Wallace Melvin Morgan.

History of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; online

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Online LibraryWallace Melvin MorganHistory of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; → online text (page 5 of 177)
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great sweep of fairly well watered land into a magnificent stock ranch. In
the very early days Colonel Vineyard ran sheep on the ranch, selling out
his flock to Solomon and Philo Jewett when the latter first came to the county
in 1860. The drought of 1864 was the indirect cause of the formation of
the partnership of Beale & Baker, which figured as the owner of great flocks
in the early days of the county's history. Baker had been in the sheep
business near what is now Burbank, in Los Angeles county, but the shortage
of feed drove him north into the mountains, and he entered into a partnership
with General Beale. For about seven years the partnership continued, the
flocks of sheep growing meantime to 100,000 or 125,000 head. Indian herders
and shearers were employed then as at later dates in the history of the ranch.
In 1874 W. J. Hill, Dave Rivers, and State Senator John Boggs, comprising
the firm of Hill, Rivers & Co., leased the ranch. About that time the stock
kept there included 60,000 head of sheep, 10,000 head of cattle and 200 horses.
Hill, Rivers & Co.'s lease expired in 1880, when General Beale bought the
stock. J. J. Lopez, who was in charge of the sheep under the Hill, Rivers
& Co. regime, recalls that they used to get fifteen to thirty cents for the
wool in those days, delivered at Los Angeles, and it took about ten days
to haul it there in wagons. Wethers were worth from $2.50 to $3 per head,
very much more than an acre of land. The dry year of 1877 and the termina-
tion of the lease to Hill, Rivers & Co. determined the policy of reducing the
number of sheep on the Tejon ranch, and in 1879 Lopez was sent to Montana
with 16,000 head of sheep. The drive consumed six months, led through
mountains, over deserts, by long trails where the way was Unknown and
the water bad and far to find, and where treacherous Indian tribes demanded
all the diplomacy to which Don Jose's Castilian blood had made him heir.
The long drive is famous in the alnnals of the Kern county sheepmen, few of
whom are strangers to the long trail, and as a reward for his efficiency, when
Lopez returned he was placed in charge of both sheep and cattle. For about
eighteen years R. M. Pogson was general superintendent of Tejon ranch,
J. G. Stitt following him.

Truxtun Beale followed the methods of his father in the treatment of
the Indians at Tejon. and the great ranch with its unsurveyed acres, irregular


lines, Indian homes beside tlie ranch house and the patriarchal air that broods
over the place continued until 1912 to furnish a picturesque and romantic
reminder of another age in the midst of a state and a county that are rapidly
becoming the most aggressively modern in the world. But Truxlun Beale,
shortly before the closing of these pages, sold the Tejon ranch to a Southern
California syndicate that now is engaged in testing the water supplies with
the ultimate intention of irrigating so much of the land as possible and
devoting it to more productive cultivation.


Gold Mining From 1851 to 1875

Authentic records of mining in what is now Kern county date back to
1851. In the early '60s a shaft opened in the Tehachapi valley showed
evidences that the ground had been worked over many years before, and in
1870 J. C. Crocker, then a cattleman with headquarters at Temblor, reported
to the Kern County Courier the finding of a tunnel driven in solid rock in
the Coast range west of Bakersfield which was proven by a tree growing
in its mouth to have been dug long before the country came into the posses-
sion of the Americans. Nothing remained in either case, however, to show
by whose hands the work had been done, except that in the case of the
tunnel, marks of a pick or other steel instrument seemed to furnish conclusive
evidence that it was driven by civilized men.

In 1851 occurred the first rush to the Kern river placers. Indians car-
ried vague reports of golden sands to the placer miners in the mountains
farther north, and the surging tide of fortune seekers that swept over all the
state in the days of '49 sent a little stream of prospectors to search out
the new field. They found little, however, and little record was left of their
adventures. The statement is made by early chroniclers, also, that some
quartz mining was going on in 1852 at what was later Keysville.

