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Chronological History of the Antelope Valley, Fremont Valley,
Indian Wells Valley and surrounding areas in Kern County.
compiled by Al Gagnon
20,000 years ago before the white man found the Antelope Valley, Fremont Valley  and Indian Wells Valley area in California, the many Native American Indian Tribes of this valley roamed up and down to hunt, fish and trade one another, it was a great place for them to live, work, play and raise there families, and it's still a great place.

1772 ­ Captain Pedro Fages is the first white man to cross through the Antelope Valley. Native American Indians are told of white people before this time, who they thought were deserters from the Spanish army in the south, but none of their names were recorded.

1776 - Padre Francisco Garces, a Jesuit missionary, twice crossed the Kern River near the mouth of the canyon, at Walker Pass, on his way to the Mission of San Gabriel. He named the river Rio de San Felipe. Father Garces was one of the first white men to visit the Fremont Valley which was later to be known as California City. One of two plaques marking Willow Springs as California Historic Monument No. 130 states that in 1776, Father Francesco Garces stopped at Willow Springs in Rosamond on his return wanderings from the San Joaquin Valley.

1822 - Alta California belonged to Mexico after its independence from Spain. 1826 - Jedediah Smith, Ewing Young, Joseph Walker and Kit Carson frequented the mountain passes of the Sierras and explored the streams of the San Joaquin Valley, the valley route became a popular route for Native Americans, Spaniards and American explorers. They brought back tales of high mountains and the potential for beaver pelts to his trapper friends in the Rockies.

1827 ­ Jedediah Smith and party traveled through the west end of the Valley and Willow Springs.

1830 - Ewing Young and Kit Carson explore Great Central Valley's streams looking for beaver and other forbearing animals.

1833 - Joseph R. Walker came past Mono Lake area on his way to Monterey but didn't mention having seen the lake.

1834 - Joe Walker led several wagon trains south through the Owens Valley and west over Walker Pass to the Central Valley from Owens Valley. After their escape from Death Valley, the Jayhawkers '49er parties split here to go west and south to the California gold fields. Here bandit Tiburcio Vasquez preyed on stages and freighters traveling between the Kern River mines and Los Angeles and the mines of Bodie and the Panamints.

1841 - The Bartleson-Bidwell party struggled over Sonora Pass on their way to rich farmlands promised them in Mexican California. Many other settlers followed over the pass even before gold was discovered.

1844 - John C. Fremont led an expedition to the Kern and San Joaquin Valley with U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, to make the first accurate survey of the California interior. American general, explorer and "The Pathfinder," John C. Fremont, rested under the willows at Willow Springs on one of his trips west.

1845 - Walker and John C. Fremont explored and mapped Owens Valley. Kit Carson, Richard Owens, and Ed Kern explored and named places. For a month they camped at the confluence of the North and South Fork of the Kern River.

1846 - Many wagon trains were coming to promised fertile farming fields in the Oregon Territory and to Mexican California. The Donner Party got stuck by a pretty lake in early November- (46 were rescued, 42 didn't make it); ten thousand Mormons came west to settle in the Salt Lake valley.

1848 - Alta California and the whole southwest territories were ceded to the United States government by Mexico as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after an 18 month battle. The United States territories stretched from sea to shining sea.

1848-49 - Gold rush in the Sierra foothills.

1849 - The Jayhawkers passed through our area on their way to the gold fields of the Western Sierras.

1849 - The Bennett and Manley parties were marooned in Death Valley. They arrived on Christmas Day and had many problems, ran out of food, sent for help, got rescued because the guys found water at Indian Wells and Willow Springs. The famous 1849 pioneers of Rogers and Manly came through the Antelope Valley on their 300 mile walk to Los Angeles trying to get help for the Jayhawker party they had left behind in Death Valley.

1850 - California became a state on Sept. 9, with 27 counties. (Kern Co. was then a part of Mariposa Co.) Other visitors to Willow Springs included the Jayhawk Party, who struggled into the oasis in 1850, after their grueling trip through Death Valley.

1852 - Mono Lake was "discovered" and named by an Army patrol while chasing Indians out of Yosemite Valley. The men discovered gold flakes in the area. It didn't take long for prospectors to pour over the Sierra to explore the Mono and Owens basin mountains for riches.

1853 - Gold was discovered in Greenhorn Gulch and Keyesville, causing a major gold rush to the Kern River Valley in 1854.

