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 110 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 110 of 177)
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railroad, the end taking place in Newark. Three children had come of their
marriage, one of whom has passed away.

George J. Petz was the second of his parents' children. He grew to
manhood in his native city, attending the public schools, upon leaving
which he learned the butcher's trade. For five years, until 1877, he followed
this trade, and then made his way to Florence, Marion county, Kan., where
he engaged in general farming and stock-raising until 1886. He then
removed to C( lorado Springs, in the spring of 1888 going to Durango, Colo.,
and in the fall of that year decided to go west. He started with mule-team
and wagon across the mountains and Death valley, arriving in Kern county,
Cal., a short time later, and immediately became employed in general team-
ing for Haggin & Carr in Bakersfield. .\fter the fire in 1889 he bought out
the American bakery, a small concern situated on the corner of Eighteenth
and Chester streets, which business he continued to conduct until 1893,
when he sold out and traveled for a while reoresenting dift'erent lines. One
year was spent at Enid, Okla., and he finally returned to Bakersfield, in
September, 1897, entering the employ of the Kern County Land Company,
in the building of their headgates. and he has since been associated with
them in dififerent capacities. So efficient and apt did he prove himself that
in 1901 he was placed in charge of the department of the headgates and
is today carrying out those duties to the complete satisfaction of his em-
ployers. Mr. Petz erected a residence at No. 90S K street, Bakersfield,
where he and his wife make their home.

On December 5, 1883, in Florence, Kans., Mr. Petz was married to Miss
Ida M. Howard, who was born in Wisconsin, daughter of George H. and
Elizabeth (Allen) Howard, the former a native of New York and the latter
of Pennsylvania. George H. Howard settled in Wisconsin, later going to
Trenton, Iowa, and then to Florence. Kans., where he was engaged in
agricultural pursuits, moving thence to Leadville. Colo. In 1886 he came
to Bakersfield, locating on government land in Santiago canyon, which he
improved, later returning to Iowa, staying for a time at Banning, that
state, and then to .•Xrkansas, where his death occurred. l\Irs. Howard nassed
away in Iowa. Four children were born to ATr. and Mrs. Howard, of
whom Mrs. Petz was the youngest.

]\Tr. and Mrs. Petz have no children, Init give much of their time and
attention to social activities. He is a member of the Order of Eagles, is
past officer of the subordinate lodge of the Encampment. I. O. O. F., a
member of the Canton of the same order, a member of the Order of Moose,
and the Rebekahs. Mrs. Petz is a past noble grand of Rebekah Lodge
No. 47, I. O. O. F., a member and chief of honor of Valentine Lodge, Degree
of Honor, and a member of Hurlburt Pest, No. 115. W. R. C. In his political
views Mr. Petz is a Republican.

GEORGE W. COFFEE.— For more than thirty years the capnblc activ-
ities of George W. Coffee identified him with the stock industry in Kern


county, whither he came in young manhood and to which he gave the remain-
ing years of a useful existence as rancher, stock-raiser and progressive citizen.
From childhood he was familiar with the stock business. He could scarcely
recall the time when he first began to assist in the care of cattle. Little by
little he came to be an expert judge of stock and understood the best methods
of caring for them, of treating their ailments and of promoting their prepara-
tion for the markets. Through this accurate knowledge of the business he
was chosen superintendent of the stock interests of Carr and Haggin in Kern
county and from that position he drifted into business for himself.

Although not a Californian by birth, the conscious existence of Mr. Coffee
was practically associated with this state, for he was only two years of age
when his father, Eli, brought the family across the plains with ox-teams and
wagon. The previous home of the family had been in JefTerson county. Mo.,
where he was born December 13, 1855, but after 1857 the home was on a
ranch near Visalia, Tulare county, and there the boy was educated in common-
school branches and in a knowledge of farming and stock-raising. Upon
starting out for himself in 1876 he came to Kern county and entered the employ
of Carr and Haggin. He remained with them as superintendent uf stock and
resigned only when he had determined to embark in the stock business for
himself. The small herd which he had at first increased by slow but sure
degrees and a high order of ability was manifest in his supervision and suc-
cessful oversight. While owning large tracts of land in the Greenhorn moun-
tains and ranging his droves there, he maintained his home and headquarters
on a ranch four and one-half miles from Bakersfield and there, January 19,
1907, death came to him, terminating his useful activities and depriving the
community of a citizen of recognized worth. He was a Democrat.

