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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electric light and power service were extended to all parts of the town.
During 1910 new houses were completed at the rate of two or three per day,
telephone lines were extended throughout the Sunset field with a central
office in Maricopa, and later these lines were carried to all parts of the
expanding West Side district by the Kern Mutual Telephone Company, a
West Side concern.

Maricopa was incorporated in July, 1911, at which time the following
officers were elected: Trustees, C. W. Beatty, W. E. Thornton, James Wal-
lace, H. C. Doll and C. Z. Irvine; clerk, E. E. Ballagh ; treasurer, M. Y.
White; recorder, T. W. Brown; attorney, L. R. Godward ; marshal, H. J.
Babcock; fire chief, Harry Parke; engineer, L. L. Coleman.

On June 20, 1911, about a third of Maricopa's business houses were
destroyed by fire, but all the buildings were promptly replaced by others
of a more enduring character.

During the past year and a half Maricopa's growth has been a little less
rapid owing to a falling off in the activity of oil development, but every
year the permanence of the West Side oil fields and of the cities that depend
upon them seems more and more assured.

Maricopa has good banking facilities, and is well served in the field
of journalism by the Maricopa Oil News, .\mong the prospects for the future
is a good automobile road connecting Maricopa with the Ventura coast, and
an electric railroad from Los Angeles via Tejon pass through Maricopa to
the other W^est Side towns. The citizens of Maricopa have been actively
promoting the coast road for a year and more past, and are now very hopeful
that it will be built. This will place Maricopa on the line of much through
travel from other parts of the valley to the sea, and the electric line, if it is



178 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

built, will give the people of the Sunset town quick and frequent communica-
tion with Los Angeles.

Taft

The town of Taft has been at all its stages the logical outgrowth of the
necessities of the Midway oil field, of which it is the business center. Although
the first oil prospectors who entered Kern county from Coalinga overran and
located the greater part of the Midway field, the lack of transportation
facilities, water and fuel and the depth of the oil sands as compared to that
in the older parts of the McKittrick and Sunset fields discouraged develop-
ment. A map of the field published in 1901 shows but six oil wells, all in
township 32-23. At that time 900 or 1000 feet was considered the limit of
profitable drilling, whereas the big producers of the field in later years were
brought in, for the most part, at twice that depth, or more.

In 1903 and thereabout, in the Midway field, occurred some of the bit-
terest contests over oil lands that have marked the history of the industry in
the state, but the drop in oil prices just after that period reduced the activity
of the Midway operators almost to the vanishing point. As late as 1907 the
production of the Midway field was only 134,174 barrels for the entire year,
less than half what some of the later wells of the territory produced per well
in a month.

But with the cleaning up of the surplus oil stocks of the state during
1907, interest turned again to the Midway field, and the train of events which
resulted in the building of Taft began. Foreseeing that the possession of
its own supply of fuel might some day be of great advantage, the Santa Fe
railroad bought the extensive holdings of Chanslor & Canfield in the Midway
field; the Standard Oil Company also began to acquire land in Midway — the
first venture of the big concern into the field of production in this state —
and the construction of the Standard pipe line from the Kern river field to
Midway was begun. Under the name of the Sunset Western, the Sunset rail-
road was extended from Maricopa to a point a little northwest of the present
townsite of Taft, and a side track for the unloading of lumber and oil well
supplies was put in. In the winter of 1908-9 an excursion of Bakersfield
people went by train to the end of the Sunset Western road and spent half
an hour looking at the sights of the embryo metropolis of the Midway field.
They consisted of two or three shacks and several acres of oil well casing
and derrick timbers piled along the siding.

But when the town began to grow it lost no time. By the summer of 1909
it had ten or a dozen business houses and some 200 inhabitants, and in July
of that year it was given a post office with H. A. Hopkins, one of the pioneer
merchants, as postmaster. Less than two years later the population had been
multiplied by ten, and the business had increased still faster.

