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 12 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 12 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ever was made to the Kern Island company's dams so long as they built
them of brush and sand as others did, and no complaint was made against
the Kern Island taking all the water to which it was entitled and which the


irrigators under it could use. The objectors, however, go on to affirm that
so much water was forced into the Kern Island canal that it broke and the
precious fluid ran to waste over untilled lands while settlers farther down the
river had to stand by and see their crops perish for want of moisture. Out of
this difference of opinion regarding right and equity and of understanding
as to matters of fact, arose the first great contest over the waters of Kern

The contests between Haggin & Carr and Livermore & Chester were
not so fierce nor on so large a scale as those that came later between Haggin
& Carr and Miller & Lux, but they were fairly strenuous. On one occasion
when Carr had secured from the court a restraining order to prevent Liver-
more & Chester from placing a dam across the river to force the water into
the Kern Island canal, instructions were issued to the Livermore superintend-
ents to proceed with the work on the assurance that the injunction would be
lifted the following morning. From every camp the- men and teams were
started out at noon, each taking an independent course as though going
about some ordinary work, but all of them arriving during the afternoon at
the foot of Panorama heights where the Kern Island intake was. The hours
until nightfall were spent in quietly filling bags with sand and piling them
on the river's edge. When darkness fell, two hundred men under the direc-
tion of C. L. Connor and C. C. Stockton began building a wall of sand bags
out into the stream.

Carr's scouts discovered what was going on about midnight, but nothing
was done until morning, when Connor and Stockton were placed under arrest
for contempt of court. There had been a hitch and the injunction was not
lifted. The judge was furious, and Carr was insistent on the officers placing
Connor and Stockton in jail, but J. C. Crocker interceded, and Crocker's
influence in those days was potent, even with a judge whose dignity had been
badly ruffled. The men did not go to jail, and both of them afterward were
given good positions by Carr, who could recognize an efficient fighter no
matter which side he happened to be on.

As to just what happened to Livermore & Chester's dams the testimony
differs, but a notice published in a paper of a little later date offers a sub-
stantial reward for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons that
dynamited them.

Colony Plan Is Nipped in the Tender Bud

Of course, with Haggin's millions and Carr's far-famed genius and gen-
eralship arrayed against them. Livermore and Redington did not fight as
stubbornly as they might under more equal terms. No suit of importance
seems to have been decided against them, and their contention respecting the
paramount rights of the Kern Island canal was never overwhelmed. In 1878
they demonstrated their faith in their position by putting a magnificent body
of land under the Kern Island canal on the market and printing a book and
maps descriptive of the advantages of Kern county that would do high
honor to any colonization agency of present days. At the rate of $1000 for a
forty-acre farm and the best water right in the county, $200 down and $200
each year for four years, the seventeen sections which the Kern Valley Colony
offered should have sold readily and Bakersfield's early colonization hopes
should have been redeemed. But the sale to Haggin checked the colony
plans before they got under way, and a long halt was called in the matter
of inducing settlement, for Carr had drawn his plans on a much greater scale


than any of the earlier land holders, and he was by no means ready to begin
subdivision in the year 1879.

Purposes of Haggin & Carr

It would be a matter of much interest were it possible to ascertain with
absolute certainty what were the ultimate plans that Carr had in mind for
the vast estate which he helped to upbuild. Some of his old friends state with
assurance that he intended (when he had gotten together all the land avail-
able in the county and had secured full control of the water) to launch a
great colonization scheme and build a little empire of small land owners. Carr
is quoted as having called attention to the fact that he was a younger man
than either J. B. Haggin or Lloyd Tevis, the other and larger partners in
the enterprise, and remarking that in the end he expected his plans to prevail.
But the oldest of the three men survives alone, and years before his death
Carr's policy was over-ridden and his interest in the Kern county lands

In a statement published in May, 1880, J. B. Haggin over his signature
declared that his purpose was not to monopolize the lands he was acquiring
in Kern county but that he intended to ofifer them for sale on liberal terms.
In the early days, however, Haggin's trips to Kern county were very few
and very brief. He came in his private car, was driven direct to Belle View,
where he looked at the blooded racers that were bred for him there, returned
to his car and was sped away. Lloyd Tevis was a banker of San Francisco,
and while his financial interest in the Kern county venture dates from the
beginning of operations here, his name was not connected with the firm, which
for years was known locally as Haggin & Carr or Carr & Haggin. and which
appeared in the chief legal documents as J. B. Haggin.