Surviving Mr. Cofifee are his wife, Mrs. Charity F. (Thompson) Coffee
and their three daughters, Georgia, Mrs. Staley, of San Francisco, Anna, Mrs.
Smoot, of W'hite River, and Dorothy, who resides with her mother. Prior to
their marriage, which was solemnized in this city, Mrs. Coffee had engaged in
teaching for some years and had been successfully identified with educational
work in Kern county. The family of which she is a member belongs to pioneer
Californian associations. Her father, Isaac N. Thompson, who had been born
in Virginia and reared in Michigan near the city of Niles, came to California
by way of the Horn in 1849, attracted by the discovery of gold. The mines,
however, did not long engage his attention, but he was so pleased with the
west that he located here permanently. After some years in the state he re-
turned to Michigan, married Miss Anna Smith, a native of that common-
wealth, and returned to California accompanied by his young wife. After
a short sojourn in Sacramento he settled near Santa Clara and there Mrs.
Coffee was born, reared and educated. There, at the age of ninety years, Mr.
Thompson still makes his home, continuing the pleasant associations en-
deared to him through long residence in the same locality. Many years ago
he lost his wife, who passed away at the age of forty. Of the seven children
comprising the family, all but one are still living, Mrs. Coffee having been
next to the oldest of the number. Since the death of her husband she has con-
tinued the stock business established by him and has superintended affairs
with an energy meriting the most satisfactory results.

WILLIAM J. BROWNING.— Important as may be the work of the
specialist if individual advancement is to be considered, it is the man of affairs
who contributes most largely to the general prosperity. A man may engage
in one enterprise calling for the investment of moderate capital and the em-
ployment of only a few assistants and achieve a notable personal success. But
the man who sets numerous enterprises going must necessarily employ a larger
capital and many more helpers, thus ccming in contact with the public through
many avenues. Of the latter class is \\^illiam T- P>ro\vning, of Delano, who

HISroKY ()|- Kl-.RX COl'NTY 1107

as will be seen has worthily conquered success in many fields of endeavor.
Mr. Browning was born at Phillips Flat, Merced county, June 10, 1854. His
father, Jacob A. Browning, was born in New York City. Me was a pioneer of
California, coming across the plains with teams in 1851. He ran a trading post
in Mariposa as early as 1853 and was also engaged in the stock business until
bis death in 1865. He had married in Mariposa, in 1853, Elizabeth Marr, who
was born in Scotland and came with her parents in the sailing barque Glou-
cester around Cape Horn to San Francisco, arriving in the spring of 1849.
Grandfather John Marr brought with him several houses already framed,
which he put up in the new town, which had just had its name changed from
Verba Buena to San Francisco. The mother is now living with a daughter
in Kansas City.

William J. Browning's educational advantages were restricted to those
of the common school in the summer months, terminating when he was four-
teen years old. He was only eleven years old when he went to work in the
Washington mine in Mariposa county where he was employed two years.
Then, gcing to Merced county, he found work with a butcher, for whom he
drove a delivery wagon two years and worked in the meat market one year.
In 1871 he took up surveying as a member of the force of U. G. Curtis, at
Modesto. He was engaged on railroad surveys and surveyed the town site
of Fresno before that town was started. Later he was employed at Hermosa
and in Merced by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Then for a time
he handled printing on commission. In 1874 he began hunting game for
market and from that time down to a comparatively recent date he has em-
ployed many hunters and has himself hunted from time to time. At times
his operations have been on a large scale, giving work to from thirty to forty
men experienced in hunting, trajjping and killing game and preparing it for
market. In 1885 he received an offer of $1030 for one thousand live rabbits
and engaged actively in rabbit trapping. In 1887 he invented and perfected the
Browning system for capturing rabbits in large drives and he has for years
shipped many live rabbits to all parts of the United States, Mexico and Eng-
land. For seven 3'ears he conducted a fishery on Tulare lake, and his expe-
riences as hunter and trapper formerly took him to all parts of the state.

