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 53 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 53 of 177)
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Bank of Maricopa, the First National Bank of Taft has increased its own
strength and enlarged its sphere of useful service. Clinton E. Worden has
been the capable and successful president from the first. The vice-]3residents
are \^^ E. Benz and L. P. Guiberson and in the sketch of the latter will be
found additional facts concerning this bank, of whose remarkaljle growth he
is justly proud. The cashier is C. L. Shirk, and the assistant cashier, J. M.
Williams. While the officials serve as directors, they are reinforced by other
stockholders, namely: j. J. Wilt, Cyrus Bell, E. D. Gillette, E. M. Brown
and J. S. Henton.

JONATHAN ELMER GRAY.— The president and general manager of
the J. E. Gray Oil Company iias the distinction of being the oldest living oil
operator in the Kern river field, where aside from his company interests he
is the owner individually of two hundred and fifty-five acres under lease
south of the Kern river, including ninety-five acres of the original quarter
section known as the Thomas A. Means land, the original site of oil dis-
covery in this district and county. For the period since 1899 a record of his
life would be in man)' respects a history of the oil industry and development
in these fields, now well known throughout the whole world. While yet
the numlDer of the wells here could be counted on the fingers of one hand lie
explored the entire district and made a map marking the sections which in
l;is judgment were oil producing. It is a singular fact and testifies highly
to his experience and judgment that this map, made in 1899, is absolutely
accurate at the present time, for in every spot indicated a well was drilled
with excellent results.

From his earliest recollections Mr. Gray has been familiar with the oil
industry. His father, James Gray, a pioneer oil man of Venango county, Pa.,
was one of the first to embark in the oil business on Oil creek, that county.
' Later he became a prosperous contractor and finally retired fmm active
cares to spend his last days in ease, dying in March of 1911 at the age of
eighty-four years. About the time of his demise occurred that of his wife,
March 8, 1911, at the age of seventy-six. They were the parents of nine
children, namely: Mary, Margaret Catherine, Nancy Jane, John \\'esley,
Jonathan Elmer, Samuel A., Martha Ellen, .\rra F. and Ramsey E., the
last-named being now engaged as a driller for the Kern Trading and Oil
Company at Coalinga, Cal. Three sons, J. \\'., S. A. and R. E., and a nephew,
G. W. Gray, are connected with our subject in oil operations in the Kern
river fields. Jonathan E. Gray was born near East Brady, Clarion county.
Pa., June 4. 1862, and attended school for a few years in childhood, but as
soon as old enough he began to assist his father in contract work. Often,
after a day of hard work, he would spend the evenings far into the night
over his books and would also practice writing from copy. In that way he
laid the foundation of a common-school education. .At the age of fifteen he
began to work for wages and the following year he assisted in drilling



454 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

wells at Duke Center, McKean county, Pa., later working in Warren
county. By the time he had reached the age of nineteen years he was
recognized as a professional driller. During the Balltown excitement he
went to Forest county. Pa., and thence moved on to Butler county at the
time of the Thorn creek excitement. Next he worked near Iron Bridge,
Monroe county, Ohio, and thence proceeded to Sistersville and Nannington.
W. Va., later going to Indiana, where he drilled near Reservoir. His ser-
vices as a driller were next called into requisition at Robinson, 111., and later
he was employed in Kansas and Oklahoma. x\n idea of the extent of his op-
erations may be gained from the fact that he drilled for water in New
York City and Omaha and for oil, not only in the places before mentioned,
but also in Wyoming, the Dakotas and Nevada.

Arriving in Los Angeles June 17, 1897, Mr. Gray began to drill for oil in
the Los, Angeles oil field and acquired some oil interests at Newhall, that
county. For a short time he drilled at Coalinga and in the Parkfield district,
Monterey county. When news reached him concerning the discovery of oil
in the Kern river field he came at once to Bakersfield and formed the
acquaintance of Judd F. Elwood, who held an oil lease with Thomas A.
Means. With Mr. Elwood he inspected the entire district and then began to
drill on the central point lease on section 4, where, as soon as they had
drilled into the oil sand, they were offered $43,000 for their interests. In
order to secure money for future development work they accepted the offer.
At that time there were only three wells in the entire field and Mr. Gray
mapped out the land, indicating the location of wells with a remarkable
accuracy, as shown by the map, now in the possession of Mr. Elwood.

