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

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Online LibraryWallace Melvin MorganHistory of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; → online text (page 22 of 177)
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to the heavy traffic and the light, friable soil of which the roadbed was
made. Nothing short of a standard pavement would answer the requirements,
and the fact that a large percentage of the abutting property was vacant and
producing no revenue discouraged the hope that the owners would bear the
expense of pax'ing. However, the city trustees adopted a resolution ordering



HISTORY OF KERX COUNTY 155

the work done under the Woonian act, and the proceedings went through
without protest.

Long before the paving of East Nineteenth street was completed prop-
erty owners on other streets began tihng petitions for similar improvements
at their expense, and for two years the work has continued without inter-
ruption about as fast as the facilities at hand would conveniently permit.
During this time about 200 blocks have been paved at a cost of a little over
half a million dollars, and indications are that the campaign will continue
for many ensuing months.

Bonds for County Roads

Considerations similar to those that prompted the paving of Bakers-
field streets, coupled with a desire to bind together the several centers of
development in the county, led, in the summer and fall of 1912, to a county-
wide agitation in favor of a county system of permanent roads. At this
time the preliminary survey for the state highway had been comijleted
through the county, following the Southern Pacific railroad from the north
county line to Bakersfield, and running thence in a nearlj- southerly direction
through Tejon canon to Los Angeles. People interested in the Tehachapi
and desert sections of the county continued their efforts to have the state
road routed past the mountain town, but it was officially assumed that the
Tejon route would be adopted, and the county highway commission, con-
sisting of C. E. Getchell, A. J. Woody and J. L. Evans, laid out a proposed
system of county roads branching from the line of the proposed state high-
way and reaching all the important centers of population of the county save
Randsburg and the farthest eastern portion of the desert section. This plan
was submitted to the voters of the county on July 8, 1913. and was approved,
together with a bond issue of $2,500,000 for carrying it out. The vote was :
For the bonds, 2,529; against the bonds, 693.

The bond issue as submitted to the voters provided for improving the
following roads at the estimated costs indicated: Delano to the Tulare county
line, 8.5 miles, $37,243; Wasco to AIcFarland, 11.6 miles, $66,327; Wasco to
Lost Hills, 21.3 miles, $274,766; Rio Bravo to \\'asco, 18 miles, $87,237:
Bakersfield to AIcKittrick, 37.6 miles, $325,207; McKittrick to Maricopa, 25.5
miles, $249,244; Bakersfield to Taft, 37.1 miles, $378,609; Old River school
house to JMaricopa, 28.7 miles (connecting with road from Taft to Bakersfield)
$252,314; Bakersfield to Oil Center, 7.4 miles, $67,405; Bakersfield to Sand
Cut, 21.5 miles, $90,086; Weed Patch loop, 13.3 miles, $69,010; all the fore-
going graded and paved, and the following only graded : Oil Center to
Glennville, 30.5 miles, $80,775 ; Sand Cut to Tehachapi, 28.2 miles, $300,663 ;
Tehachapi to Mojave, 20.8 miles, $86,483; Caliente to Kernville, 38.5 miles,
$80,775; Randsburg-Johannesburg-Stringer district highwavs, 14.5 miles,
$53,850.

Public Buildings of 1900-13

The new county court house heads the list nf important ])ul)lic l)uil(lmgs
erected in the county in the past decade. A $400,000 bond issue for its erection
was approved by the voters on September 14. 1909, and construction was be-
gun in July, 1910. F. J. Amweg of San Francisco secured the contract for
S340,827. The site, which includes two blocks on the east side of Chester
avenue between Truxtun avenue and Fifteenth street, was bought from
Miller & Lux and R. E. Houghton for $16,000, and about $50,000 was spent
on the interior furnishings and the improvement of the grounds. The build-



156 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

ing is of white Manti stone, is three stories and basement and covers a ground
space of eighty-two by two hundred and forty-five feet.

The old court house occupying the block across Chester avenue to the
west, was sold to the city of Bakersfield for a city hall for $125,000 on July 9,
1913. Funds for the purpose and $25,000 additional for the remodelling of
the building were voted by the city on June' 18, 1912, at which time, also,
were approved bond issues as follows : For the construction of a supple-
mental sewer system, $210,000; for the construction of two new fire stations
and the purchase of a new auto-driven equipment, $60,000; for a library
building and site for East Bakersfield, $27,000.

