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 27 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 27 of 177)
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was the first postmaster and was succeeded by E. S. Waite, Charles Graves
and Miss Kinton, in the order named. Ike Boyles ran the first hotel, and
Miss Kate Titus taught the first school. It was kept up for two seasons by
private subscription, but not until 1908 were there enough children to warrant
the establishment of a school district.

Rosamond was named for a daughter of one of the Southern Pacific rail-
road ofificials.


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HENRY A. JASTRO.— A record of the life of Henry A. Jastro is in
many respects an epitome of the progress of Kern county. So long has been
his identification with this great region and so intimate his association with
local development that, viewing the remarkable transformation wrought
within his memory, he may well exclaim, "All of which I saw and part of
which I was." Great as has been his business activity, bringing to him
prominence and prestige throughout the entire United States, it is as super-
visor that the people of his home county know him best and regard him
with the deepest affection. Through the period of more than twenty years
measuring his service as a member of the board of supervisors, to which he
was chosen by a large majority at each election and as invariably made chair-
man of the board, mind and heart have been engrossed in the well-being of
the count3^ Evidence of his unusual ability as a financier appears in the fact
that Kern county is operated on a cash basis with the lowest tax rate in the
state, yet there have been erected quite recently a county high school and hall
of records, an addition to the county hospital duuljling its capacity, and a
courthouse that ranks among the finest in the state; also, the Kern River
bridge, one of the longest bridges in the state, built of reinforced concrete.
Eacii of these buildings and structures is attractive in architecture, substan-
tial in construction, modern in equipment and convenient in interior arrange-
ment, each in a word a model of its kind, yet such was the skill of the super-
visors as financiers, under the leadership of their chairman, that the enor-
mous tasks were completed amicably and economically without taint of graft
or criticism of extravagance. The courthouse in particular has attracted
architects from distant points, for its pronounced excellence invites a close
inspection on the part of all associated with the architecture of public build-
ings. The plans of the supervisors did not end with construction work, but
include the ultimate transformation of the courthouse grounds into a bower
of horticultural beauty unsurpassed in the valley of the San Joaquin.

Born in Germany in 1850, Henry A. Jastro was thirteen years of age
when he accompanied his family from Germany to America. Later he came
alone to California by way of Panama and after landing in San Francisco
traveled from there by stage to Los Angeles. With youthful enthusiasm he
threw himself into the task of earning a livelihood in a strange country, far
from the friends of earlier days. For a time he engaged in freighting to
Arizona. .Another task was that of working with cattle and sheep between
Wilmington and Catalina Islands. In the meantime he was learning much
conceining the great undeveloped resources of the state. During 1870 he
saw Oakersfield f( r the first time. The now flourishing city was a small ham-
let, comprising a primitive collection of cabins and offering little inducement
to the ordinary settler. But i\lr. Jastro was then as he is now an optimist con-
cerning the country. From the first he realized its possibilities and foresaw its
future growth, although not realizing at the time that oil and natural gas
would form the secret of such development. Subsequent events have deepened
his faith in Kern county and he is now a "veritable encyclopedia" concerning
its resources. In his opinion the discoveries of oil and natural gas are the
greatest benefits California has ever received, not excepting gold. With the
advent of natural gas in Bakersfield, pipes were laid to convey it to San
Francisco and Los Angeles; while it is not inferior to manufactured gas for
illuminating pur|)Oses. it has the advantage of a greater heat unit. After oil
had given the state cheap fuel, California jumped from the twenty-fifth place


in manufacturing to the eleventh, and Mr. Jastro beheves that within a few
years it will rank fourth or fifth among the manufacturing states. In his
estimation this will come through the establishment of cotton and woolen fac-
tories. Already cotton is being produced in large quantities in the state, while
sheep always will be raised on lands adapted for no other purpose than graz-

