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 7 of 177)
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hills from Porterville to Tehachapi. Meantime, also, the Jewett Brothers had
launched the sheep industry of the county from the Rio Bravo ranch on
Kern river, midway between the Kern river oil fields and the mouth of the

Some of the Very Old Timers

Getting back to the Kern delta in 1860-61, the settlers besides the Mc-
Crays included the Shirleys, the Wickers, the Daughertys, the Gilberts, and
a little farther south and west toward Buena Vista lake, Tom Barnes and
Jim and Jefif Harris. Where Walker Shirley lived (where the Lowell addi-
tion is now) was a large thicket of willows growing along the banks of the
south fork. Similar thickets were scattered about in the low places where
the water frequently overflowed, and the general landscape, viewed from the
present center of Bakersfield, was dotted with large cottonwood trees, a con-
siderable number of which still remain, not so very much larger than they
were fifty years ago. John Shirley lived close to where the Chinese burying
ground south of D street is now located. R. M. Gilbert lived where the old
race track was built later, at the north end of Chester avenue.

Quite a number of Indian families lived about the present townsite,
hunting the deer and antelope and other wild game that abounded, and


fisliing for the trout that swam in lower Kern river at that time. Also
they farmed a little and worked, on occasion, for the whites. Mrs. Van
Orman, who was formerly Mrs. Gilbert, says the Indians used to jab a sharp
stick into the earth, drop a few kernels of corn therein and close the opening
with their heels. Later on they harvested the crop, doing little meantime
save fish and hunt. The white settlers farmed little more thoroughly, for
the crops grew anyway, and what was the use? The Indians built their abodes
almost wholly of tules. The whites used willow poles for the frames of
their buildings and thatched both sides and roof with tules and flags. When
they got to feeling more settled, they built walls of tules and mud, reinforced
with willow poles stuck in the earth outside and inside at intervals to keep
them from falling over. The most pretentious residences were built of
adobes. The floors were invariably of the native earth, raised a little for
drainage. There was no lumber, and not even the making of good puncheons.
The Gilberts had a well some six or eight feet deep with earthen steps leading
down an incline to the water. They walked down and dipped it up instead of
using a rope and windlass.

Nobody bothered about titles to land then. They squatted where they
pleased, and if their first location did not suit them moved next week or
next year as their fancy dictated. People who were not in the cattle business
exclusively like the McCrays and y\le-^ander, kept a few cows, a few hogs
and maybe a few chickens. It was the easiest place in the world in which to
make a living, says Mrs. Van Orman. Bill Daugherty was the pioneer hog
raiser of the county, and many tales are told of his ability and prowess not
only as a handler of tame swine but with the wild ones that flourished in
droves about Buena Vista and Kern lakes. Among his other accomplishments
it is stated that Daugherty could grunt so alluringly that the infant porkers
would leave their mother's side and run squealing to his outstretched hands.
Not only Daugherty but many others of the early settlers used to hunt wild
hogs around the lakes. Dogs were specially trained to trail the swine and
hold them at bay by barking and nipping their heels until the hunters arrived.
No number of dogs, it is said, could kill a large wild boar.' Sometimes they
chewed his ears to rags, but in the end when the dogs were tired out the hog
would rip great gashes in them with his tusks. An unverified legend is to the
effect that some of the wild hog hunters, having corralled a bunch of the
beasts, would sew up their eyes and using tame hogs as pilots, would drive
them to the mountain mines. As a general thing, however, the Buena Vista
porkers were better handled in the form of hams and bacon.

Wild cattle and wild horses added to the resources available to the early
settlers in the Kern delta. In dry seasons when the early cattle raisers on
the coast had not enough feed to keep their stock from starving, they used
to drive a portion of their herds over a range into this valley and leave them
to shift for themselves until the next rains replenished the home pastures.
Before their owners returned to seek them, many of these cattle had wan-
dered too far to be gathered together.

Beginning of the Sheep Industry

Conspicuous figures in the history of the sheep industry of Kern county
are the Jewett brothers, Solomon and Philo D., who, as related in a former
chapter, bought out the flocks of Colonel Vineyard at Tejon ; Gustav Sanger ;
the Troys; Harry Quinn, pioneer of the northern Kern foothills whose camp
at Rag gulch was known as a landmark and a hospitable watering place since


the early 70s ; Peter Lambert of Long Tom ; A. Pauly of Tehachapi ; L. C.
Flores, who kept a store and shearing camp at San Emidio in the '70s when
there was Mexican settlement at that place and many sheep in the hills
thereabout; the Borgwardts, who ran sheep on Poso creek; Jesse Stark, who
was out at Tejon in the early days, and later on Ardizzi-Olcese Company,
who were headquarters and outfitters for the itinerant French sheep men ;
F. M. Noriega, M. Cesmat, J. B. Berges, A. P. Eyraud, all of whom made
enough money in the sheep business to launch them in other ventures ; Andre
Vieux and F'aure Brothers of Delano; Pierre Giraud, "Little Pete", and
scores of men less famous who followed their bands to the mountains and the
wide ranges beyond in summer and came back to Kern county's warm mesas
for the February lambing and shearing time.

The Jewetts have been shepherds for three generations. Solomon W.
Jewett, father of Solomon and Philo, the Kern county pioneers, was a sheep
and wool grower of Vermont, and Philo Jewett, one of the sons of the second
Solomon Jewett, is today one of the largest owners of flocks in Kern county.
After they had purchased Colonel Vineyard's sheep in 1860, Solomon and
Philo Jewett established themselves on the Rio Bravo ranch about a dozen
miles up Kern river from Bakersfield. Later they acquired land adjoining
the townsite of Bakersfield and west of Bakersfield in what is now the
Rosedale country. On some of the latter land Philo Jewett now has his
shearing camp, but the Indians who sheared the fleeces from his father's and
uncle's sheep in the days before the Civil war have given place to men with
shearing machines driven by a gasoline engine.

Next to the Jewetts in point of years and permanence of location is
Harry Quinn, who first came to spy out the land in 1868 and came to settle
permanently in 1874, bringing 8000 or 9000 sheep belonging in part to him and
in part to Archibald Leach. A few years later Quinn bought out the band,
and increased his flocks and his acres until he had eventually some 20,000 acres
of land and one of the largest bands of sheep in the county. Quinn is now
closing out his sheep and has sold part of his range for orange land and leased
most of the remainder for possible oil land. Young & Riley and W. L. Smith
on White river and Templeton on Rag Gulch are among the other pioneer
sheep men of the northern part of the county.

While his varied career makes him hard to classify, Capt. John Barker
figures quite prominently in the early sheep industry of the county, having
run large bands on Kern river in the same vicinity as the scene of the Jewett's
first ventures.

The setting apart of a very great area of mountain land as a federal forest
reserve and the exclusion of the sheep men from the free ranges which they
had formerly enjoyed therein, was the cause of curtailing to a considerable
extent the sheep industry in the county, particularly affecting the wandering
shepherds, the Frenchmen and Basques who own little or no land and depend
on leasing cheap ranges and driving their flocks from section to section to
meet the changes of the varying season.

Whether the total number of sheep in the county will again increase is

doubtful. The cheap ranges are being put to more profitable purposes, and

it will soon be a matter for the shepherds to decide whether or not it pays to

raise sheep inside good pastures where beef cattle and dairy cows will thrive.

The Mexican Settlement

What was known in the early days as the Me.xican settlement where
Panama now is, was founded in 1865 or thereabout, by Dolores Montano,
who settled on section 26, 30-27. Ventura Cuen came about the same time
and settled on section 23, 30-27, both of which places were later a part of
the Panama ranch of Miller & Lux. Montano went back to Sonora, Mexico,
to die, but Cuen still lives a short distance south of the cemetery on Union


avenue with his daughter, Mrs. Joseph Sunega. Tomas Castro, patriarch of
the present Castro clan, came here in 1868 from Magdalena, Mexico, where
he had been driven from his htime by the floods of 18(v-68, as severe in
Mexico as they were in California. Castro located on the Montano place,
later moving to section 12, 30-27, where he took up a homestead and reared
his family of eight sons and one daughter.

Among the other early settlers at Panama were Encarnacion Padres,
Averon Sierras, Guadeloupe Gonzoles, Tomas Noriega and Jesus Noriega,
his son.

