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 160 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 160 of 177)
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ment of the early years cf Charles D. Smith and the country schools gave
him a fair education. From the age of nineteen years he has been self-sup-
porting, for at that time he left Missouri for Kansas and secured employ-
ment on a cattle ranch. Two years later, in 1901*, he came to California, and
found empkyment in ranching in Tulare county, whence he came to the Kern
river field and began with the Associated Oil Company October 20, 1903. Em-
ployment as roustabout was followed by that with a well-pulling gang.. Within
three and one-half months he had been made foreman of the gang and for
eighteen months he continued in that capacity, after which he was transferred
to the McKittrick division. Two years later he became tocl-dresser, which en-
gaged his attention for six months, and then he was put to the task of drilling,
and four months later he was made foreman. As such he was retained in the
McKittrick field until 1910. when he was transferred to Fellows and ap-:)ointed
general foreman cf the Midway division, in charge of drilling and production.
About eight years after he had removed to California he returned to visit
the old Missouri neighborhood familiar to his early days and to spend a few
months with his parents in Texas county, that state. During that visit he
married, at Licking, Texas county, January 6, 1909, Miss Maggie Denison,
a native of Licking, educated in the schools of the town and an active worker
among the young people of the Baptist Church at that point. Her parents,
Z. T. and Sarah C. (Jonathan) Denison, were natives of Kentucky and Ten-
nessee respectively, but have been residents of Missouri from early years. In
politics Mr. Smith votes with the Republican party. Fraternally he holds
membership with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

FRED L. GRIBBLE. — Many years ago, when the opportunities afforded
by the west first began to attract the attention of the world, John W. Gribble,
a Missourian by birth and a young man of energy and sterling worth, left
the home of his youth in order to embrace the possibilities of the mountain
regions lying beyond the then confines of civilization. For a time he en-
gaged in ranching not far from Denver, Colo., but somewhat later he removed
to Fremont county and took up a homestead, on a part of which now stands
the thriving city of Florence. Upon selling cut in that place he removed to
Dallas, Colo., and continued agricultural pursuits. To some extent he had



HISTORY OF KKRX COUNTY 1431

been interested in minincr thnni,u:liont the entire period of his residence in
Colorado and after coming to California in 18')1 he continued the same occu-
pati( n in Tuolumne county, but more recently he has retired from active
labors and now makes Bakersfield his home. By liis union with Donna
Arthur, a native of Missouri, he became the father of three children, the
second of whom, Fred L., was born at Florence, Fremont county, Colo.,
December 9, 1876. During early life he attended the common sclio Is of
Colurado and after coming to California in 1891 he attended the .Santa
Barbara schools for a few months.

Returning to Colorado a year af;cr leaving that state, Mr. Gril^ble
secured employment on a cattle ranch in Mesa county and later began in the
stock business for himself. At first his herd was very small and only the
range offered by government land enabled him to make a start in the indus-
try but he met with fair success notwithstanding his lack of capital. While
occupying various ranges he always made his headquarters at Grand Junc-
tion and from that place his shipments of stock were made to the various
markets of the country. During 1896 he came for the second time to Cali-
fornia. This time he engaged in mining near Tuttletown, Tuolumne county.
From there he went to Nevada and engaged in mining with more or less
success. His experience in the gold, silver and copper mines has taken him
into all of the western states and has given him an accurate comprehension
of the industry, together with a fair knowledge of milling the ore. When
a young boy in Colorado he had learned the carpenter's trade and after he
established a home in Bakersfield in 1905 he turned his attention to the occu-
pation, in which he met with a success that justified him five years later in
taking up wcrk as a contractor and builder on his own account. His comfort-
able home at No. 920 Truxtun avenue is presided over with capability by
Mrs. Gribble and they have two children. Fred and Inez. Mrs. Gribble bore
the maiden name of Grace Martin and was born in Tuolumne county near
Tuttletown, where she was reared and married. In politics Mr. Gribble is a
Democrat and by his party in July of 1910 he was elected a member of the
board cf trustees of Bakersfield. At the expiration of his first term he was
again chosen to serve as a trustee and is now chairman of the building com-
mittee. Fraternally he holds membership with the Eagles and the \\'ciodmen
of the World.

