By Marye Roeser
Frank Shaw was a colorful indivedual. He was an early pioneer, rancher, and teamster in Mono County and the Eastern Sierra. In 1865, he owned a cattle ranch in Adobe Valley which lies to the east of Mono Lake. Bodie, California and Aurora, Nevada were adjacent to Adobe Valley and Shaw’s ranch. Frank grew hay on his ranch and pastured his cattle on the meadow lands. He purchased some good draft horses in Columbia, California to start his herd then raised and trained his own draft horses. Frank aquired a Mammoth Jack to breed to some of his mares and produce good large mules. The jack was reportedly mean so he built a high-walled corral to keep him in.
Shaw was also in the freighting business as part of his ranching operations. He would haul hay and supplies to Eastern California/Western Nevada mining camps and haul out ore on the return trips. He was considered to be a long line, or long jerk line, teamster. He would use as many as 32 mules on a long line team and even hook up to 3 freight wagons together. The Studebaker Co. built Nevada Wagons for hauling ore and supplies. Frank Shaw likely used some of those wagons as they were popular in this area and local wagon makers built variations of that know style of wagon.
F. M. Smith discovered borax at Teel’s Marsh, near Hawthorne, Nevada in 1872. Adobe Valley is just west of Teel’s Marsh and the nearby small mining town of Marietta. Teel’s Marsh was a playa wetland in 1870 often covered with standing water. Columbus Marsh, near Tonopah, Nevada was already in production and not a long distance away. Shaw located borax in his own Adobe Valley and freighted some to Bodie. At that time, most borax was imported from Europe or other areas in the world. Entrepreneurs searched for borax minerals in the United States as they recognized the importance and the demand for local sources.
As Smith developed his borax mining works at Teel’s Marsh he needed freighters to move the mineral to markets demanding the product. Bodie was one of those markets and used borax in gold mining. The Teel’s Marsh borax works soon became the largest borax operation in the world. Smith mined the product and contracted the hauling to private freighters. Frank Shaw was soon hauling borax from Teel’s Marsh to Bodie with his long line teams.
Rhodes Marsh was 9 miles south of Mina, Nevada near what is now Highway 95. There were maybe 200 acres of salt ponds at Rhodes Marsh. Salt was hauled from Rhodes Marsh to Aurora, Nevada beginning in 1862. Borax was discovered in Rhodes Marsh the 1870s. The area had a simular borax production as Teel’s Marsh. From 1874 to 1881, one ton per day was produced at Rhodes Marsh. Beginning in the late 1860s Frank Shaw hauled hay from his ranch to Rhodes Marsh. As Frank was known to haul ore on his return trips, it is quite likely he hauled borax back to Aurora and later Bodie.
In about 1880, Smith moved his operation to Death Valley where he discovered more borax. There Smith set up Harmony Borax Works. The location in Death Valley was very remote and Smith needed to freight the borax produced at the mine to the railroad in Mojave. Smith was having to use his own wagons and teams to make the long haul to the Mojave railroad. Since Smith had previously dealt with Frank Shaw at Teel’s Marsh, Smith contacted Shaw around 1881 or 82. Smith purchased 18 mules and 2 draft horses from Shaw along with two wagons. This is how 2 wagons and a team of 18 mules and 2 horse became one of the first “Death Valley 20 Mule Teams!”