But the real history of mining in Kern county dates from 1853, when a
lump of gold, said to have weighed forty-two ounces, was dug out of the
sands in one of the gulches between Keysville and Kernville. Word of
the find spread rapidly through the camps of Mariposa and throughout the
state, and Kern river took a foremost place among the numerous El Dorados
that attracted the feverish crowds of gold seekers. Running out from the
main bodies of ore farther back in the hills were little stringer veins from
which the free gold washed down with the sands into French gulch. Rich
gulch and all the other gulches and canons leading into Kern river between
Keysville and Kernville. Into these gulches the stream of prospectors poured.
The placers were easy to work, and there was plenty of water. \'ery soon
Kern river was one of the best known camps in the state, although but a
little while before it was wholly unknown save to the few trappers, explorers
and stockmen who had wandered through Walker's Pass and over Greenhorn

In 1854 Richard Keys discovered the Keys mine, and the working of
the quartz ledges began. The road to Kern river, so far as there was a
road, lay through Visalia, and during the year no less than 600 miners
passed the Tulare county capital" on the way to Kern river. In this year


A. T. Lightner, Sr., came to Keysville from San Jose, and his son, A. T.
Lightner, Jr., gives a graphic account of the latter part of the journey, after
all semblance of a wagon road had been left behind. Such wagons as were
brought into the new district followed the gulches or the backbones of the
ridges, the teamsters clearing the way with axes when necessary, some-
times using as many as fourteen horses to haul one wagon up an especially
steep place, and trailing felled trees behind the wagons to assist the brakes
in going down hill.

For the most part, however, the first miners brought their outfits and
supplies by pack animals. Even the first quartz mill machinery was packed
in, and nowhere in the mountains did the fine art of balancing heavy and
bulky loads on mule and burro back reach a higher degree of perfection.
When Lightner hauled, or rather lowered, his first wagon down the mountain
side into Keysville, the route he had by chance selected took him directly
over the Keys mine.

The First Quartz Mill

Lightner brought the first quartz mill to Keysville in 1856, hauling it
from San Francisco, via San Jose and Visalia, by wagon. He set it up by
the banks of Kern river a short distance below Keysville, where the gulch
that ran through the camp met the stream, and built a flume to carry water
to his wheel. Meantime he had engaged in mining, and was the owner of
the Garnishee mine, later known as the Mammoth, which, with the Keys mine,
yielded the best and largest part of the gold produced from quartz in the
district. The Lightner mill crushed rock for the Keys mine, also, and Light-
ner, the younger, although he was a small boy at the time, says he clearly
remembers the old tin bucket in which Richard Keys used to carry his round
balls of bullion back from the mill.

The vein of ore tapped by the Keys and Mammoth was traced for
over two miles, and many lesser mines were opened into it. A legend noted
by Stephen Barton, one of the later pioneers of the upper Kern river country,
says that Richard Keys went back to his old home in 1861 with the laudable
intention of making all his relatives rich, and when he came back he found
his mine caved in and full of water вАФ hopelessly out of commission. Years
later Stavert Brothers ran a drainage tunnel at a level of 350 feet below the
old Keys tunnel, and the rehabilitated mine yielded some $65,000 in gold.

Stephen Barton describes an old Chilean quartz mill he saw in the
Keysville district as consisting of "two large wheels hewn from solid granite,
seven or eight feet in diameter and a foot and a half thick, each weighing
three or four tons," and both in good repair as late as 1888. The wornrout
stamps which had carried wooden stems, and the cast-iron slabs that had
lined a wooden battery box, continues Mr. Barton, were modelled after those
used by Lord Sterling (General Alexander), north of Morristown in the
reduction of iron ore in preparing solid shot for Washington's army.

For years the washing of the sands in the placers went on side by side
with the quartz mining. At first the more fortunate of the placer miners
made as high as $16 to $60 per day and more, but a larger number had to
be content with $5 to $8, and many others panned out much less than this.
Finally, when the white men had gleaned the gulches of their richest treasure,
the Chinamen came, and these little men, content with small wages, shovelled
and washed the sands over and over till they were clean and white to the


bedrock. For the Chinamen, the aftermath of the Kern river placers con-
tained fabulous wealth.

