Death Valley History:
Harmony Borax Works
Harmony Borax Works was the central feature in the opening of Death Valley and the subsequent popularity of the
Furnace Creek area. The plant and associated townsite
played an important role in Death Valley history.
After borax was found near Furnace Creek Ranch (then called Greenland) in 1881,
William Tell Coleman
built the Harmony
plant and began to process ore in late 1883 or early 1884. When in full operation, the Harmony Borax Works employed
40 men who produced three tons of borax daily. During the summer months, when the weather was so hot that processing
water would not cool enough to permit the suspended borax to crystallize, Coleman moved his work force to the
Amargosa Borax Plant near present day
Getting the finished product to market from the heart of Death Valley was a difficult task, and an efficient method
had to be devised. The harmony operation became famous through the use of large mule teams and double wagons that
hauled borax the long overland route to
Mojave. The romantic image of the
persists to this day and has
become the symbol of the borax industry in this country.
The Harmony plant went out of operation in 1888, after only five years of production, when Colemanís financial empire
collapsed. Aquired by
Francis Marion Smith,
the works never resumed the boiling of cottonball borate ore, and in time
became part of the borax reserves of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and it successors. On December 31, 1974, the site was
placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At present the Borax Works plant consists of a four-level ruin situated against a hillside. There are remains
of buildings, machinery, tanks, piping, and waste tailings. In addition to the plant proper, a nearby townsite
contains remnants of buildings and trash dumps relating to the company settlement. The entire complex is referred
to as "Harmony Borax Works," or simply as "Harmony."
Geology of Harmony
For a few years in the early 1880ís, borax minerals were removed by hand from the playa surface and brought to this location for separation and processing. ...