Christian Zabriskie – Borax Mining in Death Valley

Christian Zabriskie

Christian Zabriskie

Christian “Chris” Brevoort Zabriskie was born at Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory, where his father, E.B. Zabriskie, was stationed. Chris attended various schools while growing up and, at a very early age, went to work as a telegrapher for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad at Carson City, Nevada. He was too restless and ambitious to stay in one place for very long and soon moved to Candelaria, Nevada, where he worked for the Esmerelda County Bank. Being an active young man, one job was not enough to keep him occupied, and he soon branched out into other ventures, one of which was a partnership with a local cabinet maker to establish a mortuary. Neither of the two knew how to embalm, but it wasn’t considered necessary in a mining town, though prompt burial was.

Zabriskie’s life took on new meaning in 1885 when Francis “Borax” Smith hired him to supervise several hundred Chinese workers at the Columbus Marsh area of the Pacific Coast Borax Company near Candelaria. This was the beginning of a life-long career in the field of Borax. He ultimately became vice president and general manager of the company and served in that capacity for 36 years until his retirement in 1933. During this time, the Pacific Coast Borax Company had phased out most of its borax operations in the Candelaria vicinity but had moved on to the greater production in the Death Valley area.

Zabriskie died just three years after his retirement on February 8, 1936.  Zabriskie Point on the northeasternmost flank of the Black Mountains east of Death Valley is named after him.

Pacific Coast Borax Widow Mine, Ryan, California, Burton Frasher, 1928

Pacific Coast Borax Widow Mine, Ryan, California, by Burton Frasher, 1928

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Also See:

Borax Mining in Death Valley

Death Valley Mining Camps & Ghost Towns

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley Slideshow

Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park