Barstow Overview: Prehistory To The 1970s

In the not so distant pre-history of California, scientists tell us, much of the Mojave Desert was water-rich, with both the Mojave River that originated in the San Bernardino Mountains winding out into the desert and lakes formed from the high water table providing surface water. Indian tribes flourished in this environment from at least 300 B.C. until much of the water dissipated in the 1500s. There were still Indians living in the Barstow area, separated into clans, when the Europeans arrived in Southern California.
Because of its relative inhospitableness, the Mojave Desert did not attract inhabitants migrating eastward from the Spanish settlements along the coast of California in the late 1700s nor Americans coming across the continent westward in the 1820s, 1830s and 1840s, although the likes of Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith and the Mormon settlers did pass through the area on their way to San Bernardino and Los Angeles using the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe, the Mojave Road or along the Salt Lake Road.
In the late 1840s and early 1850s, many of those traveling along the Salt Lake Road would temporarily hold up in Barstow along the banks of the Mojave River as the weather cooled in the fall and winter and rain produced new grass growth, which would serve as feed for livestock. With the coming of spring the travelers would move along.
Barstow’s earliest history as a place inhabited by Americans is associated with the areas around it such as Calico, Daggett and Fort Cady.
In May 1855 Daniel Stark became the initial First District San Bernardino County supervisor. Barstow was at that time, and for the next 155 years, located within the First District.
Difficulties with the Paiute, Mojave and Chemehuevi tribes manifested in the 1850s with the influx of American settlers moving through the area. In 1860 Camp Cady, a U.S. Army post was established 20 miles east of Barstow and was occupied sporadically until 1864, then permanently, by soldiers occupying other posts or patrolling in the region until 1871.
With the discovery of gold and silver in the Owens Valley and in mountains to the east of Barstow in the 1860s and 1870s, miners began arriving in Calico and Daggett. The famous 20-mule teams came into being when 10 teams were hitched together with two wagons and a water wagon to haul ore from Daggett to the town of Calico.
Barstow, then known as Waterman or Waterman Junction, grew into a town that provided goods and services to the miners. The U.S. Post Office located into Waterman Junction.
Daggett, five miles downriver, was founded in the 1860s, and was originally called Calico Junction. A silver vein was discovered six miles north in the Calico Mountains in 1882. Shortly thereafter it was renamed after California Lieutenant Governor John Daggett. The same year the Southern Pacific Railroad began construction of a line from Mojave, through Barstow and Daggett toward Needles. In 1884 ownership of the yet-to-be-completed line from Needles to Mojave was transferred to the Santa Fe Railroad.
The Casa del Desierto station and hotel, later called the Harvey House, was built in Waterman Junction in 1885.
On January 15, 1886, Waterman Junction was renamed Barstow after William Barstow Strong, the president of the Santa Fe Railroad.
The Calico Railroad (later called the Daggett-Calico Railroad) started hauling ore from Calico to the Oro Grande Milling Company, across the river from Daggett in 1888. That same year, the Santa Fe Railroad arrived in town.
By 1896, the silver in the mines had been played out and the mines effectively shut down, although prospectors continued to try their luck on claims in the area.
But thirteen years before the silver at last ran out, the presence of borax in the area was noted and a borax rush ensued in Calico. By 1902, there were three borax mines employing 200 men in and around Daggett. It is estimated that borax taken from the Calico Hills amounted to more than $9 million in 1900 dollars, while more than $90 million in silver was removed.
With the turn of the century, Calico and Daggett diminished while Barstow grew. It became a major rail center.
In 1908, the original Casa del Desierto/Harvey House burnt to the ground in a fire.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway established the new Harvey House, which opened in 1911.
Arthur Doran, who was born in Clyde, Kansas in 1878 and first came to Barstow in 1901 where he went to work at the Harvey House and then the Gooding Mercantile Company as a bookkeeper while moonlighting at the post office and engaging in some prospecting on the weekends, returned to Barstow in 1911 after he had left to work for a hydraulic mining company in Alaska in 1907 and then did some mining in Rhyolite and in Greenwater, Nevada. He served as the Barstow postmaster for a year and then went to work as the assistant manager for the E.T. HIllis Contracting Company.
Barstow High School was first established in a home near corner of First and Williams Streets on September 15, 1915
The first Barstow Branch Library started as part of Barstow High School in 1916.
The first units of the Hillside Apartments on the end of Cottage Street were completed and occupied in 1917. The apartments are the longest continuing running business in Barstow.
