Place names map

They've become such basic points on our collective map that it's odd to think the names of the cities, towns and places in Kern County actually mean something. A history of Kern's place names:

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Arvin 1920s 150th

Arvin in the 1920s. The town was named after Arvin Richardson, a shopkeeper there.

Courtesy of Kern County Museum

Arvin

The town established in 1910 was named for Arvin Richardson, a storekeeper there who later became prominent in community affairs and president of a water company.

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Bakersfield 1895 150th

Downtown Bakersfield in 1895. Looking north on Chester Avenue between 18th and 20th streets.

Courtesy of Kern County Museum

Bakersfield

The county seat of Kern takes its name from the hospitable field of Col. Thomas Baker that was used to rest and feed horses of travelers.

Bear Mountain

So called for the profusion of bear that once inhabited its slopes. The same reason may be pointed out for Bear Creek, Bear Canyon and Bear Spring, all in Kern.

Bodfish

Named for George Homer Bodfish, an early mining pioneer who came to the area in the 1860s.

Boron

Formerly known as Amargo, was renamed in 1938 when the Pacific Coast Borax Company moved its operations here.

Breckenridge Mountain

Named by southerners living in Kern County for John C. Breckenridge, who was the Democratic candidate for president in 1860.

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Caliente

The railroad tracks are barely illuminated at sunrise, on Christmas morning, in the small mountain town of Caliente. This is off Highway 58, east of Bakersfield.

Casey Christie / The Californian

Caliente (town, creek, canyon)

Takes its name from the nearby hot springs that were well known to the stockmen and Indians that used the small settlement for trading and social purposes after its establishment in 1872. The creek and canyon take their names from the hot springs.

Cantil

The word in Spanish means “steep rock,” but old timers insist the name of this desert place where the Nevada and California Railroad extended its line from Owens Lake to Mojave is due to the engineer who did the work and was fond of names beginning with C.

Delano

Named by the Southern Pacific Railroad in honor of Columbus Delano, at the time the U.S. Interior secretary.

Democrat Hot Springs

Named in honor of a favorite political party in these parts.

Edison

Named after the substation established by the Southern California Edison Co. here in 1905.

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BillDana3.JPG

In this classic photo shot on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base Nov. 30, 1968, NASA test pilot Bill Dana turns to watch the B-52 carrier plane make a fly-by after Dana completed a test flight of the HL-10, a variation of an experimental lifting body aircraft. Dana, who grew up in Bakersfield, tested the HL-10 in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

NASA photo

Edwards Air Force Base

Formerly Muroc Army Air Base, was named for Capt. Glenn W. Edwards, pilot of the experimental “flying wing” craft that crashed at Muroc during a test flight. Edwards died in the accident.

Fellows

The Sunset Western Railroad, which built the railroad line on the westside linking the stations with Bakersfield and Taft, named this station for Charles A. Fellows, a building contractor.

Frazier Park, Mountain

Named by Harry McBain for nearby Frazier Mountain. The mountain was named for Warren Frazier, a market hunter of the 1870s who operated the Frazier gold mine in the area.

Glennville

Named in honor of James Madison Glenn, an early settler.

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Havilah, 1910 150th

Havilah, circa 1910

Courtesy Kern County Museum

Havilah

Asbury Harpending, a noted adventurer and associate of moguls of finance in early San Francisco, founded and named Havilah while on the dodge from federal authorities because of some difficulty over his sympathetic attitude toward the Confederacy. He said in his biography he drew the name from a passage in Genesis that described Havilah as a “land of much gold.”

Isabella

This community, whose site is now covered by Isabella Lake, was named for the queen whose treasury financed the expedition of Christopher Columbus. Founder Stephen Barton gave the town its name.

Jawbone Canyon

There are two versions of how the name came about. One that the canyon’s general shape suggests that of a jawbone, the other that it came from the finding of a prehistoric animal’s jawbone there.

Johannesburg

In keeping with the tendency to name everything in the Rand mining district for places in the Witwatersrand mining area of South Africa, to which the Kern area was compared after the richness of its mineral deposits were discovered, Chauncey M. Depew and his associates named this settlement after the well-known South African mining place.

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Close to Home

Broken and weathered headstones dot the Old Kernville Cemetery.

Casey Christie/The Californian

Kernville

First a mining camp established in 1863 as Williamsburg. Known as Whiskey Flat after a saloon. Name changed to Kernville in 1864. In 1951 a new town of Kernville was laid out several miles north; Old Kernville was inundated by the waters of Isabella Lake after completion of Isabella Dam in 1953.

Keyesville

The first town in Kern County took its name from Richard Keys, who found gold in a nearby gulch and set off the fabulous gold rush to the Kern River country in 1853.

Lamont

Named by Arthur S. McFadden, who named it after the Scottish clan to which his family belonged.

Lebec

Named after Peter Lebeck or Lebecque, a French trapper killed by a bear there in 1837.

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Maricopa 1915 150th

Maricopa, 1915

Courtesy of Kern County Museum

Maricopa

When the Southern Pacific Railroad extended its spur track south from Sunset, the new terminal was called Maricopa, possibly because the valley in which Maricopa is situated was once called Maricopa Valley.

McFarland

Named for J.B. McFarland, who with W.F. Laird established the townsite in 1908.

McKittrick

Earlier known as Asphalto because of the asphalt deposits in the vicinity, the station was renamed McKittrick for Capt. W. H. McKittrick, who owned the land. McKittrick was also the owner of the famed McKittrick Ranch, where polo ponies were reared and trained, and the son-in-law of Gen. William Shafter.

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Mojave 1897 150th

Mojave, 1897

Courtesy of Kern County Museum

Mojave

The Southern Pacific gave the town its name when the railroad reached it in 1876, presumably because it was on the edge of the great desert bearing the name. The name itself is derived from an Indian tribe of the Yuma region and has many variations in print.

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Oildale 1939

Oildale, 1939

Courtesy of Kern County Museum

Oildale

Oildale, Oil City, Oil Junction, Oil Center and other similar names reflect the influence of the oil boom in Kern County.

Onyx

Known for many years as Scodie’s after William Scodie, who owned the store there, the place was renamed Onyx by Scodie when the post office objected to the earlier name because of its resemblance to Scotia, some 400 miles away.

Pumpkin Center

In 1932 a local barber had the name placed on his shop by a traveling sign painter. A crop of pumpkins had been grown nearby that year.

Randsburg

Randsburg, a rich mining camp, was named after the Witwatersrand mining district in South Africa, the topography of which is similar to that of the Rand district in Kern County.

Ridgecrest

It was originally called Crumville and named for Robert and James Crum, who ran a dairy. It was renamed in 1914.

Rosamond

Was named after the daughter of a Southern Pacific official.

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Shafter 1930s 150th

Shafter, 1930s

Courtesy of Kern County Museum

Shafter

Kern County Land Co. President Henry Jastro named Shafter after his friend General William Rufus Shafter, who commanded U.S. forces in Cuba during the Spanish–American War.

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Taft 1910 150th

Taft, 1910

Courtesy of Kern County Museum

Taft

Was named for the 27th president of the United States.

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Tehachapi 1890 150th

Tehachapi, 1890

Courtesy of Kern County Museum

Tehachapi

The most common belief today is that the word derives from the Kawaiisu word “Tihachipia,” meaning a hard climb.

Wasco

Was originally named “Dewey” and then “Deweyville.” When William Bonham, a settler from Wasco County in Oregon, determined there was a town already named “Deweyville,” he proposed the area be renamed “Wasco,” and in 1900 the post office recorded the town name as such. Wasco is a tribe of Oregon Indians.

Weldon

Named for William Weldon, an early settler in Walker Basin.

Wofford Heights

Named for L.L. Wofford, who established the site in 1948.

Woody

Named for Sparrell Walter Woody, a pioneer rancher of the area.

SOURCES: TBC Media archives, city of Delano, city of Wasco, Ridge Route Communities Museum and Historical Society, Kern County Place Names by Richard C. Bailey

This first appeared in a Californian special publication, "The story of us," Aug. 6, 2016.

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