1854 - Fort Tejon was established in the Grapevine Canyon along the wagon road between the Los Angeles basin ranchos and the San Joaquin Valley. It was maintained until 1864 to keep peace between the Indians and the settlers and their stock arriving in large numbers. Between 1850 and 1858, over 586,000 head of sheep and 70,000 cattle were brought to California over the southern Emigrant Trail. In 1857 the Camel Corps arrived at the fort, but that experiment didn't work well.

1857 ­ Lieutenant Edward Beale traveled through the south end of the Valley, heading for Fort Tejon, with his famous camel cavalry.

1858 - Butterfield Stage and Mail service from St. Louis to El Paso, Tucson, and Yuma, through the Anza Borrego area, to Ft. Tejon, up into the foothills north of what is now Bakersfield to skirt swampy Tulare Lake, to Visalia, Stockton, and San Francisco. The line ran only 3 years until telegraph replaced the need for rapid mail service and trains provided better transportation.

1859 - Indian wars broke out in the Owens Valley. The Army set up Camp Independence on July 4 with the intention of keeping peace between the Paiute Indians and the settlers who were moving cattle on to the Indian lands. Alney McGee brought cattle from Tulare over Walker Pass, and Sam Bishop brought cattle and horses in from Fort Tejon. Problems continued until 1863. Over 200 Indians were killed in various battles.

The Battle of Bishop in 1862 involved 50 settlers and 500 Indians. Finally a treaty was signed in July, 1863. The Army escorted 998 Indians to a reservation near Fort Tejon and Camp Independence was temporarily abandoned. The Army maintained a presence at Fort Independence from 1865 to 1877, though most of the remaining Indians gave up their traditional way of life and began working for the white settlers. Paiute lands had been overrun with cattle and sheep. The pinion pines, which the Paiutes depended upon for a pine nut crop each fall, were rapidly being cut down for fuel for the mine smelters.

1860 - Discovery of gold in the Kernville area. The Big Blue Mine prospered. In 1861 the settlement of Whiskey Flats formed below the Big Blue mine and provided various services. In 1864 its name was changed to a more respectable Kernville. Glennville was established in 1857 and Woody and Claraville in 1862.

1860 - Discovery of silver in and around the Owens Valley and gold farther north in and near Bodie. Dr. Darwin French discovered silver in the Cosos and started the Darwin mines. The Comstock was producing silver east of Lake Tahoe in what is now Virginia City. Much gold was being mined around Mono Lake, and large gold mines were producing in Aurora.

1860 on, Willow Springs became a stage and freight station and general watering place used by Remi Nadeau in freighting silver from Cerro Gordo. Nadeau, the Searles Brothers, Borax Smith and others used the station while developing the Death Valley borax deposits and the Inyo and Kern River mining operation. They followed Horse Thief Trail, which later became known as Walker Trail.

1861 - Mono County was formed from Calavaras County. Aurora was designated County Seat (though it was later discovered to be in Nevada and demoted.)

1862 - Borax was discovered by John and Dennis Searles in Searles Lake.

1863 - Col. Baker owned Kern Island. Baker's fields held corn, beans, potatoes, and alfalfa.

1864 - California State Geological Survey set the border with Nevada, explored Sierra, and discovered Mt. Whitney to be tallest peak. William Brewer came through the Indian Wells Valley and is supposed to have said "A more god-forsaken, cheerless place I have seldom seen - a spring of water - nothing else."

1864 - Willow Springs became a station on the Los Angeles-Havilah Stage Lines. From 1872-76, Nelson Ward, who owned part of the land, kept the stage station operating until the railroad made stagecoaches obsolete.

1865 - Gold was discovered on Clear Creek south of Isabella and the fast-growing town of Havilah was founded to accommodate the mines in the area.

1866 - Portions of Tulare and Los Angeles counties were split off to form Kern and Inyo Counties. Havilah was chosen Kern County Seat as it was the largest town in the county at that time. Havilah boasted the county's first newspaper. Independence was designated county seat for Inyo County. Mines and mills were operating in many areas of the Owens Valley. Ranching, particularly raising of vegetables and fruit orchards, was thriving throughout Owens Valley and south in to the Indian Wells Valley to supply the mines and settlements.

1868 - The toll wagon road was completed over Sonora Pass to connect the Mono and Bodie mines with the markets on the west side of the Sierra.

