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 68 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 68 of 177)
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However, the severe drought of 1877 completely changed conditions and
wiped out all of their profits, so that their flock of four thousand was re-
duced to a scant four hundred. With undaunted courage the brothers began
anew. Fortunately they were not again called upon to sustain such a loss
or endure such a drought. When they disposed of their flocks about 1887
they did so at a fair profit. About that time they bought three hundred and
twenty acres adjoining Bakersfield. This tract they devoted to general farm
products and to fruit, particularly to peaches. Eventually the property was
sold and a portion subdivided as the Lowell addition to Bakersfield, but
Alexis F., having a fondness for the place, bought back twenty acres and
planted it to fruit. He continued to superintend the acreage and care for
the trees until 1910, when he disposed of the entire tract with the exception
of the corner occupied by his residence. In addition he owns six houses
in the Lowell addition, as well as other property in the city, and these \-arious
places he oversees personalh-. With that exception he has retired fr(im all
business activities, nor does he take an}- part in fraternal organizatic ns. nor
in politics aside from the casting of a Republican ballot at all national
elections.

It was the good fortune of Mr. Lowell h< have the cheerful cc i-()i)cratiiin



620 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

and capable assistance of an appreciated helpmate. Mrs. Luella (Rogers)
Lowell was born in Vanderburg county, Ind., and was next to the youngest
among five children, all of whom attained maturity. Her parents, Samuel
Curtis and Marilla J. (Sirkle) Rogers, were natives respectively of New
Hampshire and Indiana. Early in life Mr. Rogers became a resident of
Indiana and took up a raw tract of land, which he developed into a pro-
ductive farm. During the summer of 1852 he crossed the plains to Cali-
fornia and engaged in mining, but without any gratifying returns. Deter-
mining to resume his profession of teacher, he went to Santa Clara county,
where he opened and founded the first public school in the county. About
three years later he went back to Indiana and resumed farm pursuits. How-
ever, the lure of the west had sent its call to his soul and in 1867 conditions
were such that he decided to remove his family to Arizona. The trip was
made with wagon and ox-teams and he settled in Prescott, where he found
employment as a teacher, in addition to which he engaged in general farm-
ing, and while living there he also served as internal revenue collector at
Prescott. After the death of his wife, which occurred in Arizona, he came
to California and spent his last days in the home of his daughter, INIrs. Lowell.
Here he passed away in 1909. Another bereavement came to Mrs. Lowell
in 1910, when the second son of the family, Raymond Lowell, was called from
the home by death. There still survive two sons, William Curtis and Alexis,
who are the pride of their parents and in whose welfare they maintain the
deepest concern.

THOMAS H. SMITH.— For fifty years Mr. Smith has been an active
factor in the agricultural upbuilding of the remote but rich valley where he
owns valuable holdings in land and stock and where, in the calm fruition of
a life worthily spent, he is passing the twilight of a useful existence beneath
his own vine and fig tree and surrounded by evidences of his thrifty manage-
ment. It is said that his was the second family to locate in this valley and
certain it is that none surpasses him in point of long and intimate association
with the locality. A typical pioneer in temperament, he was well qualified for
the hardships of the frontier and the loneliness of an isolated cattle ranch.
As he pursued the even tenor of his way, adding to his acreage and increasing
his herds, he did not neglect his duties as a citizen, but gave liberally to com-
munity movements and especially interested himself in the starting of schools,
for he was solicitous that the young people of the community should receive
excellent educations. Known and honored for miles in every direction frorn
his homestead, he is recognized as a pioneer who aided in the local upbuilding
and who achieved success in local enterprises. His own individual success
proves the possibilities of the valley and laid the foundation of the extensive
stock business continued satisfactorily by his son, Thomas S., represented
elsewhere in this volume.

