Mural Monday: Downtown Barstow has several streets lined with murals that tell the Gold Rush history of California. Interesting and artistic, here’s the visual tour. Called “Main St. Murals” these are the historic murals on Route 66. ( The objective was to revitalize Historic Downtown Barstow through the preservation of their cultural heritage.


California Gold Rush: With the discovery of gold in California in 1848, it’s statehood in 1850, and the resulting emigration to the west, the interest of the government in exploring a rail link to the Pacific became serious in the early 1850′s. Not only would a Pacific Railroad help build population and expand commerce, it was also an important element in defending the nations borders by providing a means of economically and rapidly transporting the army and its provisions to the remote posts beyond the Mississippi.

 Gold Rush

The Mormon Trail: The Southern Route of the Mormon Trail followed paths explored by Father Garces and Jedediah Smith. In 1848, Mormon Battalion Captain Jefferson Hunt trailed cattle to Utah on this trail. The Daniel Davis family, also of the Mormon Battalion, followed in a covered wagon — the first American family to travel the route. In 1851, a wagon train of Mormon pioneers settled San Bernardino Valley. They established farms, ranches, stage stops, mining and freighting interests and started a pony express mail service between Southern California and Utah. Mormon pioneers who settled here helped change California’s main economy to agriculture, establishing California’s pioneer era of 1846-1886. (Mural-In-A-Day Master Artist, Kathy Fierro.)

Mormon Pioneer Trail Mormon2 Mormon3 Mormon4

Beale’s Route: In 1857, under orders to survey a wagon road from New Mexico to California, General Edward Beale followed the 35th parallel to paths opened by Francis Aubry and Lt. A.W. Whipple. Beale’s orders required importation of camels and drivers to experiment carrying freight to the Southwest. Out-performing mules, the camels carried 700 pounds and could go for three days without water. Their feet adapted to rocky-sandy soil, they succeeded both summer and winter, though they were not popular with mules or drivers. The Civil War was brewing so the use of camels ceased. The railroad and later Route 66 followed Beale’s route.

 Beals Route BealsRoute1

The Old Spanish Trail: By David Brockhurst, Master Artist, this mural explains that the first explorers kept detailed journals of their expeditions detailing the route taken and the friendly and hostile encounters with indians along the way. Journals assisted those who followed and helped communicate the New World that was being discovered. The Mexican mule trains traveled a distance of 1200 miles across 6 states from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. The mule train was often led in single file and the caravans could be as long as a mile. Indians watch the train from the safety of their mountain hideout.

 Old Spanish Trail OldSpanishTrail1

Twenty Mule Team: Borax was discovered in Death Valley in 1881, a valuable ore in the production of ceramics, household cleaners and the working of gold. William T. Coleman the owner of the Harmony Borax words found that twenty mules could haul 36 tons easily through the isolated region. The mule team and cargo were driven from Death Valley to the Railroad at Mojave, a journey of 168 miles that took 10 days.

Large wagons were built to each carry ten tons of ore and ten were built measuring sixteen feet long, four feet wide and six feet high. The rear wheels were seven feet in diameter and the front wheels were five feet, the weight of each wagon was 7,800 pounds. Two wagons were used in each train with a water carrier at the rear.

Intelligent mules were found and each could recognize their own name. The two most intelligent headed the team and were called Leaders, the next five pairs were call the Swing Team, then came the Eights, the Sixes and the Pointers. On a tight turn these pairs were trained to jump over hte hauling chain and guide the wagons around the corner. Behind them and closest to the wagon were the Wheelers, the strongest mules, sometimes horses were used in this position.

The driver rode on the left hand animal, the Nigh Wheeler and from there could work the brake on teh front wagon and operate the Jerk Line which ran through a ring on all the left hand mules to the leaders, a long pull meant turn left and a few jerks, turn right. The Swamper was the name for the driver’s assistant and he rode on top on teh rear wagon and would use its brake from there.

Eventually the Borax at Death Valley ran out, but more was found in Calico and hauled by mule team to the rail station in Dagget until a connecting railroad was built in 1888, which marked the phasing out of the mule team.

(Master Mural Artist–David Brockhurst)

Twenty Mule Team MuleTeam2

Native American Voices From The Mojave Desert: Dedicated on May 31, 2008, the City of Barstow and the California Council of hte Humanities funded this project. The Master Mural Artist was, again, David Brockhurst.

 NativeAmericans NativeAmericans1

The Mother Road: Jim Savole was the lead artist. In the early 1920′s, an emigration to California started from teh Midwest. Families packed up and headed West on National Old Trails Hwy., and proceeded right along Barstow’s Main street. The Depression and dust storms of hte 1930′s sent families to California seeking work. Some ended their journey in Barstow and made it their home. In 1926 the road traveled became Route 66, the “Mother Road.”

Mother Road MotherRoad1

Harvey House: In the late 1800′s to 1930′s, rail travel was considered the choice of transportation, Fred Harvey had set up a string of dining rooms and boarding houses for Santa Fe passengers. In 1911, Mr. Harvey opened the million dollar “Casa Del Desierto”. It was considered one of the jewels of the Harvey House system for many years. Dining was gourmet cuisine on fine china and quality drink service in crystal. Comfortable, luxurious rooms rested weary rail travelers. The “Harvey Girls”, women that served the meals, along with rpoviding the travelers with friendly conversation, gave hte Harvey House its renouned reputation.

Harvey Girls HarveyGirls1

Waterman Junction Becomes Barstow: In 1885, the California Southern R.R. Co. connects with teh Atlantic and Pacific R.R. line on teh Mojave River creating Waterman Junction. Being named for Governor Waterman, owner of Waterman Mine and a mill nearby. A post office was established on May 15, 1886 and the budding town of Waterman Junction was then named Barstow, honoring William Barstow Strong the “Executor” of Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroads’ western achievements. (Part of the Mural-In-A-Day-2004 project by Kathy Fierro, Master Artist)

William Barstow Strong

Getting There: Check out Main Street Murals or go visit the Desert Discovery Center at 831 Barstow Road to see even more!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

%d bloggers like this: