Credit for the early research of Lancaster and Antelope Valley history should be given to the first students of Antelope Valley Union High School. These students, eight of them, compiled in 1913 a publication, ''The Heart of the Antelope Valley''. From this booklet we have gleaned much of our 1876-1910 history of Lancaster.
1876 - When the Southern Pacific Railroad Company laid its track through what was to be Lancaster in the summer of 1876, many of the early settlers stated the railroad named the train stop at that time. Another source states that the town was named by M.L. Wicks when he laid out the townsite in 1884. Wicks supposedly named the town after Lancaster, PA., although some history shows his birthplace as Aberdeen, Miss. In 1879, H.T. Williams published a book in New York titled ''Pacific Tourist'' in which he mentions the town of Lancaster, California, and so from this it seems that the SP must be given credit for naming Lancaster as ML Wicks did not come to Antelope Valley until the 1880s when he started his first colony on the west side of the Valley. The Southern Pacific also built the first houses in Lancaster, for their employees.
1882 - Nickolas Cochran passed through the Valley on the train and recognized its agricultural possibilities.
1883 - The first artesian well in the Valley was sunk near the Southern Pacific track for locomotive use. Soon after this several men from Sacramento, connected with a bank there and other businessmen of that city, purchased land from the railroad company and prepared to colonize the valley.
1884 - ML Wicks purchased 60 sections from the railroad company at two and one-half dollars an acre, laying out a townsite in streets and lots.
An English corporation called the Atlantic and Pacific Fibre Company, with Col. Gay and Mrs. Payne as managers, and J.A. Graves of Los Angeles as attorney, contracted to furnish paper for the London Daily Telegraph. They bought up a good deal of yucca land around the valley and sent a large number of Chinese laborers in to cut down the trees.
On the corner of Tenth Street and Antelope Avenue, a fine brick hotel of two stories and eleven rooms was built. This was called the Lancaster House and might be a credit to our town today had it not been destroyed in 1886 by a fire which started in Frank Glencross' store.
The early streets in Lancaster were very easy to find. Starting at 8th Street (now Avenue I) continuing south, the streets were 9th and 10th (now Lancaster Boulevard), 11th and 12th streets. Starting at Antelope Avenue (now Sierra Highway) and going west were: Beech, Cedar, Date, Elm and Fern.
1885 - The new town promised to be a success from the first, and from Mr. Savage, who was one of those moving here from London in response to an advertisement, we have the following description of Lancaster. ''Antelope Avenue was the principal street, and beginning in the northern end, a man named Spencer ran a fruit and vegetable store and next came the general store owned by Frank Glencross. The Lancaster House occupied the corner of Tenth Street and Antelope Avenue on the north, and across the street and south was a frame warehouse and tinshop, Mr. Deveraux being the tinsmith. Scherer's general store and bar occupied the site of the present residence of Mr. McMurray, and then came a long low building that served as restaurant, saloon and dwelling house.''
1886 - William Story, the station agent, built a one-story house which, with a later addition, became the Lancaster Hotel.
Another speculator of fame was Colonel Kingsley, who advertised Antelope Valley and Lancaster in the London papers. He published pictures of immense berries and other fruits and succeeded in interesting large numbers of settlers. He was supposed to be backing a Mr. Green, while backing Kingsley was the Southern Pacific Railroad.
1887 - The year 1887 promised a great boom for Lancaster. S.A. Drummer and Mr. Cammer established the Antelope Valley Gazette and settlers came pouring into the region. Editor's note: Further research by the Antelope Valley Ledger Gazette indicates that the paper was established in 1886.
1888 - In the summer of 1888, Mr. Wicks sold the townsite with the exception of a few lots and blocks to James P. Ward for $46,620, or about $20 per acre. The site, approximately a mile square, was sufficient to make about two thousand lots at an average price of less than seven dollars each!
Mr. Van Rockybrand built a much-needed hotel, the Gilwyn, now know as the Western Hotel.
1889-90 - The first church to be built in Lancaster was a Roman Catholic church. Mr. Ward donated the land and the building fund was obtained by popular subscription among the Roman Catholics of the district. The church was at Ninth and Cedar Avenue. The first priest to occupy the pulpit was Father Patrick M. Banning. It was not until 1919 that a parish was added for the priest.
1889 - Captain Hannah purchased the small one-story house east of the track and erected the Hotel Lancaster.
1890s - In 1890, the grammar school was built on Tenth Street, the brick being burned in a kiln not far from town.
Before the building of the brick grammar school, between 1884 and 1889, classes were held in the Fuller apartment buildings. The first teacher was Miss Emily Parmelee. It was not until 1913 that people voted for a new site for the grammar school on Cedar Avenue.
The post office service grew under the direction of Miss Abbie Dunning, the first postmistress. She was succeeded by J.F. Dunsmoor (1897-1913). Other early postmasters were Mrs. Benedict, William Redman and B.C. McMurray.
One of the most famous Lancaster characters of this period was Mace Mayes, who in 1890 was constable, a saloon keeper and ran a meat market. For his escapades, he eventually was sent to San Quentin Prison where he learned counterfeiting.
The early '90s were years of heavy rainfall and, thus, prosperous ones for the farmers. Mr. Ward shipped the first carload of alfalfa. As many as two hundred horses and mules could be seen lined up on Tenth Street feeding or waiting their turn to unload the harvests.
1893 - Seems to have been a banner year. Sixty thousand acres skirting the foothills were planted with wheat and barley. Some 730 carloads were brought to Lancaster to be shipped to Los Angeles.
1894 - Opened a series of dry years. The cattle were the first to suffer and were driven north in such numbers that the stage road was trodden with dust.
1895-97 - Continuation of the dry years. In 1897, nearly all of the valley's residents left. The Antelope Valley Association held their first meeting, and continued to hold two general meetings each subsequent year. These were similar to county fairs, and included a joint Antelope Valley Association and political meeting. The Democrats had a political parade and marched from the Lancaster Hotel to the school house while the Almondale played.
Late 1890s - For several years businesses all over the valley came to a complete standstill. Lots along Tenth Street and Antelope Avenue in the main part of town could be bought for $25, but no one wanted to buy. Also about this time, gold was discovered by Ezra Hamilton, near Rosamond. Mining and Hamilton's Mill gave employment to many people.
1898 - Borax from the Frazier Park area was hauled to Lancaster to be shipped by rail to San Pedro.
1900-1905 - G.L. Albertson, photographer from Los Angeles, came to Lancaster and the Antelope Valley to take photos of the area. From his glass plate negatives collection came many of Lancaster's early photos. Many photos used in this publication are from his originals.