Time Jockey – On the Road to Barstow
Rail Town ….I’m sure many of you have driven the 15 up to Las Vegas and gone through the Mojave town of Barstow. It was probably hot out and perhaps you stopped for gas, food or just to stretch your legs. It is a town like any other along the route to Vegas, like Victorville, Baker and Primm, but Barstow has its own unique history.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Mojave was fertile with large lakes and Native Indians occupying the land. In the centuries that followed, the Mojave dried up and become a desert, but it was a desert rich in mineral resources.
In the 19th century, the Mojave area became a mining center. The town of Calico Junction was established in the 1860’s when silver was discovered nearby. When silver was later discovered in the Calico Mountains just 6 miles to the North, the town was renamed to Daggett, after California Lieutenant Governor John Daggett.
The Southern Pacific Railroad was built to haul silver ore from the mines to urban centers. The famous 20-mule team, consisting of 10 two-horse teams, was used to haul the silver ore to the railroad. In 1888, the Calico Railroad started hauling silver ore from Calico to the Oro Grande Milling Company, across the river from Daggett. It was also the same year in which the Santa Fe Railroad came into town.
The President of the Santa Fe was named William Barstow Strong and the significance of the railroad to the town resulted in the town being renamed to Barstow. But eight years later, Calico silver had been mined out and a new resource, Borax, was now being mined. Three mines employing approximately 200 men were in operation at that time. It’s estimated that over $9 million in borax was extracted and over $90 million in silver was removed from the Calico mines.
In time, Calico’s popularity diminished but Barstow continued as a railroad center and was a major stop on Route 66 for the emigrants pushing to the west. The transportation growth of the west would ensure the future of Barstow as Interstate 15, Interstate 40 and State Highway 58 all converge in this town. Today, over 25,000 people call Barstow their home but to the countless millions passing through to Las Vegas, it’s only a convenient stop. Little do the travelers know that millions of dollars in minerals were extracted from the grounds around Barstow, riches that even the casinos in Las Vegas would find impressive….