But there were intervening vicissitudes. Before the railroad was built
water had to be hauled from Buena Vista lake and cost $8 per barrel. After-
ward it was shipped by tank cars from East Bakersfield and retailed at
fifty cents. The town was first built on the south side of the railroad track
on land leased from the railroad on short tenure, and the architecture was of a
correspondingly frail and temporary character. On October 22, 1909, at five
o'clock in the morning a drunken man tried to light a distillate burner in a
Chinese restaurant. He turned on the distillate and struck a match. The
match went out, and he struck another. Meantime the distillate flowed out



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 179

of the stove and through a hole in the floor. The second match started the
fire. There was an explosion, and in an hour and a half the business street
of the little Midway town was in ashes. There was no such thing as a fire
department, and the total supply of water in the town at the time was esti-
mated at ten gallons. Some of the losers by the fire were I^vans & Parish,
general merchants; W. L. Alvord, confectioner; Hahn & KruU, furniture
dealers: Max Tupper. stationer; Fred O'Brien, pool hall and barber shop;
Harry A. Hopkins, general merchant and postmaster; S. C. Burchard, butcher;
James & Dooley, clothing merchants ; Dr. Summers, and two or three others.

The remainder of the town was composed of tents, tent houses and
shacks of the lightest construction. The railroad company in July had notified
its lessees on the south side of the track that all that ground was needed for
sidings, and had platted a townsite on the north side of the track where
lots were offered for sale outright, except with provisions in the deed reserv-
ing the right to drill for oil and forbidding the sale of liquor.

About the same time J. W. Jameson platted a townsite on the south
side of the railroad a little distance from the tracks on section 24, and a
sharp contest arose over the location of the post office. The railroad company
won the post office and most of the business houses, although enough of the
latter located on the Jameson townsite to make quite a showing and to keep
the ultimate result of the rivalry between the two locations in doubt for a con-
siderable time.

Up to this time the railroad had called the new town Moro, but as there
was an express office in San Luis Obispo county by that name an "n" was
added to the end of the name of the Midway town. But there was a Moron
in Colorado, and the postal authorities objected to duplicating the name in
California, as the abbreviations used for the two states look so much alike.

After many weeks of debate and the vigorous rejection of several sug-
gested names, Postmaster Hopkins, sitting in the office of Postmaster R. A.
Edmonds in Bakersfield one day, happened to raise his eyes to a portrait of
the president which hung above the desk. "Let's call it Taft," said Hopkins
10 Edmonds, and the suggestion finally prevailed, so far as the post office was
concerned, although the railroad still clung to the name of Moron for its
station.

Up to the end of 1909 neither of the rival towns had made much progress,
but with the beginning of 1910 both began to forge ahead with a vigor and
enterprise that renewed the doubt as to which would gain the supremacy.
But in September, 1910, the Jameson townsite was swept by fire, and the
backset which it thus received put its rival hopelessly in the lead.

A movement for the incorporation of Taft was started in April or May,
1910, and on November 8th of that year, at an election called by the county
supervisors, the proposition carried by a rousing vote, and the following
officers were elected: Trustees, H. W. Blaisdell, H. A. Hopkins, E. L. Burn-
ham, J. \V. Ragesdale and J. I^. Dooley ; marshal, E, G. Wood ; clerk, Dr. I^'red
Bolstad. The trustees appointed T. J. O'Boyle recorder, and Fred Seybolt
city attorney.

The Taft Public L'tilities Company, the first corporation formed to
serve the public in the new town, was incorporated in the fall of 1910. It
shipped water from East Bakersfield by tank cars, pumped it to a couple of
1200-barrel tanks, and delivered it thence by gravity to the consumers. On



180 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

February 1, 1911, the company's business and distributing system was sold
to the Consumers' Water Company, a concern controlled by stockholders of
the Western Water Company, which pumps water through a pipe line from
wells located not far from Buena Vista lake in the trough of the valley.

The city is supplied with gas from the natural gas wells in the Buena
Vista hills, and with electricity by the San Joaquin Light & Power Corpora-
tion, whose transmission lines run through all the West Side fields.