Church Building

That the progress of the churches has kept pace with other lines of
improvement during the past decade is witnessed by the fact that nearly
every church organization has erected a new building or made extensive
additions to its old one during that time. Handsome and commodious brick
structures have been built by the Methodist Episcopal, Roman Catholic and
Baptist. The German Lutheran, East Bakersfield Methodist and Christian
Science churches have' built frame buildings, the Methodist Episcopal Soutii
and the Christian churches have made important additions, and the Presbyte-
rian and Congregationalist are beginning fine brick edifices. Most of the new
church buildings are equipped for institutional work to a greater or less
degree. The Catholic church has maintained a parochial school for three
years past, and the Sisters of Mercy have this year completed a large brick
hospital on West Truxtun avenue to supplement a commodious wooden
structure which they purchased several years ago.

Progress of the Schools

Recent events of importance in the city and county educational systems
include the introduction of manual training in the city schools in January,
1903, and the addition of a thorough course of domestic science under the
direction of Mrs. F. B. Thomas in 1906. Inspired by the same practical aim,
the high school, which was organized in 1893, added consecutively courses
in bookkeeping, commercial law and stenography, manual training, domestic
science, agriculture and assaying. Land for a high school farm was leased
in 1909, and in June, 1910, the county supervisors purchased for $16,000 the
twenty-seven acres comprising the old Hudnut place and used just previously
as a county fair ground. This land, which lies in the northern part of the
city, is being improved steadily as an experiment station where high school
pupils are taught the practical art of husbandry, propagation of plants,
breeding of stock, dairying and poultry raising. The manual training depart-
ment, meantime, has grown to include a well equipped machine shop, a
wood-working department, blacksmith shop and foundry, all housed in a
commodious manual arts building of brick and concrete floors, erected in
1911. The first high school building was finished in 1895, and the second in
1906.

At the present time plans are being perfected to add to the regular
academic course the first two years' work of the university, which will enable
graduates of the high school to enter the state university as juniors, and will
much better equip those who end their period of instruction with their high
school graduation.

In 1910 there were 5812 school children in the county, eighty school



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 157

districts, and 168 teachers. The school property of the county was appraised
at $470,667. In the same year Bakersfield and Kern contained 2600 children
of school age, and $66,289.36 was expended in their education. Since that
time the growth of the city schools has required the building of three new
school buildings and the construction of additions practically doubling the
capacity of two others, and during all of the time it has been necessary to
use temporary buildings to keep pace with the demand.

The Rescue of Lindsey B. Hicks

No more intensely dramatic incident has happened in the history of
Kern county than the rescue of Lindsey B. Hicks just before midnight on
December 22, 1906, after he had been buried nearly sixteen days under thou-
sands of tons of earth by the caving in of the great shaft of the Edison
Electric Company at its power generating plant in Kern river canon about
seventeen miles above Bakersfield. The accident occurred in the process
of putting the heavy steel and concrete lining in the shaft which carries
the water from the forebay down to the power plant eight hundred and
sixty-five feet below. The whole length of the shaft is seventeen hundred and
twenty-three feet. It was mined upward from the bottom, and as the work
progressed the walls were supported by timbers cut and fitted end to end to
form a succession of octagons fitting against the earthen sides of the shaft
and wedged tightly to hold them in place without nailing or cross braces. The
placing of the sections of steel tubing followed the same direction. First
the bottom sections were placed, and concrete tamped about between the steel
and the walls of the shaft.

In order to protect the workmen engaged at this task from clods or
stones that might fall from above, a bulk head of heavy timbers was built
across the shaft a little way above them. As the work progressed this bulk-
head was moved higher and higher up. On the morning of Friday, December
7th, the bulkhead had been moved successively upward until it was two-thirds
or more of the way to the top of the shaft, and the progress of the workmen
below had made it necessary to move it once again.