Investing in such companies as he believed would prove profitable, by
the end of a year Mr. Gray was worth $75,000 and subsequent invest-
ment has increased his fortune. On the west side he drilled several wells
by contract. For the J. E. Gray Oil Company he has drilled twenty-six
wells and on his individual lease seventeen wells, the former producing
four thousand barrels per month and the latter one thousand bar-
rels per month. By means of a lease he secured control of ninety-
five acres of the Thomas A. Means quarter-section, the original place
of oil discovery, and he also acquired the Thomas A. Joy lease of one hundred
and twenty acres and forty acres in the South Kern lease. In October, 1912,
he became interested in the American L'nion Oil and Refinery Company, a
corporation capitalized at $25,000, which bids fair to become a very im-
portant industry in Tulare, where the refinery is located. Mr. Gray is now
a large stockholder, president and general manager of the company. The
refinery went into operation May 1, 1913. The plant is equipped with the
Trumbull system and has a capacity of one thousand barrels of crude oil
every twenty-four hours. The products manufactured are gasoline, kerosene,
cylinder oil, engine oil, distillate, fuel oil, road oil and asphaltum. In his
judgment as to oil wells and the entire industry Mr. Gray has few superiors
and he is often sought for advice by those whose experience has been of
briefer duration or less successful than his own. With his time and attention
given closely to the industry he has not had leisure for participation in so-
cial or fraternal organizations, although he has identified himself with the
Union League Club in San Francisco and when in that city usually avails
himself of the advantages offered by the club. In politics he voted the
Republican ticket for years, but his principles lead him to support reforms
and he has allied himself with the progressive element of the old party
organization.

HARVEY A. VAN NORMAN.— Although a native of Victoria, Tex.,
born October 5, 1878, Mr. Van Norman has lived in Southern California
from his earliest recollections and his only lengthy period of absence from



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 457

the state occurred during his service in the Philippines. The family of which
he is a member has ever been loyal to country and brave in battle. During
the Mexican war his grandfather, J. M . Van Xorman, who was a native of
Pennsylvania and a planter in Tennessee, enlisted in the service and went to
the southwest to fight for his country. Travel showed him the greatness of
the undeveloped prairies of Texas and on the expiration of his time he sold
out his Tennessee property, removed to Texas, took up land and embarked
in the cattle business, which industry likewise engaged the attention of his
son, J. AL, Jr., a native of Tennessee and a soldier in a Texas cavalry regi-
ment during the Civil war. The latter in 1881 brought his family to Cali-
fornia and settled on a farm near Santa Ana, but now lives retired at San
Gabriel. In Texas he married Martha M. Halsel, a native of that state and
the daughter of a Scotchman, who had served in the Mexican war.

The fifth in a family of nine children, Harvey A. Van Norman was
three years of age when the family removed from Texas to California. When
the Spanish-American war broke out he had completed a course in the Los
Angeles high school. During May of 1898 he enlisted in the Third United
States .\rtillery and was sent to the Philippines on the transport Ohio, which
landed there in July of the same year. In a short time he rose to the rank
of first dut}- sergeant. Besides the battle of Manila he participated in
twenty-seven engagements with the insurgents. By a special order he was
mustered out and honorably discharged in September, 1899, after which
he returned to California. Since then he has been identified with engineering
and electrical work. During 1901 he was made engineer in charge of the
Pasadena plant of the Los Angeles Railway Company. Transferred to the
electrical construction department as assistant to electricians in 1903, he soon
rose to be superintendent of the electrical department of the railroad. In
19C6 he became superintendent of construction for the Los Angeles Gas and
Electric Company, l)ut the following year he resigned the place in order to
engage with the Los Angeles aqueduct as electrical constructor. Upon the
completion of the hydro-electric stations in the Owens valley he was placed
in charge of the construction of the Owens valley division of the aqueduct.
On finishing that task, he was transferred to Mojave as division engineer in
charge of construction work there. When the entire aqueduct had been
completed he was placed in charge of the maintenance and operation of the
entire aqueduct, and as such superintends the system whose magnitude and
splendid engineering feats have attracted the admiration of the greatest
engineers in the world. Mr. Van Norman married Miss Bessie C. Ross, a na-
tive of Chicago, and they make their home in Los Angel-es. For some years
he has been prominently connected with the National Association of Station-
arv Engineers. ]'>aternallv he was made a Mason in South Gate Lodge No.
,m F.' & A. M.

