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 47 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 47 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


in this volume. The eldest daughter, Kate Hampton, deceased, was the wife
of J. H. Hillard, of San Francisco and at her death left one child, Ramona
Frances, now living with Mr. and Mrs. Klipstein and attending the Ramona
convent. The two youngest sons, Henry W. and Phil A., are energetic young
. ranchers and excellent judges of stock, their specialty being Cattle. The former
is first lieutenant of Troop A, California National Guard. Eugenia is the wife
of G. E. Ruckstell, formerly of San Francisco, now proprietor of a garage at
Maricopa. Mildred M. married J. H. Bacon and lives at Fellows. The youngest



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 387

member of the famih^ circle, Mattie Rixey, resides with her parents. Politi-
cally Air. Klipstein is a Democrat.

E. L. WILLOW. — The discovery of gold proved the attraction that
brought to the west Elias Willow, a Pennsylvanian b}' birth and a cooper by
trade. At an early age he had accoinpanied his parents to Ohio and had
settled in Sandusky. The even tenor of his life was changed by the
news concerning the discovery of gold in California and as soon as pos-
sible he started for the coast. Joining an expedition that made the trip
with wagons and ox-teams, he crossed the plains during the summer of
1850 and arrived in due time in Eldorado county, where he engaged in
placer mining. As no special fortune rewarded his efforts he turned his
attention to merchandising in the same county. As he not only con-
ducted a general store, but also acted as postmaster of his little village and
as agent for the \A^ells Fargo Express Company, he formed the acquaint-
ance of the people throughout all that section of the country. During the
early days he knew by name practically all of the pioneers of his section and
by all of them he was regarded as a friend. More than one was indebted to
him for timely help. Indeed, his benefactions in those days of frontier
existence were often in excess of his means, but his nature was so kindly
that he could turn a deaf ear to no appeal for assistance. When he decided
to leave Eldorado county he loaded his household necessities in a wagon, put
his wife and children in the vehicle, and drove south until May 13, 1874,
at which time he arrived at Bakersfield. Here he established a permanent
home. For ten years he had the contract for sprinkling the streets, using
for that purpose a water-wagon of his own manufacture. After he discon-
tinued that business he became secretary of the county board of horticultural
commissioners and at his death in 1891 he was still filling that position. As
road overseer for several terms he had charge of the highways of his dis-
trict, while in addition for many 3'ears he filled the office of school trustee.

The marriage of Elias Willow united him with Miss Ann Eliza Pavey,
who was born in Coldwater. Mich., April 26, 1843, and died at Bakersfield
in October, 1909. Her father, Henry Pavey, had crossed the plains for the
first time during the summer of 1850. After he had remained long enough
to investigate conditions he decided that he would like to settle perma-
nently in the west, therefore he returned to Michigan for his family, who
accompanied him across the plains in 1852, making the trip with ox-teams.
For many years and until his death he engaged in the horticultural in-
dustry and also conducted a nursery business in Eldorado county. ' There
were but two children in the family of Elias Willow, the daughter being
Mrs. Flora Ellen Stanley, of Fairbank, Ariz. The son, E. L.. was born
in the village of Mud Springs, Eldorado county, Cal.. May 14, 1864, and
has been a resident of Bakersfield since May 13, 1874, during which year
he entered the public schools of this place. After he had completed the
studies of the local schools he entered the commercial department of the
University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he remained until
his graduation. As early as ten years of age he began to learn the furniture
business, his employer having been J. Neiderauer, of Bakersfield. During
early life he learned the trade of a cabinet-maker. In starting out at the
trade he earned $8 per week, but in one month his wages were raised to $9.
After his graduation he returned to the Neiderauer store and continued
to work as a cabinet-maker, but in a short time began to learn the em-
balming business, of which in due time he acquired a recognized proficiency.

The firm of Willow & Kelsey started in the furniture and undertaking
business in January, 1889. fin Twentieth street and Chester avenue, the
present site of the Bank nf P.akersfield. During July of the same year the
store burned to the gniuiid and the entire stock of goods was destroyed.