1869 - Bakersfield was founded with the opening of a post office. It soon had a thriving newspaper.

1869 - The transcontinental railroad project was completed when the Union Pacific line over Donner Pass was joined with the Central Pacific line. In 1870 a rail line reached Bakersfield. By 1875 the rail road was pushed east to Caliente, and in 1876 the Tehachapi Loop was built and the train track went to Mojave and then to Los Angeles later that year. Mojave received borax from Death Valley and Boron, gold from Randsburg, and silver from Cerro Gordo, all to be shipped on the railroad to the port of Los Angeles.

1870 - Bridgeport became the Mono County seat when Aurora was discovered to be in Nevada and its mines were declining; the Bridgeport Valley had over 9,000 acres in production of wheat, oats, barley, hay, potatoes, butter and cheese.

1871 - Cerro Gordo mines were going great guns, with 4,800 people and 1,600 mules living there. Mine production was 2,200 tons of ore that year. Heavy wagon loads of 83 pound bars containing silver and lead, with minor amounts of gold and copper, were hauled daily down the Yellow Grade Road by Remi Nadeau's sturdy mule drawn freight wagons to Swansea. In 1872 the ore was shipped by steamers Bessie Brady and in 1877 also on the Mollie Stevens across Owens Lake to Cartago, then again by wagon to L.A. before 1876, then by the train at Mojave to L.A. In 1873 Colonel Stevens set up his sawmill at the head of Carroll Creek to provide lumber for building, but also wood to turn in to charcoal at the two kilns beside the west shore of Owens Lake. The steamers took the charcoal back across the lake to the smelters after unloading their silver bars. The Bessie Brady burned in 1882. Export of Cerro Gordo ores to refineries in San Francisco gave the small port city of Los Angeles a big boost.

1872 - On March 26 a magnitude 8.5+ earthquake hit Lone Pine, killing 29 people and causing long fault scarps over 20 feet high to form. These hills can still be seen today north of Lone Pine. This earthquake remains the largest so far in the State of California.

1873 - John and Dennis Searles formed San Bernardino Borax Mining Company in what they called Searles Marsh. Their mill produced 100 tons of borax per month. The same year Panamint City area, discovery of rich silver veins. The Twenty Mule Team Story.

1873 - Bakersfield City was incorporated. The Kern County Seat was moved there from Havilah in 1874. The town boasted a bank and county hospital. The people of Bakersfield were advised to "plant the Australian Gum Tree, or Eucalyptus, because they are a most valuable wood producer... trees grow more rapidly than the willow or cottonwood, its wood is very hard and strong and durable and it splits as readily as redwood or cedar."

1874 - Cerro Gordo Mine in the Inyo Mountains needed more water and installed an 11 mile long pipeline, which brought 90,000 gallons of water per day to the site. Daily production was 18 tons of ore which was smelted into 400 bars of silver bullion.

1874 - Tiburcio Vasquez, whose hideout was in Robber's Roost, robbed stages and freight wagons along the eastern Sierra, especially near Coyote Wells (Freeman Junction) until he was captured later that year. To discourage such robberies, the Cerro Gordo mine began making bullion ores into 300 pound balls that could not be carried on a horse!

1874-77 - The blooming Panamint City mines in Surprise Canyon below Telescope Peak produced $1 million in silver.

1876 - The Southern Pacific Railroad completed its line through the Valley, to Mojave, and then down to Los Angeles - a huge boom to shippers of gold, silver, borax and food to and from the tiny, but growing port City of Los Angeles.

1876 - Under the direction of William Hood, Southern Pacific railroad engineer, the world renowned Tehachapi Loop was completed. In gaining elevation around central hill of the Tehachapi Loop, a 4000-foot train will cross 77 feet above its rear cars in the tunnel below. The oldest settlement in Tehachapi Valley, known as "Old Town," was established here during the 1860s. Long an important station on the road between Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, the community began to decline when residents gradually removed to nearby Greenwich, later renamed Tehachapi, after completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876.

1878 - Large scale irrigation projects began in the Owens Valley to supply the ranches with water by way of ditches from the Owens River. This caused declining amounts of water for Owens Lake and it started dropping. Gold was discovered in Mammoth in 1875, the rush to Bodie was in the 1870's, in 1876 gold was found at Lundy and Tioga. The Great Sierra Mining Co. built a wagon road to Sonora in 1878 to haul in mining machinery to these mines.

