SEARLES VALLEY TIMELINE
used with the permission of the
Searles Valley Historical Society
1862 - While prospecting for gold and silver in the Slate Range mountains
with three partners, John W. Searles finds
tincal (borax) efflorescence on the dry barren surface of what is now Searles Lake. The find goes unrecognized.
1872 - Watching Francis "Borax" Smith recover tincal from Teel's
Marsh, Nevada, Searles realizes the value of the dry
lake he found in California.
1873 - Searles stakes claim to 640 acres of the lake and forms the
San Bernardino Borax Mining Company. He uses mules
to haul borax in wagons to San Pedro.
1876 - The Southern Pacific Railroad extends its tracks 120 miles
from Los Angeles to Mojave. Now Searles, in the first
ever use of 20-mule teams, only has a four day trip to the railhead.
1897 - Soon after John Searles' death, the San Bernardino Borax Mining
Company. is sold to the Pacific Coast Borax
Company (owned by "Borax" Smith), which shuts down the Searles Lake operations.
1898 - California Borax Company organizes and plans to process Searles
Lake salts for borax, soda ash, and potash.
The company never begins production.
1908 - California Trona Company forms and begins recovering soda
ash and potash from lake brines. The company
borrows extensively and is placed into receivership.
1910 - S. W. Austin, receiver for the California Trona Company, builds
roads onto the lake and drills test wells. He is
accused of claim jumping but is later vindicated.
1913 - Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa, a British - owned
company, forms the American Trona Corporation,
which in turn acquires the California Trona Company.
1914 - The Trona Railway Company completes 31 miles of track to Trona
from the Searles Station junction with the
Southern Pacific Railroad. American Trona Corporation establishes the company - owned town of Trona.
1915 - Potash production begins and totals 250 tons for the year.
1916 - The Solvay Process Company and Pacific Borax Company form
the Borosolvay operation and boost the lake's
potash output to 36,000 tons for the year.
1919 - American Trona Corporation introduces the Three Elephant brand
name for borax. The name indicates strength
relative to the competing 20 - Mule Team brand.
1920 - Consolidated Gold Fields sells its interests in the American
Trona Corporation to a Dutch syndicate for $12 million.
"Borax" Smith forms the West End Chemical Company and begins developing a process to recover borax and soda ash.
1921 - Potash prices fall, and the Borosolvay plant ceases operations.
1926 - American Trona becomes American Potash & Chemical Corporation.
Borax production begins at the
West End Chemical plant.
1927 - West End Chemical Company begins soda ash production at their plant.
1932 - Exploratory drilling on Searles Lake indicates the existence
of a lower salt bed filled with brine, greatly increasing
the lake's known reserves.
1934 - American Potash & Chemical Corporation doubles the production
of potash and borax and begins producing
soda ash and sodium sulfate.
1948 - American Potash & Chemical Corporation develops a new operation which expands soda ash and borax production.
1955 - West End Chemical Company begins sodium sulfate production.
1956 - The West End Chemical Company merges with the Stauffer Chemical Company.
1961 - American Potash & Chemical Corporation again doubles the production of potash and borax.
1962 - American Potash & Chemical Corporation develops a novel
solvent extraction process to recover boric acid
and potassium sulfate from weak brines. They receive national recognition and an award for their innovative process.
1965 - American Potash & Chemical Corporation begins using solar
evaporation in large ponds to seasonally increase the
strength of brines.
1967 - American Potash & Chemical Corporation is acquired by Kerr-McGee Corporation on 27 December.
1969 - American Potash & Chemical Corporation is renamed Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation.
1970 / 1972 - Searles Lake Chemical Company, a subsidiary of Occidental
Petroleum Corporation, attempts to develop
a process to recover chemicals from lake brines using solar ponds and physical separations. The attempt fails.
1974 - Stauffer Chemical Company's holdings on Searles Lake are acquired
by Kerr - McGee Chemical Corporation
on October 10.
1977 - Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation begins operation of its new
Argus power plant. This is the first large industrial
boiler in California fired by coal.
1978 - Kerr - McGee Chemical Corporation begins production in the Argus Plant, its large new soda ash operation.
1980 - Kerr - McGee Chemical Corporation improves the borax process
at Westend, increasing borax production by fifty
percent. In the Trona Plant, Kerr-McGee ends soda ash production, reduces borax production and expands sodium
1982 - In the Trona Plant Kerr - McGee Chemical Corporation shuts
down half the potash, half the borax, and all of the
sodium sulfate production, as well as all of the gas fired boilers.
1988 - Kerr - McGee Chemical Corporation transfers Westend's soda
ash production to the more efficient Argus Facility
while expanding Westend borax production by thirty percent. The soda ash transfer also ends operation of the lime kiln
at the Westend Plant.
1989 - ACE Company begins electric power generation and power sales
to Southern California Edison Company.
The ACE coal fired boiler uses a novel fluid bed for cleanly burning coal.
1990 - D. George Harris and Associates acquires the Soda Products
Division of the Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation
on 01 December and forms the North American Chemical Company.
1994 - North American Chemical Company begins using fluid bed technology to make soda ash production more efficient.
1996 - North American Chemical Company improves borax mining on Searles
Lake and uses this to almost double
borax production at the Westend Plant. They also increase soda ash production at the Argus Plant. Finally, they shut
down all potash and borax production at the Trona Plant, bringing to an end the eighty one year history of recovering
potash from Searles Lake brines.
1998 - IMC Global Incorporation acquired Trona's North American Chemical
Company on 01 April.
The North American Chemical Company facilities at Trona and Westend were renamed IMC Chemicals Incorporated
to match the name of their parent corporation.
2004 - Sun Capital Investments LLC acquired all of the IMC Chemicals
facilities in Searles Valley on 18 March.
At the same time, all of the operation was renamed Searles Valley Minerals, Inc.
Return to: History Site Map
Searles Lake Gem and Mineral Society
P. O. Box 966
Trona, CA 93592-0966
Phone (760) 372-5356
| Home | Site Map | Revised 04/24/2004
All contents of this web page are the property of the
Searles Valley Historical Society.
Reproduction or other uses of any of these contents without the written permission of the owner is prohibited.
If you want to use any of the contents, contact the SVHS for permission.