Carr's money contribution to the Kern county venture is variously esti-
mated as high as $500,000 to $800,000. Others declare it was very much less.
The Gates tract of approximately 52,000 acres, being the odd sections in
townships 30-26, 30-27, 31-26, and 31-27, and comprising the heart of the
Kern river delta, was the foundation of the Carr & Haggin holdings. This
was a tract of railroad land which fell into the hands of Isaac Gates of New
York shortly after the grant of the odd sections along the line of the pro-
posed Atlantic & Pacific railway had been made by Congress. Carr's position
as political manipulator for the Southern Pacific enabled him, without doubt,
to secure other railroad lands on agreeable terms, and he took steps at once to
share in the wealth of swamp land which was being so rapidly and cheaply
acquired when he arrived in Kern county. All through the records of swamp
land districts from 1875 to 1893 the names of Haggin, Carr and Hearst figure

Carr's Dealings With the Ditch Companies

Aleantime, Carr, on his first arrival here, began taking steps to gain a
controlling interest in the canal companies that had locations on Kern river.
Few if any of these companies were incorporated and Carr early set himself
to induce the owners to organize under the laws of the state. Dififerent
methods were pursued in different cases, but one by one the companies filed
incorporation papers, and just as surely Haggin and Carr eventually got a
controlling interest in the stock. To tell how this was done would require
a separate chapter for every canal company, and in most cases they would be
interesting chapters. In every case, however, Carr presented the advantages
of co-operation, showed how nnich faster and more effectually the work of


building canals and ditches could be prosecuted with the financial aid of his
powerful firm, offered wages to the stockholders, management and authority
to the directors and water to the patrons of the ditch, who usually were the
stockholders themselves.

Testimony respecting the treatment of the minority stockholders after
Carr & Haggin had acquired control of the canal companies dififers according
to the alliance and experience of the witness. Pioneers of unimpeachable
character and unquestioned sincerity who were directors and officers of canal
companies when Carr began his overtures and for a long time thereafter
declare that the alliance was always to the benefit of the farmers. "We did not
have money to build weirs and headgates, but Haggin did," says one of these
pioneers. "Carr paid us wages for working on canals, his engineers ran out
the lines so that we got the water in the right place, and it was my experience
that when it came to dividing the water we always got our share. Carr said
he did not care to manage the canals вАФ that he would rather we did it. Carr
used to come to the directors' meetings, but he let us run things as we

"Did you ever notice a big cow standing over a water trough when
there was only a little stream running in from the pump? Did you ever notice
how she gets all the water and the little cows have to stand back? And did
you ever notice that when she gets all she wants to drink the big cow is
in no hurry to move away and let the little cows have a chance? VVell, that
gives you an idea of the way Haggin and Carr and the little farmers handled
the water in the early days." This is the statement in brief, of another pio-
neer of equal standing and reputation and with equal opportunity for informa-
tion and observation. Between the two opinions the reader may make his
guess, or he may let the puzzle go with the knowledge that Carr's control of
the canals and the water in them finally became an accomplished fact.

But another factor entered into the method of Carr's acquisition of water
rights and into all his dealings with the settlers. He clearly foresaw, as testi-
mony abundantly verifies, the fierce contest that was coming over the use
of the waters of Kern river, and he made it a matter of distinct and settled
policy to ally his interests with the interests of the people wherever it was
possible to do so. The wisdom of his course showed in the great suit of
Lux against Haggin, and in the celebrated Miller-Haggin agreement Carr's
policy was carried to its logical, ultimate application by making all present
and future land owners within the reach of the river parties to the terms
under which its waters should be disposed.

