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 9 of 177)
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At the next meeting the bid of T. B. Stuart for the construction of the jail
for $1600 was accepted, and for $800 a site was bought for a courthouse. The
latter building served until the county seat was moved to Bakersfield, when it
was taken down and the lumber sold to P. T. Colby, who put it together again
in the form of a residence just south of the Kern Valley bank on Chester
avenue in Bakersfield. The first courthouse was built by T. H. Binnex for
the modest sum of $2200.

Each judicial (or magistrate's) township was made a school district as
follows: township No. 1, Havilah district; township No. 2, Linn's valley dis-
trict; township No. 3, Kelso district; township No. 4, Tejon district.

It is worthy of note that Bakersfield and the Kern delta do not appear
in the list, but in February, 1867, Lower Kern River district was formed
from the Linn's Valley district. Also, each magistrate's township was made
a road district.

First Election Precincts

The first election districts were established by the supervisors May 25,
1867, as follows :

Havilah — vote at court house. Claraville — vote at Bodfish's old store.
South Fork — vote at John Nicoll's blacksmith shop. Kernville — vote at old
Cove house. Keysville — vote at Marsh & Kennedy's old store. Alpine — vote
at Eugene Caillard's store. Summit Mill — vote at Knox house, summit.
Linn's Valley — vote at Myers' store. Long Tom — vote at Yoakum's store.
Kern Island — vote at Chester's store, Bakersfield. Reservation — vote at Tejon
reservation buildings. Tehachapi — vote at school house. Walker's Basin —
vote at Dr. Adams' store. Augua Caliente — vote at Wolfskill house. Cross's
Mill — vote at Cross' mill. Delonega — vote at Williams & Martin's camp.

First Election in the County

Before the election was held on September 4th, Sageland voting district
was established and Sanderson & Asher's store on Kelso creek was named
as the polling place.

In the list above the word "old" wherever used, is quoted from the super-
visors' record. After forty-four years its use gives some idea of relative
antiquity. As an index to the relative population of the districts and also to
show the political complexion of the new county the vote for governor in the


several precincts in the first election after the county was established is given
herewith :

Havilah — Haight, 147; Gorham, 60.

Kernville — Haight, 38; Gorham, 43.

South Fork — Haight, 10; Gorham, nothing.

\\'alker's Basin — Haight, 32; Gorham, 13.

Alpine— Haight, 11; Gorham, 3.

Summit Hill — Haight, 18; Gorham, 5.

Linn's Valley — Haight, 22; Gorham, 6.

Long Tom — Haight, 20; Gorham, nothing.

Kern River Island — Haight, 21 ; Gorham, 11.

Reservation — Haight, 4; Gorham, 2.

Tehachapi — Haight, 25 ; Gorham, 3.

Sageland — Haight, 21 ; Gorham, 11.

Augua Caliente — Haight, 3; Gorham, nothing.

Claraville — Haight, 13; Gorham, 7.

Totals— Haight, 385 ; Gorham, 164.

Haight's majority, 221.

The election throughout the state gave the following totals for governor :
Henry H. Haight, Democrat, 49,905 ; George C. Gorham, Union, 40,359; Caleb
T. Fay, Union-Republican, 2,088.

At the same election the following county ofificers were chosen : Sheriff,
R. B. Sagely; clerk, H. D. Bequette ; district attorney, Thomas Laspeyre ;
treasurer, D. A. Sinclair ; assessor, James R. Watson ; surveyor, Thomas
Baker; coroner, A. D. Jones; superintendent of schools, E. W. Doss; super-
visors, first district, D. W. Walser ; second district, J. J. Rhymes ; third dis-
trict, John M. Brite; constables, township No. 1, John B. Tungate and W. S.
Gibson ; township No. 2, J. Pascoe ; township No. 3, Thomas F. Owens and
Thomas McFarlane ; township No. 4, Isaac Hart and James E. Williams;
township No. 5, J. J. Yoakum and W. W. Shirley.

Roadmasters for the five townships were William F. Klaiber, C. T.
W^hite, J. M. Garrett, M. A. Tyler, and William Higgins, respectively.

At the judicial election held October 16th, P. T. Colby was elected county
judge, and justices of the peace were chosen as follows: township 1, G. Martel
and J. W. Venable ; township 2, Thomas Despain ; township 3, ^Villiam S.
Adams and Daniel Memckton ; township 4, William P. Higgins and Grant P.
Cuddeback ; township 5, P. A. Stine.

