Copyright
Wallace Melvin Morgan.

History of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; online

. (page 103 of 177)
Online LibraryWallace Melvin MorganHistory of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; → online text (page 103 of 177)
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has laid all the water mains for the August Oil Company and the water lines
for the California Amalgamated. The main line supplying Fellows with water
and owned by Heck Bros., was constructed by his company, also the oil
mains at Fellows for the Bankline Oil Company and the water mains at Taft
for the Northern Exploration Company. Recently the company closed a con-
tract with the General Petroleum for the construction of an eight-inch oil
pipe line, a loop across the Tejon Pass. This will be the second line con-
structed by the General Petroleum across the Pass, intersecting the Mojave
line at Lebec and together with the line previously laid, forming a loop-line
through the Tejon Pass.

Descended from honored English forbears and representing an influential
family of the Old Dominion, Mr. Bramham was born at Charlottesville. Albe-
marle county, Va., December 22, 1881, and grew to manhood on the old home-
stead, aiding his father in the mercantile establishment of the latter, as well
as on the farm where they lived. At the age of sixteen he went to the oil
fields of West Virginia, where he began to work in the construction of ])ipe
lines. When he left West Virginia at the age of nineteen he had a thorough
knowledge of every detail connected with such work. The year 1900 found
him at Spindletop, Tex., and for ten years he was connected with pipe-line
construction in Texas and Louisiana. i\Ieantime he worked successively for
the Texas Oil Company, the Gulf Refining Company, the Gulf Pipe Line Com-
panv and held an im!)ortant position as superintendent of construction for the
Evangeline Oil Company of Louisiana. Coming to California from Louisiana
in September of 1909 he engaged with the Producers' Transportation Company,
for whom he had previously worked in Louisiana. The filling of an important
contract took him to McKittrick. Later he came to the Midway field and
superintended the laying of an eight-inch oil line from the Midway to Santa
Barbara. After six months with the Producers' Transportation Company he
entered the service of the Honolulu Oil Company and in four months had
completed a water system for their entire lease. Next he came to Taft, where
December 1, 1910, he organized the Virginia Pipe Line Contracting Company
and since has engaged in business, with headquarters in this city, where a
sister presides over his comfortable home.

FREDERICK SMITH.— Among the business men of ability in Kern
county we find Frederick Smith, who has charge of the store of Miller &
Lux at Buttonwillow. He was born in Blackburn, Lancashire. England,
July 17, 1861, being the son of Dr. Joseph Harker Smith, a graduate of the
University of Glasgow with the degree of M.D., and a practicing physician
in Blackburn until his death at the age of forty-nine years. His widow.



1026 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

who was in maidenhood Jane Sutcliffe, also of Lancashire, died in 1910.
Frederick, the only child of the union, was educated in the public school of
Blackburn and at Mintholme College, from which he was graduated in 1881.
He then studied medicine for a while, but not liking it he entered commercial
pursuits and was a clerk in mercantile establishments until he came to
Massachusetts in 1886.

Coming to California the next year, Mr. Smith purchased a small ranch
at Los Gatos, which he sold a j'car later, and then engaged in superintend-
ing ranches in the Cupertino district in Santa Clara county. Becoming well
versed in the fruit business he built the first fruit dryer at Wawawai, Wash.,
and after starting it he returned to his former work in Santa Clara county.
Five years later he went to Mendocino county, where he was with the Cot-
toneve Lumber Co. until he accepted the management of a dry goods store
in San Rafael. After five years he resigned and started a private messenger
service in San Francisco, which was continued until 1910, when he entered
the employ of Miller & Lu.x as storekeeper at Buttonwillow, Kern county,
which position he is filling acceptably.

Fraternally Mr. Smith is a member of the Woodmen of the World and
of the Eagles, of which latter order he has been secretary. He is a com-
municant of the Episcopal church and politically adheres to the principles
of the Republican party.

FRANK A. FETHER.— In Fulton county, Ohio, Mr. Fether was born
near Pettisville, January 1, 1868, son of Alexander and Sarah (Gu3'man)
Fether, natives respectively of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and now residents
of Bakersfield, Cal. The father, who for years engaged in the milling busi-
ness in Fulton county, Ohio, drifted from that occupation into the oil in-
dustry and took contracts for production in that state as well as in Indiana.
After removing to California and settling at Bakersfield in March, 1900, he
engaged in drilling oil wells by contract. Now at the age of seventy-three
years, he is living in retirement from business cares. Of his six children four
are now living. The second son, Louis C, was killed on New Year's day of 1908
by a dynamite explosion on a lease in the Kern river field. A daughter, Effie,
died in Toledo, Ohio. Mrs. Celia Klofenstein is a resident of Los Angeles
and George is engaged in drilling water wells for the Santa Fe in Arizona.
The youngest member of the family circle, Harry, born in 1884, began to
work in the Kern river field in 1901 and is now foreman of production with
the United Oil Company.

