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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 16 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 16 of 177)
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Bakersfield is, and to the store of Hayden & White and the Echo office, all
of which were on the same half block with Kelsey's residence and faced on
Chester avenue. From these the Southern Hotel Association's new building
at Nineteenth and Chester was ignited. By that time the heat from the flames
had driven the firemen east on Nineteenth street, where the hose was dropped
into one of the cisterns built at the street intersections on purpose to supply
water for fighting fire. These cisterns were connected with the Town ditch
by redwood conduits six inches square, but the conduits had grown full of
roots and the cisterns were soon exhausted. Meantime burning shingles carried
high in the air by the draft from the fire, had fallen on the roof of the Union
stable, on the south side of Nineteenth street between K and L, and a new
center of conflagration had been started. Also the fire had leaped across
Nineteenth street to the south from the Southern hotel and was eating out
the line of buildings on the west side of Chester avenue. Everything was
burned along this street as far south as Seventeenth street, where the skating
rink, standing where the new Morgan building now is, was the last building
consumed. The water tower, diagonally across the avenue, was saved by the
■man in charge, who climbed to the roof and kept it wet down.

For a long time the Arlington, almost in the center of the fire, was
saved by two means. The roof and veranda were covered with wet blankets
and a small hose was used to keep them wet, and after the fire was well under
way a breeze seemed to suck around the Southern hotel corner in such a
way as to keep the heat from the Arlington. The building finally succumbed
to the backfire from the east, but it was one of the last to go down in the
central part of town.

The Episcopal church at Seventeenth and I streets, the Catholic church
at Seventeenth and K, and the Baptist church at I and Twenty-second were
mentioned roughly as the limits of the burned district, although the fire did
not reach really so far as the Baptist church. How completely the business
houses were wiped out is illustrated by the fact that it was impossible to
buy a plug of tobacco in Bakersfield after the fire.

The fire occasioned a staggering property loss to the people of Bakers-
field, but none went hungry or unsheltered for a night. Very few residences
were destroyed, comparatively, and probably not over a hundred people were
made homeless. These were speedily cared for by the more fortunate. For
provisions there were the stores of Sumner, a mile away, including the well-
stocked general merchandise establishment of Ardizzi-Qlcese Company, and
Haggin & Carr at once hauled in a large stock of provisions of all kinds from
the company store at Bellvue. Carr also had many beeves slaughtered, and
everyone had meat in abundance, whether he had money to pay or not.

So soon as the news of the disaster reached San Francisco an offer of
aid was tendered by that city. Bakersfield was able to answer that no aid
was needed, but the people of this city remembered the prompt offer years
after when San Francisco was stricken, and few communities responded more
promptly or liberally to the bay city's need than did Bakersfield.

Bakersfield Quickly Rebuilds

Before the embers were cool on the lots in the burned district new offices
and business houses were being established in hastily built shacks in streets.
Every newspaper office in the city was destroyed, but George Wear of the



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 113

Gazette managed to save an old hand press and some cases of type, and the
usual editions were gotten out with these meagre facilities, or copy was for-
warded to San Francisco and the papers printed there until new plants could
be obtained. The Southern Hotel Association rebuilt better and larger than
before, and almost every other burned building was replaced at once by a
better one. In a year's time all the temporary buildings had disappeared from
the streets, and the city was bigger and better than it had been before the
fire. During the rebuilding time, of course, the town was very active. The
colonists were coming then in large numbers, extensions were being made in
the canal systems, and there was great activity in locating desert lands, home-
steads and pre-emptions.

A little more than a year after the fire the Bank of Bakersfield was
founded, engineers were surveying in the vicinity of Bakersfield for the new
valley railroad, the Kern County Land Company had been organized to take
over the Haggin & Carr holdings, and S. W. Fergusson was placed in charge
of the Rosedale and other colony lands, including Greenfield and Lerdo.