First Swamp Land District Organized

Other matters which demanded a large share of the attention of the
first boards of supervisors other than the political organization of the county
and the calling of elections were the granting of permits for toll roads and
ferries, the organization of reclamation districts and the adjustment of assess-
ments. The first reclamation districts were formed on August 7, 1866, seven
days after the first board organized. Under an act of the legislature ap-
proved April 2, 1866, the supervisors, whom the law made ex-officio swamp
land commissioners for the territory included in the county, divided the
swamp and overflowed land in Kern county into two districts. District No. 1
included all the swamp land in the county east of the range between ranges
26 and 27 east. District No. 2 included all the swamp land in the county
west of this line, and all the even sections in both districts were set aside
to defray the expense of carrying out a system i>f reclamation and irrigation


provided in an agreement between the supervisors, acting in the capacity of
swamp land commissioners, and Thomas Baker, his associates and assigns.

According to this agreement, Baker and his associates were to construct
a good and permanent improvement to turn from Kern river into the south
fork water sufficient to irrigate district No. 1, to remove all timber and
driftwood from the slough so that it would carry water, to build a guard gate
to afford passage for water across the levee already constructed across said
slough for reclamation purposes and to keep said gateway and levee in good
repair so as to allow enough water to pass for irrigation but at the same time
to prevent a flood. Baker was to begin the work within two years after Jan-
uary 1, 1867, and was to be paid $6000 for the job, half of the amount as the
work was finished, and the other half as afterward provided in the agreement.

Also, Baker was to build irrigating ditches and improve existing sloughs
so that they would serve as channels to carry irrigation water, being paid
therefor at the rate of 50 cents per yard for all dirt moved up to a total of
$8000, half of the amount to be paid as the work was completed, which must
be within four years from January 1, 1867. The payments were to be made
in land scrip to be issued to Baker at the rate of $1 per acre in such
denominations as Baker should elect. The agreement provided that Baker was
not to be held liable for damage caused by any exceptional floods.

For the reclamation of district No. 2 Baker was to build a levee across
Buena Vista slough in township 30-24 (a little north of Cole's levee of the
present day) to improve the natural channels and build canals at the rate of
50 cents per cubic yard for the earth moved, up to a total of $26,000, payment
to be made as in the case of district No. 1, in land scrip at the rate of $1 per
acre, subject to location on even sections or fractions thereof, within the
districts described. In the two districts the compensation would amount to
$40,000 or 40,000 acres of land. The control of the water and distribution
of the same for irrigation purposes was to remain in the hands of the super-

The reader will recall that heretofore Baker and his associates had, under
the Montgomery franchise, just completed the reclamation of all the swamp
and overflowed lands in the two districts mentioned in the agreement and
had put in their application for a patent for all the odd sections as com-
pensation for their labors. At this time and a few years later there was no
little protest against this action of the supervisors by people who pointed
out that the state had given half the land for taking the water off, and now
the county was giving the other half for putting the water back on the land.
Against this contention, however, was presented the argument that while
the swamps had been drained and now were as dry as tinder, they were no
more suited to cultivation without water for irrigation than they had been
when they were submerged. The argument was good, and prevailed.
Changes in Swamp Land Laws

Before Baker could complete his portion of the contract with the super-
visors, the state legislature, which was having a large amount of trouble
about that time in settling in its own mind what was the best policy to follow
respecting the swamp lands, made another change in the law, in 1868, plac-
ing the swamp lands back in the trust of the state, instead of the coun-
ties, and removing all restrictions formerly in effect as to the amount of
swamp land which any one person or corporation could acquire. The new
law provided that purchasers of swamp land must deposit $1 per acre in the


count)' treasury as a guarantee that the land would be reclaimed, or twenty
per cent of the amount could be paid outright and the balance made up later.
Each district was to make its own by-laws and regulations, but in the end,
if the land was not reclaimed, the title remained in the state.

The change in the law made a change in the plans for reclamatinn, and
under the new act, on December 24, 1870, Livermore & Chester, Thomas
Baker, Julius Chester and Andrew R. Jackson filed with the supervisors a
petition for the formation of a reclamation district including all the swamp
and overflowed lands in townships 27-22, 28-22, 28-23, 29-22, 29-23, 29-24,
30-24. 31-25, 31-26, 32-26 and 32-27.