Through his marriage to Miss May E. Baker, who died in 1894, Mr. Jastro
became allied with a notable family of Kern county, for his father-in-law, Col.
Thomas Baker, is remembered in the annals of local history as the founder
of Bakersfield. A son, Harry A., and two daughters were born of the union.
One of the daughters, now residing at Albuquerque, N. M., is the wife of M.
O. Chadbourne, son of Colonel Chadbourne, of San Francisco. Since the death
of his wife Mr. Jastro has made his home with his widowed daughter, Mrs.
May Greer, in a comfortable home in Bakersfield, and he is seldom away
from the city except at such times as the demands of his large business inter-
ests necessitate his presence elsewhere. His identification with Messrs. Carr
and Haggin, the predecessors of the Kern County Land Company, began in
1874, four years after his location in Bakersfield. From that time to the pres-
ent, excepting a period of about four years from 1886 to 1890, he has become
more and more a power in the profitable development of this close corporation,
comprising the estate of Lloj'd Tevis (represented by William S. Tevis) and
the holdings uf J. B. Haggin, now of New York. Stockdale, one of the com-
pany's great ranches, is the seat of the Tevis home. The tropical splendors of
this ranch defy any description. One of the most unusual attractions is a
bamboo forest, where the bamboo by actual measurement has grown twenty-
five inches in twenty-four htiurs. The hothouse contains rare plants and
the artificial lake is stocked with rare water fowl, while grottoes and foun-
tains add to the charm of the ranch.

A colonization scheme by the manager of the company failed signally in
1903. Mr. Jastro, who had been with the company for nineteen years in diiTer-
ent capacities, was chosen manager. The properties over which he has absolute
control include four hundred and sixty thousand acres in California, six hun-
dred and ten thousand acres in New Mexico, one hundred thousand acres in
Arizona, and two hundred and twenty-five thousand acres in Mexico. An ex-
tensive irrigation scheme has been installed by the general manager on the
San Pedro river in Arizona and this will irrigate ten thousand acres. The site
of the government Elephant Butte dam in New Mexico is on forty thousand
acres formerly held by the company, but taken over by the government on an
equitable basis, ^^'ater from the reclamation project will be used on the com-
pany land.

As early as 1885 this company attempted to raise cotton and in that year
they raised the first big crop of cotton ever grown in California. The product
was of very fine quality, but labor conditions made the venture a failure. In
order to secure the required number of cotton pickers they imported negroes,
but they did not remain. Next they tried Chinamen, but cotton picking re-
quires long fingers and the short Chinese fingers tore the staple. The industry
was then abandoned. At the present time alfalfa and grain are the principal
crops, but citrus and deciduous fruits and vines are raised, while in stock
they have good success with every department, cattle, horses, mules, sheep
and hogs. In Bakersfield and on the ranches the manager has established
machine and wagon shops, warehouses, supply departments and tinshops,
besides which he has built canals and waterworks. The cattle are raised in
Arizona and New Mexico, then brought to Kern county for fattening on
alfalfa or corn and chopped hay. Enough beef is produced to supply regularly
eighty thousand people. The stock business conducted upon such an enor-
mous scale calls for rare abilities, but the general manager lias proved equal


to every eiiiery^ency and lias displayed a sagacit}', keen discriniinatii m and
wise foresight seldom equalled.

The fact that .Mr. jastro is a stanch Democrat has made no dilTcrcncc to
the people in their solicitude to secure his public services. Republicans ha\'e
displayed as much enthusiasm for him as supervisor as have the Democrats
and during the great Roosevelt landslide in 1904, when the county gave a
great Republican majority, he received a flattering majority for sui)ervisor on
the Democratic ticket. In fact, the people have divorced politics from public
service in their desire for his able assistance in public affairs and in this
respect they resemljle Mr. jastro himself, for one of his hob])ies is the divorc-
ing of trade relations and civic progress from politics. P^ive times elected
president of the National Live Stock Association (the last time at Phoenix,
Ariz., in January of 1913), in that office he has made a study of the tariff
question in connection with the hides and wool schedule. It is his belief that
the commerce of our countrv will not much longer permit itself to be a
prey to political vicissitudes. As a remedial agency he favors the appointment
of a board of tariff commissioners on a non-])artisan basis, such board to be
continuously in session and have the power to adjust the tariff duties as occa-
sion may demand. The action of President Taft in appointing tariff commis-
sioners he regards as a step in the right direction. As a memlier of the state
board of agriculture of which he was president for three terms his able
services have been given to the uplifting of the farmer, whose interests he
believes to be second to none in importance if the permanent piosperity of
our commonwealth is to be conserved. In every post of honor accepted bv
him he has given dignified and noteworthy service. With his commanding
presence and magnetic personality, he is equally a power among the great-
est captains of industry in the country and among the humbler workers
of life's great field. His name ever will stand at the very forefront in the
annals ( f Kern county and in the history of the stock industry throughout

