Investigation Identifies White Substance on Curry County Ranch as Borax

Mar 19, 2014

 In 1862 John and Emma Creswell started the Lone Ranch near Brookings, Ore., where they raised sheep and cattle and cut timber. Builders used a chalky white substance found on their land near the ocean as chalk, and housewives used it as silver polish.

Eleven years later, A. W. Chase sent a sample of the white powder to a San Francisco laboratory, where a metallurgist, Thomas Price, suggested it was a new mineral. It turned out to be borax, the mineral that would make Death Valley famous. Francis M. “Borax” Smith, who established his first borax operation in 1872 in Nevada, founded the Pacific Coast Borax Co. in 1890 and purchased part of the Lone Ranch. The following year he bought the rest of the ranch and began mining. Although the “borax mines” are still remembered  in Curry County, the Lone Ranch operation lasted only two years due to disappointing yields and processing and financial difficulties.  The land went through several ownership changes, and was acquired in 1950 by the State of Oregon.   The Lone Ranch is now part of Boardman State Park with a beautiful beach beside U.S. Route 101. 

 Sources: Adams, Mike. Chetco. Brookings, Ore.: Chetco Valley Historical Society, 2011.  Oregon’s Highway Park System  1921-1989. Salem, OR: Oregon Parks, 1992.