The story of the acquisition of the swamp lands forms a long and rather
complicated chapter which would be of only casual interest to the average
reader. What has been related so far gives a very guod illustration of the
manner in which all the swamp land in the county finally was acquired. The
odd sections for the most part went to parties who had bought them from
Baker or his assigns subsequent to the Montgomery patent, the purchasers
being protected by a new act of the legislature when the Montgomery patent
was annulled by the court in 1878. The even sections were purchased from
the state for about the cost of completing their reclamation.

A Sheep Was Worth More Than an Acre of Land

Probably it will strike the present day reader that the nio\-ing of two
cubic yards of earth from the center of a ditch to a ditch bank was a small
amount of labor to give in exchange for an acre of the rich, Kern delta land,
but the records of the supervisors, sitting as a board of equalization in the
early days of the county throw an explanatory light on the subject of relative
values. Nowadays nobody pays any attention to his assessments, whether
they are high or low, but in the '60s and '70s the meetings of the equalizers
were enlivened by a steady procession of taxpayers who wanted their assess-
ments lowered or those of their neighbors raised. For example : In 1870
sheep were assessed at $2 per head, and the San Emidio grant was assessed
at $1.25 per acre. The supervisors reduced sheep to $1.50 and the land in
the grant to $1. In the same year the Western Union Telegraph Company's
assessment was cut from $170.64 to $85.32. In 1868 three American
belonging to Dave Lavers were raised from the assessor's figures to $300,
and the next year the Joe Walker mine was chopped from $5000 to $500.

The First Mountain Roads

Nearly all the early roads through the mountains were built by private
enterprise as toll roads. In the valley any traveller could lay uut a new
road for himself if he chose, and others who came after him soon wore it
into a trail. But when he came to a stream he could not ford he had to pay
tribute to the ferryman. J. M. Griffith, in 1868, built a toll road from Moore's
station at the foot of Tehachapi mountain to Agua Caliente creek and was
permitted to charge for its use, $2.50 for a wagon and twelve horses, $2.25
for a wagon and ten horses, $2 for a wagon and eight horses and down to
seventy-five cents for a wagon and two horses, twenty-five cents for a horse
and rider, five cents per head for loose cattle, two cents per head for sheep,
and twenty-five cents for a pack animal.

Charges were fixed by the supervisors for the ferry operated in the
same year by J. E. Stine at Telegraph crossing over Kern river near Bakers-
field as follows: For a wagon and two horses, $2; for each extra span of


horses, fifty cents; for a horse and rider, fifty cents; for loose animals of all
kinds, twenty-five cents each ; for footman, twenty-five cents.

Rates for other toll roads and ferries were not far from these fifjures.

In 1868 James Cross built a ferry below the junction of South Fork
(in the mountains). Cross, Morton & Company were given a permit to
maintain a toll road from Havilah via Walker's basin to their mill. J. W.
Sumner was given a permit to build a toll bridge across Kern river near
Hot Springs valley. Thomas Baker a little later built the famous Baker
toll road up the mountains between Bakersfield and Havilah. Eight or ten
years later the county began buying in these toll roads, and there were
numerous and spicy charges of graft and extravagance in connection with
the different purchases.

(Throughout this history it is necessary to distinguish between the South
Fork of Kern river, which is one of the two chief branches of the stream to-
ward its source in the mountains, and the south fork channel which ran
through the eastern part of Bakersfield in the early days. For the purpose
of lessening the confusion of the dual use of the name I have arbitrarily chosen
to give the mountain stream and the valley that bears its name the dignity
of capital initials.)


Coming of the Capitalist

Dividing the history of Kern county into epochs from an industrial point
of view, the years around 1870 mark the beginning of the influence of large
capital in the county's development. Prior to 1860 the settlers in the valley
were mainly small farmers or small stockmen, intent on getting what they
could from the land and concerned but little or not at all in the permanent
improvement or development of the country. In the mountains the placer
miners and the first quartz miners were doing the same — getting money out
of the ground, and putting little in. Following these came men like Colonel
Baker, fully gifted with the ability and inclination to plan large developments
and improvements for the future, but handicapped everywhere for want
of money to carry out their plans. Nevertheless, Baker and others in the
Kern delta began the construction of reclamation levees and irrigation ditches ;
in the mountain valleys the sturdy pioneers, full of energy if short of cash,
were improving their farms and beginning to accumulate their ilocks and
herds, and in the mineral sections the quartz miners were delving deeper in
tTie ledges and developing shafts and tunnels that properly were entitled to
the name of mines as distinguished from placers and prospect holes.

