Buena Suerte

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Texas has considerable quantities of ore from which mercury may be produced. Historically, several distinct uses made the metal so indispensable in time of war that a belligerent without it was at the mercy of one with ample supplies. Possession or control of quicksilver resources was greatly desired by all nations, but it was obtainable in quantity in only a few. More recently, mercury has been used in electrical apparatus, dental preparations, fungicides, bactericides, and industrial instruments. In Texas all mercury mining has been done about ninety miles south of Alpine in Brewster and Presidio counties. The producing area, known as the Terlingua District, is the third-largest mercury-producing area in the United States. Mercury mining is done by sinking shafts and running drifts. Historically, the miners were mostly men of mixed Mexican and Indian blood who worked under technical supervision. Until World War II hand drilling and mucking as well as outmoded methods of refining ore were used; operators converted to modern methods to meet war requirements and high labor costs.

Cinnabar, the brilliant red ore of mercury, was discovered and first worked in Texas by Indians, who probably used it as war paint and certainly used it in the paintings still to be seen on the rocks and bluffs of West Texas. In these paintings the deep red of cinnabar still shows brightly among the fading colors produced by other pigments. Cinnabar was probably an article of commerce among the Plains Indians, for Ferdinand von Roemer, who traversed the Comanche country in 1840, mentions trading a lasso for a small quantity. The first mention of the discovery of mercury by White men states that a sample was taken to Alpine, Texas, for identification in 1884. This event led to prospecting and additional discoveries, and the first flask of mercury was produced in 1886. (A "flask" of mercury is seventy-six pounds.) Desultory prospecting and production continued until 1898, when mining was started by what later became the Marfa and Mariposa Mining Company. By 1900 the company had produced about a thousand flasks by means of retorts.

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W. D. Burcham, Harris S. Smith | © TSHA

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Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

Buena Suerte is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Buena Suerte is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Los Fresnos)

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated