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 26 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 26 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


For many years the Kern County Land Company has maintained a large
warehouse, stock yard and sheep-shearing camp at that place in connec-
tion with its Poso ranch, which adjoins the town on the west. In the earlier
history of the town the business that developed twice a year during the
spring and fall shearing seasons was a large factor in its commercial activity.
The plains to the east of Famoso formerly were farmed to grain, and the
Poso district achieved some fame by sending the first wheat to the San Fran-
cisco market every spring.

An ill-starred scheme to bring water from Poso creek by canal to
irrigate the country to the east and north developed the fact that water was
not available from that source and left the Poso irrigation district burdened
with a heavy load of bonds and nothing to show for it save many miles of
useless ditches. This unfortunate venture blocked the growth of Famoso
down to the present time. Recently, however, promising efforts have been
made to effect a mutually advantageous arrangement between the bond
holders and the owners of the land, and it may be possible soon to clear the
titles which have been clouded by unpaid bond assessments for nearly twenty
years. Should this result materialize the Famoso district probably will take
its place in the general march of progress with the country adjoining it on all
sides.

The first store at Famoso was conducted by John Barrington, who was
succeeded by J. S. Brooks. The latter previously had been station agent for
the Southern Pacific. Brooks retired and left the mercantile field to C. E.
Kitchen, who still occupies it with a general merchandise store and who
also dispenses justice as a justice of the peace.



HISTORY OF KE](N COUNTY 185

McFarland

McFarland colon}- and town were founded in the spring of 1908 by
T. B. McFarland and \\'. F. Laird on land purchased by McFarland the
year previous. Up to that time a siding on the Southern Pacific railroad
known as Hunt was the only thing that distinguished the spot from any
other part of the miles of bare and unfilled plain between Delano and Famoso,
but through the energy of McFarland and Laird water wells were sunk,
pumping plants installed and colonists located on the land, and in a few
months' time the place took on the character of a permanent settlement.

Most of the people who purchased land in McFarland had some capital,
and the homes built and the other improvements made gave the colony from
the start an appearance of prosperity and attractiveness. Ralph Kern opened
the first grocery store early in 1908, and in the fall of that year he was
appointed postmaster. The following year O. Woodard opened a general
merchandise store and a hotel and lumber yard were established. In the
same year the Associated Oil Company built its pipe line from the Kern river
fields to San Francisco bay, and built one of its pumping stations at
McFarland.

The McFarland colonists have made a specialty of dairying, and have
been very successful. Good land and a low water lift have formed the basis
for a thorough demonstration of the practicability of pump irrigation, and
to McFarland, perhaps, belongs the honor of having first answered that ques-
tion past all shadow of doubt. In five years the place has progressed from
a tract of absolutely virgin land to a town of 300 people and a colony of
over 100 pumping plants, with telephone, electric light and electric power
service, a new railroad depot, a creamery, ice plant, bank, two churches, a
four-room grammar school built at a cost of $12,000, and exceptionally at-
tractive homes and prosperous fields and orchards. McFarland butter is
noted for its quality and won a gold medal at the state fair in 1911. The
town and colony are "dry," a clause having been inserted in the deeds to
the land forbidding the sale of liquor thereon.

Other centers of farming development in the valley hardly ranking as
towns are Rio Bravo, which is only a neighborhood of pioneer pump irri-
gators about fifteen miles west of Bakersfield ; Button Willow, which is a
shipping point and headquarters for the Miller & Lux ranches; Shafter,
where the Kern County Land Company is just opening a townsite in con-
nection with a subdivision of 7000 acres now being placed on the market ;
Rosedale, which was founded as the community center of Rosedale colony
in 1889 and which is now holding its own with a country store, a school
house and two churches, and Edison, which is the chief center of the new
citrus industry just beginning on the mesa east of Bakersfield. At present
Edison is only a little group of residences with a school house and a railroad
station and unloading tracks, but it has reasonable prospects fur a more im-
portant place in history later on.

Towns of the Mountain Section — Tehachapi

The first permanent settler in the Tehachapi region, according to the
best memorj- of the oldest present residents, was John Moore Brite. who
located in Tehachapi valley in the fall of 1854. Afterward he moved to the
valley that now bears his name and built an adobe residence, in which he
also kept a stock of groceries and miners' supplies to accommoilate the scat-



186 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

tered miners and stockmen who comprised the early population of the moun-
tain district. This was the first store in the Tehachapi country.

The first of the Cuddebacks arrived soon after John M. Brite, and he
settled first in what is now Brites' valley, moving later to the present site
of Tehachapi.

The China hill placers were responsible for the first considerable immi-
gration to the Tehachapi country. The hill turned out several thousand
dollars in gold, and some of the miners made as much as $15 per day while
the placers were at their best. Mining created a demand for lumber, which
was supplied by whip-sawing the native pine logs.

According to the best authority, the first post office in the vicinity of
Tehachapi was opened about 1870 by John Narboe, who lived in Narboe
canon on the stage line that ran to Havilah. Before Narboe's time the
settlers got their mail from Los Angeles, when they or their neighbors went
to that place for provisions. William Wiggins was the first postmaster
at Old Town, and was also the first justice of the peace at that place.

One of the first Fourth of July celebrations that the traditions of Kern
county record was held under a large oak tree near the present site of
Tehachapi in 1856. Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Brite, Mrs. Smith and their families
and a number of bachelor residents of the country helped to kindle the
fires of patriotism in the new land. Red, white and blue calico decorations
and a good dinner stand out among the enduring memories of the day.

Ed. Green opened the first store, in the original Tehachapi, later known
as Old Town, after Squire Wiggins became postmaster there, and a little
later a man by name of Murphy, who had started a store a little distance
away, moved his establishment into the embryo city. Ed. Green succeeded
to the office of postmaster and retained it for many years.

W. C. Wiggins taught the first school in Old Town in 1861. The name
of his successor is not recorded, but the third teacher was "Doc" Dozier.
In May, 1867, Miss Louisa Jewett, afterward Mrs. Crites, began a term
of several months in a log cabin that had been built for a school house
about half way between Brites' valley and Old Town. Miss Jackson fol-
lowed Miss Jewett, and later the old log school house was abandoned for
a new building in Old Town. As the country settled up schools were
started in Brites, Cummings and Bear valleys.

Uncle Jimmie Williams built the first hotel in Old Town and also started
a blacksmith shop, livery stable and feed corrals to care for the travellers
and teamsters who passed that way between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin
valley. Prior to the building of the Southern Pacific railroad a large amount
of teaming was carried on by way of Old Town, and it became quite a
busy and hopeful little town.

But in the summer of 1876 the railroad was built through Tehachapi
pass, and changes began to take place in the map. Tehachapi, meaning "the
crow's nest," was located about three miles west of the site of the present
town, in the edge of the hills. But the railroad chose the level land over
which to run its tracks and on which to build its station. Anticipating the
coming of the railroad a settlement had sprung up about a mile west of
the present Tehachapi station under the name of Greenwich, so called in
honor of P. D. Green, who kept the post office there. The railroad founded
the new town of Tehachapi, taking the name of the older place in the hills,
which struggled against fate for a time, came to be known as Old Town



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 187

and finally capitulated to the power of modern transportation. Greenwich
promptly moved itself to the railroad's townsite, and Green took his post
office there. For a time the office continued under the name of Greenwich,
but in the end it was changed to Tehachapi, and the name Greenwich sur-
vived only as the designation of a voting precinct.

\\''hile the post office was at Greenwich, William N. Cuddeback, then
but a boy, carried the mail on muleback, furnishing his own mule. P. D.
Green was elected justice of the peace at Tehachapi and Charles A. Lee,
afterward county recorder, succeeded him as postmaster.

The first store in Tehachapi (New Town) was owned by J. E. Prewett,
now judge of the superior court of Placer county. The second store was built
by S. Alexander, who had been a clerk for Hirshfeld Brothers at Old Town.
The exodus from Old Town soon became general. Hirshfeld Brothers closed
their store there, and Isidor Asher, another of their clerks, moved the re-
mainder of the stock to Tehachapi, where he opened a business on his own
account.

Many of the residents of Old Town brought their houses with them
when they moved down to the railroad. Mr. and Mrs. Kessing and Mrs.
Mary Anne Haig moved in from "Camp 7," and established the first eating
house in the new town. Soon after Mrs. Haig opened the first rooming
house. Jack Eveleth built the first hotel, which stood on the corner oppo-
site the depot.

In 1875 a school was established in a log cabin at Greenwich, hut when
the new town got under way it followed the shifting center of population
and was housed in a two-story frame building erected for the purpose. This
school house did duty until 1901, when it was moved south of the rail-
road track, made into a hotel, and its place was taken by a $10,000, three-room,
lirick building.

The Catholics built a church early in the history of the mountain town,
and the Protestant denominations united in the construction of a union
church.

At the present time Tehachapi has a population of about 600. It was
incorporated by an election held on August 13, 1910, at which time T. P.
Sullivan, John Hickey, J. M. Jackley, H. S. Downs and Fred Snider were
elected as the first board of trustees; E. V. Reed, first city clerk; C. V.
Barnard, first marshal, and C. O. Lee, first city treasurer. John Hickey is
now the president of the board of trustees.

In 1912 Tehachapi voted bonds to the amount of $14,000 and con-
structed a public water system consisting of wells and pumping plants which
furnish an abundant supply of good water.

Twice Tehachapi has been almost destroyed by fire, but each time it
has been pluckily rebuilt in more substantial form.

For years after it was founded Tehachapi was only a trading point
for stockmen and miners scattered through the hills and mountains, and a stop-
ping place for the through travel over the pass. Then the fertile valleys began
to be tilled, and it became a shipping point for" grain, hay, wool and stock.
The early settlers, however, planted little family orchards of apple and pear
trees, and within the past five or six years experienced horticulturists
have noted the excellence of the fruit from these trees and have established
what promises to be a very thriving and profitable industry. In the past
two years the acreage planted to fruit trees in the Tehachapi and other



188 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

valleys has greatly increased, and while the young orchards are not yet
old enough to have demonstrated their producing qualities, the growth of
the trees is very satisfactory, and the orchardists are satisfied to trust the
matter of fruitfulness to the evidence furnished by the old, family orchard
trees.

As an evidence of its faith in the future of Tehachapi as an apple country
Kern county this summer waged a successful campaign for the election of
Miss Ruby Brite as queen of the Watsonville apple carnival, an annual
festival in which all the apple-growing sections of the state participate and
in which they all compete for the honor of naming the queen.

Glennville

Linns valley was named for William Lynn who came to what is now
Kern county in 1854 with his partner, George Ely. Like nearly everyone
else who came here in those days they were attracted by the mines, but
unlike most of the early miners they turned to agriculture and stock-raising
instead of following the rainbow of fortune to the next mining camp. Event-
ually Lynn returned to the east, but Ely lived out his days on a farm
which he homesteaded in the fertile valley, and was finally buried there.

David Lavers arrived in Linns valley in the spring of 1855, and soon
afterward located on the farm where he still resides, a short distance above
Glennville. In 1857 came the Glenn, Reed and Ellis families. Glennville
was named for Martin Glenn, who took up a farm close to where the present
town of Glennville stands. The first house in the town, an adobe, was built
by Thomas Fitzgerald, and the first store was opened by Reed & Wilkes.

Throughout its history thus far stock-raising, together with a small
amount of farming in the mountain valleys and meadows, has been the
main support of Glennville, although the prospector and his burro have
been familiar sights along the roads thereabout through all the years, and
some business is brought to the town by summer campers seeking the
cool and beauty of the mountains.

Woody

The little foothill town of Woody took its name from S. W. Woody,
one of the early pioneers of the mountain section. A school teacher by
name of Gurnell was the first postmaster, and he was succeeded by Thomas
Hopper, who opened the first store.

Mining and stock-raising have been Woody's chief industries, and al-
though the latter finally displaced the former, interest still remains in the
gold ledges, and Woody residents insist that the old mines will again be
worked.

In 1891 Joseph Weringer opened the Greenback copper mine and
founded the town of Weringdale a quarter of a mile above the old Woody
store. This copper mine is now showing promising ore. carrying some
gold and silver with the copper. Weringer is working day and night shifts
and expects soon to begin shipping ore in quantity.
Kernville

Kernville is the successor of the early mining camp which was famous
over the state at one time as Whiskey Flat. It lies on the west bank of
the North Fork of Kern river about four miles above its junction with the
South Fork. Kernville discarded the picturesque but undignified name of
Whiskey Flat in 1864. The first store in the place was founded by Curtis



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 189

& Davis in 1863, and Mrs. Carmel taught the first school, which was con-
ducted in a private residence. The post office was established in 1864 with
Adam Hamilton as postmaster.

The Big Bhie mine was the greatest factor in the early prosperity of
Kernville, but in later years the farms and stock ranches of the mountain
valley have maintained its business activity at a steady though not a killing
pace. In 1883 fire destroyed a part of the business section of the town and
many dwellings. N. P. Peterson, who lost a hotel and several dwelling
houses, was one of the largest sufiferers in the fire.

Kernville has a good grammar school, a Methodist church, a daily stage
to Caliente and telephone communication with the outside world via the
same place. The store of A. Brown Company carries a very complete stock
of general merchandise.

Isabella

Isabella, at the junction of the South and North Forks of Kern river,
was laid out in 1892 by Stephen Barton on a portion of his homestead.
G. W. King conducted the first store and was the first postmaster. The
place numbers about fifty residents, has a grammar school, a Methodist
church, and a justice of the peace who represents the third branch of gov-
ernment for the surrounding mountain district.

Weldon

At Weldon, ten miles above Isabella on the South Fork, the A. Brown
Company has a store and keeps the postoffice.

Onyx

Onyx, four miles above Weldon, boasts only a posroffice in a private
residence.

Bodf^sh
Budfish is a little hamlet at the foot of Hot Springs hill. For many
years it was only a post office at the home of Mrs. Vaughn, the postmistress.
In 1896 John Cross opened a store and stage office. There is a country
grammar school at the place, and three miles distant, on Kern river, is the
plant of the Pacific Light & Power Corporation.

Havilah

The history of Havilah is told in chapter three, along with that of the
other early mining districts and in chapters six and seven where the story
of its decline and the rise of Bakersfield as the dominant center of the county's
development is recounted. Today, Havilah is little more than a memory,
and its memory is best honored by letting the curtain fall over the years
of its decline after it lost its gallant fight to retain the county seat and its
people began moving not only their household goods but their houses as
well to the more vigorous and promising city on the plain.

Caliente

Caliente was established first as a railroad grading camp when the
Southern Pacific railroad began its long job of building its roadbed up the
hills of Tehachapi. The town is located almost in the edge of the hills
where the canon of Caliente creek widens out into a little valley. About
this point the railroad grade begins its difficult climbing, and the track makes
great curves back and forth that afford the traveller recurring views of



190 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

the town from different elevations as he looks out from a car window, climbing
or descending.

Stage lines and mail carriers leave Caliente for Havilah, Kernville and
other mountain points, and the town is the first shipping point for a great
mountain section. One or two fires and a flood last summer that filled the
streets with mud and washed two or three light houses from their founda-
tions are among the few events that have varied the slow but even growth
of the little village.

Towns of the Desert — Randsburg

Randsburg, in the extreme eastern part of the county, is the principal
trading point for the Rand mining district, which was organized at a meeting
of miners held on December 20, 1895. John Singleton presided. A resolu-
tion was adopted naming the district after the famous Rand of South Africa,
and E. B. McGinnis was elected the first mining recorder. The great Yellow
Aster, the largest gold mine in the state, located by John Singleton, C. A.
Burcham and Fred M. Moores, was first called the Rand mine, its name
being changed in 1897, when the Yellow Aster Mining &' Milling Company
was organized.

W. C. Wilson, who had been conducting a general store in Mojave, moved
to Randsburg and opened a like establishment at the beginning of the ex-
citement in the new camp. D. C. Kuffel was his first manager. The building
first occupied was vacated in 1896, and a larger building, 28 by 80 feet in size,
was moved from Oarlock. S. J. Montgomery built the second store soon after,
and both establishments, together with practically the whole of the town,
were wiped out by fire in 1897.