In November, 1912, the town of Taft voted bonds in the sum of $41,000
for the construction of a sewer and a system of water mains for fire protection.
The sewer was completed in June, 1913, and the fire mains and hydrants were
put into service shortly thereafter. The city built a concrete jail at a cost of
$1650 in 1911, and in the summer of 1913 completed a new $20,000 grammar
school building. The concrete building used as a post-office was built by popu-
lar subscription, and free sites were offered to the city for a school building
and to the first church that would erect a house of worship. The Catholics
were the first to accept the latter offer.

At the present time Taft is a well-built little city of about 3,000 people;
has a good percentage of brick and concrete buildings ; is well supplied with
public utilities, as has been seen ; has a daily paper, The Midway Driller, and
a weekly oil paper, The Petroleum Reporter, edited by members of the Petro-
leum Club. Besides the Sunset Western railroad which connects it with Mari-
copa and Bakersfield, it has an auto stage line running to McKittrick, and is
promised another running to Bakersfield. Within the last few weeks an-
nouncement has been made that an electric railroad will be built from Los
Angeles through the Tejon pass and thence west and northwest through the
Sunset, Midway and McKittrick fields. With all these facilities and with the
rich and steadily increasing oil field about it, the future of Taft as this history
is closed is very bright.

Fellows

Fellows first appeared on the map as a railroad terminal in 1908, when
the Sunset Western railroad was extended from Pentland Junction, near
Maricopa, to the northern portion of the Midway field. Nothing but a grow-
ing or diminishing pile of lumber and oil well supplies marked the spot, how-
ever, until the rfival of interest in oil development in 1909 began to make it
an important point for the unloading of supplies for the oil companies that
began about that time to venture out into the upper part of the Midway val-
ley. Then the Santa Fe, operating large oil properties in North Midway as
the Chanslor-Canfield Oil Company, established headquarters at Fellows and
made the place noteworthy by sparing enough of its expensively obtained
domestic water to grow a row of Cottonwood trees on the barren mesa. As
the field developed Fellows became a modest trading point. James & Dooley
established the first store in the place in 1910. Lawton & Blanck followed
soon after with a similar establishment, in which was located the postoffice,
and by the beginning of 1911 Fellows boasted two stores, a drug store, a
billiard room, a livery stable and a liberal supply of saloons.

In the last two years Fellows has taken on an air of greater stability
by the erection of better buildings, among which is a grammar school build-
ing that would do credit to a place of several times its age and number of
inhabitants. The Fellows Courier, an enterprising weekly, has been estab-
lished recently.



\



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 181

McKittrick

The town of McKittrick, which is the shipping and trading point for the
oil fields of that name, is about forty miles west of Bakersfield. The earliest
settlement at that place was called Asphalto, because of an asphalt mine
located there in the early days, and the railroad, which was built to the field
in 1891. still calls its station by the original name, although everyone else
adopted the name McKittrick in 1895. The manufacture of asphaltum was the
first industry of the town, and was the means of inducing the Southern Pa-
cific to build a branch of its railroad to connect the place with Bakersfield.
The railroad refined asphaltum under the name of the Standard Asphalt
Company for some years. The first mail was distributed b-^- Mrs. Ouarra, but
she did the work as a matter of accommodation and not as a government
official. When H. F. Peters built the first store in 1900 he was appointed the
first postmaster. Prior to this date A. Bandettini was conducting a hotel at
McKittrick. The town was laid out as it now is in 1900.

With the general activity in oil development beginning in 1900 McKit-
trick began to grow, and it has been conspicuous among oil towns for the
even prosperity it has enjoyed, although it never developed the booms which
sent the population of Taft and Maricopa into the thousands.

McKittrick now has about 500 inhabitants. It was incorporated in Sep-
tember, 1911, with the following officers: Trustees, R. Butterfield, president;
W. J. McCarthy, S. A. Hubbard, H. E. Phelan and Fred Ehlers ; city clerk,
Warren Bridges. The McKittrick Clarion dispenses the local news.

Lost Hills

The founding of the town of Lost Hills followed the discovery of the
oil field of that name, the story of which is told in the chapters devoted to oil.
Martin & Dudley, discoverers of the field, laid out a townsite on sections 2
and 3, township 27, range 21, the winter following the strike. G. T. Nighbert
erected the first building, which was occupied by a restaurant conducted by
Mrs. Hamilton, the first woman in the new town. Nighbert also built the
first hotel and the first store building, the latter being leased to Crow &
Cullen, who previously conducted the first mercantile business in Lost Hills
in a tent.

