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Ghost Towns - Route 66

Essex, Ca

Essex is a small unincorporated community located in the eastern part of San Bernardino County, California, USA. Its history is closely tied to the development and expansion of the railroad and the mining activities in the region.

Essex, California, Route 66 in the Mojave Desert

Here's an overview of the history of Essex:

Railroad Development: The town's history can be traced back to the construction of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in the late 19th century. The railroad played a crucial role in the development of the American West, connecting various communities and facilitating the transportation of goods and people.

Mining Boom: Like many other towns in the region, Essex saw a boom in mining activities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The nearby Providence Mountains were known for their mineral deposits, attracting prospectors and miners seeking fortunes in gold and other minerals.

Railroad Town: Essex became a railroad town, serving as a strategic point for the railroad industry. It had a railroad depot, which was essential for loading and unloading goods transported by the trains. The railroad played a significant role in the economic life of Essex during its early years.

Decline: As the mining industry declined and transportation patterns shifted, the importance of towns like Essex diminished. Many of the mines closed, and the once-thriving communities began to decline. The decline in mining activities and changes in transportation methods, such as the decline of rail travel in favor of automobiles and highways, contributed to the economic challenges faced by Essex.

Route 66 Influence: Essex is also situated along the historic Route 66, a famous highway that connected Chicago to Los Angeles. During the mid-20th century, Route 66 became an iconic route for cross-country travel, and Essex served as a stopping point for travelers along this historic road.

Present Day: Today, Essex is a quiet and sparsely populated community. Many of its historic structures may still stand as reminders of its past, and the area may attract historians, photographers, and those interested in exploring the remnants of the old Route 66.

Essex's history is intertwined with the broader historical developments of the American West, including the expansion of railroads, mining booms, and the evolution of transportation networks. While the town may no longer be a bustling hub, its history contributes to the rich tapestry of the region's past.

The story goes that Essex came into being after a tire went flat and there was no where within miles and miles to have it fixed. Bell's Towing and Cafe sprang up, a post office was built, and the town survives today in its own unique fashion.

Essex, California, lies on Old National Trails Highway, part of the old Route 66, just south of Interstate 40 in the Mojave Desert.

With an estimated population of just 89 people in 2005, Essex is on the verge of becoming one of many ghost towns scattered throughout the Southwestern United States displaced by the creation of Interstate 40. Essex Elementary school (founded 1937), which once served the educational needs of both Essex and its neighbor Goffs is currently closed. Its location remote even with today's technological capabilities, Essex lacks many comforts of modern day life, and in 1977, Essex got television for the first time. To commemorate this, the entire population of the town attended a taping of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Essex was notable along route 66 for provide free water to travelers, thanks to a well installed by the Automobile Club of Southern California. Over a dozen homes also serviced the small community. Many of the homes and buildings in Essex have completely disappeared, almost 50 lie in abandonment, and of what was once a bustling roadside hub, only the singly-employed post office, and Caltrans maintenance yard are operational.

Three miles northeast of Essex, just north of Goffs Road, the remains of Camp Essex Army Airfield are still visible.

source - BLM
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These items are historical in scope and are intended for educational purposes only; they are not meant as an aid for travel planning.
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