Descended from an ancient Anglo-Saxon family, Thomas H. Smith was
born in Bristol, England, in 1824, and from early life followed the sea. In the
course of several voyages he saw much of the world and visited many im-
portant ports, but he finally decided to locate permanently in the United States.
For his wife he chose Miss Sophia M. Whittock, who was born at Salem,
Washingtc n county, Ohio, in 1829, being the granddaughter (on the maternal
side) of Major Stanley, an illustrious officer in the war of 1812. The young
couple were married at Salem and remained there for some time, but in 185.3
Mr. Smith, leaving his wife in Ohio, came to California via Panama. Three
years later Mrs. Smith came via the same route and joined him at Oakland,
where he had engaged in clerking. During 1859 the family removed from
Oakland to Tulare county and Mr. Smith took up land near V'isalia, where
he embarked in ranching. In 1862 he crossed the line into Kern county and
located a claim on the South Fork of the Kern river, where the following year



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 623

he was joined by his family. As time passed his fields grew larger, his tracts
more widely extended and his herd of cattle more important, so that the brand
13 then, as now, became known far and near. It became apparent to him at an
early period of his identification with the valley that he must take steps to
secure irrigation facilities. Accordingly he took out what is now the oldest
ditch at the head of the river, thus bringing under irrigation s. Batz and is living in
r>akersfield. The other, Henrietta, Mrs. J. H. Powers, died in the South l'"(irk
district. The only son, Thomas S., is represented elsewhere.

EDWARD D. GILLETTE.— As an active, benign personality combining
successful Inisiness achievement with the highest social, moral and political
ideals, .Mr. (Hllette stands out prominently among the production men in
the Midway oil field and particularly on 25 Hill. Since April of 1909 he
has been the efficient superintendent of the T. W. Oil Company, whose
holding on section 25, township 32, range 23, now shows five producing wells
with a monthly jiroduction of twenty thousand barrels. In addition he has
been appointed sujjerintendent of the W. T, M. Oil Company, also on
2^. 32, 23, with six producing wells that average a monthly production of
twenty thousand barrels; and the Carbo-Petroleum Oil Company, on
2f)-32-23. with ele\en producing wells and a monthly production of twelve
thousand barrels. The two other organizations of which he is superin-
tendent (the Los Posos Oil Company and the San Francisco Midway Oil
Company) have no producing wells at present and are now idle, while the
Los Angeles Midway Oil Company, on 6-31-23, which he owns, also has
proved to be unproductive. In the management of the producing companies
there is, however, sufficient responsibility to engross the time of even so
energetic and forceful a superintendent as Mr. Gillette. Withal he has
found leisure to identify himself with influences uplifting to the community.

Not only is Mr. Gillette a native son, but his parents, James (). and
Augusta E. (Murley) Gillette, likewise are natives of the state, the latter
born and reared in Alameda county. The paternal grandfather, James (!i!-
l6tte, the first civil engineer in Humboldt county, this state, started on a
surveying expedition in 1849, and in order to take advantage of a short
cut to his destination he left the other members of the party. When he
failed to put in an appearance a search was made and his body was found
where he had been shot by Indians. For many years James O. Gillette has
engaged in ranching in Monterey county and there Edward D. was born
July 29, 1877. There were three .sons in the family. The eldest, Robert L.,
a skilled machinist, learned the trade with the Union iron works in San
I-"rancisco and helped to build the great battleship, Oregon. W'hile still a
young man he died of appendicitis. The second son, Nathaniel, who studied
assaying and became a practical miner, now owns the Gold Hill, a placer
claim near the home ranch in Monterey county. The third son, Edward D.,
was five years of age when the family removed to Santa Cruz, the father
carrying on a lumber business in that city. After two years a return was
made to Monterev county and to the old homestead in the Chelam valley.



624 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

where the lad was sent to the grammar school until he had completed the
course. He had no higher educational advantages. Through wide general
reading he has become well informed. When only sixteen years of age he
began to operate a threshing machine and he continued at the work for
three years, meanwhile threshing thousands of bushels of wheat. When
nineteen he went to the Santa Margarita oil fields in San Luis Obispo
county and there secured employment in hewing out timber for oil der-
ricks and rigs. Next he worked as a roustabout, then as tool-dresser and
rig-builder. After some experience as tool-dresser with the San Luis Obispo
Oil Company he was transferred back to Parkfield, Monterey county.
Eleven holes were drilled there, but no oil was found, nor was he much
more fortunate at San Pablo, where he drilled three holes and found two
dry and one with only ten barrels.

