Route 66 in the News

Famous Faces Part of Local History

2010-04-01 09:38:56

DAGGETT, Calif. - Although the Mojave Route 66 town of Daggett shares a common history with its neighboring towns, it has many claims to distinction, such as the colorful characters who were familiar faces around town.

The naturalist John Muir was a frequent visitor in the dusty desert town of Daggett. He came to visit his daughter, Helen, who had moved to Daggett for health reasons. He was known to stay at the Stone Hotel, which was built in 1875. It stands today and is rumored to be the subject of future renovation. In 1914, Muir suffered his final illness in Daggett and died a few days later in Los Angeles.

Muir was not the only popular name to frequent the Stone Hotel. It was where Death Valley Scotty and Shorty Harris planned their mining operations and questionable deals. It is said that racing legend Barney Oldfield sped through Daggett in a desert race.

At one time, the town's reputation was described as a "lurid hotbed of vice." This may be attributed to a shootout at Alex's Bar, where a man was killed. Thereafter the bar was known as "The Bucket of Blood."

Daggett boasts a colorful history with an intriguing railroad backdrop. Today it looks like a town that doesn't know whether to improve or give up.

Dilapidated homes, lots strewn with junk and structures melting to earth are in sharp contrast with recreational parks and a viable museum in midtown. It is the location of the Barstow-Daggett Airport and a solar energy facility.

Located just 10 miles from Barstow, Daggett gets lost in the big picture. Circa 1882, "Daggett was called `Calico' because it housed a depot off what was then the Southern Pacific Railroad mainline, the closest depot to the town site of Calico. In 1883, to avoid confusion, the name was changed to Daggett," according to railroad buff Larry Boerio.

The town's namesake, John R. Daggett, was California's lieutenant governor from 1883 to 1887. He was also owner of the Bismark Mines in Calico.

Daggett was originally a town for miners and a supply center. It was the terminals of the Borate and Daggett 11-mile rail line and the 4-mile industrial Columbia Mine Railway. By all accounts it was destined to become a major town before it was eclipsed by Barstow.

Today there are historical spots where one can take photos and perhaps capture the essence of the town's better days. Splendid abodes of the past are withered, but make for great photography. The Stone Hotel still stands and nearby is a photographer's prize, Fout's garage, which was originally used as a roundhouse for narrow gauge railroad equipment. It was operated by Waterlo Mill and Mining Company to haul ore from Calico.

Also nearby is the California Agricultural Station, as was described on its sign, but history says it was manned by the state police who, at one time, systematically turned back migrants who had no job or money. The station was enlarged in 1953 by building onto the front of the original station. It is abandoned but is said to be the last standing "migrant control station."

~Claudia Heller,


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