The Town of Keysville
The placers began to lose their charm for the white miner.s abnut 1857,
and at that time the quartz mines of Keysville probably were at their height.
Between the discovery in 1854 and 1857 or '58 the town of Keysville had
no apologies to oflfer to any mining cam]5 in all the length of the Sierra Nevada
mines. The town lay in a little cove where the southern slope of Greenhorn
mountain melts into a flat at the edge of a short, rocky gulch. There were
no streets. Marsh & Kennedy's store, the blacksmith shop and the office
of Gen. J. W. Freeman, then justice of the peace and later district attorney
of Kern county, stood near the center of the little semicircular flat. A little
way up the slope of the hill to the west of the flat were the residences,
grouped informally, as houses may well be where all travel is by foot or

The size of the townsite is well illustrated by a story told by Mr. Lightner.
General Freeman slept in his office, which, as stated, was near the center
of the flat, or "business section," and took his meals with the Lightners,
who lived in the semi-circle of residences on the hillside. That was before
the days of the handy alarm clock, and it was one of the early morning duties
of Mr. Lightner's older brother to step out in the front yard and heave
a small rock down on the roof of the courthouse to waken the slumbering
justice to his breakfast.

But if Keysville was small in the amount of space it covered its gamblers
could pile as many gold pieces on the table as those of many larger places,
and no man"s costume was complete without two Colt's revolvers and a
bowie knife strapped about him. After four or five years when the town
grew older and more conservative, the knife and guns were worn more as an
ornament than otherwise, but up to the time of the Civil war no well dressed
man, after he had shaved and put on his clean shirt on Sunday morning,
forgot to buckle the big, and fully loaded, fire arms about his waist.

William Weldon and J. V. Roberts, among the first settlers in Walker's
basin, supplied the Keysville miners with beef, but the bulk of the other
supplies were brought in from Los Angeles by pack animals. This lasted up
to 1857 or '58, when the pack trains began to be succeeded by ox-team
freighters. In the days of the pack train its arrival in camp or the sight of
it winding over the hills in the distance was the signal for universal rejoicing,
for it nearly always happened that the stocks of provisions were getting low
before the new supplies arrived.

The Keysville Fort
Rumor of an impending attack from the Indians caused the Keysville
miners in 1855 or 1856 to erect the fort which still stands on the point of a
ridge running out to the gulch just below the town. The point of this
ridge is higher than the backbone that joins it to Greenhorn mountain, .so that
a garrison occupying it could look down upon an enemy approaching from
any quarter. The fort, which was buih of brush gathered from the chaparral
and covered with dirt from the hollowed-out center, was shoulder high and
large enough to accommodate 200 persons. As the Indians of those days
were armed only with arrows the fort was considered almost as impregnable
as Gibrahar, arid its location on the gulch leading from the river to the camo


was almost as good from a strategic standpoint. W. R. Bower, afterward
sheriff of the county, and Frank Warren were among the leaders in the
building of the fort, but it proved that their labors were but an excess of
caution, for the Indian war of 1856, exciting enough in Tulare county and
farther north, never reached so far back in the mountains as Keysville. Some
sixty of the Keysville miners were summoned by John W. Williams of
Visalia and William Lynn of Linn's valley to assist the settlers along White
and Tule river in the Tule river war. This war, or so much of it as has
anything to do with Kern county, is dealt with in connection with the gath-
ering up of the Indian tribes from the valley and foothills and their concen-
tration at the Tejon and other reservations.

Meantime the early gold seekers began to search the other hills and
ranges both above and below Keysville. General Freeman and others mined
on Greenhorn mountain in 1855 or a little later. In 1856 Major Erskine had
a stamp mill on what is now the Palmer ranch in the lower end of the Hot
Springs valley, and was crushing ore for many miners thereabout. Later
Major Erskine moved away, but his sons Thomas and M. E., remained, and
Erskine creek was named in their honor."

The Big Blue Mine and Whiskey Flat

One day in 1860, it is related, the mule of "Lovely" Rogers, a Keysville
miner, wandered away and "Lovely," being a true prospector, when he had
picked up the trail and found that it led ofif up the river, tucked his pick
under his arm and followed. Whether he recovered the mule or not, is a
matter to be only presumed. What is more important, he brought back a
piece of rock from the place where the Big Blue mine is now located. That
was the beginning of Kernville, first known as Whiskey Flat.