Plans to Gather In the Desert Lands

While they were gathering up the large and luscious remnants of swamp
land which the earlier comers had overlooked and were buying railroad lands,
homesteads and school lands and were getting a firm grasp on water rights,
Haggin & Carr were by no means overlooking the desert lands. In March,
1877, just as Carr was getting well established in Kern county, Congress most
opportunely passed the desert land act that is known by that date. Already,
on May 4, 1875, water to the amount of 850 cubic feet per second had been
appropriated under Carr's direction for the express purpose of irrigating
desert land, and work on the great Calloway canal which was to carry the
water to this desert land had been commenced. The first work on the canal
was begun by Carr & Haggin's men and teams, but a little later a contract for
excavation was given to Vining Barker. In 1877, the year the desert land act


was passed, a contract to complete tlie canal a distance of about twenty-five
miles was taken by Broad & Roberts.

The Calloway canal takes water from the north side of Kern river almost
opposite the center of Bakersfield, bears west through the northeastern part
of Rosedale and then swings to the northwest over a great territory that
needed only water to transform it into the finest of fruit and farming land.
Broad & Roberts took the contract to complete the canal at seven cents per
cubic yard for dirt and nine cents per cubic yard for hardpa" Mr. Roberts
says they found nothing that they could not plow with eight mules in all
the length of the ditch. It took about a year to finish the job, and meantime
Carr & Haggin were busy securing entrymen to take up the land.

In his statement published in 1880 Haggin describes his operations in
Kern county with special reference to the desert lands, which at that time
were the object of much discussion. He runs briefly over the subject of his
first activities in the county, stating that the Belle View and McClung ranches
were established under the direction of George F. Thornton. On account of
the malaria bred by Buena Vista and Kern lakes Haggin bought them, and a
large amount of swamp land around them with a view to reclaiming them.
He proceeded to divert the water of the river from the lakes to land formerly
considered worthless for agriculture. He then built Goose lake slough canal
to carry oflf the excess water, but this was not sufficient to handle it all. In
March, 1877, the statement continues, Congress passed the desert land act.
Haggin bought large numbers of odd-numbered sections north of the river, and
induced his friends to enter the even-numbered sections adjoining. He bought
more water rights and built canals to irrigate a much larger area of land and to
utilize all the surplus waters of the river. Haggin states that he desired the
co-operation of the owners of even-numbered sections and desired to have
them pay their share of the expense of constructing the irrigation system.
In order to avoid conflict with strangers he got nearly all the even-nUmbered
. sections entered by friendly parties. Since the lands were entered, the state-
ment continues, "invidious and designing persons have grossly misrepre-
sented the facts touching the character of these lands," and efforts had
been made to induce unusual rulings by the department of the interior to have
the entries cancelled. Haggin had a government commission previously ap-
pointed visit the lands in question and make a report to the authorities. In
conclusion he made the statement of policy already referred to, to the efTect
that he did not desire to monopolize lands, but intended to offer them for sale
on liberal terms.

In some cases, it appears, agreements were made with parties to enter the
desert lands giving the entrymen the alternative of paying a certain amount
for having the water placed on the lands, or selling their equities to Haggin
& Carr at a stipulated price. In other cases the entrymen's names seem
to have been loaned gratis or for a small fee without the expectation that
they would figure in the ownership of the land after it was reclaimed. In
either event there were not lacking arguments to show that the bargain was
fair and advantageous to all concerned. The lands could be irrigated by no
other means known and practicable at the time than by canal from Kern
river, and such a canal could be built only by the expenditure of large sums
of money. The state or federal government might have taken up the task
but aside from these methods there was no alternative that would not


necessitate the bonding of individual entries to meet their share of the ex-

But the invidious and designing persons got the ear of the general land
office authorities, and orders were issued suspending all action with regard
to the entries. In February, 1891, the order of suspension was revoked,
after something like 50,000 acres of land had been withheld from settlement
and development for a little over thirteen years. Meantime the original
entrymen, homesteaders and pre-emptors generally had become discouraged
and abandoned their claims; some of the friends of Haggin who had allowed
him to use their names were dead, others had moved away, and generally
the plans for gathering in the desert lands were badly disarranged.
Enter Miller & Lux at Rear of Stage