In 1884 Mr. Browning took up a homestead on which he moved and which
he improved, living there until in 1892. By subsequent purchases he in-
creased his holdings to two thousand acres. In association with Andre Vieux
he is the owner of eight hundred acres of fine orange land. He has acquired
property in Tulare county which is under productive cultivation. For some
years he has made his home at Delano, where he is the owner of the New
Central Hotel, and he is active in the handling of real estate. In 1888-89 he in-
^.talled the first pumping plant in Tulare county. At that time it was small,
but he has increased its capacity to one hundred horse power and he is exten-
sively engaged in raising alfalfa, cattle, horses, mules and hogs for the markets.
He is a member of the board of directors of an important local irrigating sys-
tem, is a member of the Bnard of Trade of Delano, is interested in oil fields in
Maricopa and is extensively engaged in stockraising and general farming. As
a citizen he is helpful in a public-spirited way to all important movements.
He was married in 1884 at Merced, Cal., to Miss Emma VVheating, a native
oi New Orleans, and they have one daughter, Ethel. Fraternally he is a mem-
ber of the Eagles and the Native Sons of the Golden West.

V. D. McCUTCHEN.— It is possible that the distinction of being the
youngest business man in Bakersfield belongs to Van Dixon McCutchen,
the proprietor and manager of the Chester machine shop located on the
corner of Chester avenue and Twenty-fourth street. When only seventeen
vears of age, in November of 1911, he embarked in the automobile business


and opened the garage and repair shop which has continued under his
successful management ever since.

Although a native of Arizona (born at Prescott September 13, 1894),
Van Dixon McCutchen has lived in Kern county from his earliest recollec-
tions. The third among four children, of whom the others are Preston (at
Taft), Ollie and Perry, he is a son of J. B. and Margaret (Dixon) Mc-
Cutchen, natives, respectively, of Iowa and Los Angeles, Cal. The father
came west in early life and worked for a time at Sacramento, afterward
taking his wife and family to Prescott, Ariz., whence he came to Kern
county in 1894 and ever since has engaged in farming and in oil operations.
With his brothers he became a pioneer in the Maricopa oil field and did
much to aid in the early development of that district. Further mention of
his career is made elsewhere in this volume. Reared on the home farm in
the Old River district, V. D. McCutchen alternated attendance at school
with work on the home place, but all of the time he studied machinery and
when yet a mere lad he displayed remarkable mechanical skill, which led
him to embark in the repair and machine business in Bakersfield. A skilled
motorcyclist and an expert in the use and repair of that machine, he has
become a member of the Federation of American Motorcyclists and mam-
tains a warm interest in the activities of that growing organization.

HARRY C. RAMBO.— A native of Iowa, Mr. Rambo was born in
Monroe county, February 4, 1866, and in 1874 was taken to Union county,
that state, by his parents, William and Rebecca (Moffett) Rambo. Edu-
cated principally in the schools of Union county, he was there fitted for
the activities of the world and was taught to be self-reliant and industrious.
From an early age he was self-supporting. Of a persevering, industrious
nature, he prepared himself for a life of able service in agriculture. Self-
reliance was his watchword and independence his aim. Upon coming to
California he alternated between Fresno and Kern counties for the first six
years. His interests were manifold and included contract freighting, the dig-
ging of ditches, the buying of land and the raising of grain and fruit. As
early as 1887 he came to Kern county and at once began improving a ranch
in the Semi Tropic district. In 1893 he began grain-raising on land of the
Kern County Land Company, meanwhile learning much concerning the
soil and its possibilities. During 1899 he established himself in Bakersfield
and for five years was associated with the Chamberlain Canning Company.
Later he embarked in the plumbing and tinning business. Other interests
also engaged his attention, among them being the introduction and instal-
lation of oil burners and the sale of distillate, and the incorporation of the
Western Burner and Fuel Company. He was president and manager of the
business, the ofifice of the company being located at I and Twentieth streets.