CHARLES H. QUINCY.— The Quincy genealogy is traced to Revolu-
tionary stock and back of that to the historic Mayflower. The family name
is connected with the early records of various portions of New England,
but particularly with the western part of Maine near the New Hampshire
line. Several bore an honored part in the Civil war and among them was
one who served as captain of a company in a Maine regiment. .\ brother
of the captain, likewise a Civil war hero. Nathaniel Haley by name, was
born and reared in Cumljerland county. Me., and there engaged in the
manufacture of luml)er and the tilling of the soil for many years, but event-
ually removed to Massachusetts and there passed away March 22, 1911,
at the age of eighty-three years. When the Civil war began he offered
his services to the Union and was accepted as a private in a Maine regi-
ment. I'non the expiration of his term of ser\-ice he re-enlisted in another
regiment from !Maine and remained at the front until the end of the Rebel-



458 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

Hon. ^Meanwhile he had married Miss Martha Freeman, who was born
in Maine and died there. The I'Veeman famil_v traces its lineage to the
earliest settlers of New England.

The family of Nathaniel Hale_v Quincy comprised four children and
three of these are still living, one, Horace, being now superintendent of
the Boston Mutual Life Insurance Company. The eldest of the family,
Charles H. Quincy, was born at Bridgton, Cumberland county, Me., March
27, 1855, and passed all of his early life in the western part of Maine in
Cumberland and Oxford counties. Ambitious in temperament, he worked
his way through the Bridgton high school and prepared for Bowdoin Col-
lege. In order to secure the means necessary for a complete college course
he taught school for about four years, but meanwhile other interests claimed
his attention and he relinquished all hopes of further study. Instead, he
earned a livelihood as head clerk in a mercantile establishment in Maine.
After a time the confinement caused a failure in his health and hoping to be
benefited by a change of climate he came to the west.

Arriving in Los Angeles, January 29, 1888, Mr. Quincy remained only
a few days, coming to Bakersfield February 2. Here he was employed
with the Kern County Land Company as a carpenter for six months and
then entered the employ of A. J. McLeod and for eighteen months worked
at carpentering, while Mr. McLeod devoted his entire attention to the lum-
ber business. At the expiration of that time he began to take contracts
for residences and business houses, building among others the Tevis resi-
dence and the Methodist Episcopal Church South and completing the old
O. D. Fish building. As prospects were most encouraging from a business
standpoint he was stricken with typhoid fever and it was more than a
year before he was able to resume work. His next enterprise was trading
for a plumbing establishment. The business soon became large in that
line in the oil fields. With restored health, he took up building operations
again. Since then his career has been remarkably successful. During 1Q05
he sold his plumbing business and removed to Los Angeles, where he now
resides at No. 822 West Thirty-sixth Place. The corner of I and Twen-
tieth streets, Bakersfield. where for years he had his plumbing business,
he improved in 1911 with the Quincy building, a substantial three-story
brick structure that is an ornament to the city and source of gratifying
annual income to the owner. During 1909 he built the Fabian hotel on
Humboldt street near Baker avenue. East Bakersfield, which he still owns,
and in addition he- owns the Hunter & Wilson building, also of brick, in
East Bakersfield, as well as other valuable property both in Bakersfield and
Los Angeles, where he continues the building and real estate business upon
an extensive scale. Of late his attention has been given principally to the
real estate business, having offices in the Hollingsworth building, Los
Angeles.

