Route 66 #1

Route 66 #1
Route 66 Museum

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dagget Nabbet

Last week I had the privilege of guest blogging for The Boron Sun. The piece I wrote was about the 1940 film 20 Mule Team, a forgetten film I had seen some years back, and that had some relevance to the town of Boron's history. In the process of doing research on the film, so I could dot all my I's and cross all my T's, I discovered the film was actually suppose to be set in the town of Dagget, CA

Now, being a Route 66 enthusiast and amateur historian my mind suddenly clicked in with the question, "Dagget? Isn't that a town off 66?". 30 seconds later and with the help of Google maps I had my answer, yes Dagget is off of old 66 directly East of Barstow. Then I began to see Dagget in my mind with its hodgepodge of desert abodes, and it's creepy looking experimental solar power plant with that weird tower. If you didn't know any better you would mistake Dagget for being nothing more then Barstows outskirts which in all reality it is.


In the process of doing my research though I actually found some information about the town that was actually somewhat astonishing. Turns out Dagget at one time was very much the place to be, and a lucrative one at that. This small now nearly forgotten town was a hub for silver and boron mining in the 1880's and believe it or not it is actually the latter element and not the former that bought the town most of its wealth. 

No considering Dagget saw its good times in the 1880's and 90's we can rule out Route 66 being part of that sort of. If we figure that 66 was preceded by a number of previous trails we could think of it that way. But it's safe to say more then likely Dagget was the hub of silver and boron mining operations do to its access to the Santa Fe Railway whose tracks ran through Dagget on the way into Barstow and Santa Fe's yards and Harvey House there. 

Calico, a town to the North of Dagget was actually where most of the silver mines where. But Calico was not serviced by and major rail links, meaning silver was transported to Dagget for rail shipment, and in the process a lot of money exchange hands in this town making it a boomtown. 

But, at the same time borates where almost as lucrative, since borates much like now days had many uses and attracted buyers. Boron of course had to be mined in bulk throughout Death Valley, and was carried into Dagget via the famous "20 Mule Team". But the 20 Mule Team where slow, and could only carry so much, and it was only a matter of time till a railway the Borate and Dagget, was established as a spur line to carry borates out of Death Valley and into Dagget as the name implies. 

The Borate and Dagget Railway became highly lucrative and spurred the creation of the Pacific Borax Corporation, later called US Borax, maker of the famed Boraxo soap product and modern miner and distributor of borates. But Pacific Borax would eventually move to Mojave, California 78 miles to the West, due to the fact that it served both Santa Fe and Southern Pacific trains and lines to San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

Dagget wouldn't decline though until after World War 2 since the towns airport would enter defense contractor service during and for briefly after the war. 

The town would also see a lot of traffic from Route 66, since Route 66 ran directly through town. This also helped associate Dagget with one of Route 66's most famous movies derived from one of its most famous literary works. The film version of Grapes of Wrath would be filmed on Route 66 in Dagget in 1940 coincidentally the same year 20 Mule Team was made about Dagget but not filmed there. 

More then likely Daggets final decline happened after I-40 moved traffic south of town. Meaning Dagget was another victim of the Route 66's decommissioning. Dagget is another town whose identity existed long before Route 66, but whose fate became intertwined with Route 66 as time wore on. 

If your following Route 66 you will pass through Dagget between Newberry Springs and Barstow. Make sure you look for it and any signs of what once was. 

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