1881 - The Mono Mills Railroad, later called the Bodie & Benton RR, was built from Mono Mills on the south-east shore of Mono Lake to Bodie to provide lumber and firewood for the town's people and large timbers for the mines. It ran until 1917.

1881 - Borax was discovered in Death Valley in 1873, but in this year William T. Coleman bought the claims and developed the Harmony Borax works. His 20 mule teams hauled borax from Death Valley to Mojave, 165 miles in 10 days, from 1883 to 1888.

1880 -1900 - No new strikes were found in the Owens Valley area, and silver prices dropped drastically. Mining declined as did the fortunes of the farmers.

1882 - Gold discovered by Ezra Hamilton in what is now the Tropico Gold Mine in Rosamond produced gold from 1882-1956.

1882­1885 ­ The Valley lost 30,000 head of antelope, almost half of the antelope for which the Valley was named. Unusually heavy snows in both the mountains and the Valley floor drove the antelope toward their normal feeding grounds in the eastern part of the Valley. Since they would not cross the railroad tracks, many of them starved to death. Others were attacked by coyotes and wildcats, or became easy prey for hunters.

1883 - Twenty Mule Team Trail established from Death Valley, the route ran from the Harmony
Borax Mining Company works, later acquired by the Pacific Coast Borax Company, to the
railroad loading dock in Mojave over 165 miles of mountain and desert trail, wagons were used until 1889. Carson and Colorado narrow-gauge railroad was completed from Keeler on the east side of Owens Lake at the bottom of the Cerro Gordo road, to Carson City, NV. This railroad changed the way freight in the Owens Valley was handled. Ores could now be shipped north on the train to Carson City smelters, and vegetables and farm products from the Owens Valley had a better means of transport to markets north and south. Most trading was then done with San Francisco rather than Los Angeles. The rail line was sold to Southern Pacific in 1900. In 1905 the Standard Gauge rail was completed from Carson City to Tonopah and the narrow gauge abandoned. In 1943 service was abandoned north of Laws and the track pulled. In 1960 the "Slim Princess" made her last run and stopped in Laws. Visit her at the Laws Railroad Museum 6 miles north-east of Bishop. General Fremont climbs Turtle Back Mountain renamed Galileo Hill.

1888 - Bakersfield acquired telephones. By 1889 the town had gas lights, and by 1900 electric lights. Bicycles, the ones with the big front wheels, were seen on the streets.

1892 - Standard Consolidated Mining Company installed AC power to the mill Bodie from a hydro project on Green Creek. Since the engineers didn't know if power could turn corners, they made the 13 mile line straight as an arrow to Bodie. Remnants of the Green Creek power plant and dam can be seen, as can the clearing for the power line as it comes over the hills into Bodie from the southwest.

1893 - Sequoia National Forest Reserve was formed. The town of Isabella started.

1894 - Gold was discovered in the Yellow Rover vein on Standard Hill by George Bowers.

1895 - Rand Camp was founded and became the town of Randsburg. The Rand Mining District's fabulous gold strike at the Yellow Aster brought over three thousand people to the area by 1896, and many more followed. The town of Randsburg quickly developed, followed by the supply town of Johannesburg in 1896. Both names were adopted from the profusion of minerals resemblilng thoes of the ranch mining district in South Africa. In 1907, Churchill discovered tungsten at Atolia, used in steel alloy during World War I. In June, 1919, Williams and Nosser discovered the famous California Rand Silver Mine at Red Mountain.

1896 - Garlock, Eugene Garlock constructed a stamp mill near this spot for the crushing of gold ore from the Yellow Aster Mine on Rand Mountain. Known originally as Cow Wells by prospectors and freighters during the 1880's and early 1890's, the town of Garlock continued to thrive until water was piped from here to Randsburg in 1898, and the Kramer-Randsburg rail line was completed in the same year.

1897 to 1905 -- Ballarat Gold Mining District was home and headquarters for 400 to 500 people. It hosted 7 saloons, 3 hotels, a Wells Fargo station, post office, school, a jail and morgue, but not one church. Ballarat was an oasis of fun, frolic, and relaxation -- a town to go to and blow off the dust of long trails and hard work.

1896 - Johannesburg was founded. Much gold and later silver were found in the area.

1896 - Wells Fargo & Co. express offices at Havilah, Weldon, and Kernville closed after a big stage robbery on the Kernville and Caliente Stage line. Most of the activity had shifted to the Rand Mining District anyway.