Rogers' sample assayed well, and he returned to the place where his
wandering mule had led him and began to uncover the ledge. Shortly after
he sold his mine to J. W. Sumner. Sumner moved to the new camp, followed
by many others, among the first being Adam Hamilton, who stood two
barrels of whiskey on end, laid a plank across the top, and began to dispense
the stimulant necessary to the proper development of a new mining camp.
But Hamilton's bar was in too close proximity to the residences of Sumner
and Caldwell, and he was ordered to move his whiskey down on the flat,
a mile below, a circumstance which may or may not have suggested the
name for the new town.

Hamilton opened a store as well as a bar. Kittridge & Company were
among the early merchants in Whiskey Flat, and Lewis Clark was another
of the pioneer saloon keepers. The Sumner mine, also the property of J- W.
Sumner, the Jeiif Davis, the Beauregard, the Nellie Dent, named for the
wife of General Grant by William Ferguson, its owner, the Lady Belle and
the Sarah Jane were among the early Kernville mines, and most of them
were onthe same ledge with the Big Blue and were later consolidated under
that name by Senator John P. Jones, the bonanza king, and E. R. Burke. In
1867 Kern county was considered the most important of the mining counties
in the southern part of the state, and Kernville was the most important
mining town in the county. There were upward of a dozen important quartz
mines, within a length of a couple of miles, and several extensive mills
were in operation. At that time the entire county contained some seventeen
quartz mills, and about 1200 people engaged in mining.

Senator Jones took over the Big Blue mine from Sumner in 1875, and at


once increased the activity of the Kernviile district. lUirixc was the manairer.
and under his direction the most efficient mining; methods of the time were
employed. He imported a large number of Cornish miners, employing about
200 miners all told. The mine was equipped with an 80-stamp mill, and
about 100 tons of ore were taken out and crushed daily.

In 1870 there had been but little doing in Kernviile, and there were
less than a score of people in the town. In 1876 there were six or seven
stores, .four saloons, a brewery, three hotels, a livery stable, and other busi-
ness and private establishments in proportion.

The operations in the Big Blue went on swimmingly until 1879, when the
bottom dropped out of certain of Senator Jones' Nevada mining stocks, and
he ordered the work at Kernviile shut down. Ed Cushman, who had been
book-keeper for Jones, secured a lease on the Big Blue, and worked it for
about a year. Then Jacoby and Michaels leased it, ran a drainage tunnel under
the mine at the river level, and took out a large amount of very profitable
ore. They carried their workings down to the level of their drainage tunnel
and quit.

Founding of Havilah
Long before the glory of Whiskey Flat began to fade, the restless
advance guard of prospectors had passed on and was exploring all the gulches
and hillsides for many miles to the south and east. One of the prospecting
parties about the last week in June or the first week in July, 1864, went down
Kern river and up Clear creek and found the first color of gold at Havilah,
the third famous mining camp of Kern county, and a little later, when the
county was organized out of portions of Tulare and Los Angeles counties,
the first county seat.

It is recorded that Benjamin T. Alitchel, Alexander Reid, George McKay
and Dr. C. De La Borde, the "French Doctor," composed the discovering
party, but to a man by name of Harpinding goes the honor of giving the new
camp its name. Harpinding was one of the few early miners who seem to
have carried Bibles in their kits, or his memory served him well with recol-
lections of his boyhood days in a more pious land, for he turned to the second
chapter of Genesis and found it written in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth
verses that "A river went out of Eden to water the garden ; and from thence
it parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison ; that
is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And
the gold of that land is good ; there is bdellium and the onyx stone."

The first camp of the prospectors was in a gulch just below the spot
where the town was afterward located. A month later the Clear creek
mining district was organized, with Havilah as its focal point, and the latest
diggings rapidly assumed first rank in interest if not in importance among
the county's mining towns.

The first company of prospectors called their mines the Havilah, and
organized the Havilah Mining Company. They were prospectors rather
than miners, however, and soon dissolved their partnership and continued to
search for new leads on their individual accounts. Dr. La Borde and August
Gouglat located some thirty-six claims in the Clear Creek district, among
them being the Dijon Nos. 1 and 2, the Cape Horn, the Alma Nos. 1 and 2,
the Rhone, Eagle, Rochefort, Navarre, Nievre, Lyon and Marengo. A little
later, in October, La Borde and Gouglat sold their claims for $50,000.