To do this work. Hicks, Gus Anderson (foreman), George Warner,
C. D. Robles, H. Parris and John Wilbar were sent down the shaft from the
top. Preliminary to moving the bulkhead one of the men was ordered by
Anderson to knock loose the lowest of the set of timbers. Some objection
was made to doing this on the ground that it was not safe, and it was stated
later that express orders had been given against the removal of the timbers.
However, on the order being repeated the workman knocked out the wedge
that released the timbers. The reader who is unfamiliar with the subject
should understand that the timbers were held in position only by being
wedged tightly against the walls of the shaft. No sooner was the first set of
timbers collapsed than a cave started that released the second set of timbers.
This let down more earth, and in turn released the third octagon. With the
falling of the second set of timbers the men turned to flee up the steep incline
of the shaft, but the falling of the timbers, one after another, like dominoes
that knock each other over in a row, was too fast for them. One man
reached a point of safety. The others were caught like rats in a deadfall.

Hicks, who was somewhere midway in the group of men, was struck
by a falling timber just as he reached a skip — or small car built to run
down the shaft on an iron track — and he fell forward beside the car, with tiie



158 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

timber pressing on his back, and the whole mountain above him, apparently
thundering down to close him in.

The superintendents and workmen about the tunnel, the shaft and the
power plant gathered about the collapsed hole in horror. The coroner was
notified, the news of the death of the buried men was telegraphed, and the
tremendous task of exhuming the dead bodies began. Seventy hours later, as
the muckers were digging away at the top of the cave, Pearl Davis, a shift
boss, heard a faint tapping that seemed to come from deep down in the earth.
He stood still for a moment while his flesh turned cold, and then he heard
the tapping again. He put his ear to the tram rail that led into the collapsed
shaft, and heard it again, clearly and distinctly. Someone, down beneath
the crumbled mass of earth and boulders, was striking with a piece of steel
against the rail. Davis answered the signal and was answered in turn.

The news spread quickly that one or more of the men was alive, but it was
not until the 11th (the cave occurred on the 7th) that definite communication
was established between the buried miner and the men who now were keyed
to the highest tension to efifect his rescue. A gaspipe, cleansed and sterilized
under the direction of the company's physician, was driven down beside the
rail of the tram to where Hicks lay. On the eleventh this work was done and
Hicks was breaking his four days' fast with milk and broth poured down the
pipe. General Superintendent W, S, Cone of the Edison Electric Company
came from San Fernando. General Manager Sinclair came from Los Angeles,
The best miners and the cleverest engineers were summoned from the dif-
ferent camps, and one of the finest and in many respects most remarkable
efforts for the rescue of a human being in the history of the state was begun.
Hicks was absolutely an unknown man, without a relative or a special friend
on earth so far as was known then or has developed since, but the news
of his peril and the heroic work for his rescue was telegraphed twice a day
to every section of the United States.

The plan of digging down from the top of the caved shaft was abandoned
as unsafe for both Hicks and the rescuers, and a tunnel was started in the
shoulder of the mountain a little below and ninety-six feet distant from
where the buried miner lay. The mouth of the new tunnel was seven hun-
dred feet or more above the river bed, and on the face of a precipice so steep
that a scaflfolding had to be built from which to start the work.

The earth and crumbled rocks through which the path of the tunnel lay
were treacherous, and it was necessary to timber nearly all the way. When
nothing else impeded progress, the miners would run against a boulder. Some-
times it could be cracked ; once they mined around it, rolled it out of the tun-
nel and sent it hurtling down the mountain side. The miners worked in fre-
quent shifts, and pick handles never cooled. The last five days the tension
was extreme. City editors in cities a hundred and fifty miles away called
up the Bakersfield newspapers the last moment before going to press to
know if Hicks was rescued yet, or to know the exact number of feet and
inches of earth that remained to be penetrated.

Finally, when the tunnel was done, and the foreman of the rescue shift
had shaken hands with Hicks and passed him a plug of tobacco, it was
necessary to saw the rails of the tram in four places and haul the buried
man under the car. A man had to lie on his back and saw the rail over
his head.

Newspaper men at the tunnel 'phoned to Bakersfield when the sawing



HIST.ORY OF KERN COUNTY 159

began, and a crowd of thousands of people walked the streets and waited for
further news. Arrangements had been made to ring the fire bell when the
first word came that Hicks was safe. For two days and nights J. M. Duty, an
old Texas ranger, with two men hired to help him, had kept his irons hot
ready to fire a salute of anvils on the lot where the new court house stands,
the moment the good news should come.