In 1898 a railroad was built from Ivramer to Johannesburg, about a mile
distant from Randsburg, but prior to that time everything the Rand mining
district wanted from the outside world had to be hauled fifty miles by team
from Mojave.

The post office was established at Randsburg in 1895 with Fred Moores
as the first post master. At the first miners' meeting in 1895 thirty-three
votes were cast, but so rapidly did the new camp acquire fame and population
that a year later the number of votes at a similar meeting was 687. In the
fall of 1896 the St. Elmo hotel was built, only to be burned in the big fire the
next June. Twice since 1897 fire has swept the mining town.

The first school was established in 1897. In April, 1901, the present
school building was built at a cost of $3500.

Randsburg now has a population of about 1000, and is the metropolis
of the greatest mining district in the state in the value of its output. The
principal mines are the world-famous Yellow Aster, the Consolidated Mining
Company's properties, the Little Butte, the King Solomon group, the Baltic
and the G. B. Mining Company's group.

Just at present Randsburg is being given a boost by the introduction of
electric light and power by the Southern Sierras Power Company, the installa-
tion of dry crushing, the cyaniding of raw ore and the starting up of some
of the larger placer mines. The town is supplied with water by the Rands-
burg Water Company, which pipes it from Squaw and Mountain springs.
Johannesburg

Johannesburg, a mile south of Randsburg, "was founded in the fall of
1897 and the spring of 1898. it is said by Chauncey M. Depew and associates.



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 191

who bought a half section of school land, laid out the townsite and built the
railroad connecting it with the Santa Fe main line at Kramer, expecting that
the new and thriving camp of Randsburg would move over to the railroad
en masse. In this hope they were disappointed, and the Johannesburg railroad
was sold to the Santa Fe.

The founders of the town piped water from Mountain spring, and this
sj'stem later was combined with the Randsburg water system, which had its
supply from Squaw springs.

Johannesburg boasts the Johannesburg Reduction Works, known as the
Red Dog, a custom mill, built in 1897; the Santa Ana, the Pioneer and the
Windy.

Mojave

The town of Mojave was established by the Southern Pacific railroad
when it laid its tracks through the desert in 1876. The first store was built
by a man named Moon, and Mrs. Morrissey opened the Morrissey hotel,
which was the first hostelry. Robert Charlton was the first postmaster.
W. C. Wilson, at one time county auditor, conducted a general merchandise
store at Alojave for some years.

Up to the present time the railroad has been the chief reason for the
existence of the town. It is situated at the foot of the climb from the south
to the top of Tehachapi pass, and is therefore a convenient place for
coupling and uncoupling helper engines. It is now the end of an oil pipe line
carrying fuel oil over the Tehachapi mountains for the use of the railroads.
Mojave also has been the shipping point for borax hauled from Borax lake
and Death valley. The beds at Borax lake were discovered' by John Searles
of Skilling & Searles, who for many years have hauled the product across the
desert sands to Mojave with 20-mule teams, taking fifteen days for the round
trip.

During the early days of the Randsburg mining boom Mojave was the
point at which miners and their provisions and materials left the railroad,
and the trade so produced helped the town to prosper until the railroad was
built to Johannesburg. The building of the Los Angeles aqueduct gave
Mojave another temporary boom.

For many years some mining has been carried on in the country tributary
to Mojave, and recently satisfactory results have been obtained in developing
water for pump irrigation in the vicinity of the town. The desert lands are
rich and adapted to cultivation if a sufficient supply of water for irrigation
can be obtained, and on the experiments in this line may depend Mojave's
ultimate prosperity or adversity.

During the past year a refinery has been built at Mojave for extracting
some of the lighter elements from the oil that is piped over the mountains, the
residue being as valuable for fuel as the native oil, and the part taken out
selling for enough to make a verv substantial reduction in the railroad's fuel
bill.

Two churches and a good grammar school are among Mojave's public
assets.

Rosamond

Rosamond is a station on the Southern Pacific fourteen miles south of
Mojave, near the southern line of the county. The first store was opened
about 1888 bv a man bv name of Hyde and Miss Sarah Haves. C. P. Sutton



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 26 of 177)