Former lawman Harry W. Bludworth may have died 103 years ago but you don’t have to look far to see his spirit, said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
“Look at our deputies and detectives today,” Youngblood said Friday morning during a ceremony to dedicate a headstone for Bludworth in Union Cemetery. “I’ve known officers, we all have, that, once they start investigating, it may take time but it’s only a matter of time before they get you.
“Harry was like that.”
Bludworth served Kern as a sheriff’s deputy from about 1875 to 1882.
His tenacity and toughness were the stuff of legends.
He tracked killers, horse thieves and road agents up and down the state, bringing them back to Kern for some, oftentimes, harsh justice.
Piecing together various reports, Bludworth was apparently a taciturn man who liked his whiskey and may have stepped outside the lines on occasion.
In 1882, he stood trial for murder. The details are sketchy but he was acquitted and some critics accused the prosecution of throwing the case because of who Bludworth was.
After the trial, he left Kern and opened a bar in San Francisco.
He came back a few years later and worked for the Kern County Land Company where he ran into trouble trying to keep squatters off the company’s land. Then he turned up as a key figure in the Sunset Oilfield water wars.
Though his exploits were regularly covered in newspapers of the day, he fell out of the public’s eye and ended his days in obscurity, mining in the Sand Canyon area.
When he died in 1913 at the age of 60, there was little fanfare.
His fellow miners and drinking buddies held a funeral for him.
But they apparently didn’t have money for a headstone.
So, Bludworth has lain in an unmarked grave near a palm tree all these years.
Then David Dyas, retired from the county’s Weights and Measures Department, stumbled across him while researching the 1877 murder of a Tehachapi constable.
He was disappointed to discover Bludworth was in an unmarked grave. Dyas contacted The Californian and started raising money to get Bludworth a proper headstone.
That’s when Ray Mish, owner of Mission Family Mortuary, stepped in and paid for the marker.
After hearing Bludworth’s story, the Sheriff’s Office also offered to help dedicate the stone with a color guard and small ceremony.
About 30 people attended the ceremony.
The sheriff’s chaplain reminded those in attendance that it didn’t matter how many years had passed, that Bludworth was still a vital link in the unbreakable chain that binds all law enforcement.
“This headstone might not mean a lot to some people, but it means a lot to the folks here today,” he said.