Mojave, CA – Historic Pictorial

Mojave’s roots are in the Railroad Industry, founded in 1876 as a construction camp on the Southern Pacific Railroad. For a short period (1884 to 1889), Mojave was the terminus for the twenty-team borax wagons coming out of Death Valley. The Mojave Mining District would also come into play in the late 1800s. The mines of the district were very successful, but never received the recognition that the mines in nearby Randsburg achieved.  Today the town is the home of the Mojave Spaceport, and SpaceShipOne. To most the small community is a pit stop on their way to or from Bakersfield, or their trip up or down Highway 14. Nevertheless this history of the area is amazing.

 

A twenty-mule team standing in front of John Searles’ borax warehouse in Mojave, ca.1880. The mules are hitched to two large wagons in two long lines. The wagons are massive and are heavily loaded with hay(?). The back wheels are considerably larger than the front ones. A group of four men is standing near the lead wagon at center. The warehouse is behind the mule team and is a long, large wooden building with two massive doorways.

 

 

Front Street in Mojave, cir. 1890s. Building on far right was the Montana Lodging House. Several additional buildings simple state “Restaurant” on their false front.

 

 

The Harvey House next to railroad tracks in Mojave, 1896. The tracks lie over the dirt in the foreground while the long building stands behind them at center. Several men stand next to large objects in front of the entrances. The two-story, wooden building has hundreds of windows and four visible chimneys. Before the railroads had dining cars all passengers were fed in these Harvey Houses. They also had a few rooms to rent. Mojave was the end of the line for passengers and freight going north. They transferred here from Santa Fe Railroad to Southern Pacific Railroad. Harvey House system operated only on Santa Fe Railroad.

 

 

Men standing near a steam engine in front of the Harvey House in Mojave. The steam engine is at center and is facing to the left. It is coupled to a slant-back tender car and is spewing smoke from its smokestacks. Eight men in long pants and hats are standing on the tracks in front of the locomotive. Behind the engine is a long, two-story wooden building with a covered porch and rows of large rectangular windows. The tender car bears the number 1079.

 

 

Snow-covered Main Street in Mojave, March 1896. A long line of wooden buildings runs along the far side of the street. All of the buildings have rectangular facades and covered porches. The second building from the left is a beer hall. A team of horses is pulling a makeshift sleigh down the middle of the street at center. Both sides of the street are lined with utility poles. Most of the buildings visible were destroyed in a fire a few years later.

 

 

Fourth of July 1896 parade on Main Street in Mojave looking southeast from Harvey House, July 4, 1896. Most of the town was destroyed by a fire in the fall of 1896. An electrical pole stands in the foreground while horse-drawn wagons ride down the street behind it. They pass a row of businesses including the Beer Hall Saloon and the Dewey House. More buildings line the intersecting street on the far left.

 

 

Zinc tanks at the Echo Mining Company, Mojave Mining District. Two men stand near one of 6 large rectangular tanks located inside a wooden building with a corrugated metal roof. A door is visible behind them at left. At right, behind them is a large vat labeled “poison”. Some of the tanks are similarly labeled. A network of pipes interconnects the vat and tanks. Elevated wooden walkways run between the tanks.

 

 

Exterior view of the Consolidated Gold Mine in Mojave, ca.1900. The large, wooden mine building is installed on the side of a hill at center. It is only one story high in most places, but it extends from the base of a small basin to the top of the surrounding hill. There are several small square windows cut into the walls. At right are four large cylindrical containers, and another is mounted on a wooden platform at center. There is a white-washed wooden house on the side of a hill in the background at right, and a line of utility poles runs along the top of the hills. The hills are rocky and covered with small desert plants. The mine was also known as the Exposed Treasure Mine.

 

 

Cyanide tanks at the Queen Esther Mining Company mine, Mojave Mining District. Two men empty ore carts from rails over the tanks. They are in a wooden building with a corrugated metal roof. A barrel is visible in the foreground at right.

 

 

Open cut method of mining ore at the mine of the Karma Mining Company, Mojave Mining District. A chute is located at the top of the chasm. Shoring timbers are stacked low in the mine.

 

 

A filter press at the Echo Mining Company, Mojave Mining District. The large piece of mining machinery is installed in a wood frame building with corrugated metal walls and roof. A pressure(?) gauge is visible to the right of the machine.

 

 

Exposed treasure mine and camp, Mojave Mining District. Scrub brush and a few cows are in the foreground. About 15 buildings including the mine itself and several tanks are in the background. A rocky hill rises behind. Legible signs include: “Pioneer Boarding House”,…”beer”….

 

 

Concentrators of the Karma Mining Company, Mojave Mining District. About 4 concentrators are visible. They are located in a wooden building. They consist of a belt whose movement causes ore to concentrate. A wooden bin is located below each piece of equipment.

 

 

 Mojave in the 1950s – the industry has changed. The days of mining are now in the past. Mojave is now more-or-less a place that one travels through on their way to somewhere else. Upper half of the photo shows the sign for White’s Motel, the lower half – Frontier Liquor (still there today), and Reno’s Cafe.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

9 Comments

  • Amazing pictures of Mojave.

    Mojave always looks a little sad when I drive through. It is a shame that more of those wonderful signs aren’t still around.

  • Is that brothel still there? It was (or is) located close to the junction of Hwy 58 east and Hwy 14. It’s a 2 story building.

    • Wow! Not that I doubt that there was one during the mining days.

      Now I will have to look next time I drive through.

      Every year or so, some client sends me to the Kern River Valley to appraise preserve land. And I prefer to drive through the Antelope Valley rather than via Bakersfield.

  • Great post Jim! Love the vintage photos and thanks for the interesting historical information.

    I remember the 1950’s version of Mojave. I had never actually stayed there until earlier this year, when we went with you to the El Paso Mountains. Believe me, it is still also a railroad town. Pretty much all freight these days though. I was reminded of that about every 20 minutes when I was trying to sleep.

  • I stayed in Mojave a few years ago, i must admit i was a little apprehensive about walking the street because the town is quite desolate. Its such a shame as from this is seems like it was once a thriving place. I love reading Jim’s posts about history. Keep up the good work.

Leave a Comment