Al BION R. BERGSTEN. — In the quiet and purposeful devotion to duty
which has always been a marked characteristic of Albion R. Bergsten he
strongly resembles his father, the late Andrew Bergsten, who for years was
an employe of the Rock Island Plow Company. The mother, who bore the
maiden name of Louise Ericksen, is still living in Ri ck Island, 111. The chief
ambition of the parents was to rear their children to lives of honor and to fit
them for positions of usefulness.

There were six children in the family and of the four now living Albion
R., the youngest of the four and the only one to settle on the coast, was born
at Rock Island, III., March 1. 1883, and received his education in the public
schools of his native city. At the age cf fifteen he became an apprentice black-
smith with the Rock Island Plow Company and remained with that con-
cern not only until he had completed his time, but later as a journeyman, being
with them for eleven years altogether, and finally resigning in order to remove
to California. Prior to his remi val from Illinois he had married Miss
Bertha Karr, a native of Rock Island county, that state, and by this union
there is a daughter, Jessie Lois. February 2, 1910, he and his wife arrived
in Bakersfield. It was not his desire to resume work as a blacksmith, so he
sought employment in the oil fields and for four months held a pcsition
with a surveying corps on Elk Hills. For six months after his return to
Bakersfield he had charge of the H street plant of the Sumner water works.



1452 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

after which he resigned in order to take charge of the management of the
Brower building, then just completed, and he has continued as superintendent
ever since. Since ccming to Kern county he has been identified with the
Modern Woodmen of America and the Mystic Workers of the World, while
both he and his wife are earnest workers in the Christian Church of
Bakersfield.

H. A. McMURTRY. — Force of character and determination of will are
evidenced in the progress of Mr. IMcMurtry. Since coming from Pennsyl-
vania to California he has engaged at engineering and at this writing fills a
most responsible position as chief engineer of the Producers' Transporta-
tion Company at Sunset Station, about three miles north of Maricooa, on
section 34, 32-24. Prior to 1910 he had always been connected with the
Standard Oil Company and since then he has been with the Producers, the
greater part of this time having charge of the engines at the Sunset Station.

With the earliest development of oil in Pennsylvania the McMurtry fam-
ily was identified. The late J. A. McMurtry was one of the pioneer oil men
of the Keystone state and followed the development of the industry from
Oil City, where oil was first discovered, southward and westward into newer
fields as each in turn was discovered and developed. Thus it happened that
H. A., son of J. A., was reared in diiiferent oil camps in Pennsylvania. He
was born in St. Joe, Butler county. Pa., July 15, 1882, and attended the
public schcols of Chicora, in the same county, where later he gained his
first practical experience in the oil business. While working at various pump
stations for the Standard Oil Company he learned telegraphy, after which
the Standard appointed him as telegraph operator at Ewing Station, Wash-
ington county. Pa., where he remained for ten years, meanwhile having
heavy responsibilities in connection with the management of an important
main-line station. V\'hile there he married Mrs. Emma Childress, widow of
T. E. Childress, and daughter of Jacob Smith, of West Monterey, Clarion
county. Pa. By her first husband she had one child, Esther Childress. Of
her second marriage there is a daughter, Frances. The family reside in the
company's house on the premises and the daughters are students in the Mari-
copa school. Since taking his present position Mr. McMurtry has had
supervision of three men and has been devoted to his engineering duties.
The Standard and Producers are the only companies for which he has worked
and with both of these organizations he has become known for reliability,
skill, tact and intelligence.

BURT THOMAS.— When Mr. Thomas first entered the employ of the
Standard Oil Company he was assigned to the production department, but
later was transferred to the teaming or transportation department and is
now engaged as teamster connected with the pipe-line department at the
pumping station of the Central Midway division, on section 1. 32-23. having
charge of teaming not only in the Central Midway but also the Sagna station.
At these two pumping static ns in the Midway field the oil is pumped through
the eight-inch mains of the company and sent on to the next station, thence
pumped to the nearest station on its way to Point Richmond at the bay.

