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Mojave Desert Communities
Daggett was founded in the 1860's, fifteen years before the filing of Waterman's claim and the discovery of silver six miles north in the Calico Mountains now known as the town of Calico
The finding of silver in Calico and the building of the Southern Pacific Railroad from Mojave to Daggett in 1882, set the stage for history of a town originally called Calico Junction but renamed after John Daggett (Lieutenant Governor of California 1882-1886) in the spring of 1883, to avoid confusion. Throughout Daggett's history silver and borax played the major role in the growth of our town.
By 1882 there was a 10 stamp mill at Daggett across the Mojave River on the south side of Elephant Mountain. Movement of ore was awkward and time consuming. It took a total of three days to make the trip to the mine at Calico and return. The wagons hauled supplies and water to Borate and Calico on the uphill trips and ore on the way down. The famous 20-mule teams came into being when 10 teams were hitched together with two wagons and a water wagon. In later years Seymour Alf built wagons to the original Death Valley-Mojave specification and contracted to haul ore for Pacific Coast Borax. The Alf's Blacksmith Shop is still in Daggett and located on 1st Street.
In 1894, with an eye for decreasing the cost of hauling ore, a huge steam tractor called "Old Dinah" was used for about a year. In the end it was back to mule power. The tractor is now on display at the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley.
The Calico Railroad (later called the Daggett-Calico Railroad) started in 1888, to haul ore from Calico to the Oro Grande Milling Company, located across the river from Daggett. In 1891 there was over 100 tons of ore from the Silver King (Calico) and 50 tons from the Waterloo Mine hauled daily by two small saddle tank steam locomotives and ore cars to be processed at the mill near Daggett. But the railroad was closed in 1892 and the mine shut down in 1896. Silver had played out.
In the mean time, in 1883, the borax rush hit Calico. From 1888 to 1892, Francis Marion "Borax" Smith, in a number of sweeping moves; (1) acquired the assets of the Harmony and Meridian Borax Companies, including the Calico Mine, (2) took over borax operations, and (3) built a road and narrow gauge railroad to the Calico Mountains from Daggett. The railroad had three tracks between Daggett and the calciner plant at Marion. Three tracks were required for the narrow gauge locomotives and the standard ore cars. Fouts' building (now located on Santa Fe Street) was used as a roundhouse for the narrow gauge equipment. The cost of hauling ore was finally reduced from $2.00 to 12 cents a ton!
The borax operations had a profound effect on the town of Daggett. By 1902, Daggett was supported by three borax mines employing 200 men and had three stores, three saloons, two chinese restaurants, a railroad, a drug store, a lumber yard, and the old Stone Hotel. The production of borax in San Bernardino County was at its peak in the year 1902 when the total value was just over two million dollars. It has been estimated that borax taken out of the Calico Hills amounted to a total of more than $9,000,000. Silver taken from Calico is estimated at $90,000,000... in the days when a miner's wage was 20 cents per hour.
Daggett survives today with a rich history. It has seen time open yet another vista ... solar and other experimental energy sources. Daggett would like to think of it as going from Silver to Solar.
Daggett - 1868
Source: Daggett Museum
in memory of Bob and Vivian Campbell
Barstow Area Map