Borax mining has played an essential role in the history of the Mojave, especially during the years between 1884 and 1889. In 1863, prospector John Searles discovered borax on the site of a dry lakebed (now known as Searles Lake) near modern-day Trona.
Due to many reasons, mining did not begin here until a decade later in 1873. John Searles along with his brother Dennis Searles and their longterm friend and associate, Eben Merrill Skillings, formed the San Bernardino Mining Company to begin extracting this borax.
Though Eben was not a local miner per se, he and John Searles opened an office in Mojave as the headquarters for their mining company. They continued large-scale mining operations, continually expanding their company until John Searles died in 1898. The company was then sold to Francis “Borax” Smith for $200,000, who integrated the company into the fast-growing Pacific Coast Borax Company.
The photo here shows Eben Merrill Skillings and his son in Mojave
"Gurba, Norma H. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Arcadia, 2013.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"