Upon leaving high school at the age of sixteen years Frank A. Fether
began to assist his father in his drilling contracts, by which work he soon
became competent in the care of the tools and as an assistant in drilling. At
different times he worked in many of the oil fields of Ohio and Indiana. With
the money earned in the oil business he paid his expenses while attending
the Wauseon Normal in Fulton county, Ohio. Fortified by a varied experi-
ence in eastern fields, he came to California in 1900 to take up work in the
same business. After an experience as driller in the Kern river field with
dift'erent companies, in 1902 he was made superintendent of the Monte Cristo
Oil Company, which responsible position he filled for more than four years.
A brief time spent in the Whittier field as superintendent of the Central Oil
Company was followed by his entrance into the Utah oil fields in 1907 as
superintendent of a lease in the Virgin river district. Returning to California
January 1. 1908, he entered upon the duties of superintendent of Section 25
Oil Company in the Midway. Under his supervision four wells were drilled
and brought into paying production. Upon resigning that position he he-
came superintendent of drilling for the Standard Oil Company. Later he
was promoted to be assistant general superintendent. From the Standard
he went to the Palmer Oil Company in the Santa Maria field, where he con-
tinued for two and one-half years, until 1913, when he became superintendent




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HISTORY OF KKRX COUNTY 1029

of the United Oil CLinipany in the Midway field, liy his marriage to Miss
McGuire, of Antwerp, Ohio, he has two sons, Donald and Kenneth. While
living in Ohio he was made a Mason in Bryan Lodge No. 215, A. F. & A. M.,
at Bryan, Williams county, and since coming to the West he has identified
himself with the Elks in Bakersfield Lodge No. 266.

DAVID E. MARTIN.— The superintendent of the Oakland Midway Oil
Company, owners of a lease of thirty acres on section 13, 31-22, was born near
Lettsville, Louisa county, Iowa, June 1, 1856, and is a son of the late David
and Mary (Walters) Martin, natives of Pennsylvania. Allured by the rich soil
of Iowa, the father left Pennsylvania in the hope of bettering his condition in
the newer state, but poverty retarded his efYorts and hampered his success.
His rented farm was scarcely equal to the task of supporting the family and
returning a revenue to the owner. There were five small children (David E.
the eldest) to be cared for and four of these are now living. When a call was
made for volunteers during the stress of the Civil war, the father left his
home and family and offered his services to the Lhiion. Accepted as a private
in the ranks, he was sent into camp to be drilled in military tactics, Init he died
suddenly before the company had been ordered to the front. The mother
survived him for many years and eventually died about 1908 at Batavia, Iowa,
at the age of seventy-five years.

When the father died the task of caring for the children proved too great
lor the widowed mother and she therefore put the eldest child, David E.,
in the care of Jim Thompson, of Louisa county, it being the agreement that
at the age of twenty-one he should be paid $100 besides a horse, saddle and
bridle. For some years all went well. The boy worked on the farm in the
summers and attended the country school in the winter months. However,
at the age of nineteen he began to grow dissatisfied. The fact that his chum,
Anson Kelly, had been made an engineer on the Rock Island Railroad turned'
his thoughts toward railroading and he determined to be a fireman. At first
Mr. Thompson protested against losing his services, but finally he agreed
to let him go and gave him $100. Then his mother raised objections, stating
that if he must leave the farm, she wished him to return to relatives in Penn-
sylvania. His consent to this measure was secured, a ticket was purchased for
Scrub Grass, \'enango county. Pa., where he duly arrived December 8, 1875.
Immediately he found that all of his cousins and uncles were engaged in the oil
industry and a resolve was formed in his own mind to engage in the same
work. An excellent training was had in the employ of Isaac Dean, a large
oil operator who gained a national reputation through being the Greenback
nominee for vice-president in the days of Horace Greeley. After some ex-
perience as a day laborer with this gentleman, the latter presented him with
an entire outfit of standard tools and entered into a contract with him to drill
seven wells at $1.25 per foot. The work was to be done at Bullion, Venango
county. The job was completed in one year and netted the young contractor
$2,000. At Crawford's Corners in Venango county. Pa., during the fall of
1878 he drilled a well for John P. Crawford and struck a strong flow of natural
gas. Next he drilled a well for \\'illiam P. Crawford and struck oil. Prior to
that time wood and coal had been used for steam purposes. After starting the
oil well Mr. Martin suggested to W^illiam P. Crawford that he provide suf-
ficient two-inch pipe so that his boilers could be connected with the gas well
on the land of John P. Crawford. The gentleman shook his head in discour-
agement of such a proposition, stating that gas would not run through a two-
inch pipe for such a distance (one mile). The insistence of the young driller,
however, won the day and the two-inch pipe was procured, the main laid, the
gas fed into the boilers and the experiment proved a success. Thereupon the
authorities at Hugginsville were encouraged to lav an inch pipe from the same
gas well to their city during the winter of 1878-79. The pipe was rim up