1897 - The Randsburg Railway terminus at Johannesburg connected to the Sante Fe tracks 28 miles south near "Four Corners," Kramer Junction. Ore could be shipped by rail to Barstow and to Mojave and Los Angeles. The line closed in 1933 when production from the mines of the area slowed.

1897 - Ballarat post office was opened as gold was discovered in nearby canyons. It closed in 1917. Today gold mining is active again in the canyons south of the ghost town. CRBriggs has a highly productive gold mine 12 miles south of Ballarat. Visit the cemetery, about all that is left of old Ballarat.

1898 - The Pacific Borax Company was founded in the Searles Valley.

1899 - Oil was discovered in the Bakersfield area. A different kind of rush started for "black gold."


1900 - Gold and silver were found in the Nevada mines of Tonopah, Goldfield, Rhyolite, Manhattan, and Round Mountain. The Owens Valley people had new markets and shipped produce and meat over there by wagon and the narrow-gauge train.

1902 to 1907 - Kern River power plants 1, 2, and 3 built. The Borel Canal and power plant were completed in 1904. Power from these plants was shipped on steel towers to Los Angeles, proving that steel would not disrupt the transmission of electricity.

1905-1907 - The City of Los Angeles began buying Owens Valley properties and water rights.

1907- Funds were appropriated from Congress for construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct.

1908 - The Nevada and California Railroad (now Southern Pacific) extended the Owenyo line north from Mojave into the Owens Valley to serve the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and to make freight connections with the Carson and Colorado Railroad at Owenyo station, northeast of Lone Pine. Aqueduct construction continued until 1913. Mules were used more than any other means of transport around the construction. The cement plant in Monolith, east of Tehachapi, was founded to provide cement for this immense project. When completed, the aqueduct included over 12 miles of steel pipe siphons (visible as the black pipe in Nine Mile, Short, and Jawbone Canyons), 142 tunnels, mostly through the Sierra west of the Indian Wells Valley, and 2 major reservoirs, upper and lower Haiwee. Sidings and 53 construction camps were eventually used; those in the Indian Wells Valley included Terese, Siding 16, changed to Magnolia and in 1913 changed to Inyokern, and Siding 18, changed to Brown in 1909, when George Brown built a hotel there. The post office at Brown remained in service until 1948. Water spilled into the L.A. basin in 1913, but the City of Los Angeles continued to buy irrigation districts, water rights, and property in the Owens Valley well into the 1940's.

Meanwhile, the ever expanding chemical industry founded the town of Trona (the name of a mineral containing borax and potash), and then Argus, West End, and Pioneer Point and their respective chemical processing plants. 1898 - Pacific Borax Co. bought out the Searles brothers; 1912 - Electric power came to Trona. 1913 - American Trona Corporation built the Trona plant and company town; 1914 - Trona Railway was built to haul the plant's products to the railroad in Mojave; 1926 - American Potash and Chemical Corporation bought out Pacific Borax; 1956 - Westend plant was built; 1962 Stauffer Chemical Corporation plants; 1967 - Kerr McGee bought out American Potash and then Stauffer in 1974; North American Chemical Company bought the entire complex, and now it is owned by IMC chemicals.

1903 - City of Bishop was incorporated and already had electricity from hydroelectric projects up on Bishop Creek. Mine production in most places around the Owens Valley was declining.

1903 - Jack Keane discovered gold in the mountains of Death Valley. By 1907 there was a 20 stamp mill working at the bottom of the hill. The tramway and buildings are still there, in pretty good condition.

1904 - The Kern Power Co. made enough electricity from its hydroelectric power plant at Borel Powerhouse near Miracle Hot Springs to supply not only Bakersfield, but also Los Angeles with power to run red electric street cars. The Bishop Creek hydroelectric power plants of the Nevada Power, Mining, and Milling Co. supplied power to the mines at Tonopah, Goldfield, and soon Rhyolite.

1904 ­ William Barton was the first to use a gasoline engine to pump water from his well. Other farmers were quick to adopt this method of pumping. This new method proved to be a vast improvement over the old reliance on water from artesian wells. This was the beginning of the great Valley alfalfa industry. as the Valley quickly became one of the biggest producers of alfalfa in California.

1905~1913 ­ The Los Angeles­lnyo Aqueduct was constructed across the Valley.