P'raternally A-Ir. Quincy is a Mason, having been initiated in the order
in Pythagorean Lodge No. 11, A. F. & A. M., at Fryeburg, Oxford county.
Me. In politics he supports Democratic principles. While living in Maine
he married, at Fryeburg, Miss Myra E. Harnden, a native of Denmark, that
state, and a descendant of an old New England family. Well educated in
the schools of Maine, she is a woman of culture and refinement. In relig-
ious connections she holds membership with the Congregational Church.
There are two daughters and a son in the family, the eldest being Mildred,
wife of Charles T. Metcalf, of Bakersfield. Ralph is a cornice maker in Los
Angeles, and Ethel resides with her parents in that city.

JOHN RIPLEY. — Familiarity with frontier conditions from earliest recol-
lections developed in Mr. Ripley self-reliance, patient endurance of hardships



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 459

and an ability to overcome obstacles by sheer force of character. The farm
where he lived in boyhi^iod was situated near Sun Prairie in the town of
Bristol, Dane county, Wis., and was at no great distance from Madison,
where now the art of landscape gardeners and the wealth of a community
has transformed a frontier environment into a region of great beauty. The
first member uf the family to settle in Wisconsin was his father, William
Henry Ripley, a native of New York state and for years a farmer of Dane
county, but from 1868 until his death a resident of Vernon county, AIo. By
his marriage to Alcena Davis, who died in 1849, he had four children and
three of these are still living. One son, Horace, who served for three years
in the Seventh Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil war, is now a resident
of Vernon county, Mo. Another son, Lewis, who served in the Seventeenth
Wisconsin Infantry, is now living at Mitchell, Iowa. The voungest of the
sons, John, who was born at the old homestead near Sun Prairie, Wis..
May 22, 1847. and was only two years of age at the time of his mother's
death, left school at the age of seventeen, in August, 1864, in order to enlist
in the Union army. Accepted as a private and assigned to Battery F, First
Illinois Light Artillery, he served under General Thomas in the battle of
Nashville. During November of 1864 he was transferred to Battery I,
mounted, in the same Artillery as before. With this regiment he continued
until June, 1865, when he was honorably discharged at Eastport, Miss., re-
turning thence to his school studies in Wisconsin for one term. He then
went to work at farming in Wisconsin, spending his winters in the lumber
woods and one winter (1866-67) trapping in Minnesota. In 1868 he located
in Alissouri, where he bought a tract of wild land in Vernon county, secured
three yoke of oxen and with their aid broke the first furrows ever turned in
that soil. For some years he engaged in raising corn and wheat on the Mis-
souri farm. Seeking a new location in 1880, he left Vernon county. Mo.,
and went to Glorieta, Santa Fe county, N. M., where he contracted to haul
ties and piling for the Santa Fe Railroad. After eighteen months in that
vvork he went to Silverton, Colo., where he engaged in freighting and haul-
ing ore. The year 1883 found him in South Dakota, where he bought a farm
near Menno, Hutchinson county. The soil was well adapted to wheat and
of this crop he made a specialty, but also raised flax and corn. I'inally he
sold the farm and came to California, settling at Caliente in 1891, and taking
a contract to get out wood. It was his intention to complete the contract and
then seek a diliferent location, but at the expiration of four months he was
induced to begin freighting. W'ith a six-horse outfit he hauled to the mines
in the Amelia. Piute, Havilah and Bodfish districts. Soon he purchased
another outfit and used two eight-horse teams in freighting. Aleanwhile he
had started a liver}' stable, feed yard and corral. The need of such an enter-
prise was such that he soon used four barns for his vehicles and horses. In
addition he built a blacksmith shop and gave steady work to four skilled
blacksmiths. The great fire of June, 1909, which almost wholly destroyed
the business portion of Caliente, wiped out his barns and shop and destroyed
his wagons and outfits. For that reason he discontinued freighting and built
the Ripley Mouse, the largest hotel in Caliente, a building with a frontage of
one hundred and eight feet and containing the postofiice and public tele|)hone
station. This hotel he sold in January, 1913, since which he has Ijeen retired
from business.