In \\'abasha county. Alinn.. near Lake City. Burt Thomas was born
Seotember 3. 1859, being the only son of Uriah and Eliza (Lee) Thomas,
pioneers cf Minnesota, where the father is still making his home in Minne-
apolis. The mother, a native of Vermont, is now deceased, while the only
daughter, now the wife of George W. Davis, is a resident of Chicago, 111.
During the period of the supremacy of steamboat navigation on the Missis-
sippi river Uriah Thomas engaged as a mate on one of these vessels and his
connection with the business continued until the decadence of navigation on
that stream, -after which he settled on a farm and developed a tract of Min-
nesota land. Burt Thomas was reared in \^'abasha county, but in young



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 1433

manhood removed to Minneapolis and secured a position in the city lire
department. For fifteen years he continued with that work, meanwhile
sutlering many narrow escapes. He came nearly heing- killed while fifjhting
the great fire that destroyed the Washhurn No. 1 mill in Minneapolis and
that was caused by an explosion of flour dust. In another fire a falling wall
injureil him and he was reported killed.

Enlisting in the Spanish-.American war .\pril 1, 18")8, Mr. Thomas became
a private in Company I, Thirteenth Minnesota Infantry, which was sent to
Camp Ramsey to be drilled in military tactics. June 19, of the same year,
the command sailed from San Francisco for the Philippines. On the morn-
ing of the 5th of July the ship cast anchor in the harbor of Honolulu. While
on the Philippines he took part in twenty-eight engagements, some of these
being among the most important battles of the entire war. When the war
came to an end he was returned to San Francisco and received an hi.nor-
able discharge in October, 1899, at the Presidio. He determined to remain in
San Francisco and soon secured a position in the street railway service, where
he continued for three years, resigning at the time of the strike. Later he was
employed as special officer at the Auditorium and in other places and also
served as a member of the special city police force until his resignation in
1909, after which he spent si.x months as special police officer at the Alaska-
Yukon Pacific Expi sition in Seattle. Returning to California, he spent about
nine months as game warden and custodian of the estate of .-X. W. Foster
near Tamalpais and since leaving that position he has been an employe of
the Standard Oil Company in the Midway field. By his first marriage he
has a daughter, Alice Myrtle, now engaged as a stenographer with the Gould
Elevator Company in ^Minneapolis. His present wife, whom he married in
1896, was formerly Miss Alice Carroll, of Minneapolis.

R. W. McGILL. — From earliest recollections up to the present time Mr.
McGill has been acquainted with the oil industry. As a boy at Petrclia, Onta-
rio, Canada, where he was born December 11, 1875, he became familiar with
the stirring excitement incident to the drilling for oil, a work that assumed
especially im])ortant proportions through the fact that oil was struck on land
owned by the McGill family. Thereupon the father, being offered a gratify-
ing figure fi r the land, sold out and later acquired a ranch of three hundred
and twenty acres in Manitoba now rented to tenants and devoted to the rais-
ing of wheat. Himself interested in the oil business from an early age, he has
made a specialty of the building of oil tanks, but is familiar with every depart-
ment of the great industry.

The fifth among six children who attained mature years, R. W. McGill
remained in Canada until twenty-four years of age. Meanwhile, when only
sixteen, he was a diligent worker in the oil fields and when only twenty-two
he was considered one of the most careful drillers in the district. Fc r two
years he drilled at Dutton, Ontario, and there he married Miss Annie Sutton,
by whom he has a son, George. Leaving Canada in December of 1900, he
brought his family to Bakersfield, Cal. He was familiar with the Midway
field before Taft had a place on the map and before Maricopa had even a
single store. The importance of the field was then unsuspected. Nor were
his first labors in the field fruitful of results. In the interests of the contract
driller, J. E. .Austin, now of Bakersfield, he engaged in drilling on section
31, 32-23, a wild-cat proposition that brought no oil. Going then to the Kern
river field, he worked for the Grace. \'ulcan and other companies, also held
positions with the Cnion Pacific (now the Phoenix) and other refineries, and
helped to build the National and Great Western (now Prtiducers") refineries.

After five years as an employe of refineries in the Kern river field Mr.
McGill purchased a one-half interest in the livery stable of William RatliflF,
now deceased, but at the expiration of three months he sold his interest in



1454 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

the livery business in order to resume identification with the oil industry.
After a time he took charge of the Live Stock Oil Company and when it was
overtaken by the Tannehill Oil Company he was retained by the new organi-
zation as superintendent, which position he still fills, having charge of the
lease on section 34, 12-24. On the lease there are twelve wells and the
ten of these now active produce an average of kur thousand barrels per
month. A driller of long experience and exceptional ability, the superin-
tendent is thoroughly qualified to cope with every difficulty that arises. He
is a member of the Woodmen of the World at Bakersfield.