1905 - Kern River Canyon Road was completed from Democrat Hot Springs into the South Fork Valley. To get there from Bakersfield still required either going up Caliente Creek and Walker Basin, or over Breckenridge Mountain.

1905 - In Death Valley, the gold mines at Skidoo produced over $6 million in gold until 1917. They only problem was lack of water at the townsite, so a 23 mile long pipeline was built to bring water from Telescope Peak to run the pelton wheel for generators at the mill, and from that came the saying "23 Skidoo"! Scram!

1905 - Walter Scott (Death Valley Scotty as he would later be called) with the backing of Sante Fe and his friend Albert Johnson, hired a train to run from Los Angeles to Chicago in record time, 45 hours, July 9-11, 1905.

1905­1920's ­ The years of the big jackrabbit drives in the Valley. These drives became necessary when the rabbits would become so thick that they would destroy many acres of farmers' crops.

1906 - Greenwater, a copper mining "town" sprang up in Death Valley. It only lasted 13 months, but it was a real boom town for a while with a post office and newspaper!

1907 - Rhyolite and Bullfrog mines opened near Beatty, and the Tonopah and Tidewater railroad connected Tecopa, the Ryan Siding, Beatty, the Rhyolite siding, and other mines to Goldfield, Nevada. All were supplied by electricity from Bishop Creek, CA.

1909 - Homesteaders arrived in the Indian Wells Valley as aqueduct construction continued.

1910 on - The old stage and freight roads traversing the valley became well traveled highways. Cars came with the aqueduct construction personnel. The Homestead, now a fine restaurant, along with nearby Indian Wells Lodge, Nine Mile, Little Lake Hotel, Gill's Oasis, and Dunmovin all grew up to serve the public. The road up Sherwin Hill was completed and paved in 1916. Today this is called the Lower Rock Creek Road but it was in use as Highway 395 until the 4 lane highway was completed up Sherwin Grade in the late 60's.

1910 - The Owens Valley had 4500 settlers producing apples, grapes, corn, wheat, potatoes, alfalfa, honey, sheep (43,000 of them!), horses, and cattle. Artesian wells had existed as far south as Independence, but the intake to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, LADWP, canal system at Aberdeen shortly dried up the water works in the southern end of the Owens Valley. There was no longer water for the lower Owens River nor for the shrinking Owens Lake. It completely dried up by 1927.

1910 ­ The Corum family homesteaded the west side of Rogers Dry Lake. A small town, Muroc (which is Corum spelled backwards), developed. At the present time, this area is known as Edwards Air Force Base.

1911-1915 - Cerro Gordo mines have another boom for zinc ore and salvage more lead and silver ores from the dump piles.

1912 - The Robertson family homesteaded in the Indian Wells Valley and in 1913 the Bowman family had 160 acres along what is now Bowman Road. The Crum family established a dairy (where the Indian Wells Valley Water District offices are now). The area was known as "Crumville."

1913 - Death Valley's official weather station recorded 134 degrees, still a record.

1914 ­ The Pacific Light and Power Company brought the first electric power lines into the Valley. This company later sold to the present Southern California Edison Company.

1917 - Mt. Whitney Fish hatchery was completed. Fish planting began in Sierra lakes and streams, primarily Golden Trout taken from the upper Kern River watershed and stocked in Cottonwood Lakes.

1920 - The Indian Wells Valley had 360 acres of fruit trees (half in apples), alfalfa, melons, broom corn, and cotton. The northern Owens Valley, by contrast, had 75,000 acres in production, but Los Angeles was buying farms and water rights very fast, and farms were being abandoned.

1920 - The U.S. Geographical Board gave the name Indian Wells Valley to our area, consolidating what had been Brown, Salt Wells, and Inyokern Valleys. China Lake was named for the Chinese railroad workers migrated down after building the Carson and Colorado railroad in the Owens Valley. They mined borax on the north shore of the playa for a short time. Chinese talents were also used to build the freight wagon roads.
Remains of Chinese rock work can be seen at the Slate Range Pass on the old wagon road which went from Red Mountain to Ballarat and Skidoo.

1920 - A health resort was established at Coso Hot Springs, east of what is now the Coso Junction rest area. Long before that the Native Americans in the area used the hot muds.

1921 ­ Mint Canyon Highway was paved and its name changed to Sierra Highway.

