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The Twenty Mule Team Trail - Part 1



columbus marsh 2

Columbus Marsh today, 40 miles West of Tonopah, Nevada in Nevada Silver Trails Territory

Mules have been hauling freight around the American desert for a long time. And when it came to hauling the white,salty substance known as borax, one of the first places it was found, mined and carted out of, was here at Columbus Marsh. In the late 1860s and early 1870s Columbus was full of activity. Businesses were thriving, there were buildings with large smokestacks and everyone it seemed was rushing to Columbus, Nevada.  It's located about 40 miles due West of Tonopah, Nevada and is rich in mining and freighting history.  It's a great place to explore. There are plenty of foundations and ruins, enough to capture the imagination. And it was here that a well-known brand and a familiar household product had its beginnings. And why shouldn't it. There was plenty of borax just lying around on the surface waiting to be scooped up, refined, sacked and shipped. People were waiting for it in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and in households around the country. In those days it was touted as having medicinal properties and was sold in drug stores everywhere. People brushed their teeth with it (not recommended), used it to keep away bugs and some believed it would even cure baldness. But its most famous use was as a laundry additive and household cleanser. 

20 mule team borax

The most famous brand became 20 Mule Team Borax and is associated most closely with Death Valley. But its true start was in the deserts of Nevada. It was here at Columbus Marsh in 1872 that a young man from Wisconsin, Francis Marion Smith, found work as a wood chopper for one of the Columbus Borax operations. But he wasn't content to just chop wood.....nope....he had something else in mind.  More on that in our next installment of "The Borax Trail!"  And while you're at it check out the film "The Twenty Mule Team of Death Valley"!

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