Francis Marion Smith – “Borax Smith”

Francis Marion "Borax" Smith
Francis Marion “Borax” Smith

Francis Marion Smith, also known as “Borax” Smith was a miner and business man who made a fortune in the hostile deserts of Nevada and California. He was born in Richmond, Wisconsin in 1846. He went to the public schools and graduated from Milton College. He left Wisconsin seeking his fortune in the American West. and set off for Nevada.

In 1872, while working as a woodcutter, he discovered a rich supply of ulexite at Teel’s Marsh, near the future townsite of Marietta, Nevada. Seeing his opportunity, Smith staked a claim started a company with his brother Julius Smith. The brothers established a borax works at the edge of the marsh to concentrate the borax crystals and separate them from dirt and other impurities.

In 1877, Scientific American reported that the Smith Brothers shipped their product in a 30-ton load using two large wagons with a third wagon for food and water drawn by a 24-mule team for 160 miles (260 km) across the Great Basin Desert from Marietta to the nearest Central Pacific Railroad siding in Wadsworth, Nevada.

Building upon his success, Smith grew his operations and purchased claims at Fish Lake and Columbus March. He bought his brothers shares in the venture in 1884. As he closed down his operations in Teel’s Marsh, Smith purchased the Harmony Borax works from William Tell Coleman who was financially over extended.

Smith then consolidated all of his mining operations with his own holdings to form the Pacific Coast Borax Company in 1890. The Pacific Coast Borax Company then established and promoted the 20-Mule-Team Borax brand and trademark.

In his later years, Francis Marion “Borax” Smith expanded his interest in railroads and charitable work in his hometown of Oakland, California.


Christian Brevoort Zabriskie

Christian Brevoort Zabriskie was a vice president and general manager Pacific Coast Borax Company located in Death Valley National Park. Zabriske served teh Pacific Coast Borax Company for some thirty six years, and due to this activity is honored by the naming an Zabriske Point.

Christian Brevoort Zabriskie
Christian Brevoort Zabriskie

Christian Brevoort Zabriskie (1864–1936) was born at Fort Bridger in the Wyoming Territory. After schooling, he worked for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad located in Carson City, Nevada. For a time, he relocated to Candelaria, Nevada at work for the Esmeralda County Bank. He briefly venture into the mortuary business with a partnership formed with a local cabinet maker. His lack of knowledge in the art of embalming was not considered a liability as burial speed was a huge priority.

In 1885, at the age of twenty one, Zabriske was hired by Francis Marion “Borax” Smith to supervise the Chinese laborer’s. These men worked for the Pacific Coast Borax Company is the Columbus Marsh located near Candelaria. During his thirty six year tenure with the Pacific Coast Borax Company, the company closed up Candelaria operations and relocated to Death Valley to increase production. The company also expanded into the Calico Mountains and Trona, California

Zabriskie Point named for Christian Brevoort Zabriskie - Photo by James L Rathbun
Zabriskie Point named for Christian Brevoort Zabriskie – Photo by James L Rathbun

Zabriske retired from the Pacific Coast Borax Company in 1933 as Vice President and General Manager. All of his work in Death Valley took place before the area was designated National Monument. He passed away just three years later, on February 8thm 1936 at the age of 71. He is buried in Carson City, Nevada.

Zabriske Point is named to honor the man for his many years of service to the Pacific Coast Borax Company.