The most productive mine in the district was the Delphi, located by


H. McKeadney and known also as the McKeadney mine. The Tyrone and
Lexington also were McKeadney's property. Nicewander (or Nyswander),
Park & Co. were among the early locators.

The first mill in the Clear Creek or Havilah district was brought by
Joseph H. Thomas, from the Coso district, where it had been operated by
the Willow Springs Mining and Milling Company, and the first rock crushed
was from the Dijon mine. It yielded $37 per ton. In January, 1865, Gen.
J. W. Freeman moved his 4-stamp mill to Havilah from his mine on Green-
horn mountain. The first rock he put through the mill was from the mines
of Nicewander, Park & Co., and out of twenty-seven tons of ore $5000 in
gold was saved directly from the battery. The same week rock from the
Rochefort ledge yielded $230 per ton. and a run of Delphi ore netted $180
per ton.

These fabulous returns, considering the crude facilities at hand for
extracting the gold, served to fan the interest in the Havilah mines to a fever
heat, and the little gulch was soon resounding by day to the sound of blasting
powder and stamp mills, and by night to the golden clink of coin on the
gambling tables. According to the graphic account of a woman whose home
in those days stood on the hillside just below one of the gambling resorts,
the sound was as though someone were continually pouring twenty-dollar
gold pieces out of a tin pan. By day the interest in the gambling tables
was only a little less absorbing. A man who had occasion to search the
county records some years later said he always had to wait till a poker game
was finished before he could drag an unwilling official away long enough to
unlock the archives and give him access to the few and fragmentary docu-
ments on file.

The Relief mine, or the Rand, as it was also known, was the property
of Col. Arnold A. Rand, who bought out the locations of Nicewander, Park
& Co. The prospectors generally were succeeded by men of larger capital
who began the development of the mines, and when the county was organized
in 1866 there was no settlement in all the territory embraced that could
put forward a rival claim against Havilah for the county seat.

A writer in 1867 states that there were at that time thirty stamp mills
in Kern and Tulare counties, twenty-five of them being in Kern county and a
majority of the latter number being in the Clear Creek district. Throughout
this district were found many veins of ore ranging from two to six feet in
thickness, and most of them were worked with marked success. Speaking
generally of the quartz mines of the county, the same writer says that above
the line of permanent water the ores carried mostly free gold and the early
miners extracted it readily. When they reached the sulphureted ores, how-
ever, so much difficulty was experienced that in 1865 and 1867 not more
than one-quarter of the mills were in operation, and the production of
bullion had decreased proportionately.

Other Mining Districts

So early as 1861 prospectors had drifted over the hills fifty miles south-
east of Havilah and twenty miles from Walker's pass and opened the Milligan
mine in El Poso district. They had sunk a shaft to the depth of 175 feet
and penetrated a ledge that yielded from $57 to $150 per ton.

In 1868, according to the Havilah Courier, the Sageland district was
attracting so much attention as to make things a little dull at Kernville. The
Sageland district is on the eastern slope of Piute mountain, skirting the desert


and is filled with broken ranges of dry, cactus-covered hills. The St. John,
Hortensia, Burning Moscow and other quartz mines scattered through these
hills yielded good quantities and qualities of ore, and justified, in the belief
of the discoverers of the district, the pleasing name of the New Eldorado.
Tom Bridger was one of the pioneers of the Sageland district.

In the early sixties, also, Henry and Deitrich Bahten were exploring
the free gold ledges and placers on Piute mountain. The old Piute and
Big Indian mines were among the best known producers in this district.
Robert Palmer and Wade Hampton Williams discovered some very rich
placers on Piute, and the thriving camp of Claraville was the result.

Some years later, about 1876, the Bull Run silver mine, located on Bull
run about five miles above Kernville, was credited by contemporary writers
with being one of the richest silver mines in the world.

In October, 1870, a Kernville letter to the Kern County Courier stated
that forty men were employed about the Kernville mines, mostly working on
shares and doing well. Three men in one month cleaned up $500. Ore
from the Big Blue was paying about $25 per ton.

About the same time it was reported that Burdett and Tucker had struck
a new lead in the Long Tom mine, the scene later of one of the memorable
tragedies in Kern county history.

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 5 of 177)