In 1919, Arthur Doran became the administrator of the E.T. Hillis Estate upon the death of Mr. Hillis. Hillis was a contractor who did road building and grading work for the Sana Fe Railway and San Bernardino County. The Hillis company was one of the first such firms to use mechanized equipment – i.e., Model T Ford Trucks. Doran remained in the capacity of executor of the Hillis Estate until 1931.
In 1924, Doran opened the Barstow Garage, the largest garage between Albuquerque and San Bernardino at that time.
On July 4, 1925, the Barstow community had a grand opening “of our newly rebuilt city” after the business district was moved from in front of the Harvey House in between the railroad tracks to where Old Town Barstow is today.
Route 66 was established in 1926, with Barstow being the second city on the route after Needles encountered by easterners driving into California. This was a boom to Arthur Doran, who subsequently opened a second garage and a hotel.
Doran was appointed by Governor C.C. Young, on December 2, 1928, to succeed C.S. Crain as First District San Bernardino County Supervisor after Crain’s death. Doran served as supervisor until 1948. None of his successors as First District Supervisor has achieved his longevity on the board.
On October 1, 1929 Barstow International Airport opened after the site near Lenwood Road and National Trails Highway was chosen by Charles Lindbergh for TAT (later TWA) airline.
The First Street Bridge, allowing motorists to cross over the massive Barstow Rail Yard, opened on April 26, 1930.
The Beacon Tavern, a top of the line hotel, had its opening delayed because of the stock market crash of 1929. It opened in 1930.
Southwest Gas was established in Barstow in 1931.
Barstow’s first Mardi Gras Parade was held on October 31, 1932
The modern Barstow High School opened in September 1938.
Harry Partch, avant garde composer and hobo, hitchhiked through Barstow in February 1940, and was inspired to write his seminal work, Barstow-Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions.
The Mojave Anti Aircraft Range, which later became Camp Irwin, was established in 1940.
The Marine Corps Logistics Base was established on December 28, 1942
Lee Berry Founded Slash X Ranch in 1942
Victory Homes was established in Barstow in 1943
Brunner’s Tiny Time Shop “The World’s Smallest Store” opened in Barstow in 1946.
The city of Barstow incorporated in 1947.
Griego’s Market, which later became Rosita’s Restaurant, opened its doors in 1948.
The Barstow Park & Recreation District was formed in 1948.
On June 6, 1950 two cousins, Ronald Brubaker and William Mann, established Brubaker-Mann, Inc, a manufacturing operation that used a mill to produce naturally colored landscaping and roofing rock.
The Idle Spurs Restaurant opened in 1955.
The Printer Review became the Desert Dispatch in 1958.
Barstow Community Hospital, which previously existed in a much smaller facility on Williams Street, opened on June 9, 1957, and then closed on July 25 due to lack of funds. It reopened on January 15, 1958.
The Pioneer Antenna at Goldstone, intended to track Soviet satellites as well as monitor the Pioneer 3 mission, was put into service in October 1958. Known as Deep Space Station Eleven or DSS-11, it became the prototype antenna for the Deep Space Network and went on to track a variety of NASA missions including all Pioneer spacecraft, the Echo Balloon projects, Ranger, Lunar Orbiter, Surveyor, Apollo, Helios, Mariner, Viking and Voyager.
Barstow College welcomed its first students at its temporary campus at Barstow High on April 1, 1960.
Camp Irwin became Fort Irwin in 1961
Henderson Pool at Fogelsong Park opened in 1961
The Barstow College Campus opened in February 1964.
Ed Hackbarth and David Jameson opened the first Del Taco restaurant in Yermo on September 16, 1964.
The I-15/I-40 Interchange construction project began in 1965.
The Mt. St. Joseph Church was built at its Mountain View location in 1966
Calico Ghost Town was donated to San Bernardino County from the Knott Family in October 1966.
Ida Pleasant was elected Barstow’s first female mayor in 1966.
The Mojave River Valley Museum was built with donated funds and dedicated on April 26, 1968
Before the decade was out, Barstow City Hall/police headquarters, Kennedy High School, a waste water treatment facility and the Sun & Sky Goff Course were built. The Santa Fe Roundhouse was torn down and the Harvey House was closed.
Fort Irwin was deactivated and used as a National Guard training center from 1972 to 1979.
The second Del Taco restaurant in existence, what is now a local landmark, opened on First Avenue on February 22, 1972.

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