1923 - Construction of the Little Lake hotel finally finished. By then a dam has been built at the south end of the tule marsh and the many springs had made a substantial Little Lake as we know it today.

1924 - Albert Johnson began building his Death Valley Ranch. Later this would be called "Scotty's Castle" after its frequent occupant, Walter Scott, "Death Valley Scotty". The stock market crash of '29 also stopped construction at the Ranch, but really only the pool out in front of the house wasn't done. Today Scotty's Castle hosts History Tours every day of the year. Rangers dress as the people of the ranch in the 20's.

1924 ­ Palmdale Lake reconstructed as Harold Reservoir.

1925 - Borax discovered in Boron, didn't open until 1957, largest open pit mine in the world, 3rd largest payroll in Kern County.

1931 - A ceremony was held at Red Rock Canyon to celebrate the paving of Highway 6 from Los Angeles to Bishop. Even with the road, the 30's were a period of decline in the Owens Valley. Los Angeles continued to buy the farms and water rights and the mines were not producing well.

1933 - Death Valley National Monument was created by Congress.

1934 - Gold discovered at Golden Queen Mine by Jess Holmes on Soledad Mountain. Another 1934 discoverer was Jess Knight, who owned the Elephant Eagle mine on Soledad Mountain. His son, Goodwin Knight, became governor of California. The Cactus Queen gold and silver mine was discovered in 1934.

1936 - Joe Fox bought the Crum dairy and built a tufa house for his family. It is still at the southwest corner of Ridgecrest Blvd. and Norma St. in Ridgecrest. The Royce family built the first "real" swamp cooler in Trona. It had a large fan, excelsier pads held by chicken wire, and a pipe to drip water on the pads.

1939 - Pine Creek tungsten mine started, bringing some employment to the Owens Valley. Los Angeles continued buying lands and water rights into the Mono Basin.

1939 - The Benthams had a store and service station at "Bentham's Corner," where the Bank of America is now located in downtown Ridgecrest.

1940's-1950's - Crusty female pilot Pancho Barnes, whose Happy Bottom Riding Club on Edwards Air Force Base was immortalized in "The Right Stuff," was also a frequent visitor to Willow Springs.

1941 - The Ridgecrest Post Office was established and town was officially renamed. (Ridgecrest was the winner in a contest by one vote over Sierra View).

1941 - Dave McCoy brought the first portable rope tow to the Mammoth Mountain area and to McGee Mountain. Mammoth proved to have better snows. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began work on Long Valley Dam to form Crowley Lake, and put a tunnel under the Mono Craters to bring June Lake Loop and Mono Basin water to Crowley Lake. Mono Lake began to decline without the creek waters flowing into it.

1942-46 - Manzanar Relocation Camp, between Lone Pine and Independence, housed over 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry, even though most were U.S. citizens. When the camp was dismantled in 1946, many of the buildings were brought to NOTS, China Lake. (see below)

1943 - The United States Navy established a giant research, development, test and evaluation facility in the Indian Wells Valley, closing ranching and mining activities in the huge land holdings and establishing a "village" on base called China Lake. The facility was called NOTS, the Naval Ordnance Test Station, until 1967 when it became the Naval Weapons Center. Harvey Field was completed near Inyokern. It became the Inyokern Airport when the Navy planes moved to China Lake at Armitage Field. Electricity came to the Base and to Ridgecrest.

1946 - Muroc Army Air Field established; renamed Edwards Air Force Base in 1956.

1948 - Congress appropriated funds for a dam at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Kern River to prevent flooding of the City of Bakersfield. The City had suffered extreme flooding in 1867, 1893, and even in 1950 as the dam was being constructed. The 1950 flood was measured at 30,000 cubic feet per second. Normal high release from the dam today is 3,000cfs.

1952 - Major earthquakes on the Garlock fault severely damaged Tehachapi and then Bakersfield.

1953 - Los Angeles completed the Owens River Gorge hydroelectric plants. Lake Isabella dam was completed in March.

1954 - The road to Mammoth Mountain was paved. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area began; 6 chairs had been installed by 1965; 26 chairs by 1993. In 1997 a major interest in MMSA was sold to Interwest, a Canadian firm with plans to further develop both the ski area and the town.

1954 - Walter Scott, Death Valley Scotty, died. He is buried on Windy Hill just above the castle, with his dog Windy. 


Chronological History 
from 1958 to Present
Information about our 
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Kern County 
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Native American Culture in East Kern County
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