All these enterprises were carried on by men of modest means and
modest ambitions. But before 1868 General Beale had acquired the Tejon
ranch, and Beale & Baker were building up flocks of sheep aggregating as
high as 100,000 to 125,000 head. In 1868 J. C. Crocker established head-
quarters at the Temblor ranch and began buying the land and accumulating
the herds that formed the nucleus of the immense Miller & Lux holdings.
About the same time the Chesters were in Bakersfield, planning big enter-
prises with the money of H. P. Livermore, a wealthy druggist of San
Francisco, to back them. In 1875 Senator Jones bought the Big Blue mine
and gave a new character to the search for Kern county gold. In 1872 Walter


James came to make a report on the Gates tract, a big body of land lying
south and west of Bakerstield whicii Isaac E. Gates of New York had acquired
from the railroad and which was later jnirchased by J. B. Haggin and became
the nucleus of the Kern County Land Company holdings. In 1873 came
the Southern Pacific railroad. It is pertinent, therefore, to take account,
roughly, of the county's stock about the year 1870.

Havilah was the most important town in the county, althuugh there
were not lacking men who could foresee that Bakersfield was soon to outstrip
it in the race for supremacy. A. D. Jones, editor of the Havilah Courier,
was one of these, and on December 22, 18o9, he had moved to Bakersfield,
changed the name of his paper to the Kern County Courier, and had gotten
out the first issue. In the issue of January 18, 1870, the Courier describes
the town :

Bakersfield as It Was in 1870

Bakersfield, laid out about four months previous to that date, contained
the stores of Livermore & Chester and Caswell & Ellis, one telegraph office,
a printing office (the Courier) the blacksmith and carriage shop of Fred
Hacking, a harness shop belonging to Philip Reinstein, Littlefield & Phelan's
livery stable, John B. Tungate's saloon, a carpenter shop, a school house
with fifty pupils, and two boarding houses. The professions were represented
by Dr. L. S. Rogers and Attorney C. H. Veeder. A hotel and grist mill were
in contemplation. The Baker toll road was in operation between Bakersfield
and the county-seat; there were good wagon roads to Visalia and Los
Angeles, and a grade up the mountains to Tehachapi was in progress of

The town was protected from flood by a levee built by Colonel Baker, and
the whole country was supplied with fuel for a long time to come by the
logs washed down by the flood of 1867-8. The editor cheerfully assures the
world that the action of the elements is such as to warrant that other floods
would wash down more driftwood before the then present supply ran out.

Of the lands on lower Kern river 129,625.34 acres had been entered under
the state laws, and 40,000 had been patented for reclamation purposed by
individuals. No reclamation districts had been formed under the new law.
which provided for the appropriation of $1 per acre for the reclamation of
swamp lands. This would make a fund of $129,625.34 available for the
reclamation of lands in Kern county, an amount believed to be sufficient to
accomplish the task and make nearly 200,000 acres of fine land available for
cultivation. There were still some 275,000 acres of government land open
to homestead and pre-emption, beside some 50,000 acres of railroad land
in the Kern delta which was offered to settlers at government prices.

All this land was considered among the potential assets of Bakersfield.
The town was just recovering from an epidemic of fever during the summer
previous, and the cause of the fever having been ascribed to drinking water
from shallow wells and irrigating ditches, an agitation for deeper wells was
under way. Residents of the new town were looking forward to the building of
the projected railroad up the valley and were worrying about how they were
going to feed the great number of people who would come with the laying
of the tracks. They even went to the length of organizing the Kern County
Agricultural Society for the promotion of agriculture, so that a plenty of
food would be assured the newcomers.

In JNIarch of 1870 the town was re-surveyed, and it was announced


that shade trees were to be planted at each lot corner. Colonel Baker was
building his saw mill, a saw mill at San Emidio had just put in new planing
machinery, and Livermore & Chester's saw mill in the Tecuya valley was
about to resume work. In 1870 a bill passed the legislature to change the
county seat from Havilah to Bakersfield, but Governor Haight did not sign
it, and it failed to become a law.

