Mildred Joy Flemming arrived in Goldfield in 1906 with her mother, Anne Ellis, and stepfather, Herbert, from Colorado. She was only about 9 years old at the time, but her story has touched many.
Joy was only 6 months old when her father, George Flemming, became trapped in an underground mine’s ‘live hole’ in Colorado. A live hole is one filled with blasting materials.
He died instantly when it exploded.
Anne, born in Missouri in 1875, purchased a tombstone for her husband’s grave and a boarding house to support her family with a $600 company settlement. The business failed, and she later married another miner named Herbert Ellis.
Together they decided Goldfield was the place to earn their fortune. They arrived in the new boomtown in September and took up residence in a one-room, tent-covered shanty.
A string of bad investments in the Goldfield Stock Exchange ran the couple’s savings dry, and a labor dispute at the mines added to their problems. Soon, Ellis found himself out of work.
The next summer, Joy, as she was known, complained of a sore throat. Unable to afford a doctor, Anne treated the girl herself.
But as Joy grew sicker, Anne was finally forced to seek the aid of a doctor, who gave her devastating news. Joy had diphtheria.
The little girl died August 30th, 1907.
Refusing to give her daughter to the undertaker, Anne readied Joy for burial herself. The next day, the family and a minister laid the child to rest in an unmarked grave in one of Goldfield’s five graveyards.
The mother anguished over the fact there was no tombstone to mark her daughter’s resting place. One evening, she took a large stone from the construction site of a new school and taking it home, using a hammer and a large nail, she chiseled the name “Joy” into it’s large, flat surface.
When she finished, she put the stone in a small red wagon, and with the help of a deliveryman, got the stone to and set it on Joy’s grave. A couple of months later, Anne left Goldfield to join her husband, who had gone back to Colorado.
Over the years, the tombstone, made of soft limestone, fell apart. Later, Nevada transportation workers replaced it with a new one.
Anne never returned to Nevada. Instead she settled in Bonanza, Colorado.
She would go on to become treasurer for Saguache County in 1918 and was re-elected twice before health problems forced her to resign. In 1929, she wrote a book, “An Ordinary Woman, Plain Anne Ellis.”
Anne died in 1938, the same year she earned her Master of Letters from the University of Colorado.