PETER GARDETTE.— A record of the life of Peter Gardette is in many
respects an epitome of the agricultural development of Kern county, whither
he came at a period so earh' that no county organization had yet been
effected and few emigrants had endeavored' to surmount the sufferings inci-
dent to existence on plains undeveloped, unsettled and often drought-stricken.
The tenacity of purpose which characterized him is exhibited in his fearless
attempt to aid in the huge task of pioneer develo'iment. While he knew little
of frontier hardships, he had learned to be persistent in labor and self-reliant
in action, and every former association of his busy life had qualified' him for
pioneering. Born near Danzig, Prussia, December 22, 1825, he had attended
a school of navigation in youth and then had followed the sea for a livelihood.
During 1851 the ship on which he was employed sailed around the Horn and
came up the Pacific to San Francisco. The influx of emigrants had not
lessened since the first excitement caused by the discovery of gold. Swept
away from former plans by the contagion of large throngs making for the
mines, he left his ship at San Francisco, although he did not follow the gen-
eral example in trying his luck at the mines. Instead' he spent a winter in
San Francisco. It was a season of great excitement. Not the least important
of his experiences there was a participation in fighting the great fire of that
winter which almost destroyed the city. Shortly afterward he left the city
for the mines of Mariposa county and in April, 1854, when the first excite-
ment was aroused through the discovery of gold at Keyesville, then in Tulare
county, he followed the rush of travel to the new camp.

It was the privilege of Mr. Gardette to witness the organization of Kern
county and to be one of the very first citizens admitted by naturalization
papers, this being about 1866. In partnership with Judge Sayles, later of


Fresno, now deceased, he started a general store on Greenhorn mountain at
the present site of the camp of the forest supervisors. Within ten miles of the
store he located a homestead on Poso Flat, where he began to raise cattle and
sheep. His brand, the capital letter "S," was the very first to be recorded in
Kern county and is now used by his son, Henry B., who continues the stock
business at the old homestead. A log cabin was built on the claim as early
as 1859 and in it the pioneer stockman kept bachelor's hall for some time.
Eventually his means permitted him to provide better accommodations and in
1871 he erected a frame house that still stands. Meanwhile he had put in a
valuable irrigation system for his own use and had purchased adjacent land,
so that five hundred and twenty acres were devoted to grain and alfalfa.
When his children began to need educational advantages he erected a resi-
dence on the corner of F and Twenty-first streets, Bakersfield, and there the
family maintained their headquarters, although much of his time continued to
be spent upon the ranch until his final retirement from heavy manual work.
It was not until 1905 that he relinquished the management of the ranch into
the hands of his son, Henry B., and thereupon he retired to private life,
spending his last days quietly in Bakersfield, where he died May 19, 1911, at
the family residence.

The marriage of Peter Gardette occurred in San Francisco March 24, 1871,
and united him with Miss Agnes E. A. Weber, a native of Dresden, Saxony,
and a daughter of Henry and Augusta W. (Otto) Weber. Her father followed
the occupation of a builder and both he and his wife remained in Saxony until
their death. During young womanhood Mrs. Gardette left her home in Ger-
many and came via Panama to California in 1868, settling at Visalia. Three
years later she became the wife of Mr. Gardette and accompanied him to the
ranch in Kern county. Since the death of her husband she has continued to
reside in Bakersfield and has superintended her business matters with quiet,
keen capability, one of her undertakings having been the building, with her
son, Henry B., of the Kern Valley garage on the corner of L and Eighteenth
streets. I'or years she has been identified with the Kern County Pioneer
Society, to which Mr. Gardette also belonged, he having been at the time of
his demise one of the very oldest settlers of the county. In religion she is of
the Episcopalian faith, while he was reared in the Lutheran denomination and
always adhered to its doctrines and creed. Their family consists of four
children, of whom one daughter, Margaret D., is a successful teacher in the
Bakersfield schools; a son, Henry B., continues at the old home ranch; Mrs.
Mildred Munsey is a resident of Bakersfield, and the younger son, Helmuth C,
follows the occupation of an electrical engineer in Los Angeles.