Appointed postmaster at Caliente in 1898 and re-appointed every four
years, Mr. Ripley discharged his duties faithfully and well through a long
period of service. In January, 1913. he resigned the office and in June of the
same year, upon the appointment of his successor, he relinquished the duties
of the place. Through all of his life he has been a stanch Republican. For
two terms he served as constable at Caliente. He was made a Mason in



460 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

Tehachapi Lodge No. 313, F. & A. M., and is also connected with Hurlburt
Post, G. A. R. While living in Vernon county, Mo., he married Miss Clara
M. Albright, a native of New York state and a woman of gentle disposition,
energetic temperament, large charity and kindly spirit. Cheerfully she aided
Mr. Ripley in his enterprises. With unfailing optimism she encouraged him
to surmount every obstacle and meet every discouragement. At her death
in March, 1913, many testimonials were given concerning her womanly at-
tributes and her devotion to family and friends. Surviving her are five chil-
dren, namely : Mrs. Hattie Colton, of Bakersfield ; Ella, wife of Warren
Rankin, of South Fork; Mrs. Maude A. Walton, of Bakersfield; Edward,
who is living in Oregon; and Clayton, now engaged as cattle superintendent
on a large ranch in the South Fork country.

THOMAS A. BAKER. — Not alone through the interesting fact that he
is the son of Col. Thomas Baker, founder of Bakersfield, but also by reason
of his own intimate identification with public affairs and his own successful
incumbency of important positions, Thomas Alverson Baker worthily has a
permanent place in the list of progressive men of Kern county. At this
writing he fills the office of sheriff, a post for which he is well qualified by
reason of his fearless nature, inflexible determination to enforce law and
order, and wide acquaintance with the country and its people. The office of
sheriff has developed of recent years along with every other department of
public work in the county.

From Visalia. Tulare county, Cal., where he was born July 22, 1859,
Thomas Alverson Baker came to the present site of Bakersfield in 1863 with
other members of the family. Although so young at the time, he vividly
recalls incidents connected with the journey and has not forgotten the ap-
pearance of the now flourishing city as their wagon and teams were halted
at the destination. His father being a believer in educational advantages
sent him to the public schools and also to Washington College at Irvington,
from which he was graduated in 1880 as valedictorian of the class. The
salutatorian of the class, Maurice Powers, became a prominent attorney of
Visalia and for years served as district attorney of Tulare county.

Immediatel)' after completing the college course Mr. Baker returned to
Bakersfield, where he has since resided with the exception of a brief sojourn
at Globe, Ariz., during the copper excitement at that place. Besides being
employed as a clerk he served as assistant postmaster and had entire
charge of the postoffice for one year. An experience as bookkeeper for the
Kern River flouring mills qualified him for successful work as an account-
ant. Prior to 1882 the offices of sheriff and tax collector had been combined,
but they were then separated and a well-known citizen was elected tax col-
lector at a salary of $1,000 per annum. The pay was far too small for the
work involved and the gentleman elected refused to qualify. Thereupon the
supervisors cast about for a man who would be willing to take the office at
the small salary, furnish a bond of $100,000 and do the heavy work promptly
and efficiently. Taxes were due. It was necessary to act with dispatch. An
appeal was made to Mr. Baker, who acceded to their wishes and entered upon
the duties of the office. At the expiration of two years he was regularly
elected to the position. Next it was annexed to the county treasurer's office
and he was elected to both positions, which necessitated the furnishing of
bonds of $222,000. For three terms of two years he held the two offices, his
work proving satisfactory to all concerned. Induced by his friends, he be-
came a candidate for sheriff in 1894, but was defeated by forty-two votes.
During 1896 he was elected the first city marshal of Bakersfield upon its
incorporation. At the expiration of the term of two years he refused to be-
come a candidate for re-election. From January of 1899 until January of
1903 he served variously as deputy county assessor, deputy tax collector and



HISTORY OF KERX COUNTY 463

deputy county auditor, and in V)02. when J. W. Kell.\' was elected sheriff,
he chose .Mr. i'.aker as under sheriff", a ]K)sition that he filled with con-
spicuous success for eight years, resigning only to enter upon the duties of
sheriff. In the fall of 1910 he was nominated for sheriff on the Democratic
ticket. In the primary he won by seven votes and at the regular election
he had a maj( rity of five hundred and eighty-three. During January of 1011
he took the oath of office for a term



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 53 of 177)