At 11 o'clock at night someone 'phoned to tlie engine house that Ilicks
was out, and Foreman Arthur Nagle sprang to the tower and turned the old
l)ell loose. Duty got his anvils in action, loading them, not with powder, but
with dynamite. The crowd on the street went frantic. Newspaper men at
this end of the line got in touch with the watchers at the tunnel. Hicks was
still beneath the car. A messenger hastened to the engine house, warning
the crowds on the sidewalk as he went that the danger was not yet over, that
the loosening of the last bit of rail might let the car fall and render fruitless
the sixteen days of toil and care. But there was no stopping the premature
rejoicing. By that time the engines in the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe
\ards were sending up their shrill jubilee, society women in the residence
districts were beating tin pans, marching and laughing hysterically. Out
in the Kern river oil fields the great steam whistles were sounding a sym-
phony of joy that floated into Bakersfield like the rushing of a wind in the
pine trees. Dell Gamble, custodian of the town clock, was making the big
bell in the tower peal ofif as many hours as Hicks had lain in his living tomb.
Church bells were ringing everywhere.

It was a full quarter of an hour after the wild demonstration l)egan
liefore Hicks was out in the tunnel, and at least five minutes more before the
word was shouted down from the mountain side to the man at the 'phone
by the river and by him transmitted to Bakersfield.

Of course Hicks went on the stage, and his first appearance was in the
Armory in Bakersfield. An ordinary sitting room would have held the crowd.
He fell. as flat in Los Angeles, and everywhere. Hicks buried alive with
heroic men risking their own lives to save him was an object of national
interest. Hicks rescued dropped back to his old place and importance. He
was a mucker, no different from any other mucker, no better nor more inter-
esting than any other man that may be carrying a hod or sweeping up the
litter on the streets.

The last heard of Hicks was that some widow had married him, and so
he passed permanently from his brief pedestal of public prominence to the
common le\-cl of domestic obscurity.

News Notes, 1899 to 1910

October 5, 1899 — Scribner's opera house is filled at a reception to Major
Frank S. Rice on his return from a campaign in the Philippines.

October 9 — Mojave's business section is wiped out by a fire whicli is
believed to be incendiary.

November 16 — The sidewalk-building campaign is in full blast, and prop-
erty owners on West Nineteenth street petition for the building of concrete
walks from Chester avenue to Oak street, a total length — counting both
sides — of 7556 feet.

December 15 — Bakersfield expects free mail delivery soon.

December 21 — Bakersfield is discussing park and levee plans, and Engi-
neers W. C. Ambrose. W. R. Macmurdo and Walter James submit a report



160 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

estimating that a sufiRcient levee to guard against all danger of flood from
the river can be built for $12,000.

January 17, 1900 — The corner stone of the Woman's Club hall at Six-
teenth and H streets is laid, and the Beale memorial library at Seventeenth
and Chester is nearing completion.

March 21 — The Sunset Railroad Company is incorporated by local men.

March 28 — Truxtun Beale deeds the Beale library to the city as a
memorial to his father. General E. F. Beale.

April 11 — Work starts on the electric railroad from Bakersfield to Kern.

July 19 — A call is issued for a meeting of oil producers to organize to
control the market and insure remunerative prices for oil. This is the begin-
ning of the Associated Oil Company.

July 20 — Meeting is held and a committee on organization is appointed
consisting of C. A. Canfield, J. M. Keith, W. G. Kerckhoff, W. E. Knowles,
E. L. Doheny, H. A. Blodget, W. H. McKenzie, Burt Green, B. F. Brooks,

0. Scribner, H. H. Blood and D. S. Ewing.

September 12 — Producers' Oil Association is organized as a result of
the meetings on July 19 and 20.

September 25 — Judge Ross of the federal court in Los Angeles decides
against the scrippers in the cases of Pacific Land and Improvement Company
against Elwood Oil Company, and Cosmos Exploration Company against
Gray Eagle Oil Company.

Electric cars will run on the new street railway soon after January

1, 1901.

February, 1901 — A building boom is on in East Bakersfield.

A campaign against illegal gambling starts. The games are closed on
Sunday but run all the week.

April 17 — A meeting is held preliminary to the organization of the First
National Bank of Bakersfield.

April 18 — The famous battle at Midway between representatives of the
Mt. Diablo Oil Company and the Superior Sunset Oil Company occurs in the
darkness of night, and G. P. Cornell and J. T. Walker, alleged gunmen in
the employ of the latter company, are badly wounded. The battle is over
sections 24 and 26, 32-23. The Mt. Diablo people get the land by court de-
cision, but long litigation follows over the shooting affair.

