s early as the late 18th century, explorers began trekking the valley along the Mojave River. The Spanish missionary Father Francisco Garces, the explorer Jedediah Smith and government topographer John C. Fremont were among the earliest non-natives to the area, but it was the discovery of silver and gold that brought large numbers of settlers. The area witnessed many struggles between the original inhabitants and the later settlers. In January 1867, the last NativeAmerican battle was fought a few miles east of what is now 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 the old mine shafts can still be seen in the surrounding hills.
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
Mrs. Ursula M. Poates (one of those early arrivals, settling around 1893) is credited with having named the area Apple Valley. Mrs. 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. Mrs. 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.” Mrs. Poates’ efforts were later overwhelmed by the federal government, which opened thousands of acres to homesteaders shortly after the dawn of the 20th century. 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.