Colonization on a Large Scale

Fergusson at once organized a large office force in Bakersfield, estab-
lished branch agencies in the east and in England, and prepared to do a
colonization business on a very large scale. His advertising and the activities
of his agents soon had a stream of immigrants and prospective land buyers
flowing into Bakersfield from all points of the compass. Rosedale, situated six
or eight miles due west of Bakersfield, was the principal scene of the colon-
ization operations, although numbers of tracts of land were sold at Greenfield
and elsewhere. The Rosedale lands lie under the Calloway canal, and are
chiefly light, sandy soils, easily tilled, well suited to irrigation and quite pro-
ductive. Most of the newcomers were well satisfied with the propositions
offered them, and sales were reasonably brisk. The arrival of the English
colonists was a great event in Bakersfield. They were of all sorts and con-
ditions from market gardeners of experience who had saved small sums of
money in years of industry and thrift, to scions of nobility who were shipped
abroad by their relatives as a last despairing means for their moral and
industrial redemption. It was a vain hope so far as the latter was con-
cerned.

The few farmers among the English colonists got to work in their own
fashion to the amazement and mirth of the California ranchers. The latter,
used to driving six to ten horses attached to a gang plow, made great sport
of the English farmers who went to their fields with a boy to lead the single
horse while a man held the plow handles. But the little orchards and vine-
yards that the Englishmen planted grew and throve, and so did the peanuts,
corn and other vegetables that they planted between the rows.

Scions of Nobility Make Things Hum
The scions of nobility for the most part disdained to toil. There were
neither orchards, vineyards nor vegetables to show for their labors, but they
certainly made lively times about the Southern bar and lobby and in many
other parts of the city less approved by good society. Nearly all the idlers
were remittance men, and they ran uniformly successful races with time to
dissipate their monthly allowances before the next batch of checks came
from home. If they were sent out here to be clear of the temptations of
English city life they were thrown from the frying pan into the fire, for if the



114 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

slums of Bakersfield lacked anything that the young British bloods were used
to they speedily arranged to supply the deficiency and to give all vice a
Western air and relish that the most artistic panderers to depravity in Euro-
pean capitals could not put to blush. It was profitable to cater to the pleas-
ures and follies of the remittance men, and in those days a dollar that was
not in visible circulation was counted a dollar lost in Bakersfield. To illustrate
how cheerfully and enthusiastically the sports from across the seas put their
money into circulation while it lasted it is related that on one occasion when
the birthday of the queen was being celebrated with a banquet at the South-
ern, the loyalty rose to such a height that not only was her majesty's health
drunk copiously in the Southern's best champagne but the cheering crowd
came storming out of the dining room and tried to pour champagne down
the throats of the ponies tied at the rail beside the curb.
An International Romance

With this story of the Rosedale remittance men belongs the romantic
tale of the wooing of Loretta Addis by Lord Sholto Douglas, third son of the
Marquis of Queensbury. Loretta Addis was Miss Maggie Mooney's stage
name, and Miss Maggie Mooney was a pretty and piquant little Irish girl
who made an honest if not conventional living for herself by doing a turn
on the stage of big Frank Carson's place on Twentieth street.

Lord Sholto and many others were captivated by Miss Mooney's charms,
and Sholto proposed on every appropriate and inappropriate occasion he could
find or manufacture. But Loretta was suspicious of alliances with the nobil-
ity, and she did not lack friends who told her that the marquis and marchion-
ess never would sanction the match and that if she married their son she
certainly would be cast off and renounced but a little later. Being cast oS
and renounced did not suit the fancy of this spunky Irish girl, and she set
her face sternly against the tender appeals of Sholto. Finally the young
lord's friends interfered to break up the languishing match, and failing in
persuasive tactics they had Sholto arrested on a charge of insanity. Then
they set to work to get Miss Mooney out of Bakersfield.