April 25 — Kern City floral carnival opens with Miss Delia Wells as
queen.

April 26 — Bakersfield gets news of a decision against the scrippers in
the case of Kern County Oil Company against Gray Eagle Oil Company.

May 18 — The Southern Pacific is changing its engines from coal to
oil burners.

May 20 — George Hinkle has hard luck in a poker game, and just as
he gets aces up with big money in the pot his wife enters and leads him out
by the ear.. At home Hinkle gives his wife a beating, and has to leave the
town hastily to escape a band of fellow gamblers who are warming a pot of
tar and emptying a feather bed.

May 23 — The Masonic temple at Chester avenue and Twentieth street
is dedicated with elaborate ceremonies.

May 25 — The senior academic class of the high school is suspended for
insubordination as the result of a quarrel about the place on the stage which



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 161

the commercial class is to occupy at the graduation exercises. The trouble
is adjusted later and all graduate happily.

June 1 — The county supervisors are putting oil on the Rosedale road
for the first time.

June 10 — An agitation for the closing of the stores at 6 o'clock is started.

June 25 — The ministers and the retail clerks join in a meeting at the
opera house to promote the 6 o'clock and Sunday closing movement.

Tulv 5— Kern county's assessment totals $20,850,000, against $15,184,000
in 1900.'

July 23 — A petition with 441 signers is presented to the city trustees
urging the purchase of parks for the city.

August 13 — The Santa Fe Railroad adopts plans for a new depot at
Bakersfield.

August 8 — The site for the Lowell school is purchased.

August 20 — The Edison Electric Company announces plans for building
a power plant in Kern river canon.

August 28— The Pacific Refinery (afterward the Phoenix) starts work on
its refinery near Reeder lake, just west of Bakersfield.

October 16 — The Standard Oil Company is securing rights of way for
its pipe line to Point Richmond (the first pipe line built in the county).
Producers are complaining of shortage of tank cars.

October 16 — A party leaves Bakersfield to hunt grizzly bears in the
mountains above Tejon.

October 16 — The contract is let for the Lowell school.

October 20— The tracks of the Sunset Railroad have reached Hazelton
in the Old Sunset field.

November — The Kern River Power Company is organized to build
power plants on Kern river.

December 21 — Kern Company, Uniform Rank, Knights of Pythias, is
mustered in.

December 21 — The supervisors let the contract to L. Wilcox to build a
bridge across Kern river opposite the oil fields.

December 23 — The first train leaves for Sunset over the new road.

December 24 — The Southern Pacific has ordered more engines to handle
the increased business that the oil fields create.

January 1, 1902 — The St. Paul's Episcopal church at Seventeenth and I
streets is consecrated.

January 3 — Miller & Lux offer to give the herd of elk that has roamed
on the company's lands for years to the Bakersfield lodge of Elks. The
offer was accepted and the elk moved to the national park in the Sierras.

January 14 — Work is progressing on the Producers' Savings Bank build-
ing at Nineteenth and H streets, and the directors of the Bank of Bakersfield
decide to build at Chester and Twentieth streets.

There is much talk about an electric railroad to the coast, and there are
rumors that the Denver & Rio Grande will build through Walker's pass into
Bakersfield.

The January shipments of oil from the Kern river field reach 3,000 cars
and break all records.

January 31 — The Board of Trade is organized with Frank S. Rice as presi-
dent and the following additional members of the executive committee: L. M.
Dinkelspiel, L. P. St. Clair, A. Weill, W. J. Doherty, Alfred Harrell, R. C.
Hussey, L. C. Ross and S. C. Smith.



162 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

February 10 — The Southern Pacific begins building oil storage tanks
along its tracks through the state.

February 20 — E. F. Carter strikes a strong flow of gas on section 25, 32-23.

March 1 — The First Congregational church celebrates its tenth anniver-
sary. The church was organized on February 28, 1892.

April 15 — The shippers lose again in contests over oil lands.

April 22 — Miss Theresa Ellen Lacey is elected queen of the street car-
nival to be held on May 3d.

May 2 — The Oil Exchange building at H and Nineteenth streets is



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 22 of 177)