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History

More than 2,000 years ago, the Mojave Desert had been occupied by Indian tribes who lived beside the immense lakes that covered most of the Mojave. In the late 1800s, the Barstow area became a mining center. Daggett, 5 miles down river, was founded in the 1860s. It was originally called Calico Junction but was renamed after California Lieutenant Governor John Daggett when silver was discovered 6 miles north in the Calico Mountains in 1882.

The finding of silver in Calico and the building of the Southern Pacific Railroad from Mohave to Daggett in 1882 made the area a 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. That same year, the Santa Fe Railroad arrived in town. The town was later named after the president of the Santa Fe, William Barstow Strong. The mine shut down in 1896 when all the silver had played out.

But in 1883, the borax rush hit Calico, and by 1902, three borax mines employing 200 men supported Daggett. It is estimated that borax taken from the Calico Hills amounted to 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 US 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 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, as I-40 and I-15 converged at the city limits with State Highway 58, making it the transportation hub of the western Mojave Desert.

Barstow Historical Timeline


1880s

  • Waterman Junction Post Office changed there name to Barstow Post Office effectively naming the new town after William Barstow Strong, President of the Santa Fe Railroad, January 15, 1886


1910s

  • Modern Harvey House opened, 1911
  • Barstow High School first established in a home near corner of First and Williams Streets, September 15, 1915
  • First Barstow Branch Library started as part of the Barstow High School, 1916
  • Hillside Apartments, on the end of Cottage Street first unit built 1917. Longest continuing running business in Barstow


1920s

  • Grand opening “of our newly rebuilt city” after business district was moved from in front of the Harvey House in between the railroad tracks to where Old Town Barstow is today, July 4, 1925
  • Route 66 Established, 1926
  • Barstow International Airport opened, one of the first national airports. The site near Lenwood Road and National Trails Highway was chosen by Charles Lindburgh for TAT (later TWA) airline, October 1, 1929


1930s

  • First Street Bridge opened, April 26, 1930
  • Beacon Tavern (hotel) opened in 1930 delayed due to the stock market crash of 1929
  • Southwest Gas established, 1931
  • First Mardi Gras Parade, October 31, 1932
  • Modern Barstow High School opened, September 1938


1940s

  • Mojave Anti Aircraft Range (later Camp Irwin) established, 1940
  • Harry Partch, avant garde composer and hobo, hitchhiked through Barstow and is inspired to write his seminal work, Barstow-Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions, February 1940
  • Marine Corps Logistics Base Established, December 28, 1942
  • Lee Berry Founded Slash X Ranch, 1942
  • Victory Homes Established, 1943
  • Brunner's Tiny Time Shop "The Worlds Smallest Store" opened, 1946
  • Barstow High School's award-winning and Rose Bowl attending marching band started, 1947
  • City of Barstow incorporated, 1947
  • Griego's Market, later became Rosita's Restaurant, began 1948
  • Barstow Park & Recreation District formed


1950s

  • Brubaker Mann established, June 6, 1950
  • Idle Spurs Restaurant opened, 1955
  • Printer Review became Desert Dispatch 1958
  • Franchise to Southern California Water
  • Barstow Community Hospital opened at new location (left Williams Street) — June 9, 1957, only to close on July 25 due to lack of funds. It will open for good on January 15, 1958
  • Pioneer Antenna at Goldstone is put into service, October 1958


1960s

  • Barstow College welcomes students, April 1 (first classes held at Barstow High School), 1960. First classes at modern college location, February 1964
  • Camp Irwin became Fort Irwin, 1961
  • Henderson Pool at Fogelsong Park opened, 1961
  • First American Field Service exchange students, Nimet Unsal and Poul Christofferson arrived, August 15, 1963
  • I-15/I-40 Interchange construction project Began
  • Mojave River Valley Museum built with donated funds, April 26, 1968
  • City Hall/Police Department built
  • Calico Ghost Town donated to San Bernardino County from Knotts Family, October 1966
  • First female Mayor (Ida Pleasant)
  • Waste water facility built
  • Mt. St. Joseph Church built at Mountain View location, 1966
  • Harvey House closed
  • Kennedy High School Built
  • Sun & Sky Golf Course Built
  • H&E Home Center Built
  • Tore Down Santa Fe Round House


1970s

  • Fort Irwin Deactivated Used as National Guard Training Center from 1972-79
  • Del Taco opened on First Avenue, Feb 22, 1972
  • California Highway Patrol office built
  • Court House built
  • Barstow Mall open
  • Established transit system
  • Desert Discovery Center built
  • Santa Fe Hump Yard built (Biggest West of Mississippi)
  • Yellow Freight located in Barstow
  • Redevelopment Agency established
  • New Fire Station built on Barstow Rd.
  • City Corporation Yard moved from Portales Ct. to Avenue H
  • Vineyard modern library opened, 1974
  • Rudy Lara heart transplant telethon gave Barstow “Little City with a Big Heart” name
  • Fort Irwin reactivated as the National Training Center, August 1979


1980s

  • Sewer line/water line extended to Lenwood Rd.
  • Al Vigil indoor pool built
  • Mercado Mall constructed
  • McDonald’s at Barstow Station burned
  • First modern general plan
  • Barstow Station Too opened
  • Desert Manna homeless shelter established
  • Downtown beautification project
  • Mojave River adjudication finalized
  • Mojave Water Agency pipeline started
  • Robert A. Sessions Memorial Sportspark open



1990s

  • California Veteran’s Home, Barstow, open, February 1996
  • Highway 58 interchange (new section) open
  • Harvey House rededicated, 1999


2000s

  • The Route 66 "Mother Road" Museum was dedicated, July 4, 2000
  • Western America Railroad Museum opened, February 17, 2001
  • First Congregational Church celebrated their Centennial, June 4, 2001
  • Barstow's First Juneteenth Celebration, June 22, 2002
  • LNG/CNG fueling station opens, October 2005
  • Barstow Enterprise Zone designated by State of California, November 2005
  • Home Depot opens, October 2006
  • Barstow Skate Park opens, summer 2007
  • Barstow Police Department hires Dianne Burns as its first female Police Chief, summer 2007
  • Tanger Mall expansion complete, 2008

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