Upon disposing of his business interests in Bakersfield during 1906 Mr.
Rambo traveled for about two years in Texas in the interest of oil and min-
ing. With Mr. Wickard and others he was the first to develop the Chelite
Tungsten mine at Randsburg. After farming for a year on South Union
avenue he next became interested in farming and the dairy business at Wasco
and Semi Tropic, having sold his six hundred and forty acres that he and
his brother had purchased in partnership. The cultivation of the land has
occupied his attention for several years, the experience enabling him to
ascertain what products are best adapted to the soil. Meanwhile he has
put much of the land into grain and alfalfa, having found these two products
remunerative beyond his most sanguine expectations. Applying his knowl-
edge and experience he incorporated the Wasco Land and Stock Company,
the company purchasing nine hundred acres eleven miles west of Wasco,
and he has since been manager. Wells have been sunk on the propert}^ and
a pumping plant installed with a capacity of one hundred inches. In addi-

Ai>a^.A). /^au^.


tion to raising alfalfa and grain the dairy business is followed with splendid
success. Recent developments show strong indications of nil of a high grav-
ity, although no satisfactory tests have resulted.

Mr. Ranibo was married in Rakersfield February 4, 1908, to Miss
Bertie Blalock, born in Texas, the daughter of James \'. and Nancy (Tank-
ersley) Blalock. The latter brought their family to California, locating in
Kern county, where the daughter was reared and educated in the public
schools. Mr. and Mrs. Rambo are the jiarents of two children, Ethel and
Gilbert. In his religious views Mr. Ranibo is a member of the Congrega-
tional Church in AVasco. of which he was one of the founders and a member
of its first board of trustees.

C. H. ACKERLEY.— Horn in Los Angeles county. May 27, 188.S, Mr. Ack-
erley was reared on his father's ranch and from an early age has been an ex-
pert telegrapher, filling positions of responsibility at various points in the state.
June 26, 1911. he was united in marriage with Miss Maude \\'ithers, a native
of Kansas City, Mo. Since coming to Taft he has erected a number of cot-
tages and in one of these he resides with his wife and son. C. Harold, Jr.

When only eighteen years of age Mr. Ackerley was sent to Kern Junc-
tion to act as telegraph operator for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company
at that point, previous experience as an assistant having qualified him for
larger responsibilities. From Kern Junction he was transferred to Hazelton,
then known as Sunset. April 1, 1909. he came to Moron and took charge as sta-
tion agent, continuing with the Southern Pacific at this place until December
1, 1911, when the Santa Fe assumed the management here and since then he
has been retained by the latter company. As early as 1902 the Sunset Railroad
was built from Bakersfield to Hazelton. A branch was built from Pentland
Junction to Fellows during 1908 and was opened for business early in 1909,
and a branch from Fellows to Shale was constructed during 1911. The whole
system from Kern to Monarch (Maricopa) and from Pentland to Shale is
now known as the Sunset Railway Company's road. A Southern Pacific box
car was headquarters for all the freight business at Taft and was utilized for
a time also as office for the Western Union Telegraph Company and the
Wells-Fargo Express Company.

An experience at Hazelton, where the receijjts for one month amciunted to
$300,000, qualified INIr. Ackerley for the heavy responsibilities at Taft, which
in 1910 had the third largest freight business in the state, being surpassed only
by San Francisco and Los Angeles. The responsibilities of the freight agent
were heavy. The business was much congested. To add to his difficulties,
he not only had a very inadequate office, but also an insufficient force. There
were only six helpers at first. \\'hen the company realized the ent;rmity of
the business, he was allowed an increase and given twenty-two assistants,
while the telegraph and express offices were removed. The shipments now
are not as great as in the boom days of 1910, yet the amount is satisfactory
and the revenues gratifying. Taft is now a day and night office, with three
telegraph operators and nine clerks and warehousemen, besides the station
agent himself. A waiting room has been pmvided for passengers, conve-
niences have been put in. the accommodations for freight have been enlarged,
and the agent finds his work far less strenuous than in the early period of
development. For one year after he took charge he was the only agent be-
tween Pentland Junction and Fellows and he handled as much as $500,000
per month for the Southern Pacific in freight and passenger charges. In
those days about eighty cars of water were brought to Taft everv twenty-
four hours and from the tanks distributed throughout the oil fields. Shipments
of oil from the fields were also continuous and unprecedented. Since then
pipe lines have been built that convey the greater part of the oil ( ut of the
west side fields, although two large train loads of tanks are still shipped out


daily and two switch engines attend to hauling freight to and from Pentland
Junction and Shale and intermediate points. While the Southern Pacific was
first in charge of the freight business, by contract the management was given
over to the Santa Fe December 1. 1911, for a period of five years, the Southern
Pacific to resume control December 1, 1916. Immediately after the Santa Fe
came into charge the name Moron was superseded by that of Taft, reforms
were inaugurated, improvements made and a passenger service adopted that
enables a man to leave San Francisco in the morning and reach the oil field of
the Midway during the evening of the same day; or, leaving Lcs Angeles in
the evening, any of the west side points will be reached in the morning.

