|Way Station on the Mother Road|
The Mother Road. John Steinbeck coined Route 66's best-known nickname in The Grapes of Wrath. It was an apt moniker for the famous highway that connected Chicago to Los Angeles, and it's still in use, especially among those who seek to preserve the route and its historic towns and buildings from the neglect brought on by the Interstates and the ravages of time. Goffs, a tiny railroad town near Needles, California, might well have disappeared completely into the sand if it weren't for the efforts of an eclectic group of desert enthusiasts known as the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association (MDH&CA). This energetic and dedicated organization, honchoed by Dennis and Jo Ann Casebier, has established a museum that is rapidly becoming the premier repository for cultural artifacts of the Mojave Desert. To house the collection, the group raised $150,000 to restore the Goffs Schoolhouse, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in October, 2001.
In addition, the MDH&CA administers nearly 800 acres of land donated by private owners for the preservation of key desert habitats. This land includes 113 acres surrounding the Goffs Schoolhouse where mining and lifestyle artifacts from throughout the southwest are on display. In addition, association members have amassed one of the largest collections of primary source material dealing with the Mojave. The research library collection includes over 6,000 books, 40,000 historical photographs, 700 oral histories, an extensive collection of old newspaper articles and pamphlets, and over 4,000 maps of the Mojave Desert region.
The word "Mojave" is thought to be an English interpretation of an Indian word that means "people who lived along the water (the Colorado River)." The eastern Mojave Desert surrounding the tiny town of Goffs has an extensive history of explorers, miners and settlers. Established in 1883 to support the operations of the railroad, Goffs became the main entry port into the rich mining area near Searchlight. In 1931, Route 66 was re-aligned to bypass Goffs, and the small town fell into neglect. In 1990, Dennis and Jo Ann Casebiers purchased the schoolhouse and surrounding land and began the restoration that continues today.
Goffs is worth a visit for anyone following the path of historic Route 66. The best time to plan a visit is the first weekend of every month, when the MDH&CA hosts an open house. The group also publishes an excellent newsletter called the "Mojave Road Report." The social event of the year is the Spring Encampment sponsored by the Friends of the Mojave Road (scheduled for April 24-27 in 2003). Attendees take special road trips along the historic Mojave Road, the primary route for explorers in the mid-1800's. For more information and a calendar of events, visit MDH&CA's Web site. The list of books to the right represent little-known but still very useful resources for exploring this remarkable land of contrasts.