Water has been both a curse and a blessing for inhabitants of the Antelope Valley. In the beginning, farming was primarily raising cattle and sheep. It also consisted of fruit orchards that were watered by natural streams and creeks as well as cultivation of dry grain (i.e. wheat and barley). Dry farming does not use irrigation; however, it relies on rainfall.
Many of Lancaster’s first settlers came hoping to establish their homesteads. In 1863, Congress passed The Homestead Act which offered free public land (in particular areas) to settlers that would inhabit and attain up to 160 acres of land for at least five years. Virtually anyone could claim a quarter-section of public land for only a $10 filing fee.
The early 1890s were years of heavy rainfall which favored the local farmers. Water pipes penetrated the earth’s crust to reach underground water sources; this created pressure causing water to shoot up much like a geyser.
The first recorded artesian well in Lancaster sunk between 1883 and 1884. Lancaster's earliest recorded engine-powered water pump was established roughly 11 years later in 1895.
"Gurba, Norma H. Lancaster. Arcadia, 2005.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"