Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pioneer monument to be dedicated at St. Helena Cemetery

A monument to honor pioneer John Searles will be dedicated on Dec. 5 in St. Helena.

Register Staff
Napa Valley Register

The public is invited to attend the dedication of the new monument honoring mining pioneer John Searles at St. Helena Cemetery on Dec. 5 at 10:30 a.m.

John Searles was an early California pioneer, arriving by ship in San Francisco in the spring of 1850. After mining gold for 23 years, he discovered that what had appeared to be just salt and mud, was in fact the largest mineral deposit in California. He began mining borax at his discovery. Today, mining of that deposit continues after more than 140 years, and today a variety of products in addition to borax are extracted.

In his honor, his mineral deposit was named Searles Lake.

Despite his importance to California, when Searles died on Oct. 7, 1897, in St. Helena, he was buried two days later with only a curb surrounding his plot marked with his last name. His grave provides no information as to who he was, or what he accomplished.

The St. Helena Historical Society, the Searles Valley Historical Society and several private individuals are erecting a proper monument at his grave.

Napa Marble and Granite Works helped design the marker with historic details from Searles Valley Historical Society. Donations have been collected since 2014 for the $8,000 project. Donations came from Searles Valley Historical Society, with major gifts from Jim and Bonnie Fairchild, Searles Valley Minerals Inc., Searles Lake Gem and Mineral Society and the Death Valley 49ers Club.

Kim Taylor, a Searles Valley native, realized at the Trona (Searles Valley) Centennial Celebration in 2014 that the founder’s grave was unmarked. Taylor, who now lives in Roseville, spearheaded the effort.

Descendants of John and Mary Searles, plus representatives from Searles Valley and St. Helena historical societies, will attend the Dec. 5 dedication at the cemetery, at 2461 Spring St. The dedication is rain or shine.

For information, contact the St. Helena Historical Society at 707-967-5502 or by email, or the Searles Valley Historical Society at 760-372-5222 or