In the county there were five postoffices, the following being the post-
masters : At Bakersfield, George B. Chester; at Havilah, H. H. Denker; at
Kernville, G. Martel ; at Linn's valley, John C. Reid ; at Tehachapi, P. D.

The surveyor general's report for 1867, published in 1870 showed that
Kern county on the former date had 5,000 acres of land fenced, 2,398 acres
under cultivation, 550 acres in wheat which produced 16,500 bushels, 906
acres in barley, which produced 27,180 bushels, 4,000 grape vines. The
value of the real estate was placed at $440,000; improvements, $40,000; per-
sonal property, $866,500; total, $1,346,500. The estimated population was
1,400, and the number of registered voters was 766.

The Buena Vista Petroleum Company was working hopefully but not
profitably at McKittrick, known in early days as Asphalto, almost due west
of Bakersfield at the end of the Santa Maria valley.
Sources of Ready Cash

The Courier summed up five sources from which money flowed in greater
or less streams, into the channels of Bakersfield's trade. Travellers brought
some ; a few horses and mules were sold ; lumber, posts, etc., from Greenhorn
mountain brought in a little ; the Jewett Brothers, the Troys, Gustav Sanger,
Beale & Baker and others sent away sheep and wool and brought back large
sums of gold. George Young, Launder, Tracy & Canfield and others sold
beef cattle. Finally the mines, although not so profitable as formerly, were
still worked with profit.

The whole population on the "Island" was estimated in 1870 at 600. Out-
side the town of Bakersfield and scattered ranches there was only the
Barnes settlement and the Mexican settlement at what is now Panama. The
remainder of the people were in the mountains. Old Tehachapi was a thriving
little village, gaining its support from the stock men who were getting
well established in the fertile valleys round about, and from the early placer
miners, who were working over the gravels of China hill. About forty
men were working about the Kernville mines, for the most part on shares ;
they were just putting in new pumping machinery in the Joe Walker mine;
Burdette & Tucker had opened a new lead in Long Tom ; Sageland, Clara-
ville and other mining camps through the mountains were enjoying fair
to medium prosperity ; Havilah was passing its best days and looking forward
to the time when it must fight for the retention of the county seat, which was
coming to be almost as important to its existence as its mines.

The South Fork valley. Walker's basin, Linn's valley, Poso flat and less
important valleys in the mountains were becoming centers of development
and industry under the hands of the farmers and stockmen.
Early Captains of Industry

The new factors in the county's development took up the task with
energy and enthusiasm. It is to be noted that in each instance the men who
were supplying the capital for the carrying out of the resident managers'


plans lived elsewhere, and except in the case of Henry Miller they appear
to have given little personal attention to the details of their Kern county
investments. In each case, however, the resident managers were capable
of laying their own plans and uf carrying them out, also, provided the money
kept coming. Julius Chester was the active partner of the firm of Livermore
& Chester. Livermore furnished the money, but he seldom came to Bakers-
field. George Chester was less aggressive than his brother, and although
he figured prominently in the early annals of the city, it was Julius that
generally directed affairs in which the company was interested. Under his
guidance Livermore & Chester branched out in all directions. They estab-
lished the leading mercantile house in the county; as noted, they were
active, in partnership with Colonel Baker and others, in the formation of
reclamation districts and they began to acquire land in all available ways.
They bought large tracts from Baker under the Montgomery patent, paying
ridiculously small prices therefor. In June, 1870, Livermore & Chester were
advertising 20,000 acres of farming land for sale at $2 to $10 per acre. In
July, 1870, the Chesters, Livermore & Chester, Thomas Baker, A. R. Jack-
son, B. Brundage, C. G. Jackson, John Howlett, H. A. Cross, Solomon Jewett
and L. G. Barnes filed a petition for the formation of a reclamation district
comprising 28,000 acres in townships 29-27, 29-28, 30-28, 31-28 and 32-28,
which include the townsite of Bakersfield and the country south to beyond
Kern lake. The district previously described lay mostly to the north of
Buena Vista lake. On March 11, 1871, the first Bakersfield Club was organ-

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 9 of 177)