388 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

entailing an almost total loss. Next Mr. Willow engaged in the cabinet-
making business at No. 1219 Nineteenth street. From boyhood he had
been active in the old volunteer department as a member of the Eureka
Engine Company. Upon the organization of the Alert Hook & Ladder
Company he became a charter member and was elected foreman. Later
he became chief of the volunteer fire department. When the paid depart-
ment was organized he was chosen the first chief of the department, re-
ceiving sixty out of sixty-one votes cast. For sixteen years he continued
in this responsible position. Meanwhile the signal 'phone alarm system
was introduced and other improvements made. All of the horses in the
department were personally trained by him and they knew his voice so well
that even now, when he speaks to them, they instantly recognize him.
During April of 1907 he resigned as fire chief, having previously purchased
the furniture business which he has conducted ever since. To show how
much he was appreciated by the men in the department it is a significant
fact that at the time he tendered his resignation every man in the depart-
ment excepting two also handed in their resignations. The Willow building,
erected in 1904 at No. 1227 Nineteenth street, extends one hundred and
thirty-two feet on Nineteenth street and has a depth of one hundred and
fifteen and one-half feet on L street. The location is unexcelled for building
up a large trade, but the patronage is not limited to Bakersfield itself, for
Mr. Willow has customers from all parts of the county. From the organiza-
tion of the Merchants' Association he has served as its treasurer and he also
has been a prominent member of Kern county board of trade. In national
politics he votes with the Republican party. His marriage took place at
San Francisco and united him with ]\Iiss Frances A. Foran, who was born
at Mariposa, this state.

HENRY BOHNA. — The name of Bohna is of peculiar interest to the
people of Bakersfield by reason of the fact that Christian Bohna. who arrived
here February 1. 1860, built the first house on what is now the town site.
When he brought the family to this region he found conditions most unat-
tractive. By reason of the numerous swamps covered with willow trees the
location was most unhealthful and during 1860 the family suffered constantly
from sickness. The first step which he took after his arrival was to secure
a shelter for wife and children. The house which he built was constructed of
Cottonwood timber, with a roof of flag-tule, and were it still standing, it
would be an object of great interest to the present large population of the
city. After he had provided a home for the family he cleared ten acres of the
land and planted a crop of corn, from which he gathered as many as one
hundred and ten bushels to the acre. Encouraged by the success of the under-
taking, he cleared more land and in 1861 planted a large field of corn, from
which he secured a good crop, but the great flood of 1861-62 was so huge that
he became entirely discouraged and moved away as soon as the water went
down. There were few to suffer from the reverses that overtook him, for
at the time his nearest neighbors fonly two families being at that place)
were nine miles distant.

In many respects Christian Bohna was a remarkable man. One of his
striking characteristics was a love of travel and adventure. It did not satisfy
him to remain for years in one location, no matter how dear might be the
friends there nor how promising the opportunities. He wished to see all of
our great country and as facilities for travel were limited in those days he
spent large sums of money in taking his family from one state to another.
Had he been less fond of travel, more willing to remain in one place, un-
doubtedly he would have accumulated a fortune, but as it was he left little
means for his family. However, he did leave something more to be desired,
the respect of acquaintances and a reputation for integrity and the highest
principles of honor.



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 391

Born in Saxony, Germany, December 28, 1805, Christian Bohna followed
the usual procedure among the youth of his country, viz. : attendance at school
until fourteen, apprenticeship at a trade until eighteen and then three years
of service in the army of his country. After having been honorably dis-
charged from the army at the age of twenty-one he came to the new world,
prepared for work by a thorough knowledge of blacksmithing. which he
followed in New York City. With a desire to see the country he traveled
through Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, besides making brief stops in
intervening states. Meanwhile his trade earned him an honest livelihood.
When he started across the plains in the spring of 1853 he had his wagon
fitted out with blacksmith's tools of every description and thus he was enabled
to earn his way as he traveled toward the west. Landing in Calaveras county
he set up a shop and made considerable money by his trade, but invested the
most of this capital in mines in that locality. During the fall of 1856 he
returned to Arkansas and settled in Pike county, where he took up farm pur-
suits. Soon, however, he found himself dissatisfied, eager to return to the
west. Accordingly in 1859 he sold the Arkansas farm and came to the
west, arriving at El Monte in the fall of 1859, and from there coming to what
is now Bakersfield, February 1, 1860. The mishaps of the next two years have
been recorded previously and furnish the reason for his removal to Oregon.
From that state he soon moved to Idaho. In both places he engaged in
farming and mining. The year 1867 found him back in Kern county, where
he set-tied at Woody, retiring to some extent from active labors. He passed
away in 1872 and was interred in the cemetery of Linn's valley.