Undoubtedly this would have been accomplished had it not been for
the exigencies of journalism, which include the fostering of a good story and
the making of a sequel to a good story when the good story plays out. The
love affairs of Lord Sholto and Loretta Addis made a good story, or at least
the stories that the Bakersfield correspondents sent out looked good to the San
Francisco city editors, and they gave the Bakersfield correspondents carte
blanc, printed their stuff on the front page and clamored for more. C. P. Fox
and W. D. Young, both familiar figures in Kern county journalism, were
local correspondents for the Chronicle and the Examiner and were working
the story together. Five dollars a column and full space rates for pictures was
like a gold mine while it lasted, but it did not last sufficiently long.
When Sholto was locked up in one of the private rooms at the sheriff's quar-
ters and Sholto's friends were about to succeed in persuading or hiring Miss
Mooney to move to another city. Young and Fox saw the end of their pay
streak. They held a solemn consultation and decided that the only way
to save the story was to complete Sholto's wooing for him. So they hired
a hack and drove in all state to Miss Mooney's lodgings. She received them
graciously, but turned a deaf ear to the eloquent words in which they pictured
Sholto's double despair, spurned by his heart's desire and charged with
madness, for nothing more than that he loved the fair Loretta.



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 115

It was of no use. ^liss Alooney knew blarney when she heard it. Then
Fox and Young painted the glamor of the British nobihty and showed Aliss
Mooney how much better off she would be as a member of one uf the oldest
families of England than as a dancer and singer in a vaudeville theater in
the wild west. It made no difference to Miss Mooney how fine the British
nobility might be if the British nobility was going to renounce her, and she
indicated as much. It began to look pretty desperate for that five-dollar-a-
column stuff", but Fox rallied his jaded eloquence and taking an argumentative
tone he recounted the history of the Marquis of Queensbury, showed that the
old gentleman was a true old sport, quick to recognize merit, not too fas-
tidious in his associates and amusements and altogether unlikely to play the
part of a prude or a pharisee when the variety actress was presented to him
as his daughter-in-law. The argument fell flat. The opposition had preju-
diced her mind too thoroughly.

Then Young played his last trump card. He raised himself to the full
of his raw-boned height and assumed a belligerent air. "Let them renounce
you, if they dare," he exclaimed, "and you go on the stage as Lady Sholto
Douglas, daughter-in-law of the Marquis of Queensbury. With the talent
you've got "

The practical instinct of a good press agent won where flattery and per-
suasion failed.

"I'll do it!" exclaimed Miss Mooney, springing up.

"Get on your hat," said Fox, also springing up.

Fifteen minutes later Fox and Young and Deputy Sheriff Joe Droul-
liard were ushering Miss Mooney into the little room where Sholto sat brood-
ing his unhappy fate.

Another fifteen minutes, and they were receiving her in the little corridor,
and the happy Sholto was consoling himself in his imprisonment with dreams
of future bliss.

The San Francisco papers had another big story next morning: another
when, a few days thereafter, came a cablegram containing the cheerful consent
of the Marquis to his son's proposed alliance ; another when Sholto was
released without a complaint of insanity actually having been placed against
him, and still another when Lord Douglas and Miss Mooney were happily
married in an Episcopal church in San Francisco.

It is pleasant to conclude the story with the statement that they are
still living happily on a ranch in Canada where Sholto has learned to
farm and where Lady Sholto reigns with all the grace of sweet domesticity,
her children growing up about her.

Not All Beer and Skittles

But it was not all champagne and romance with the Rosedale colonists.
Only a small proportion, even among the industrious knew how to irrigate
or understood the use and duty of water. A lot of them had a reckless habit
of shutting down the gates of the side ditches when they wanted to go to
their meals, and the water, backing up, would break the main ditch and flood
five or ten acres of land before anyone knew anything about it. The low
lands were the ones invariably flooded in this manner, and presently, what
with the breaking of ditches and the prodigal use of water at all times, the
lower lands became water-logged and black with the alkali that the rising
water level brought up.



116 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

The Land Company put teams and men at work digging miles of drain
ditches. About the time they were finished the dry years came, and the
trees and vines on the high lands that had escaped the drowning began to
perish for want of water. The Calloway's water right was good only after
certain other ditches had been supplied.

There was no home market except for a very limited amount of fruit
and farm produce, and shipments of fruit to the east began to show returns
in red figures. Added to everything else was the financial panic that swept
over the entire country in 1893-4. It is little wonder that Rosedale colony
became a reproach in the county and that Bakersfield's second great hope
for the cutting up of the great land holdings of the county came to naught.