W. CANFIELD.— As drilling foreman on the Taft division of the Kern
Trading & Oil Company, which position he has filled since May of 1911, Mr.
Canfield takes just pride in the development of the oil industry and keeps
posted concerning the production of the commodity in the state's most noted
fuel oil fields.

About the year 1890 N. O. Canfield brought his family to California and
settled in Los Angeles, where he engaged in cement and brick contracting.
The business depression following the subsidence of the boom affected him
seriLUsly. Many owed him for work already completed and, unable to col-
lect these large sums, he could not continue in business. Undaunted by this
serious trouble, he started anew and in due time regained a competency
through fortunate investments in the Kern river and Los Angeles oil fields.
Surrounded by all the comforts that brighten life's declining day, he is now
living on his ranch in Tulare county. His wife, who is also still living, bore
the maiden name of Ella Brcanigham. During the residence of the family in
Minnesota W. Canfield was born October 31, 1878. Between the ages of
five and twelve years he lived with his parents in Moody county, S. Dak.
After the age of twelve he lived in Los Angeles, where he completed his
education in the Commercial High (now the Polytechnic) school. After
graduation he gave his time wholly to the oil business, in which he had
worked previously during vacations. Under the firm name of Canfield Bros.,
he and his brother, Frank, entered the Kern river field in 1899 and put down
nineteen wells on the Knob Hill lease, also drilled in other parts of the same
field. Meanwhile Mr. Canfield also had charge of the old Aztec Oil Company.
Going to the Midway field in 1905, he spent a year as driller for the C.C.M.
Oil Company, and in 1505 transferred his headquarters to Coalinga. where
for eighteen months he took charge of a rotary well-drilling outfit for the
Associated.

Contract drilling of artesian water wells kent Canfield Bros, in Tulare
county for a time. On the return of Mr. Canfield to the Kern river field he
drilled a number of wells frr the Sapphire Oil Company, but no oil was found.
As superintendent of the Western Mineral Oil Company he spent a year on
their lease west of Maricopa. In 1910 he entered the employ of the Kern
Trading & Oil Company as a driller and the following year he was promoted
to be drilling foreman on the Taft division. With his wife, who was form-
erly Miss Helen Grodzek of Bakersfield, he lives in a cottage on the company's
lease. Besides being a member of the Petroleum Club, he is interested in
other enterprises for the upbuilding of the city and especially for the devel-
opment of the great oil interests on which the life of the city itself defends.

W. A. ENGELKE.— The Taft Garage Company, of which W. A.
Engelke is manager, was acquired from Woods Brothers June 21, 1913, by
the present owners, one of whom is the manager and proprietor. On the
corner of Fifth and jMain streets the company owns a galvanized iron building,
50x118 feet in dimensions, with office, waiting room, machine shop and auto-
mobile storage room. The equipment is so complete that automobilists may
be accommodated in every line of their necessities. Ample facilities have been
provided for the storage of cars. Supplies are kept on hand and repair work



HISTORY OF Kl'.RN COUNTY 1455

is executed promptly by a corps of able and trustworthy inacliinists and at-
tendants, under the supcrvisii n of the proprietor, himself a skilled machinist
and unusually capable workman.

Like many of those prominent in business and oil circles in the Midway
field Mr. Engelke is a young man. He was born in St. Louis county, Mo.,
March 23, 1886. and is the only son among five children, whose parents,
Frederick and Margaret (Ennis) Engelke, still reside in St. Louis, the father
having been engaged in business there for many years. Having received fair
advantages in the public schools, W. A. Engelke at the age of sixteen began
an apprenticeship of three years to the trade of machinist with Yerkes &
Finan. of St. Louis. At the age of nineteen he became an employe in an auto-
mobile factory owned and operated by the St. Louis Power Company. In
that place he continued until his removal to the west, with the exception of
eighteen months as maintenance man for Buxti n & Skinner. One of his
duties was in connection with the printing presses, which he repaired and
kept in perfect working order.