Left penniless by these disastrous experiences, the young man drilled
a water well for the Santa Fe Railroad Company at Point Richmond and
in that way earned money enough to pay his expenses to the Kern river
field. Arriving here, he went to work for the Associated Oil Company and
became superintendent on the Green and Whittier division of that concern.
When he resigned his position, July 1, 1908, at the expiration of five years
of continuous service, he had thoroughly learned the production part of the
oil industry. In the Sunset field he spent one year with the Sunset Road
Oil Company and when that concern became the property of the Union
Oil Company he remained about ninety days with the new crew, in order
that the Union employes might become acquainted with the location and
outputs of the wells. During that period, in addition to his responsibilities
on the field, he owned the hospital at Maricopa. On leaving the Sunset
he was offered the superintendency of the T. W. Oil Company, which he
accepted and has since filled. At the time of his first association with the
lease well No. 1 had been condemned as hazardous and unprofitable. After
drilling twenty-nine days he secured an average of four hundred barrels and
there is now a daily average of two hundred and fifty barrels. The well
was the first profitable venture of the kind on the south side of 25 Hill,
where John Conley had first discovered oil and where the Sunset Coast Oil
Company had brought in the first well. The pioneers of the hill were
Messrs. Barlow and Hill, of Bakersfield.

Fraternally Mr. Gillette belongs to Bakersfield Camp No. 266, B. P. O. E.
For some years he has been a director in the First National Bank of Taft.
His first marriage took place in 1906 and united him vvith Miss Helen D.
Campbell, of San Francisco, who died in 1907 when her child, Isabelle
Helen, was only thirty days old. In 1910 Mr. Gillette was united with
Mrs. Constance H. Wilson, widow of Dr. W. C. Wilson, of South Africa,
and a daughter of William Harshaw, of Toronto, Canada. The attractive
residence of Mr. Gillette on the W. T. & M. lease affords a decided im-
provement on the primitive conditions in the oil fields, when canvas tents
served as houses. Often Mr. Gillette mentions the fact that the first
night on his present lease he spent in a rude shack built on posts over a
rough board floor, under which, the first sight to greet his eyes as he awak-
ened in the morning, he saw three rattlesnakes ready for action. No local
movement is of deeper interest to him than the growth of the Petroleum
Club, which owes its organization in part to his energy and enthusiasm.
In addition to his prominent work in the Petroleum Club and in other local
enterprises, Mr. Gillette has been a booster for good roads and maintains a
warm interest in the "Three Hours to the Coast" movement, for no one
realizes more than he the value to the oil fields (and to all of Kern county
as well) of a first-class highway leading to the ocean.

HARRY F. MURDOCK.— The citv clerk of Bakersfield traces his lin-



HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY 625

eage to the Old Dominion and bears the name of his paternal grandfather,
a Virginian of fine family and irreproachable character, who removed to
Illinois when migration was at its Hood tide and settled at Vandalia, Fay-
ette county. Having acquired skill in the carpenter's trade during youth,
he gave attention to that occupation and for years made a specialty of
building contracts. Such work occupied his attention in Vandalia until the
infirmities of advancing years prevented manual labor. His death occurred
in Illinois in 1910. Under his wise supervision a son, E. E., born in Bond
county, 111., had been trained to a thorough knowledge of carpentering and
had entered upon contracting and building, these activities filling the entire
period of his business career. At this writing he makes his home in
Omaha, Neb., and though no longer active, he retains full possession of
mental and physical faculties and keeps abreast with current affairs of city
and nation. His wife, who like himself claims Bond county, 111., as her
native home, bore the maiden name of Emma Gill and was a daughter of
James Gill, a Virginian by birth and ancestry. Subsequent to his removal
from the Old Dominion Mr. Gill followed the occupation of a stage-driver
on the plank road between St. Louis and Vandalia.