It did not quite come to naught, for a few steady, industrious farmers
stayed with their Rosedale land, and in the end developed fine homes and
valuable property. They did it, moreover, with no less labor and waiting
than the ordinary farmer has to undergo in any new country before his land
pays for itself and begins to earn him a competency. At the present time,
sixteen or seventeen years after it was denounced as a failure, Rosedale col-
ony is as fair and pleasant a place and the farmers there are as happy and
prosperous as any to be found in all the valley.

But the Fergusson administration of the Kern County Land Company
aflfairs ended in general denunciation, and the big concern was more unpop-
ular than at any other time, before or since, in the history of the county.
Another Sw^amip Land Contest

Another incident that added to the bad favor in which the Land Com-
pany found itself about the year 1895, was the contest over swamp lands
bordering Buena Vista lake between settlers and the Land Company. This
contest began to assume the form of open hostilities in March of the year
named. Haggin claimed the land under certificates of purchase from the
state as swamp land obtained by Duncan Beaumont in the 70s and as-
signed to Haggin. The settlers claimed that when the United States deeded
the swamp and overflow land in California to the state the land in dispute
was unsurveyed and was, as a matter of fact, a part of the bottom of a
navigable lake and so was not conveyed by the grant to the state and was
not subject to sale by the state.

The contest was soon carried into the courts, but while it was pending
■there men sent out under the command of Count Von Petersdorf tore down
a number of the settlers' houses and threw them off the land. The settlers
rallied, replaced their houses and again were driven off. There seems to
have been no bloodshed, but both parties to the contest were armed, and
arrests were frequent. There was quite a furore over the affair, but the
proceedings of the justice court before which the combatants were brought
were not of a character to promote solemnity. One day a company of settlers,
all of whom were or had been fully armed, would be brought into court and
duly charged with disturbing the peace by loud, boisterous and tumultuous
language, fighting or offering to fight and exhibiting fire arms with the threat
then and there to do bodily harm to certain other persons then and there
present, all of which was contrary to the peace and dignity of the people of
the state of California, etc. The settlers would then be admitted to bail in
certain generous sums and released on their own recognizance. The next
day Von Petersdorf and a dozen or so of his men would be haled before the



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 117

court on a similar charge and released in the same manner. Altogether a
sufficient total of bail bonds was named by Justice Fox to have bought all
the land in dispute several times over. Eventually W. S. Tevis and Jrl. A.
Jastro took a hand in the matter, met the settlers and effected a compromise
in which the Land Company got the land but the settlers were reimbursed
for their improvements and expenditures.

The Jastro Administration

Not very long after that date H. A. Jastro became the general manager
of the Land Company and inaugurated a new policy in the handling of the
affairs of the concern. Under Carr's administration nearly all the money
handled in the Haggin and Carr offices went out. Carr was buying land
all the time, and building canals or making other improvements. Fergusson,
of course, took in large aggregates of cash, but in another sense his adminis-
tration was an extravagant one, for the colonization scheme consumed a
large sum and was not a success, and the ranches paid little if any more under
Fergusson than under Carr. Jastro put the business on a paying basis.
Enterprises that did not yield a balance on the right side of the ledger were
discouraged, and a minimum amount of money was spent on improvements
that did not add to the immediate revenue producing power of the property.

Jastro's polic}' and its revenue producing result probably have prevented
further efforts to sell the Kern County Land Company holdings to the
present time. At least there have been no more colonization projects on
the part of the Land Company, although the company has sold three consid-
erable tracts for colonization — the Wasco and Mountain View colonies, which
were handled by the California Home Extension Association, and the Lerdo
tract which is to be colonized by the Lerdo Land & Water Company.



