This was home to the largest silver producer in California in the mid-1880s that was established after 4 prospectors from Grapevine Station set out to get to a mountain peak located northwest, which they described as “calico-colored.” There they discovered silver and the town that sprung thereafter came to be known as Calico Town.
Silver King Mine was the name given to the mine that these 4 opened at the mountain. Various establishments came up fast after this including boarding houses, a post office that was put up in 1882, 3 restaurants, 3 hotels, brothels, 5 general stores, bars and a meat market. The weekly newspaper called Calico Print was also in circulation and in addition to these; a voting precinct and school district were established by the county.
Calico town had professional workers too among them being a justice of the peace, a deputy sheriff and 2 constables, 2 doctors, 2 lawyers and 5 commissioners. Telegraph, telephone and Wells Fargo office services were also available in this town then. Between 1883 and 1885 silver production here had hit its peak and the town boasted of 500 mines with a population of 1,200 individuals.
Colemanite a borate mineral was discovered in the Calico Mountains thereafter and by 1890, the population of this town had risen to 3,500 individuals from various nations including America, China, France, Ireland, Netherlands, England and Greece. This same year prices of silver dipped after the introduction of the Silver Purchase Act and by 1896 the situation had become worse making the mines in this town uneconomically viable.
In 1898 the post office was shut down and the school followed thereafter leaving the once bustling town as a ghost town by the onset of the century. Borax mining in the area was terminated in 1907 after which the town was deserted and most of the original establishments in the town of Calico were moved to Yermo, Barstow and Dagget after this period.
An attempt to bring the town back to life was made by Walter Knott and Cordelia his wife in 1915 when they decided to put up a cyanide plant that was supposed to extract remaining silver from deposits of the infamous Silver King Mine. They also founded Knott’s Berry Farm and built the redwood cyanide tanks to serve the plant they had established.
Their home was located at Newberry Springs and they went ahead to acquire the town of Calico in 1951. Once they had possessed it, they embarked on restoring it into what it was originally by taking a cue from old photographs. The town was later donated to San Bernardino County by Knott in 1966 and it became a County Regional Park.
In 2012 Calico was re-opened for residential purposes and in America; this was a first for a ghost town and luxury villas were also put up 100m away from the town’s site. Some of the structures that are still standing here today include Joe’s Saloon, Lil’s Saloon, Smitty’s Gallery, the general store, Lucy Lane’s former home that served as the courthouse and the town’s office and has since been turned into the main museum, as well as homes where Chinese citizens once lived that are in ruins currently.