After Miller bought the land included in the Panama ranch, most of the
settlers there moved to Saletral, about a mile and a half northwest of Panama,
so named on account of a certain excess of alkali in the soil thereabout. The
first store at Panama was kept by Lesser Hirshfeld, one of the family of pio-
neer merchants whose name figures conspicuously in the early trade of Bakers-
field and Tehachapi as well. Panama was about five or six miles east of the
old Barnes settlement. Just east of Panama, Howard Cross had a ranch in
1870 or thereabout, but farther east than that in the valley there was prac-
tically nothing up to something after that date.

Tomas Castro built the Castro ditch in 1870 and 1871, and both he and
his neighbors engaged in general farming and stock-raising along the same
line as the other pioneers. Dom Castro, son of Tomas, tells of catching and
partially taming the wild Spanish cattle that used to roam the lowlands of
the valley. They used to lie in wait for the cattle as they would come from
the willows in what is now the Lowell Addition to Bakersfield, lasso and
brand them and take them to fenced pastures where they were kept with
other cattle until they grew tame enough to be herded or driven in bands.
The Spanish cattle were small, light and very inferior as l^eef animals, liut
they were excellent runners, if that can be considered a virtue in a ciiw. An
old Spanish cow would weigh perhaps 700 pounds — quite as often consid-
erably less. As late as 1880 wild cattle and deer were seen about the Kern
river oil fields, antelope were plentiful farther west, and elk roamed in the
Elk hills and along the Coast range mesas.

About 1870 Francisco Martinez used to make a business of catching wild
horses where the Lost Hills oil field is now located and all along the Coast
range hills from Sunflower valley to Carneros springs. Martinez built cor-
rals with wide extended wings and drove the wild horses therein, or built
snares for them about their watering places. Sometimes he would get twenty-
five or thirty of the mustangs in a corral at a drive, and he sold them, either
broken or unbroken, for $2.50 to $5 per head. A mustang that had been las-
soed and thrown down was broken, and one that would not throw itself
over backward when a halter was put on it was a finished product. Tomas
Castro used to trade Martinez a hair rope for a mustang, and one day Lee
and Dom were sent to bring home a couple of fillies so acquired. But in
crossing the river the colts, tied together by their halters, got dizzy and
turned round and round until they fell down and drowned in the shallow
stream, although the boys did their best to hold their heads above water.
Of such value were the wild horses.

Stories of the Outlaw Vasquez

Some of the mustangs of the early day. however, were famous for their
speed and endurance. One of these, Pico Blanco (white Bill), is the hero of
sundry adventures. One morning before the light began to streak the sky
above Bear mountain, Tomas Castro was called from his bed by a voice


shouting his name from the road. He went out to find Tiburcio Vasquez,
the famous outlaw, who said he wanted the best horse on the Castro ranch.
Tomas brought out Pico Blanco, and Vasquez mounted him and dashed
away — probably pursued by a posse in search of vengeance for some outrage.
No more was heard or seen of Pico Blanco for many days, when one
morning Vasquez was again heard calling from the road. When Castro
appeared Vasquez tossed him $100 in gold and a rope, at the other end of
which was a bony shadow of Pico Blanco, took his own horse, which had
been kept at the ranch, and disappeared. Pico got back his flesh and his
spirit, and in later years, Dom Castro says, Morris Jacoby, a merchant of
early Bakersfield, used to ride him to Los Angeles, starting in the morning at
6 o'clock and arriving in the southern city by 7 or 8 in the evening.