1030 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

about twelve feet high in the center of the public square, where the gas
burned day and night. The History of Pennsylvania verifies the statement
that this was the first experiment in using natural gas for lighting in the state.
Soon afterward mains were laid and natural gas became available for cooking
and other domestic purposes.

Thus it will be seen that David E. Martin played a very important part
in the utilization of natural gas. Encouraged by his first success, he engaged
in contract drilling at Bradford from 1879 to 1882. Meanwhile in Venango
county in 1879 he was united in marriage with Miss Mary Matilda Huffman,
a daughter of D. Huffman, a farmer and coal miner living near Mechanicsville.
They are the parents of three children, namely: S. H., superintendent of the
Sterling division of the Associated Oil Company; Mary Elizabeth, wife of
N. B. Harris, who is connected with the detective service in Los Angeles ;
and Golden Loretta, wife of Russell Vaughn, a driller on the Oakland.

As drilling contractor for H. B. Porter, of Titusville, Pa., in 1882 Mr.
Martin drilled the first well in the Clarendon field. After three years in that
field he went to Titusville, where he engaged in the oil business and also pur-
chased a home. In the interests of the Union Oil Company and at the request
of Milton Stewart, of Titusville, he came to California, settling at Santa
Paula in 1892, after which he drilled in that field for three years. Later he
engaged in contract drilling in the Los Angeles field, but the work was
entirely different from similar work in the Pennsylvania fields, consequently
he did not meet with success. Selling his interest in the drilling outfit, he went
10 Whittier in 1897 and engaged as superintendent for Central Oil Company,
which corporation was greatly prospered by reason of his executive super-
vision. After five and one-half years on the same lease, in July, 1902, he came
to the Kern river field and took charge of the Sterling Oil Company. During
1903 he spent four months at Point Angelus, on the west coast of Mexico,
where he built two rigs and started the task of developing a large property
for the Mexican republic under the presidency of General Diaz. However,
it was soon discovered that the rigs were too far from the seepage and there-
fore the project had to be abandoned. After a short visit in Mexico City,
where he received the pay for his services, he returned to the Kern river field
and resumed work with the Sterling.

At the expiration of four and one-half years with the Sterling' lease Mr.
Martin went to Utah in October, 1907, and remained there until March, 1908,
meanwhile engaging in wildcat drilling under the supervision of H. H. Blood.
Upon his return to California he took charge of the American Petroleum on
the Niles lease at Sherman Junction, where he remained for three months.
Next at Maricopa he had charge of the Fulton for one year. From there he
went to Byron and Salt creek to open up the Wyoming field for William G.
Henshaw, of Oakland. The venture proved successful. A fine flowing well
was secured. After one year in Wyoming he returned to California and
entered the service of the Tanuary Oil Company on 25 Hill, where he remained
for two years. March 11, 1912, he became superintendent of the Oakland Mid-
way Oil Company. Since beginning his duties in this capacity he has built all
the houses on the lease and has transformed the district from sage brush to a
finely improved holding, with three wells making an average of six thousand
barrels each month. A fourth well will soon be brought in, thus increasing
the production. After coming here he bought forty acres near Edison.

W. N. THOMPSON.— A Texan, Mr. Thompson was born at Cleburne,
-August 24. 1885, and is next to the oldest among the four surviving children
of H. F. Thompson, a farmer in the Lone Star state. The discovery of oil at
the Spindletop caused him to go to Beaumont when he was only fifteen and
ever since then he has supported himself through his labors in oil fields. Nat-
urallv he began as a roustabout. The hardships of the life did not dishearten




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Online LibraryWallace Melvin MorganHistory of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; → online text (page 103 of 177)