MRS. AMELIA H. MAY. — One of the pioneer women who have given
of their best efiforts and energies towards the development and upbuilding
of Kern county from a region of unbroken desert to one of broad fields of
growing crops is Mrs. Amelia H. May, who was born in St. Clair county,
111.. September 18, 1848, the daughter of Charles and Achsah (Smith) Alex-
ander, natives of St. Clair county. 111., and Wayne county, N. Y. respectively.
The father was a farmer in St. Clair county until 1852, when he brought his
family to California by way of Nicaragua route, locating n\ Sonoma county,
where he purchased a farm from his uncle, Cyrus Alexander. This had been
part of the Sotoyome grant and there they followed horticulture and farm-
ing on the Russian river until they died. The Alexander family trace their
genealogy to Scotland. The progenitor of the family, Hugh .Mexander. came
to America in 1736, afterwards locating on a tract of land in Sherman's Valley,
now Perry county. Pa. He was very active during the Revolution in the cause
of freedom and served as a deputy from Cumberland county on the Com-
mittee of Safety in Philadelphia, Pa'., June 18, 1876.

Of the family of Charles and Achsah Alexander there were five children,
three of whom are now living, Amelia H. being the oldest. Hei childhood was
spent in Alexander Valley, Sonoma county, attending the public schools and
Alexander Academy in Healdsburg, the latter having been founded by her
uncle, Cyrus Alexander. After completing the academic course she followed
teaching in Sonoma county until her marriage October 31, 1867, to Frank P.
May, who was born in Pittsburg, Pa., October 31, 1845. At the age of seven-
teen he left school and ofifered his services to the cause of the Union in the
First Virginia Cavalry, which formed a part of the famous Light Brigade
and during his service was wounded in the right leg. At the expiration of his
term of enlistment he was honorably discharged with the rank of lieutenant.
After the war he came to Sonoma county, Cal., where as stated he was mar-
ried. They engaged in farming until April 11, 1872, when they came to Kern
county and located in the Old River district, where they homesteaded one
hundred and sixty acres and began making improvements, engaging in general
farming and stock raising and as rapidly as possible checking the land and
sowing it to alfalfa. However, his labors were cut short before his ambition
was accomplished, for he died in 1892. After his death his widow continued
the improvements; she now owns eighty acres under the Farmers canal
devoted to raising alfalfa and stock; it is leased, and she makes her home in
Bakersfield. Her family consisted of six children, four of whom grew up :
Mary, Mrs. J. W. Herod, of Bakersfield; Chester, who died at thirty-seven
years of age; Howard, living in Arizona; and Cora, Mrs. Bowen, of Maricopa.

Mr. May served as a member of the board of trustees from the org.iniza-
tion of the Panama school district until his death. Mrs. May is a devoted
Christian woman and is an active member of the First Methodist Episcopal
Church of Bakersfield.

J. S. WORLEY. — The difficulty in securing water has been one of the
most serious problems confronting the people of Taft ever since the founding
of the town. Not only was the cost of water altogether unreasonable and

^^^^-^^i^L. '^ yj^ccy^


exorbitant in the first years of the town's history, but it could be secured
at any price only after the most self-sacrificing efi:'orts on the part of the
pioneers. That a more reasonable price is now possible results from the
sagacious policy adopted by the Consumers Water Company, an organiza-
tion subsidiary to the Western Water Company, and the successor to the
Taft Utilities Company, which was incorporated and financed by
a number of the representative pioneers and public-spirited citi-
zens of Taft. For two years, 1910-12, the concern placed water
within the reach of those desiring it for domestic purposes. The water was
bought at Kern or East Bakersfield and shipped to Taft in tank cars, from
which it was forced out into two twelve hundred-barrel tanks on the hill,
thence gravitated down to the residence and business section of Taft. Neces-
sarily this was done at a high cost, viz. : twenty cents per barrel. The

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 110 of 177)