As early as the late 18th century, explorers began trekking the valley along the Mojave River. They encountered native American people living along this trade route that connected coastal tribes with those along the Colorado River. Spanish missionary Father Francisco Garces, explorer Jedediah Smith and government topographer John C. Fremont were among the earliest to the area, but it was the discovery of silver and gold that brought large numbers of non-native immigrants.
The area witnessed many struggles between the original inhabitants and the later settlers. In January 1867, the last battle between the newcomers and Native Americans was fought a few miles east of what we now know as Apple Valley, at a place called Chimney Rock. Today, people of many ethnic cultures live together in the peaceful surroundings of the valley and the legacy of these cultures is evident throughout the area. Chimney Rock is marked by a state-registered historical monument, and old mine shafts can still be seen in the surrounding hills.
Ursula M. Poates was one of those early arrivals, settling around 1893. She’s credited with having named the area Apple Valley. Poates promoted real estate around the “Gateway to the Golden Land of Opportunity.” The colorful and dynamic woman advertised the 640-acre “City of Apple” in numerous newspapers. Poates claimed that the area was called “Appleton Valley” at the time. She is quoted as saying, “There were apples being grown along the river, but not by the ‘ton,’ so I just called it Apple Valley.”
By 1914, apple growers were earning $350 to $500 per acre of fruit. Within a year and a half, the state legislature and the federal government had authorized the Victor Valley Water Project (the largest in the nation at that time), and the Santa Fe Railway began to lay double trackage to serve the anticipated needs of the area.
On April 17, 1917, the United States entered World War I. Soon thereafter, young farmers, homesteaders, dam-builders, and cowhands began to march off to fight instead of developing the area.
The years following World War I brought many changes that affected the area’s residents. The orchards suffered from a devastating fungus, the cost of operating electricity-driven water pumps increased, and apples and other fruits from the Pacific Northwest arrived in California markets.
Many orchards died, and the valley returned to its original landscape of quiet desert beauty. The final blow was from 1944-46, when frosts, extreme heat, and hail decimated the surviving orchards. For the next seven years, firewood — the only thing growers had left to sell — was carried across Cajon Pass for burning in the fireplaces of Los Angeles.
Bass, who died in 1983, was once asked why he wanted to build a city out in the middle of nowhere. He said, “I had the vision to see, the faith to believe, and the courage to do it.”
Apple Valley Today
The Town of Apple Valley is so much more than just a location on a map, it’s an uncrowded and sun-drenched community. Here, a family can have a real home where the air is clean and the neighbors friendly. Incorporated in November 1988 with a population of just 41,000, it’s nearly doubled in size and still where you can find A Better Way of Life. The Victor Valley, in which Apple Valley is located, has a population of more than 400,000.