A brief experience with a manufacturing company in Los Angeles after
his arrival in that city in 1910 was followed by the employment of Mr.
Engelke with the Premier Automobile Company as machinist in their garage.
From that place he came to Maricopa in January, 1912, and secured employ-
ment two miles north of that town, as machinist at the Monarch camp of
the Union Oil Company. While working on the celebrated Lakeview lease
he formed the acquaintance of F. F. Hill, general superintendent of develop-
ment, and George Kammerer. superintendent of development in the Midway
and Maricopa districts. By singular goi d fortune his real merits attracted the
attention of these two widely known oil operators. Appreciating his skill
as a machinist and his character as a man, they formed a partnership with
him in the Taft garage, each gentleman buying one-third interest in the
business, which has since been under the management of Mr. Engelke.

FRED C. SHERWOOD.— During August of 1909 Mr. Sherwood and
his wife established their home in the place they still occupy and about the
same time he was assigned to work as a driller on section 6, township 31,
range 23. Since then he has engaged as a driller or as driller foreman with
the C.C. I\I. Oil Company, commonly known as the Santa Fe.

Twenty-two miles from Erie, in Union township, Erie county. Pa., Fred
C. Sherwood was born on a farm June 1, 1873, being the son of Bruce .Sher-
wcod, who for years has engaged in general farming and stock-rais'ng.
Primarily educated in public schools, he later attended the high school and
Luce's Business College at LInion City, Pa. Leaving home at the age of
twenty-one, he went to W'est Virginia and found employment with an uncle
in the oil fields of Jake's Run. For three months he was hired as a teamster,
after which he was taught to dress tools. Several years later he turned from
tool-dressing to drilling. At Fairmont, W. Va., November 29, 1898, he mar-
ried Miss Celesta H. Barr, of Crossroads, Monongalia county, W. Va., and
afterward he continued to work in the oil fields as a driller, remaining in
West Virginia until 1907. For eighteen m> nths he and his wife li\ed at the
old Pennsylvania homestead and from there in December, 1908, they came
to California. His first place of work in the west was in Cat canon, Santa
Maria oil field, where he engaged in drilling for the Brooks Oil Company.
On leaving that field he came to the Midway August 1, 1909, and since then
he has been with the Santa Fe, now being driller foreman in charge of four
strings of tools. \\'ith his wife he holds membership in the Methodist Epis-
copal Church at Taft and their oldest child. Hazel Sherwood, is now engaged
as church organist. Two other children bless the household, Harry and
Oren. Fraternally Mr. Sherwood is connected with the blue lodge of Masonry
and the Modern Woodmen of America.



1456 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

AXEL LON STROM.— Born at Stockholm, Sweden, February 7, 1872,
and where his father, for years engaged in business as a manufacturer of
powder, is now living in quiet retirement, at the age of seventy-two years.
Axel Lonstrom at sixteen years of age started out to see something ef the
world. Having lived all of his life near the coast, he was familiar with the
great ships that sailed the high seas and it was on one of these that he started
out, and until nineteen years of age he was a sailor on English and American
sail and steamships. One of his first voyages tt ok him to the principal ports
of the Mediterranean sea. Later he sailed from Marseilles, France, to Rio
Janeiro, Brazil. Later voyages took him to New York City, the West Indies,
Trinidad Island and London, after which he sailed along the coast of Great
Britain and thence to Barcelcna, Spain. On again crossing the ocean he
traversed the St. Lawrence river to Three Rivers, ninety miles above Quebec,
from which place he returned to London on the vessel Bucephalus. An
English sailing-ship brought him around the Horn to San Francisco and
there he engaged to accompany the whaler Sea Breeze in a whaling expedi-
tion to the Bering sea and .Artie ocean, where he remained fi r nine months.

At the close of the whaling cruise Mr. Lonstrom proceeded from San
Francisco to Los Angeles and near there spent seven months on a ranch.
From that he drifted into other work. The meney so carefully hoarded was
lost during an unprofitable period as owner of a Long Beach meat market.
For a time he worked at ranching and breaking colts. With a number of
companions he sailed from San Pedro f t r Alaska on a schooner they had
bought for $6,000. For a time he engaged in mining at Kotzebue sound,
and indeed, he prospected and mined throughout almost every part of that
great and unknown country. Many of his experiences were thrilling 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 160 of 177)