In the best tradition of the “Old Timers” Cow Wells, later to become known as Garlock, was the camping ground for Mesquite Springs, thereby leaving free access to the springs for wild life. It is thought to have been used first by Mexican horse thieves who were stealing horses in the settlements around San Fernando and driving them to the mission of Santa Fe New Mexico, and other points east. There are those that claim that this is the original location of El Paso City and that the 1880 census shows almost 100 residents. The first mention of milling of ore at that location is in Roberta Starry’s book Gold Gamble and states the following: “An old letter dated 1887 tells of an expert stone mason, George Labb of San Joaquin Valley, who was brought into Cow Wells to erect an arrastra for crushing ore from the mines in the El Paso Mountains back of the settlement.”. There was also said to exist a “Line Shack” to house cowboys who were hunting strays in the area. Why the name “Cow Wells” ? Probably because when John Searles piped the water from Mesquite Springs down to the flat in 1873 for the use of his borax freight line, additional water sources were required for the cattle in the area,resulting in the development of wells to water the cattle.
Whatever the truth is about the history of this settlement it will probable remain unknown until a major archaeological study of the site is done, as the original location of the settlement is now buried under the mill tailings as the town of Garlock was moved uphill as the tailings threatened to engulf it.
Known as Cow Wells to freighters, horse thieves and miners in the adjacent El Paso Mountains, a town took shape in 1895 to provide for the needs of the new Rand Camp for water and milling services. Water was hauled up the hill for $2.00 a barrel and ore was hauled down the hill to be milled.. Eugene Garlock set up a station there, giving the place his last name after a stint as ‘Eugeneville’. The town of Garlock existed almost entirely to support the milling needs of the Rand Mining Districvt. With the development of water supplies and the establishment of mills in Randsburg and Johannesburg the town of Garlock faded slowly into the past with some small spurts of activity during the 1920’s and 30’s.
The San Francisco Call’s edition of March 7, 1897 reported that “Garlock in the Randsburg district has telegraphic communication, mail twice a day and eleven stages each way daily. It is again reported that Southern Pacific surveyors are in the field pioneering for a branch road into the district. The town has about 300 people, four stamp mills and one cyanide plant.”
Garlock was described in the September 05, 1897 edition of the Los Angeles Herald as follows: “GARLOCK- This is the principal milling point for the Mojave desert mines and is situated thirty-eight miles from Mojave. It is a flourishing town of at least 500 inhabitants, with about 150 more in the outlying district. It is a substantially built town, considering the fact that it is not yet two years old. Garlock was named in honor of E. T. Garlock, the pioneer settler and mill owner, who built the first mill at this point in November, 1895 (then called Cow Wells), being the only place in that section of the Mojave desert where a good supply of water could be obtained. The town has been surveyed into lots ranging from 25×150 to 50×150. The main street is sixty feet wide and all others fifty feet. The citizens are eminently law-abiding and progressive, hence the town is peculiarly free from the obnoxious features and persons that generally characterize and infest mining towns. The following town committee has charge of the general interests of the town: W. B. Ballard, president; L. E. Hoffman, secretary; B. D. Newell, treasurer; I. W. Kelly and A. T. Fowler, surveyors. Garlock has a very efficient volunteer fire department, whose chief, J. R. Hughes, was formerly outside foreman of the Baker Iron Works at Los Angeles. He is also superintendent of the Garlock school. There are fifty children of school age in the district and the town has a substantial frame schoolhouse 20×36. The Garlock News, owned and edited by Schmidt Bros., supplies the local news of the district admirably. The Desert bank, F. H. Heald president; G. W. Fox, cashier, does a general exchange business and purchases gold bullion and gold dust. Mr. Heald was formerly editor of the Elsinore News, hence it was natural for him to render the writer valuable assistance at Garlock.
Garlock is the business and distributing point for an extensive area of country which is wonderfully rich in mineral resources, embracing Red Rock, Dove Springs, Gold Hill, Last Chance, Mesa Springs. Black Mountain, Goler, El Paso, Slate range and Panamint districts. Stages run from here to Panamint besides to and from Mojave and Randsburg.”
Despite the protestations of the locals, to the author of the above article that their “citizens are eminently law-abiding and progressive, hence the town is peculiarly free from the obnoxious features and persons that generally characterize and infest mining towns.”, it was reported on 18 October 1897 by the correspondent for the same newspaper that “A couple of our north end mill owners got into a fisticuff encounter on the streets of the town last Saturday, with the result that one of them has been in bed ever since, very much hors de combat.” In the same issue it was also reported that “The Board of Supervisors have let the contract for a jail to be built at Garlock, and when it is complete several of our confirmed inebriates will no doubt grace its interior and languish in durance vile for a while.”
February 28, 1898: “A GREAT COMBINATION – The “Law, Order and Sanitary Committee of Garlock,” is the name of the new organization which serves the purposes of a village government. M. Sheridan Is president. W. H. Wright vice president, J. E. McGinn secretary, J. R. Hughes treasurer and J. Mowat night watchman.” – The Herald