The settlement of Barstow
began in the late 1840s in the Mormon Corridor. Every fall and winter, as the weather cooled, the rain produced new grass growth and replenished the water sources in the Mojave Desert.
People, goods and animal herds would move from New Mexico and Utah to Los Angeles, along the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe, or from Salt Lake City along the Salt Lake Road making their way through Barstow.
Trains of freight wagons once traveled back to Salt Lake City and other points in the interior. These travelers followed the course of the Mojave River past the site of Barstow, California.
Indian troubles with the Paiute, Mojave and Chemehuevi tribes followed and from 1860 Camp Cady, a U.S. Army post 20 miles east of Barstow, was occupied sporadically until 1864, then permanently, by soldiers occupying other posts or patrolling in the region until 1871.
Barstow's roots also lie in the rich mining history of the Mojave Desert following the discovery of gold and silver in the Owens Valley and in mountains to the east in the 1860s and 1870s. Due to the influx of miners arriving in Calico and Daggett, railroads were constructed to transport goods and people. The Southern Pacific built a line from Mojave, California through Barstow to Needles in 1883.
In 1884, ownership of the line from Needles to Mojave was transferred to the Santa Fe Railroad. Paving the major highways through Barstow led to further development of the city. Much of its economy depends on transportation.
Before the advent of the interstate highway system, Barstow was an important stop on both Routes 66 and 91. The two routes met in downtown Barstow and continued west together to Los Angeles.
Barstow is named after William Barstow Strong, former president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.