding husband, Mack Lee, made the 176 mile drive from Las Vegas to Goldfield, NV., in search of the grave of Joy Fleming, the older half-sister of our Father, Earl Ellis.  Joy died from diphtheria at an early age when Earl was about age 5.  Daddy would tell us that he and his father, Herbert Ellis, had to sleep in the barn behind their house because his Mother was doctoring his two sisters, Neita and Joy Fleming, in the house during the terrible diphtheria epidemic and wanted to keep them from getting it.

The scant details of this grave were known to us only from the writings of our paternal grandmother, Anne Ellis; so armed with a cooler containing water and snacks and expecting a long tedious search of the Goldfield Cemetery we started out.  We stopped at the Esmeralda County Seat, Goldfield, and after checking with several offices were directed to that of the Auditor and Recorder.  My sister, Barbara, explained to Lois Skullestad that we needed to determine the directions to the cemetery and then, to locate a grave.   Lois first said finding the cemetery would be no problem but the grave might be difficult because they aren’t well marked; Barbara advised that we have pictures of the grave and the marker has only the name “JOY” written on it.  Immediately, Lois said “I know the grave; I was just out there last week for a service and stood near that grave”.

The directions to the cemetery and grave were easy to find, and Lois was able to provide many documents from their records.  Patient and understanding husband, Mack, just stood there, billfold in hand, paying for 2 copies of everything available – Lois told him he still had $.25 credit left from the bill he had given her.  We hit the Mother Lode with the Death Certificate, Death Register Record, and several articles written about Joy.  More importantly, we learned for the first time that Joy’s first name was Mildred, that she was 10 years young when she died, the actual date of her death, and that her grave is decorated each year by wonderful caring people who have refurbished the original grave with a beautiful marker.   Our hearts ache for our pioneer Grandmother for her very hard life, who lost her beloved child at a very young age, and had to leave her behind as she moved on to Colorado with the miners; as I lost my first born son, at age 30, to a motorcycle accident in California, and after the services had to leave him and return to my family and job in Texas.

From the members of the family who have responded, all are in agreement that we are just very grateful to the many Nevadans who have lovingly cared about Joy and tended her grave for all these years. Joy belongs to Goldfield and its glorious history, to all those people who have cherished her memory for 103 years and especially to Mr. Bryan Smalley who gives of his time and assets to improve many of the graves, including that of Joy. I am sure that our grandmother, Anne Ellis, would be very happy also to know that her child was never forgotten.

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