Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kelso, California

Kelso's former depot

Kelso, a ghost town in the middle of the Mojave, was built to serve the railroad. The Union Pacific line from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles came through the area in 1890. Kelso (named after a railroad employee who had his name selected at random) is located near a natural spring and deposits of lead ore, factors which led to its selection as the site of a railroad depot. Built in 1924, it served the railroad until 1985. Concerned citizens saved it from demolition, and it is now a very attractive Visitor Center for the Mojave National Preserve.

Kelso’s heyday was in the 1940s, when iron ore from the nearby Vulcan mine was shipped to the west coast and made into steel for Liberty ships during World War 2.

S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, a WW2 Liberty Ship

When the mine closed in 1948, the local economy went into a tailspin. During the 1970s Kelso was known as the town without television. About 75 residents lived in Kelso, many with school age children. Television signals could not reach the town which meant that residents found other methods of recreation. Children played outside until dark. Adults sat outside and talked together. With the advent of satellite dishes, this desert utopia did not last.

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