"The report from the Kern River Mines continues to be very flattering, and numbers are leaving daily for the diggings. There appears to be no doubt of the truth of the reports."

Thus trumpeted California's first daily newspaper out of San Francisco, the Daily Alta California, on Aug. 19, 1854, on the news that gold had been discovered in the mountains of Kern County.

By March 15, 1855, the news from Kern County had changed when the San Joaquin Republican newspaper wrote that the "Kern River bubble has burst."

Courtesy of Rand Desert Museum
The Kinyon (also sometimes spelled Kenyon) Mine, also known as the Good Hope Mine, circa 1897. The Kinyon was a very rich gold mine and was one of the earliest producers.

Gold had been discovered near Sacramento at Sutter's Mill in 1848. A group of explorers from John Fremont's party discovered gold on Greenhorn Creek off the Kern River in 1851. But the discovery of placer gold in the Kern River in the spring of 1854 set off the gold rush that would last almost an entire year.

This is the strike that would bring the first large group of non-native Americans to the future Kern County.

According to the USGS Mineral Resources Data System, there have been more than 1,209 named mining claims in Kern County. Almost half of the gold produced in Kern County came from just two gold mines, the Yellow Aster Mine near Randsburg and the Golden Queen Mine near Mojave.

Courtesy of Rand Desert Museum
Red Mountain Mining, 1920.

Midway-Sunset Oil Field was discovered in 1894 and the Kern River Oil Field was discovered on June 1, 1899. Midway-Sunset Oil Field remains the largest oil field in California and the third largest in the United States. If Kern County were a state, it would rank just behind Alaska, Texas and Louisiana as the fourth largest oil-producing region in the entire country.

Silver mine production in Kern County has always been a by-product of gold mining. If silver were measured in great quantity in the gold ore, it would drop the value of the gold bullion.

That ended in August 1921 with the discovery of a silver strike in the Rand Mining District in eastern Kern County. Among the highest producing mines, the California Rand Silver Mine produced a total gross production of more than $13 million by 1926.

In 1913, Dr. John K. Suckow, a Los Angeles physician, was drilling for water on his ranch in far eastern Kern County in the Kramer District. Suckow hit a deposit of colemanite, which is a source of borax, and ended up selling his land for $4,500 to the United States Borax Company.

Courtesy of Rand Desert Museum
The Osdick-Rand Silver Mining Company.

Today the Rio Tinto Boron Mine near Boron is the largest open-pit mine in California and produces 40 percent of the world's borates. Borates are widely used in agriculture, ceramics and detergents, and are the ingredient that makes Pyrex glass heat resistant.

For more than 150 years, prospectors have searched Kern County -- with varying degrees of success -- for everything from tungsten, iron, uranium, oil and even kitty litter. The Nestle-Purina plant in the hills above Maricopa produces 132,000 tons of cat litter annually.

The conclusion of the prospectors and geologists searching the mountains and valleys of Kern County is very simple. Kern County has more natural resources than most countries.

Courtesy Rand Desert Museum
The Consolidated Mine, established in 1902 by combining several of the early gold producers such as the Kinyon, Wedge and several other small mines under one management.

Ken Hooper is president of the Kern County Historical Society, historian for the Kern Veterans Memorial Foundation, and a U.S. history and archiving teacher at Bakersfield High School.

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

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