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The Twenty Mule Team Trail - Part 3

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The Twenty Mule Team Trail - Part 3

Death Valley Discovery!

(For the video version see The Twenty Mule Team of Death Valley - click here)

In 1881, at the height of the Nevada borax boom, Francis Marion Smith was producing Smith Brothers borax from Columbus Marsh, Teels Marsh and Rhodes Marsh in Nevada. There was a borax boom taking place in Nevada and prospectors were roaming about looking for new fields of the salty white stuff. One of those prospectors was Harry Spiller. Harry came down from the marshes in Nevada (essentially along Highway 95 today) and ended up at a little hut in Ash Meadows. He needed a place to stay for the night and Aaron and Rosie Winters took him in.

aaron and rosie winters sepia 200 dpiAaron & Rosie Winters

When they got to talking about prospecting, Henry showed Aaron and Rosie how to test for the presence of Borax. Find a likely looking spot, dig up a little of the white salt you suspect has borax, add alcohol and sulfuric acid and light the mixture. If there's a green flame - there's borax! When Henry left, Aaron took Rosie and went to where he remembered seeing some possible borax: in the salt flats of Death Valley.


death valley memories cover salty floor adj

Death Valley's White Salt Flats Lured Aaron and Rosie

So Aaron and Rosie made camp at the mouth of Furnace Creek. They went out and scooped up some of the white, salty stuff. Aaron followed Henry's instructions. Then Aaron lit the mixture. He looked at the flame and shouted "She Burns Green, Rosie! By God we're rich!!" He sold his claims to William Tell Coleman for $25,000. Coleman was one of America's most successful businessmen. He had helped keep California in the union during the Civil War and some even wanted to run him for president. For years he had distributed canned goods including salmon, fruits and other items around the country via rail and with his fleet of clipper ships. Now he was interested in producing borax himself. And Aaron's claim was a great place to start.  As for Aaron and Rosie, they took their money and bought a ranch near Pahrump, Nevada. Sadly Rosie died not long after and Aaron went to the nearby mountains living out the rest of his days as a hermit. But back in Death Valley it would be Coleman who would develop Death Valley's borax and set up the transportation system which became legendary. That story coming up in part 4!

coleman old

William Tell Coleman who bought and Developed

Death Valley's borax operation

Purchased claims: 1881, Began Developing 1882, First shipment 1883

For the Entire Story: DVD: The Twenty Mule Team of Death Valley!

Click Here!



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