Benny J. Fenn was born in Colonia Juarez (in western Chihuahua, Mexico) on ___, 19__. the son of ____ and ____ a miner and cattle rancher. His Mormon great-grandfather had emigrated to Mexico in 1886 to escape Utah's new anti-polygamy laws. Benny's grandfather (who knew Pancho Villa) mined for gold and silver in Sonora and Chihuahua, and taught Benny how to mine as well.
As a young boy Benny was fascinated by the minerals he found on the family ranch and in the family gold mine, and started collecting minerals at the age of 12. But it wasn't until after his marriage to Elva ___ in 1965 that he became seriously involved in minerals. Benny and Elva first mined opal and agate from the famous silica fields of Chihuahua, but soon turned their attention to crystallized minerals. By 1965 they were supplying specimens to wholesale mineral dealers in Tucson and southern California. Tucson dealer Susie Davis (q.v.) was especially helpful, teaching Benny a great deal about minerals, mineral identification, and the mineral business.
Benny and Elva's travels in search of minerals took them throughout all of Mexico but they concentrated on the northern and central states. Some of Benny's most important dealings include a major pocket of legrandite at the Ojuela mine, Mapimi (1968); the Allende meteorite (1969); a series of wulfenite pockets at Los Lamentos (1969-1970); and brilliant yellow botryoidal mimetite from San Pedro Corralitos (1970). Benny used the proceeds from the San Pedro Corralitos venture to purchase his 5,000-acre cattle ranch in the Sierra Madre, 46 miles southwest of Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. But he also continued mining and dealing in minerals. In 1972 he handled a major find of smithsonite from the Choix mine, and in 1994 began working the now-famous pink grossular deposit at Sierra de Cruces.
It's always been a family affair with the Fenns. Benny and Elva's two sons, Benny Lee and David, have often helped out in their specimen mining projects; Benny's sister Verla and her husband Harold Jorgenson operated a mineral shop in Lordsberg, New Mexico, and Harold often helped out on mining ventures as well. The Fenns had a wholesale mineral booth at the Tucson Show as early as the late 1960's, and in 1971 they became retail show dealers. In 1991 they moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico and established a mineral shop there, but they still operate their cattle ranch in Chihuahua.
PANCZNER, W.D. (1984) Benny J. Fenn [Notes from Mexico]. Mineralogical Record, 15, 239-240.
GRAEBER, C. (1999) Benny Fenn: mineral dealer, rancher, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Rocks & Minerals, 74 (1), 31-33.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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