- Early Inhabitants: The Barstow area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Mojave people, for centuries before European settlers arrived.
- Railroad History: Barstow’s modern history began with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in the late 19th century. The railroad played a significant role in the city’s development, as it was a vital stop on the transcontinental rail line, connecting the eastern United States to the West Coast.
- Water Stop and Rail Depot: Barstow served as an important water stop for steam locomotives, providing a place for trains to refill their water tanks in the desert. The city also became a key rail depot and maintenance facility.
- Name Change: Originally known as Waterman Junction, the city’s name was changed to Barstow in 1886 in honor of William Barstow Strong, a president of the Santa Fe Railroad.
- Route 66: In the early 20th century, Barstow became an integral part of the iconic Route 66, the “Main Street of America,” connecting Chicago to Los Angeles. The city thrived as a popular stopping point for travelers on this historic route.
- Military Presence: During World War II, Barstow’s population grew due to the establishment of the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow and the nearby Fort Irwin National Training Center, which continue to play significant roles in the local economy.
- Modern Times: Barstow remains a transportation center today, situated at the junction of Interstates 15 and 40. It continues to serve as a rest stop for travelers and a transportation and logistics hub for goods moving across the country.
- Historical Landmarks: The city has preserved its historical heritage, with several landmarks and museums, including the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western America Railroad Museum, showcasing its rich transportation history.
Barstow’s history is deeply intertwined with the development of transportation networks, from the railroad to Route 66 and modern interstate highways. Today, it remains an essential point of access and commerce for those traveling through the Mojave Desert in Southern California.