The family of E. E. and Emma Murdock comprised three sons and one
daughter, all still living, the eldest being- Harry F., who was born in Bond
county. 111., September 22, 1871, and received excellent advantages in the
grammar and high schools of Greenville, that county. After he had com-
pleted the high-school course he spent three years in Greenville College and
then gave up educational interests in order to earn his own way in the
world. Going to St. Louis he entered the office of the "Big Four" Railroad
and held clerkships in different departments, but at the outbreak of the
Spanish-American war resigned the position in order to enlist in the service.
His name was placed upon the muster rolls of Battery L, First United
States Artillery, in Indianapolis, Ind., and soon he was appointed to special
duty in the paymaster's department, serving at Pensacola, Fla., until he
received an honorable discharge by reason of the adjutant-general's orders.

Immediately after his return from the south Mr. Alurdock came to
California during the autumn of 1898 and entered the Southern Pacific Rail-
road offices at San Francisco. The following year he came to Kern as
a clerk in the superintendent's office of the operating department with the
Southern Pacific Railroad and in a short time was promoted to be pay-
master, which position he filled for some years. During July of 1910 he
retired from the railroad service. Meanwhile in 1908 he had been elected
town clerk of Kern. Upon the consolidation of Kern and ^Bakersfield July
19, 1910, he was elected city clerk of the new consolidated city. At the
regular election in April, 1911, he was chosen to serve as city clerk for a
term of four years and he has devoted his time and attention to official
duties, having his office in the Producers Bank building. Realizing the need
of securing a new and adequate supply of water for Kern, or East Bakers-
field, the old Sumner Water Company having failed to keep pace with
the growth and to supply the needs of the place, he began individually in
1911 to lay plans to interest people of that section in a new company to
take over the old franchise and put in a new water plant and system. He
secured an option on the plant for S. W. Wible and organized the Bakers-
field Water Company, of which he became secretary and treasurer and one
of the largest stockholders. This company sunk five wells and put in three
pumping plants and a modern system at present sufficient for a period of
twenty years. Since the plant's completion he has resigned his official
position and management of the company in order to devote his time to
other improvements which he is fostering, which are of general interest
in the welfare of the community. It should be stated that tlie comple-



626 HISTORY OF KERN COUNTY

tion of the new water system for East Bakersfield has established renewed
confidence in that section as shown in the activities of improvement and
building that is now going on. In national principles Mr. Murdock favors
Republican tenets, but he is not a partisan in any respect and his election to
office represents the choice of the people irrespective of political ties. The
Spanish-American War Veterans number him among their most interested
and loyal members and he is further connected with the Eagles and
Woodmen of the World. Since coming to Bakersfield he has purchased
property and maintains an active interest in realty developments here and
in adjacent communities. His family consists of wife and three children,
Elizabeth, Kelton and Virginia, Mrs. Murdock formerly having been Miss
Margaret Clay, a resident of St. Louis, Mo., but a member of an old Ten-
nessee family and herself a native of Nashville.

HORACE GREELEY PARSONS.— Thirty years after the Mayflower
had made its memorable voyage across the ocean to the new world the first
representatives of the Parsons family in America came from England and set-
tled among the colonists of Massachusetts, whence a later generation became
transplanted upon New Hampshire soil. When the tide of migration began to
turn toward the new west Jonathan Parsons removed from his native New
Hampshire and settled upon the prairies of Wisconsin, where he developed a
farm out of raw land in the primeval condition of nature. In his family was a
son, Samos, born and reared in New Hampshire and during early manhood a
business man of Dunkirk, N. Y., where he engaged in the manufacture of
fanning mills. Later he made a somewhat brief sojourn in Ontario, Canada,
whence he removed to Wisconsin and settled in W^aukesha county. In addi-
tion to the difficulty connected with the developing of a large tract of raw
land into a productive farm he gave considerable time to public afifairs and
served efficiently as a justice of the peace and postmaster. Eventually he
became a citizen of ^^'hitewater, Walworth county, Wis., and a stockholder
in the Esterly reaper factory. Selling out his interests there in 1874 he came
to California and purchased a home in Santa Clara county, where occurred
the demise of his wife, Sophronia (Burt) Parsons, a native of New York.
His own life was spared to the age of ninety years, when he died at his home.
In his family there were four sons and two daughters. Two of the sons were
gallant soldiers during the Civil war and one of these, Silas, was killed at
Chickamauga while bravely fighting with the Twenty-fourth Wisconsin In-
fantry. The other soldier son, William, served in the Thirteenth Wisconsin
Infantry and remained at the front throughout the entire four years of the
war; his death occurred in 1911 in Santa Clara county.