During the residence of Christian Bohna in Pike county. Ark., his son,
Henry, was born October 15, 1842. By reason of the frequent removals of the
family and their isolation in remote mining camps, he was deprived of educa-
tional advantages. His entire attendance at school was limited to three weeks,
when he was a pupil in a subscription school. During 1859 he arrived in
El Monte. Cal., with his parents, and in I'^ebruary, 1860, he came with them to
the present site of Bakersfield. In 1862 he began to mine in the White river
district, where he took up a mining claim. In November (jf 1863 he joined
his parents in Idaho, where he engaged in mining in 1864 and 1865. The fall
of the latter year found him in Montana, where he bought a claim at Last
Chance gulch and engaged in mining. Returning to Oregon in the fall of
1866, he spent a few months in and near Portland and in 1867 returned to
Kern county with his father, settling at Woody. Up to 1872 he devoted his
attention to mining, but after that he engaged exclusively in farming and
stock-raising. He had taken up and improved one hundred and sixty acres,
but in 1882 the railroad took one-half of the tract from him. During 1882 he
took up a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres in the Greenhorn range
and moved to the land in 1883, but again in 1892 the railroad took eighty
acres from this tract. While living in the mountains he purchased from settlers
title to six hundred and forty acres, which he used as a summer range for
cattle. This place, which is known as Shiloh, he still owns. During 1904 he
bought the old Maltby tract of four hundred acres at Woody, and in 1905
he moved to this place. In the meantime he has purchased three hundred
and twenty acres adjoining and now owns and successfully operates eight
hundred and eighty acres of well-improved land. Being profusely wooded
with native oak the place has been appropriately named Oak Lodge.

Since the age of twenty-one years Mr. Bohna has been an active worker
in the local ranks of the Democratic party. During 1894 he was elected
supervisor of the third district and in that responsible position he served with
the greatest efificiency for four years. Elected a trustee of schools in the
Blake district, he was clerk of the board for six years. From early life he has
been a member of the Christian Church and a generous contributor to its
maintenance. His marriage took place in Woody February 16, 1876, and



392 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

united him with Miss Annie E. Rutledge, who was born in TuoUimne county,
Cal., September 7, 1856, being a daughter of Paschal and Mary Ann (Mc-
Elroy) Rutledge. Her father was born at Greenville, S. C, July 15, 1823,
and during the great excitement of 1849 joined an expedition bound for Cali-
fornia, where he was a pioneer tinner in San Francisco. After a time he
added a stock of hardware and carried on an extensive trade in his line. Sep-
tember 24. 1846, he had married Miss McElroy, who was born in Philadelphia,
Pa., January 1, 1824. and who came alone to California, making the trip via
Panama. After having lived temporarily in various parts of the state Mr.
Rutledge removed to Wo6dy, Kern county, and here his body lies buried ; this
also is the last resting place of his wife, who passed away in 1893. The family
of Henry and Annie E. Bohna comprises nine children, the eldest of whom
are high-school graduates and three of the daughters have taught school
with success. Paschal married Miss P.irdie Morse December 25, 1899; Chris-
tine M. taught school for a time, and February 8, 1903, became the wife of
F. H. Jameson ; Evelena Paralee taught school for some years, and August 15,
1909, became the wife of Henry B. Gardette ; Clara J. married Harvey Buf-
fington November 15, 1905; Marianna, after completing high-school, took up
teaching with energy and intelligent application; Roy H. now manages the
ranch in the Greenhorn mountains; Alice Muriel, Thomas Hugh, and Lillian
Rae complete the family.