With the development of the Lost Hills field the town has grown
steadily until there are now about 200 residents, and all lines of business one
would expect to find in a city of that size are represented. Excellent tele-
phone service with the fields and with the outside world is afforded, there
is a daily stage to Wasco, and bonds for a school house have been voted.

Two explanations of the origin of the name "Lost Hills" are at the dis-
cretion of the historian. One is that a traveler approaching the district from
the east sees from a distance what appears to be a considerable elevation of
land, but as he comes nearer the hills seem to fade away until, when he has
actually reached them, they appear hardly higher than the surrounding land.
The second explanation is that the low range of hills which bear the name
has no apparent relation to the surrounding country and the man who named
them may have humored the conceit that they had wandered away from the
other foothills of the Coast range — from which they are many miles distant —
and lost themselves on the desolate and uninhabited mesa.

.^s a matter of fact, the Lost Hills are formed by a very steep anticline



182 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

which the wash of centuries has nearly covered with alluvial sands. But it
required expensive drilling to ascertain this fact, and so it probably did
not inriuence the selection Of the name.

Towns of the Valley Farming Districts — Delano

The town of Delano had its beginning as a railroad terminal. On July,

1873, the Southern Pacific railroad, building from Oakland to Los Angeles,
reached that point with its tracks, and work was suspended until August 6,

1874. During this interval of a year and fifteen days Delano was the end of
the line, and freight to and from Bakersfield and all the valley and mountain
districts south and even as far away as Inyo county, was hauled to Delano
or from Delano by big ox- and mule-teams. For some weeks before and after
these dates Delano was headquarters for the railroad grading and track-
laying crews, and for many years thereafter it remained a favorite gathering
place for itinerant sheep men at the spring arid fall shearing times.

In addition to all these incentives to growth, Delano became the trading
point for a large number of homesteaders who settled the fertile, sunny,
attractive plains that spread between the railroad and the Sierra foot hills.
The rainfall on these plains is scant, and the crops of wheat which the home-
steaders raised were correspondingly meager, but the land was so easily
tilled that one man with six horses and a gang plow could farm several hun-
dred acres. As a result, Delano, a little later in its history, was an important
wheat-shipping point. The more gradual development of the heavier lands to
the west of the railroad brought a little more business to Delano. The
organization of the Poso irrigation district, and the hope of getting gravity
water from Kern river or from Poso creek nursed Delano's dreams of great-
ness for some years, and when both of these projects had to be abandoned, the
town turned to the pumping plants.

Delano was the first place in the county to build air castles on a founda-
tion of pump irrigation, but the somewhat greater depth to water than pre-
vailed at Wasco and McFarland, and the fact that a series of dry years and
low prices had left the wheat ranchers too poor to risk investments in un-
proven experiments delayed progress in the successful installation of pump
irrigation.

It was not until 1908 that pump irrigation began to be a considerable
factor in the development of Delano, but from that date on it grew steadily
in importance, and those who are familiar with the soil and the water con-
ditions expect to see Delano take rank among the most productive and pros-
perous farming sections of the country.

The first store in Delano was conducted by E. Chauvin, and stood nearly
straight across the street from the railroad depot. Chauvin also was the first
postmaster. The principal business houses of the earliest days faced the rail-
road, but in 1890 a fire swept most of them away, and the next street to the
east took front rank in importance. The town now boasts two business
streets, a fair number of brick buildings, a large grammar school building, a
high school, opened in 1912, a bank, three churches. Baptist, Methodist and
Catholic, two grain warehouses, and a weekly newspaper, the Delano Record.