During all of the busy and important scenes just described, Miller &
Lux lingered at the back of the stage. Their lands lay mostly to the north
of Buena Vista Lake, twenty miles or more west of Bakersfield, and about
the same distance from the center of the contests between Carr and Liver-
more over the water rights. It must be borne in mind, however, that Miller's
interest in the disposal of the waters of Kern river was quite as great as was
that of Haggin, and it must be remembered, also, that his position on the
river bore the same relation to that of Haggin as the position of Haggin
bore to that of Livermore & Chester. When Livermore & Chester put a dam
across the river to force the water into the Kern Island canal it left dry the
canals in which Carr & Haggin had acquired the controlling interest. Later,
when Carr & Haggin built the Calloway weir to force the water into the
Calloway canal the result was to dry up Miller's newly-planted alfalfa fields,
and the tule swamps where his herds gathered rough forage. The sloughs
and natural water courses through which the remnants of Kern river had
meandered leisurely through the broad, flat trough of the valley to Tulare
lake changed from clear, though limpid and leisurely streams, to green and
slimy sinks of stagnant water. Then they became nothing but streaks of
mud in which the feet of the weakened cattle were held fast until the vaqueros
came to drag the poor beasts out by riatas about their horns. A little later
all the sloughs and swamps were parched as dry as the naked, gray expanses
of alkali desert that bordered them, and where the waters had been, great
cracks opened in the earth down which a walking stick could be thrust its
entire length. Only in deep holes, puddled by the feet of many starving cattle
and fouled by the carcasses of dead brutes, was any water left in all the fifty
miles of swamp land between Buena Vista and Tulare lakes.

Of course such a state of affairs could lead but to vigorous defensive
action on the part of Aliller & Lux, and so the suit of Lux versus Haggin was
filed, and after the usual delay was brought to trial on April IS, 1881, before
B. Brundage, judge of the superior court of Kern county.

However, before I take up the story of this great contest of rival cor-
porations, let me tell how lesser factors in the development of the county
were faring, relate the stories of some disconnected incidents of importance,
and show by transient items of interest something of the daily doings of the
citizens of those days.


A Collection of Disconnected Stories

So long as the traditions of the pioneer stockmen of California remain,
the drought of 1877 will be remembered as a period of ruin and disaster.
Possibly the year was not so dry as 1864, but there were more stock in the
state to suffer from hunger and starvation and more stockmen to wear out
the days and nights with anxiety and frantic efforts to save the remnants of
their ilocks and herds. In Kern county the stock industry was better estab-
lished than any other line of productive enterprise, and the heavy blows
dealt the cattle and sheep men in the long, pitiless months when not a drop of
moisture fell from the skies and not a green blade nor a dry and withered
stem of grass was left to cover the absolute nakedness of the desert, left scars
that were not effaced until many prosperous years were passed.

In 1877 Harry Quinn, starved out of his magnificent range on Rag gulch,
drove 18,000 sheep to Nevada and brought back 2700; 15,000 of the flock per-
ished in a great storm east of the Sierras that piled the snow waist deep on the
level plain. Other sheep men of the county who had less resource and stayed
at home, saw their flocks literally wiped out. The cattle men fared little
better. While the river continued to flow down the swamps and there were
tules to be eaten, the cattle survived, but finally there was no water save
what was taken out in the irrigation ditches, the tule lands were dry, and the
few remaining pools of water grew stagnant, black and poisonous.

A very few men, like the Jewetts, who had irrigated fields and could
grow forage despite the failure of the rains, were able to buy cattle and sheep
at almost nothing a head, and so profited as much as they lost by the long
continued drought. But the irrigated fields were few in those days.