CHAPTER XIII
Important Events of a Decade, 1890-1900

The desert gold mines of Goler were first worked in the spring of 1893,
and in December of that year a newspaper correspondent writing from Kane
springs states that approximately $50,000 had been taken out by the thousand
or more men who had been there. Four-fifths of this amount was found
by less than a dozen men, and the bulk of the remaining fifth was taken out
by a small fraction of the nine hundred and eighty-eight others. Coming
from Bakersfield or Los Angeles the first camp in the Goler district was at
Red Rock cafion, in a side gulch of which were developed the richest placer
diggings in the state. At the time of the letter eight men were taking out
$1000 a week from the Bell claim in this gulch. Over the ridge in another
draw Sullivan & Black were doing about as well. At Goler. fifteen miles
east of Red Rock, a few had struck it rich, others were doing fairly well,
and many were obhged to live on the money they had brought with them.
Bonanza gulch placers were yielding thirty cents to the pan from the bed
rock. Twelve miles east of Goler at .Summit, the Van Sykes had struck it
rich.

That the desert mines had been prospected bv the first of the California
gold seekers was shoAvn by the discovery in 1894 by W. T. Langdon of a



118 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

location notice posted by Hiram Johnson bearing date of 1853. On a rock
near by Langdon also found a pair of rusty gold scales, and by an old fire
place, buried under three feet of drifting sands, the same prospector found a
black whiskey bottle with gold dust in it to the value of $6.20.

The desert placers were exceedingly rich on the surface, but the great
lack of water, not only for washing but even for drinking, held back devel-
opment until the remainder of the state was long overrun by the placer miner
and his burro. In 1894 Langdon, Ben Magee of Selma, a man by name of
Cummings from Los Angeles, and F. M. Mooers, formerly a newspaper man
of New York, panned the first gold in the Randsburg district, then unnamed.
Even then, although the sands were found to be exceedingly rich, the dif-
ficulties of desert mining discouraged the majority of the party from con-
tinuing. They all drifted away except Mooers who went back to the Summit
mines for a while, worked out his placers there, and then, in partnership with
John Singleton and C. A. Burcham, went back to the Rand district and began
dry washing in a gulch. They made about $5 per day each here, and later
struck a better placer on the top of the hill.

Discovery of the Yellow Aster

One night when they had been away from camp and were coming home
late they lost their way and made their bed in a gulch by chance. They slept
late, and when Mooers opened his eyes in the morning the sun was glistening
on the little particles of free gold in the ledge about his head. Burcham
got his hammer, struck the rock of the projecting vein, and laid bare before
the dazzled eyes of the three prospectors the treasure of the Yellow Aster.
This was in the fall of 1895. Not for more than a year later was the wealth
of the great mine demonstrated. For a long time its owners were content
to take out its riches in a modest way. They had no money to begin with,
and large development on the desert meant the investment of large sums.
Ore for the first millings was hauled to Garlock, a distance of ten miles.
Water for all purposes was hauled back from the same place and retailed for
ten cents a gallon or three dollars per barrel. Later water was piped from
Goler and from Squaw springs on Squaw mountain.

With the Yellow Aster, Mooers, Burcham and Singleton located the
Rand, Olympus and Trilby claims, combining them under the name of
Yellow Aster mine. In 1898 they built a thirty-stamp mill, and afterward
increased it to one hundred stamps. The mine is now reckoned as the largest
gold mine in the state. The ore is quarried out in glory holes, run down
to the mill in cars and handled in every way on a wholesale scale.

Other Famous Desert Mines

Other famous mines of the Rand district include the Kinyon, named for
its owner, who came to the desert without a dollar, and took out $40,000
with a windlass the first year from a little shallow shaft a short distance
from the Yellow Aster. Silas Drouillard was grubstaked by the sheriff and
his deputies in Bakersfield and went to Randsburg in search of the desert's
treasure. The desert lured him across the sands until he dropped in ex-
haustion beside a rock. As a parting blow in the face of fate he struck the
rock with his hammer and broke off a chunk that even in the dazzling days
of the first Randsburg boom was worthy a place on a shelf in a saloon where
the hungry-eyed prospectors could look and marvel between their libations



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 119

to the fickle Fortune of the desert. The Wedge, Haninioiid's Winnie, and
the Ramey brothers' Butte were among the strikes that gave the camp its
first fame.

The Town of Randsburg
The town started first on the Yellow Aster property where Cuffle had
a store and Airs. Freeman ran a boarding house. In 1895 Abram Staley and



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 16 of 177)