JULES RUFENER.— ^^'here the foothills stretch from the Jura range
of the lofty Alps westward toward the sunny slopes of France lies the
thriving Swiss city known as La Chaux de Fonds, Canton Neuchatel. In
that place Jules Rufener was born July 24, 1865. there he passed the unevent-
ful years of. childhood and there also he learned the tedious lessons so
indispensable to educational or occupative progress. The family for several
generations was noted for skill in watchmaking. The men of the race
seemed to possess a natural talent for the delicate mechanism so essential
to the trade and they therefore gained local prestige in a calling requiring
exceptional delicacy of touch and accuracy of vision. Jacob, the father of
Jules, was born at Interlocken in the .\lps and has devoted his entire active
life with success to the manufacture of watches. Even now, although he
has reached the age of seventy-three, he is still regarded by the people of
La Chaux de Fonds, where the firm of Rufener & Co. wields the influence
due to long identification with the business of the city, as the leading watch-
maker and most competent jeweler in the entire community.

The marriage of Jacob Rufener united him with Barbara Gertsch, who
at her death in 1911 was survived by seven of her ten children. It is a
noteworthy fact that four sons became very skilled watchmakers. Of these
the second child, Jules, was the only one to engage in business in America.
Fritz until his death in 1910 carried on a large business as a watchmaker
and jeweler in Bombay, India, while Charles, also identified with business
in India, is a wholesale dealer in watches and jewelry in Lucknovv. The
only one of the sons continuing in business in his native city is Alfred, a
manufacturer of watches, well known throughout Canton Neuchatel. At
the age of sixteen Jules was apprenticed to his father and later was sent
to a factory in order that he might become familiar with every department
in the trade of watchmaker. Coming to the L^nited States in 1890, he first
engaged at his trade in Johnson, Nemaha county. Neb., and later in Niobrara,
Knox county, same state, whence in 1897 he came to California and secured
work at his' trade in San Jose. The following year he arrived in Bakers-
field, where he had no difficulty in securing a position suited to his ability.
From 1901 to 1906 he engaged in business on Beacon street, San Pedro,
where he still owns two residences close in. Upon selling the business at
that point he returned to Kern county and secured a position in East



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 393

Bakersfield. In April of 1*^08 he bought a one-half interest in a business
established by his cousin. H. Oppliger, and later known as the Kern Jewelry
Company. VVhen in 1910 he bought the interest of his partner he changed
the title of the business, which is now conducted under his own name,
occupying a convenient location at No. 818 Raker street. After coming
to East Bakersfield he married in 1901 Miss Marie Louise Nouguier, who
was born in Hautes Alpes. I'"rance, and by whom he has one st)n, "Jules Eli.
He is a Republican and belongs to the Tril)e of lien Hur and the Woodmen
of the World.

BEDELL SMITH.— The first American representatives of the Smith
family, which is of mingled Scotch and English lineage, lived on Long
Island and even to this day many of the name remain in that portion of
New York. Benjamin Smith, the son of a native of Queens county, was
likewise born and reared on Long Island and remained there until death.
I'^or eight years under the presidential administrations of Franklin Pierce
and James Buchanan he held a i)osition as keeper of the Fire Island light-
house, retiring to a farm in 1861 and dying three years afterward. In young
manhood he had married Miss Hannah Bedell, a native of Queens county
and a descendant of Teutonic ancestr)-. According to the family traditions
three brothers came from Germany in a very early period of the American
colonization. One brother settled on Long Island, another went into the
northern part of New York and the third migrated as far west as Ohio.
From the Long Island settler Mrs. Smith was descended and she passed
her entire life in that part of New York, dying there about 1866. Of her
marriage there had been born ten sons and two daughters, of whom the
daughters and six of the sons attained maturity, and at this writing four
sons and one daughter survive. The third from the youngest and the only
one of the large family to settle in the west was Bedell, whose birth occurred
at the family home near Freeport. Queens county, N. Y., November 1. 1851,
and who was given the name of his mother's people. From 1853 until 1861
he lived at the Fire Island lighthouse, after which he was taken by the
parents to a farm near Freeport and sent to the schools of that Long
Island town. When he was thirteen he lost his father and two years
later his mother passed away, leaving him without a home and thrown
upon his own resources for a livelihood. Immediately he secured employ-
ment as clerk in a general store at Freeport. In that position he learned
his first business lessons. At the age of nineteen he went to New York
City and secured a clerkship in a tea store on Eighth avenue, where he
remained until sickness caused the loss of the position.