W. S. WILHELM. — The president and general manager of the Mari-
copa Queen Oil Company is an lowan by birth and was born in Musca-
tine October 16, 1864, being a son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Christ) Wilhelm.
The lineage of the family is traced back to worthy Teutonic progenitors.
Very early in the colonization of Amexica members of the family crossed the
ocean from Germany and identified themselves with the material upbuilding of
the new country. Later generations became pioneers of Iowa. The Muscatine
branch of the family had little means, but possessed worth of character and
nobility of purpose. In the midst of discouragements and poverty they re-
tained their devotion to the higher principles of life. It was not possible for
W. S. to attend school with any regularity, yet he has become a man of the
broadest information and widest culture. Brought up to a life of hard work on
a farm, when only fourteen years of age he engaged in cutting wood at sixty
cents a cord. By such work he supported himself in the months of' winter.
The summer seasons were given to farming. The sterling qualities of industry
and thrift instilled in his mind during youth have stood him in good stead
through his subsequent career. For a time in young manhood he was con-


nected with the secret service of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
in Missouri. While employed in that state he met and married Miss Dora J.
Duncan, a cultured woman who in every way has promoted his success and
enhanced his happiness. Seven children blessed their union and they still
remain to brighten the elegant and attractive family residence in Long Beach.
For two years after his marriage Mr. Wilhelm engaged in farming in
Missouri, but later he remox-ed to Coloradu and interested himself in mining.
By slow degrees he rose to wealth. Important interests were acquired not
only in Colorado, but also in Idaho, Montana and Nevada. Since coming to
California and establishing a home in Long Beach he has devoted much of
his time to tlie interests of the Maricopa Queen Oil Company, of which he is
president and general manager. The company has the distinction of owning
an exceedingly valuable lease, comprising twenty acres on section 32, town-
ship 12, range 23, in the Sunset-Midway field. There are now seven wells
on the lease and two of these flow from fifteen hundred to two thousand
barrels per day. In the development of this important lease Mr. Wilhelm
has used his large means lavishly and the returns have fully justified his
most sanguine expectations. In addition to his holdings previously men-
tioned he has valuable mining properties in the west and considerable oil
property in Texas.

COL. E. M. ROBERTS.— Martial valor has been a leading characteristic
of the Roberts family during the entire period of its known history, which in
.•\merica dates from the colonial period of \''irginian settlement and reveals a
record of patriotic devotion guided by a high order of intelligence. It is
worthy of note that not only the Colonel's paternal grandfather, but likewise
his maternal grandfather, Adam Harber, served under General Jackson in
the memorable battle of New Orleans during the war of 1812 and gave loyal
service to the country throughout that historic struggle. Of English birth
and honorable .\nglo-Saxon lineage, Mr. Harber had immigrated to the new
world during young manhood, settled upon a plantation in Tennessee and
married a southern lady. Their daughter, .\nnie Aletha, a native of Tennessee
and a lifelong resident of that state, became the wife of H. B. Roberts, who
was born in North Carolina. While still a young woman she passed away,
leaving a family of three sons and one daughter, the eldest son, E. M., having
been born at Chapelhill, Marshall county, Tenn., September 11, 1843. After
the death of the mother the children were taken to Missouri in 1849 by their
father, who settled in Springfield in the midst of a vast tract of unimproved
acreage. Being a skilled mechanic he opened a blacksmith's shop and there
he made the first moldboard plow ever seen in Springfield. With this he
turned the first furrows in the soil of his raw land. The other settlers, seeing
the success of his invention, engaged him to manufacture similar implements
for their use. The first decade of his residence in Missouri brought him grati-
fying success and, had fate spared him for later usefulness, he would have
gained financial prosperity. Through all of his life a resident of the south, in
sympathy with its institutions, devoted to its people and attached to its
policies, he naturally embraced' the Confederate side at the opening of the
Civil war. At the very outset he enlisted under General Price, but it was not
his destiny to see the defeat of the Southern flag. Near the close of the year
1861, while in active service, he died in Springfield at the age of forty-five