Lesser Hirshfeld, who kept the first store in the Panama settlement,
tells another story that illustrates the methods of the Vasquez gang. One day
a Mexican friend stopped at the store and invited Hirshfeld, or Cristobol,
as he was known by his patrons, to come with him to a dance at a road
house a few miles down the road. Business was dull, and a part of the
science of mercantile success is to maintain friendly relations with one's
patrons, so Cristobol saddled his horse. Arriving at the dance, the merchant
was impressed by the presence of a large number of strangers and a display
of fire arms unusual even for a dance in the early days, and he was not long
in deciding the character of his fellow guests. Hirshfeld took a perfunctory
part in the festivities and did the proper thing by treating everyone including
the outlaws to drinks and cigars, and then making some excuse about a
business engagement, he took a circuitous route back to his store, gathered
up his cash and galloped by another round-about way to town. He came
back next day expecting to find his place robbed, but nothino had happened.
This was Thursday, and that night the pioneer merchant again galloped to
town with his day's receipts. The same process was repeated Friday and
Saturday, and Hirshfeld had about exhausted his ingenuity in inventing
reasons to give his clerk for passing the nights in town, but when he got
home Sunday morning there was no need for further explanation. In the
night Vasquez and his men appeared masked and held a parley in front
of the store with some of Hirshfeld's neighbors. It developed later that the
neighbors convinced the outlaws that Hirshfeld had gone to town and taken
all his money with him. Thereupon the gang threw oflf the masks, entered
the store, called for drinks and paid for them ; called for another round and
did not pay; called for a third round and paid, and disappeared on their
horses in the darkness. Any discerning person will understand that Vasquez,
with the courtesy for which he was noted, did the proper honors of the time
and the occasion just as though the proprietor had been present, and the
proprietor, when he returned, fully appreciated it.

Meantime a posse that left Bakersfield on Friday (taking every gun in
the city, it is said) was scouring the hills from Caliente to Tejon canon in
search of the men who were dancing and feasting at Panama. It was the
last visit of Vasquez to Kern county. From Panama he went to the San
Fernando valley where he was captured, through the agency of a woman
who played him false.

The Barnes Settlement

The Barnes settlement was named for Thomas Barnes, who was in the
county in 1859, and who settled some six or eight miles west of Panama in

81/^ J^




the early '60s. Barnes lived on section 26, 30-26, near a big natural grove of
cottonwoods that lay a half mile wide and about three miles long in the
bed of an old slough. Jeflf, Jim, Ed., Noland and Tony Harris, all brothers
of Mrs. Barnes, had ranches there, but they were away teaming in the moun-
tains a larger part of the time than they spent farming. By 1868, when
P. J. Waldon took up a claim in the Barnes settlement. Bill Daugherty had
lived there and gone, and some of the other earlier settlers were fading
memories. Mr. Waldon does not recall the name of an Arkansas woman
who planted an acre of peach trees on the place where Barnes lived in 1868,
but the fruit was celebrated throughout the whole delta, where any kind of
peaches probably tasted good in 1868. Barnes had about forty head of cattle,
and ran hogs in the tules, and nearly all the other early settlers in the
vicinity did the same. Waldon says the wild hogs were not very good
eating, but tame hogs sold readily in Bakersfield at four and five cents per
pound, and the hog-raisers made money. In the later 70s Waldon, Van
Stoner, W. W. Frazier, Vining Barker and Jock Ellis ran their hogs in
one herd for economy of management, and the raising of pork was a con-
siderable industry about Old River, the Barnes settlement and Canfield
(so called in honor of Wellington Canfield.)

Wellington Canfield and F. A. Tracy were first in the cattle business
on Jerry slough, named for Jerry Bush, a cattleman who ran his herds there in
1866, but later they bought land near the Barnes settlement, and a little
town was laid out and christened Canfield.

There is a tradition that the first alfalfa in the county was grown by
Tom Barnes from seed sent him from South America by a traveler who had
visited the delta and believed the clover would do well there. It did do well,
and the fame of the Barnes alfalfa patch was spread all over the county
in 1867 or "68.

The Buena Vista Canal Company was organized in 1870 by Barnes, Har-
ris, Gillum, John Oleton, P. J. Waldon, Peter O'Hare, John Gordon, James
Cole and others, and later, as in the case of nearly all the canal companies, the
controlling interest was acquired by Haggin & Carr.

Throughout the whole of the great Kern delta in the early days every-
body within a radius of twenty miles was everybody else's neighbor, ready
to help dispose of a feast or nurse a stricken fellow settler through a fever
with impartial alacrity. When Sis Daugherty was married to Corbin Wicker,
old man Daugherty launched his tule boat on the South Fork and hitching his
riata to the prow swam his horse across to fetch all the neighbors to the
wedding supper. On Christmas day just before the great flood of 1861-62 that
made history and geography both in Kern county, the Skileses. who lived
somewhere south of Reeder lake, made a dinner for the whole neighborhood,
and the Gilberts, returning just as the first swelling of Panama channel
began to make the banks boggy, mired down in the foamy, brown water,
and friendly Indians waded in and carried Mrs. Gilbert and her infant ashore.