Tune of 1874 found Bedell Smith a newcomer in St. Paul. Minn., and
eight months later he arrived in Denver. Colo., where he found employ-
ment in business. During 1875 and 1876 he spent one month \isiting with
relatives and friends in the east and on the 15th of January, 1876, he boarded
the Acapulco in New York harbor, with the Isthmus of Panama as his first
destination. From there he traveled across to the Pacific coast, then
shipped on the Colorado to San Francisco, where he landed on the 11th of
February. In the same year of 1876 he saw Bakersfield for the first time
while making a trip of inspection through the valley. Later he was en-
gaged as a clerk in the New York Exchange hotel at San Jose for four
years, and upon resigning the position he spent two years in travel through
L'tah. Idaho. Montana and Nevada. Returning to San Francisco, he then
proceeded toward the southwest and traveled through Arizona and New
Mexico. After his arrival in Texas he secured a position as clerk in a
store in El Paso, where he remained for eighteen months. Next he went
to Los Angeles and secured work as clerk and bookkeeper. March 14, 1890,
he arrived in Bakersfield with the intention of becoming a permanent resi-



394 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

dent. For nine years he engaged in a restaurant and hotel business. Since
January, 1899, he has served as deputy county clerk and as clerk of depart-
ment No. 1 of the superior co.urt. Meanwhile he has been a warm sup-
porter of Democratic policies and has served as a member of the county
central committee. In San Francisco he married Miss Maggie Larkin, who
was born in Ireland and during 1875 came from New York to California via
Panama. Six children were born of their union, but only two of the number
attained mature years, these being Millicent and Edna, the former now the
wife of Lawrence Lavers, editor of the Wasco News, of Wasco, Kern
county, and the latter the wife of E. F. Britton, attorney at law, of
Bakersfield.

WALTER JAMES. — The irrigation project developed by the Kern
County Land Company into a system famous throughout the entire world
owes much of its remarkable success to the genius and skill of Walter James,
who came to Bakersfield during 1871 and secured employment as civil
engineer on the vast estate that eventually was merged into the holdings
of the organization named. To him belongs the distinction of having been
at the head of the irrigation system that has made the county famous.
From the inception of the enterprise he planned and superintended the con-
struction of the greater portion of the works, which were the first in the
entire country to be instituted upon so large a scale. Everything connected
with the plans originated in the minds of the men having the enterprise in
charge, Mr. James having been foremost among these. That his ability has
been recognized admits of no question. The works have been visited by
engineers from every country in the world where irrigation is practiced. In
addition they are mentioned at length in almost every book that has been
published bearing upon the subject.

Born near Marion, Ohio, April 22, 1837, Mr. James can scarcely recall a
time when he was not interested in engineering and matters pertaining to
the subject, and surveying as well. At the opening of the Civil war, during
1862, he enlisted as a member of the Ninety-sixth Ohio Infantry and was
assigned to Company E. Later he was transferred to the signal corps and
served in that position until the war had been brought to an end. On the
4th of July, 1865, he was honorably discharged at New Orleans, and he then
returned to his home in Ohio, where he was united in marriage with Miss
Lauretta G. Gillespie, of Marion, that state, and they became the parents of
a daughter, Dora, who married Charles M. Clark, of Los Angeles. Mrs.
James, who has been a resident of the west since 1865 and of the county
since 1871, is one of the pioneer women of Kern county and has given of
her best efforts to enhance its educational, literary and social advancement.
She is the daughter of Noah and Emily (Owens) Gillespie, and was born in
Marion, Ohio, where she completed her education in the high school, and
later followed teaching until her marriage in November, 1865. Of late ye.ars
Mr. and Mrs. James have resided in Los Angeles, having a comfortable home
at No. 1050 West Forty-eighth street. Mrs. James is a member of the
Unitarian Church.

Immediately after the close of his army service Mr. James and his wife
came to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and he at once
entered the employ of his brother, I. E. James, with whom they made their
home. The latter was a civil engineer employed on the Comstock lode,
and while working with him Mr. James acquired some valuable experience



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 47 of 177)