The next season the feed was good, and the next was dry again. It was
then that Hill & Rivers sold out their interest in the stock at Tejon to General
Beale, and Jose Lopez, to reduce the Tejon flocks, drove 16,000 sheep to Green
River in Wyoming, whence they were shipped to Cheyenne. Lopez and his
herders were six months on the trail, and established a record, not only for
distance traveled, but for small percentage of loss and general success on the
exceedingly difficult expedition. In 1880 General Beale bought out Boggs,
the remaining partner in the firm of Hills, Rivers & Co. The sheep were
gradually closed out on the Tejon ranches, and the herds of cattle were in-
creased to a maximum of 29,000 head.

The Town of Tehachapi

The town of Tehachapi was founded in the summer of 1876, when the
Southern Pacific railroad finally surmounted the difficulties of the grade up
the mountains and reached the little valley at the summit. Prior to that time
Old Tehachapi (or Old Town, as it soon came to be known) was a thriving
and active little place of 200 or 300 inhabitants. Old Town drew its sus-
tenance from the miners who washed gold from the sands and gravels of
China hill and from the stockmen who had established themselves in the
fertile Tehachapi, Brite's, Cummings and Bear valleys and were pasturing
their herds on the meadows and mountain sides. J. J. Murphy and Hirsh-
feld Brothers were the pioneer merchants of Old Town, Spencer & Durnal
kept a hotel, and four or five saloons dispensed liquid refreshments.


Among the early stockmen were the Brite and Cummings families (after
each of which one of the valleys was named), the Cuddebacks, Matt Tyler,
John Hickey, the Fickerts of Bear valley, Dan Davenport, Joe Kaiser, Henry
Seegur, George Rand, and Antone Pauly, one of the few permanent settlers
around the Tehachapi who raised sheep. There were traveling sheepmen
in the Tehachapi country in the early day, and at Pauly's corral in fall
and spring many sheep were shorn. The other shepherds, however, did not
own land or maintain established headquarters there.

The placer mining around Tehachapi dates back to the early '60s. As
elsewhere the white miners were followed by Chinamen, who worked over
the abandoned placer sands with considerable profit.

The railroad missed Old Town by about three miles to the east, and
a rival village was started about the station. Of course the new town got
the business, but it was not until 1883 or thereabout that Old Town began
to rnove over, bodily, to the railroad.

Lime burning began around Tehachapi a little before 1880, but not until
the Union Lime Company of Santa Cruz established a branch at Tehachapi
and built an up-to-date kiln in 1883 or 1884, was the lime industry any great
success. From that time on, however, the great lime deposits in the Tehachapi
mountains continued to grow in importance until they now constitute one
of the large factors in the county's wealth.

Farming started actively in the Tehachapi country about 1885, and rich
new ground and a succession of favorable years brought the mountain val-
leys rapidly to the front agriculturally. Moses Hale, about 1880, grew the
first apple orchard around Tehachapi, and is entitled to the name of the
father of the apple-growing industry, which now promises to give a new
value to the Tehachapi lands.

Ben Kessing was the first postmaster of new Tehachapi, and was fol-
lowed in that office by P. D. Green, manager of Baldy Hamilton's horse and
cattle ranch, justice of the peace and friend and benefactor of everyone in
the town who needed his help to draw up a deed, nurse the sick or lay out
the dead. Among the first school teachers of Tehachapi were L. A. Beards-
ley, W. W. Frazier, Dr. Hoag, and R. L. Stockton.

Delano Making Progress

Meantime the town of Delano had ceased to be a railroad terminus, but
it was one of the most important wool-shipping points in the state, and it
was gradually coming to be a noted wheat-shipping center. The warm,
sunny plains about Delano where feed starts earlier than almost anywhere
else in the state, early attracted the itinerant sheep owners, and flocks were
driven there from the mountains and desert and from over the range in
Nevada for the lambing and shearing time. Grain farmers soon found that
the same conditions that made the early grass were good for early wheat,
and homesteaders dotted the mesa with their dwellings and began marking
out the great fields that were distinctive of the wheat farming districts of
the valley before the advent of the orchardists and the alfalfa growers.

By this time the South Fork valley, the Kernville country, Linn's valley,

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 12 of 177)