Wasco

Wasco colony as founded in February. 1907, as the result of indirect
efforts of the Kern county board of trade. The executive committee of the



i



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 183

board, having failed of great success in the attempt to induce ininiigration,
decided, during the previous year, t(i interest colonization agencies and let
the latter do the hard work of getting in touch with the home-seeker. This
endeavor resulted in the purchase of nine sections of land from the Kern
County Land Company by the California Home Extension Association and
the organization of the Fourth Home Extension Colony by M. V. Hartranft,
manager. Capital to float the enterprise was supplied by the sale of bonds to
prospective colonists, and these bonds were exchanged for land at a general
meeting of the purchasers in February, 1907. At that meeting the land,
which was laid out in 20-acre tracts and town lots, and duly appraised, was
auctioned ofT to the bond holders. Choice tracts brought a small l)onus above
the appraisement, and this bonus was turned into a general improvement
fund, the bonds being exchanged for the land at the appraised \aluation.

The first settlers arrived on the colony March 1, 1907. While the land
was under the Calloway canal it was sold without a water right, and a mutual
water company was formed to sink wells and install pumping plants. In a
year twenty-two wells were sunk and five pumping plants were in operation.
As stated elsewhere, the need of economy prompted the purchase of second-
hand engines, and the result was endless diiificulty and a perennial shortage of
water in time of need until years after, when the San Joaquni Light &
Power Corporation extended its power lines to the colony, electric motors
were installed.

With more reliable power the complete success of pump irrigation was
demonstrated, and Wasco soon developed into one of the most attractive
farming sections of the county. All kinds of deciduous fruits and grapes
were planted by the early colonists, but a large part of the land has been
devoted at all times to the growing of alfalfa and general farm crops. The
comparative small water lift and the easily tilled land make this practicable.

The discovery of the Lost Hills oil field in the summer oi 1910 and the
excitement that developed the following winter gave a great boost to Wasco
as a trading point. All the supplies for the new field were unloaded frtmi the
Santa Fe railroad at Wasco and hauled thence about twenty-one miles by dirt
road to where the wonderfully shallow wells were being brought in. I'eanis
of eight, ten, twelve and sixteen horses speedily wore out the roads with
their loads of derrick timbers and rig irons, and made exceedingly rough
sledding for the whirring strings of automobiles that carried their loads of
eager fortune seekers to the Lost Hills.

Wasco became a very necessary half-way house, and the business of its
merchants trebled. Moreover, one of the more venturesome land owners
began sinking a deep well in the colony itself, and persistent rumors that good
oil indications were encountered ])revailed. Nothing more developed, but
before hope from this source was abandoned Harry Rambo and associates
began drilling for oil at Semitropic, and Dr. A. H. Liscomb and a number of
his friends started a similar effort still nearer Wasco not far from the Lost
Hills road. Both these wells were started in the fall of 1912. and shortly after
the first of the following year a considerable amount of excitement was
created by report that light oil had been struck in the Liscoml) well. Real
estate prices jumped in \\'asco and all the adjacent country on the strength
of the report, but the strike did not materialize, and six months later the oil
is still undisciixered. although the iirdspecturs are not \-et discmiragcd.



184 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

With or without oil, however, Wasco's future seems assured. Land
in the colony is valued at $150 per acre with water, and at still higher
prices with more improvements. The population of the town is about 300,
and the business streets are well lined with brick and concrete buildings. A
bank, four churches, a club hall and a fine new grammar school building are
among the landmarks in the town. The colonists generally have built com-
fortable houses and an abundance of trees and vines add to the attractiveness
of the place.

The Wasco News was established by J. L. Gill on November 23, 1911,
and a year later was sold to Lawrence Lavers, the present proprietor.

Prior to the founding of Wasco colony the Santa Fe railroad maintained
a station at that place under the name of Dewey. The depot, a store, a black-
smith shop and two saloons composed the town at the time the colony was
launched.

Famoso

Famoso, on the Southern Pacific about midway between Bakersfield and
Delano, took its place on the map as Poso station when the railroad was first
built through the valley. The name wa§ inherited from the creek which flows
past the place in time of freshet, and the first postoffice was established there
under that name. Mail intended for the residents, however, got mixed with
that intended for Pozo. San Luis Obispo county, and the government changed
the name to Spottiswood. The natives could see neither reason nor romance
in Spottiswood, so a protest resulted in the adoption of the name Famoso,
which is understood to mean the city of the rolling hills.



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 25 of 177)