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 Mojave 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
California Veteran’s Home, Barstow, open, February 1996
Highway 58 interchange (new section) open
Harvey House rededicated, 1999
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 first female Police Chief, summer 2007
Tanger Mall expansion complete, 2008
Barstow’s first large scale wind turbine began operation.
Plans for MagLev from Anaheim to Las Vegas to stop in Barstow.
Plans finalized for new Barstow Community Hospital, scheduled to open in 2012.
January 2010 The Harvey House celebrates 100 years of being in service.
February 2010 Henderson and Cameron Elementary schools receive statewide Academic Achievement Awards.
July 2010 Desert Dispatch celebrates 100th anniversary.
October 2010 Ivanpahs Solar Project breaks ground.
September 2010 Groundbreaking for Barstow Community Hospital takes place.
November 2010 City assumes Barstow Fire Protection District.
May 2011 Barstow Community College celebrates 50th commencement ceremony.
May 2012 Ft. Irwin breaks ground for new $400 Million Hospital project.
October 2012 Barstow Community College pairs with Park University offering Bachelors and Masters Degree programs.
New Barstow Community Hospital opens its doors.
Skyline Drive-In hosts Music and Art tour, with popular performers including Beck.
Barstow unveils 180 banners honoring local veterans throughout the city.
December 2013 The Spanish Trail Specific Plan is approved by city council for new large-scale shopping center in Barstow.
2014 Lenwood Grade Separation Groundbreaking.
2014 Panera Bread Groundbreaking ceremony.