The Southern Pacific Railroad (SPRR) began construction through what is now the Antelope Valley in 1876. At this time, Lancaster was not identified as either a town or a settlement – it was merely listed as a siding track. Records show that in 1883 a clerk by the name of J.W. Lancaster was working as a clerk at a shop there.
Real-estate developer Moses Wicks purchased 60 sections of land in the area from the SPRR, having Lancaster officially recorded and surveyed in the early 1880s. It is possible that Lancaster was named for the early clerk J.W. Lancaster, though speculation is our best source as no official records are known. Rumor used to say that Wicks named Lancaster after his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but this was proven false as he was originally from Aberdeen, Missouri.
Mr. Wicks and his real-estate endeavors were far-reaching, persuading many distant settlers to come and homestead in Lancaster. Wicks would disperse pamphlets across the United States and abroad, depicting the opportunities and lifestyles available in Lancaster.
"Gurba, Norma H. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Arcadia, 2013.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"