The youngest member of the family circle, Horace Greeley Parsons,
was born in Waukesha county. Wis., August 19, 1847, and received a grammar-
school education at Whitewater, that state, later spending a year in the
University of Wisconsin. When yet a mere lad he learned the trade of a
printer and in it became exceptionally expert. A brother-in-law, L. H. Rann,
publisher of the Whitewater Register, began to fail in health and at his
solicitation Mr. Parsons agreed to take charge of the paper, which he did
with considerable success, having the management of the sheet after the
death of the brother-in-law and until the sale of the plant. Later for three
years he published the Blue Valley Record at Milford, Seward county, Nebr.
At the expiration of that time he moved the plant to Lincoln, that state, and
merged the sheet into the Lincoln Leader, a well-known daily. A year later
he sold the paper and plant and shortly afterward in 1874 he came to Cali-
fornia, where he secured work at his trade in San Francisco. By carefully sav-
ing .his wages he was able to open a printing office of his own and in it he
published twelve or more periodicals, including The Pacific (Congrega-
tional), The Pacific Alethodist. California Christian Advocate. The Rescue,




4^



OAd^Gn^



HISTORY OF KER\T COUNTY 629

and other publications. The business proved fairly profitable, but it was
too confining for his health and he was obliged to seek other lines of activity.
Selling out he began to travel for the Dewey Publishing Company and for
eight years he remained steadily in their employ, meanwhile traveling
from San Diego as far north as Seattle, .\fter three or four years as pub-
lisher of the Grass \'alley Tidings and owner of a one-half interest, he
returned to the employ of the Dewey i'ublishing L'om]ian}', this time trax'eling
in their interests for six years.

When the oil excitement was bringing many newcomers to Kern county
Mr. Parsons became a resident of Bakersfield in 1900 and the following year
eml)arked in the real-estate business. I"or a time he was a member of the
firm of Williams & Parsons, but since 1906 he has been alone. The distinction
of being, in point of years of continuous business, the oldest real-estate agent
in r)akersfield belongs to him. City realty and countr}' property have been
handled by him with equal success. Besides improving a ranch of one hun-
dred and sixty acres he has been interested in orange properties in the Edison
section and in other lands. At his office on Chester avenue is located the
agency for the Provident Building & Loan Association of Los Angeles and
the Continental Building & Loan Association of San Francisco, also the
agency for six of the leading insurance companies of the world, viz. : Hart-
ford, New Zealand, Scottish Union and National, Law Union and Rock,
Manchester of London and Teutonia of New C)rleans. Deeply interested in
the progress of Bakersfield, he has officiated for two terms as a director of
its board of trade and has ranked among its most resourceful members. All
movements for the local upbuilding receive his stanch support. He was one
of the organizers of Bakersfield Realty Board and was elected its first presi-
dent and is now serving his third term.

Mr. Parsons' marriage was solemnized in Nevada City, Cal., and united
him with Miss Anne NaiYziger, who was born near Keokuk, Iowa, and is a
graduate of the Laurel Hall school in San Mateo county. Gifted with excep-
tional artistic ability, she has devoted herself to music from young girlhood
and completed the course in the New England Conservatory of Alusic at
Boston. After her graduation from that noted school she became a teacher of
the art and built up a wide reputation for skill as an instructor as well as for
proficiency as a pianist. Two children were born of her marriage to Mr.
Parsons, the elder being Carrie, wife of George D. Keller, of Los Angeles,
and the younger being Horace G., Jr., who is interested in a drug business in
I'"resno.

MILTON DALLAS BERINGER.— Born in Cambria county. Pa., De-
cember .S, 1858, Mr. Beringer is a son of John Beringer, a farmer by occu-



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 68 of 177)