Auk ng the memories of childhdoil days treasured in the mind of ( 'ol-
onel Roberts are those associated with the removal (jf the family from Ten-
nessee to Missouri when he was six years of age. In company with a train
of emigrants comprising probably thirty teams he and other members of
his family journeyed in their own wagon drawn by oxen and crossed the
Mississippi at St. Lcjuis in a ferry run by hiirsepower. The frontier of


Missouri was the environment of his boyhood. The country was new and
settlers few, so that schools were widely scattered. About two or three
months of each year a subscription school was held six miles from his home
and to it he walked each day. Notwithstanding the handicap of limited
education he became a man of broad information and fine mental attain-
ments. During the opening year of the Civil war he lost his father, and
the example of that gallant Confederate soldier led him to enlist in the
Southern army. During 1862, when scarcely nineteen years of age, he
enlisted in Company A, Third Regiment of Missouri Cavalry, under Col.
Dick Campbell, of Springfield, Mo., remaining at the front until he gave
up his arms at Shreveport, La., in June of 1865. Among the engagements
in which he bore a part were those of Pea Ridge, Cain Springs, Saline River,
Prairie Grove, Poison Springs, Hartville (where he had a horse shot under
him), Camden and Pine Blufif, all in Arkansas, besides which he fought in
Price's raid, where six weeks were given to continuous skirmishing, includ-
ing the battles of Iron Mountain, JefTerson City, Herman, Little Blue and
Big Blue, Brush Creek, Llelena, Little Ruck and Granby, Ark.

During the battle of Saline River the young Southern soldier served as
an orderly for General Shelby. Many years later, when the General was
serving as United States Marshal of Missouri and had engaged a negro lad
to act as deputy. Colonel Roberts met his old commander and inquired
about the deputy. General Shelby replied that the boy's father and mother
took care of and saved his family from danger during the Civil war and the
gratitude which he felt caused him to recognize the undoubted worth of
their son. Returning home at the close of the war. Colonel Roberts visited
there for a month and then went to Kansas City in search of employment,
landing there without a dollar. His first position, which he held for four
years, was that of assistant in a saw mill at $33.33 per month. When he
left the place he had saved an amount sufificient to buy one hundred and
sixty acres near Paola, Miami county, Kansas, and to that location he
moved, beginning there in agricultural undertakings that continued with
fair success until the grasshoppers in 1874 completely destroyed his crop.
With such funds as he could secure from the disaster he came to California
in September, 1874, and settled at Oakland, where he formed a partnership
in the butcher business. There he not only lost the balance of his money,
hut was left in debt. Beginning anew he became buyer for H. M. Ames.
Six months later he paid the last of his debts, besides which he had been
able to buy a span of horses, harness and wagon. With $20 in cash and his
team, accompanied by his wife and child, he came to the San Joaquin
country in April of 1876. On the first of May he arrived in Kern county
and located on one hundred and sixty acres of railroad land, which he im-
proved with such success that the railroad company charged him $10 an
acre for the place, an excessive amount for those days. One year after com-
ing to the valley he became superintendent of canal work for the Kern
County Land Company (later known as Haggin & Co.), and in addition he
had the contract for iDuilding the Beardsley canal of thirty miles and the
McCord canal of fifteen miles. With a partner, W. H. Brand, he built
twenty-five miles of the Calloway canal and the East Side canal of twenty-
seven miles. Under his direction about sixteen sections of desert land were
reclaimed for the Kern County Land Company, and after ditches had been
dug and the land brought under irrigation, settlers could legally prove up
on claims.

The trials of frontier existence are indicated by the fact that when

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 27 of 177)