Legends of America

Follow the links to the various pages of Legends of America

The Old West Legends of America Outhouse Madness Ghostly Legends Outlaws Old West Saloons Rocky Mountain General Store Legends Photo Store The Book Store Make your travel reservations here! Route 66 Native Americans The Old States - Back East

Legends of America    |    Legends General Store    |    Legends Photo Shop

 

Legends Of America's Facebook PageLegends Of America's Twitter PageLegends on Pinterest

Legends Home

Site Map

What's New!!

 

Content Categories:

American History

Destinations-States

Ghost Stories

Ghost Towns

Historic People

Legends & Myths

Native Americans

Old West

Photo Galleries

Route 66

Travel Center

Treasure Tales

 

   Search Our Sites

Custom Search

Google

 

About Us

Advertising

Article/Photo Use

Copyright Information

Blog

Facebook Page

Guestbook

Links

Newsletter

Privacy Policy

Site Map

Writing Credits

 

We welcome corrections

and feedback!

Contact Us

 

Legends' General Store


Old West/Western

Route 66

Native American

Featured Items

Sale Items

Books/Magazines

CD's - DVD's

Nuwati Herbals

Personalized-Engraved
Postcards

Wall Art

Custom Products

and Much More!

 

  Legends Of America's Rocky Mountain General Store - Cart View

 

Legends' Photo Prints

Legends Photo Prints and Downloads
 

Ghost Town Prints

Native American Prints

Old West Prints

Route 66 Prints

States, Cities & Places

Nostalgic Prints

Photo Art Prints

Jim Hinckley's America

David Fisk (Lens of Fisk)

Specials-Gift Ideas

and Much More!!
 

Legends Of America's Photo Print Shop - Cart View

 

Family Friendly Site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California Flag - Golden State Legends IconCALIFORNIA LEGENDS

Borax Mining in Death Valley

Legends' General Store

  Bookmark and Share

<<  Previous 1 2  Next  >>

 

20-Mule Team hauling Borax in Death Valley

20-Mule Team hauling Borax in Death Valley, Federal Litho. Co, late 1800's.

 

 

Borax was first produced commercially in the United States in California at Clear Lake north of San Francisco, from about 1864 to 1868, at which place the industry flourished until the early 1870’s when borax began to turn up in large and purer quantities in several of the alkaline marshes of eastern California and western Nevada -- notably around Columbus and Teel's Marsh. Large deposits were located in the Saline Valley flats northwest of Death Valley as early as 1874, prompting an extensive number of borax claims up through the 1890’s.  However, the discoveries underwent only limited development, because of the lack of railroad facilities, the extremely harsh climatic conditions, and the basic fact that they were simply not rich enough to make their exploitation economically viable. In 1874 minor production began in earnest at Searles Lake in San Bernardino County, California west of the Slate Range where construction and operation of a refinery ultimately turned the valley into one of the most extensively worked and most productive borax areas of the region. Neighboring deposits were subsequently found in marshes near Resting Spring southeast of Death Valley and on the salt pan north of the mouth of Furnace Creek.

 

The discovery of borax north of the mouth of Furnace Creek was made in 1881 by Aaron and Rose Winters, whose holdings were immediately bought by William T. Coleman and Company for $20,000. He subsequently formed the Greenland Salt and Borax Mining Company (later the Harmony Borax Mining Company), which in 1882 began operating the Harmony Borax Works, a small settlement of adobe and stone buildings plus a refinery. The homestead, later known as the Furnace Creek Ranch, immediately to the south was intended as the supply point for his men and stock. The Amargosa Borax Works in the vicinity of Resting Spring, and also a Coleman enterprise, was run during the summer months when the extreme heat adversely affected the refining process in the valley. A small-scale borax operation, the Eagle Borax Works, was started by a French man named Isadore Daunet  in 1881, and was located further south in the valley near Bennett’s Well. It lasted only until 1884 when the inefficiency of its operation combined with personal setbacks resulted in Daunet's suicide. It is frankly amazing that any of these works experienced half the success they did, for their distance from main transportation systems and the daily hardships involved in working under uncomfortable desert conditions were severe obstacles to their economic success.

 

The type of borate being exploited on the salt flats of Death Valley was ulexite, in the form of "cottonballs" that were scraped off the salt pan and then refined by evaporation and crystallization. It was initially believed that this was the only form of naturally occurring borax that was commercially profitable. Continuing exploration in the area by Coleman Company prospectors and others soon confirmed that the playa borates that were presently being worked were actually a secondary deposit resulting from the leaching of beds of borate lime. The primary deposit, a richer form of borate later named in honor of William T. Coleman, occurred in beds and veins similar to quartz-mining operations. In 1883 three men by the names of Philander Lee, Harry Spiller, and Billy Yount stumbled upon a large mountain of such ore south of Furnace Creek Wash in the foothills of the Black Mountains.

 

 

Selling Monte Blanco to Coleman, reportedly for $4,000, they left, having made their fortune off the borax industry. Within a year an even larger deposit east of the Greenwater Range and about seven miles southwest of Death Valley Junction was also found. It was beginning to appear that this was the southernmost lode in a rich colemanite belt stretching northwest to southeast along Furnace Creek Wash to the area of Furnace Creek Ranch. Coleman also bought this property, naming it the Lila C.

 

These discoveries that were soon to revolutionize the borax industry in the United States seemed destined for the moment to lie untouched, for several reasons: first, these larger and more concentrated deposits required underground mining methods; second, more sophisticated techniques were necessary for their refinement as they were not readily soluble in hot water; third, no transportation lines extended into this undeveloped area; fourth, no nearby supply center existed; fifth, this badlands region was so hot in summer that it precluded mining activity during that season; and last and perhaps most important, Coleman's desert refineries were doing so well that he seemed justified in continuing their operations for a while yet.

 

borax miner

A borax miner about to enter his tunnel home in Death Valley.

These extensive and pure deposits would probably have remained undeveloped if not for the discovery in 1883 of more colemanite ledges in the Calico Mountains 12 northeast of the railroad at Daggett in San Bernardino County. Because of their proximity to the railroad these deposits posed a serious threat to Coleman's Death Valley business. Immediately buying up the most important lodes, he decided to look to the future and initiated research at his Alameda, California refinery in order to determine a profitable method of refining this material. Meanwhile, his Harmony and Amargosa works continued production.

 

 

Continued Next Page

<<  Previous 1 2  Next  >>

Legends' Photo Print Store

Vintage Old West photo prints and downloads.Vintage Photographs of the Old West - From Legends' Photo Print Shop, you'll find hundreds of vintage images of the Old West that can be ordered in prints or downloaded for commercial use. Providing dramatic glimpses into the rich heritage of the American West, see famous characters including notorious outlaws and lawmen, cowboys and trailblazers, and more; transportation including covered wagons and stagecoaches; Saloons, Gambling & Women; Westward Expansion, and everything in between.

Old West People Prints and Downloads   Westward Expansion vintage prints and downloads   Old West People Prints and downloads.   Old West photo prints and downloads   Old West Cowboys and Trailblazers prints and downloads   Painted Lady of the Old West

 

                                                            Copyright © 2003-Present, www.Legends of America.com