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Building on the Past

Located on the Mojave River, the Barstow area became a mining center in the late 1800s. The town of Daggett, five miles downriver, was founded in the 1860s. Originally called Calico Junction, the town was renamed in 1882 in honor of California Lieutenant Governor John Daggett, following the discovery of silver six miles north in the Calico Mountains.

The finding of silver in Calico and the building of the Southern Pacific Railroad from Mohave to Daggett in 1882 created a vibrant mining center. 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.

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. The railroad closed down in 1892 and the mine shut down in 1896 when all the silver had been discovered.

But in 1883, the borax rush hit Calico, and by 1902, Daggett was supported by three borax mines employing 200 men.

It is estimated that borax taken from the Calico Hills was valued at more than $9 million, while more than $90 million in silver was removed.

As the 20th century progressed, Calico and Daggett diminished while Barstow grew. It became a busy rail center and a jumping off place for immigrants entering the state on U.S. Route 66, as made famous by John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath. Modern and historic facilities are still available along Barstow’s Main Street, the original Route 66. Just off Main Street, at First Street, travelers can drive over an old iron bridge that leads to the railroad depot, which was once the site of the historic Harvey House, originally opened in 1911.

With the construction of the modern Interstate Highway system, Barstow’s future of growth was assured. Interstate 40 and I-15 were built and converge at the city limits with State Highway 58. This development quickly led to Barstow becoming the transportation hub of the western Mojave Desert.

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