But before I go on with the tale of the flood I must go back a little
way and relate how all this peaceful Arcadia, where there was neither law
nor present need of law was the subject of special acts of the state legislature
and of plans and dreams of men so far-sighted that they lifted their feet to
step over the threshold into a future, which to us, nearly a whole lifetime
later, seems far away on the horizon.



Floods and Swamp Reclamation

Residents of the San Joaquin valley in the year 1913 look forward, in
hours of faith and prophecy, to a time when the population of the valley shall
be so large and the freight traffic so great throughout the length of it that it
will be practicable and profitable to build and operate a transportation canal
from Bakersfield to the bay. We know that it would be neither practicable
nor profitable at the present time. But it is of the essence of the pioneer to
see the ultimate destiny, to leap over, in fancy and undertaking, the inter-
vening years or centuries — it makes little difference to the true pioneer —
to set cheerfully at work to accomplish the impossible, and to make some
shift or other in the face of the inevitable defeat.

It is necessary to keep all this in mind and to remember, also, that
everybody in the state of California was a pioneer in 1857 when we read
in the statutes that in that year was passed and approved an act giving
W. F. Montgomery, Joseph Montgomery, A. J. Downes, F. W. Sampson and
their associates and assigns the right to reclaim all the swamp land belonging
to the state "lying between the San Joaquin river at a point known as Kings
river slough, and Tulare lake, and also the swamp and overflowed lands
bordering on Tulare, Buena Vista and Kern lakes, and between said lakes,
and up to the line dividing the said swamp and overflowed lands from the
lands belonging to the United States."

The First San Joaquin Valley Canal Project

Also they were given the right and privilege to construct and put in
operation a canal, capable of carrying boats of 80-tons burden, all the way
from Kings river slough on the San Joaquin river to Kern lake, or, if they
chose, they could switch the course of the canal to intercept the main channel
of Kern river instead of passing through Buena Vista and Kern lakes.

They were given a right of way 200 feet wide on each side of the pro-
posed canal, and were to have the right to operate the waterway and to
collect such tolls as the legislature might authorize for a period of twenty
years, after which the ownership of the canal should revert to the state.
Incidentally the grantees were to have all the odd sections in the tracts
reclaimed, and for every odd section therein of which the state might thereto-
fore have disposed, the grantees were to select in lieu four even sections.

Note particularly that work on the canal must begin within one year
ana the whole must be completed within three years from the passage of
the act in order to comply with the provisions of the grant.
The First State Highway

In the spring of 1862 the act was amended, a provision being inserted to
the efifect that out of the 200 feet of right of way allowed on each side of the
canal the public should be permitted the use of a highway. It also was pro-
vided that when the work was done the governor and the surveyor-general
must certify to the reclamation of the land. The new act also extended the
time limits to one year and three years, respectively, after the passage of
the amended act. This date was April 10, 1862.

Meantime W. F. Montgomery, who was the principal in the scheme,
had not succeeded in interesting capital in the canal project, and for a con-
sideration of $10,000 he deeded to Thomas Baker and Harvey S. Brown (each


an undivided one-half share) all his right, title and interest in the lands in
question. For smaller sums Baker and Brown bought out the other owners.

Baker, who seems to have been the active member of the new partnership,
set about iinding capital to carry out the enterprise, but he was no more
successful than iMontgomery had been. But the legislature came to his aid
most generously and again amended the act providing for the reclamation
of the lands in question, releasing W. F. Montgomery, et al., their asso-
ciates and assigns from all obligation to construct and put in operation for
the purpose of navigation, the several canals referred to in the previous act,
and providing that in consideration of the reclamation of the lands mentioned
in the act they should be entitled to the same quantity of land and all other
rights and privileges as if they had nut been released from the obligation
to construct the canal.

With somewhat greater verbosity than the foregoing, the legislature of
1863 dashed, for something more than half a century, at least, the hope of
Bakersfield's standing at the head of navigation in the San Joaquin valley.

But while the open-hearted members of the legislature had generously
relieved Colonel Baker of mure than half his monumental undertaking he
was still, so far as any human being had the slightest reason to suppose,
in the position of a man, who, having discovered that he could not grasp the

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 7 of 177)