You can explore Kern County's history for yourself by visiting nearly 50 sites designated California historical landmarks by the state Office of Historic Preservation.

Historical landmarks are buildings, structures, sites, or places that meet at least one of the following criteria:

* The first, last, only or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region.

* Associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California.

* An outstanding example of a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.

These are Kern's:

1. Oak Creek Pass: In 1776, Father Francisco Garces used the Oak Creek Pass to return to the Mojave after exploring the San Joaquin Valley, as did John C. Fremont in 1844-1845. Until the railroad was built through the Tehachapi Pass in 1876, Oak Creek Pass was the only route used through the Tehachapi Mountains.

Location: On Willow Pass Road, 4.6 miles south of Tehachapi Boulevard, 7.4 miles southeast of Tehachapi


Campers at Keyesville.

2. Keyesville: From 1853-1870, Keyesville was a center of placer and quartz gold mining. On the knoll just below the townsite may still be seen the outlines of an earthworks fort, built to meet a possible Indian attack in 1863.

Location: On Black Gulch Road, 2 miles south of Highway 155, 3.3 miles west of Lake IsabelIa

3. Walker's Pass: Discovered by Joseph R. Walker, American trailblazer, who left the San Joaquin Valley through this pass in 1834. This area was traversed by topographer Edward M. Kern, after whom the Kern River was named, while accompanying the Fremont expedition of 1845. After 1860 it became a mining freight route to Owens Valley.

Location: At summit on Highway 178, 8.4 miles northwest of Highway 14

Havilah, 1910 150th

Havilah, circa 1910

4. Havilah: Gold deposits at Havilah were discovered in 1864. Havilah was the county seat between 1866 and 1872, when the government was moved to Bakersfield. Havilah was an active mining center for more than 20 years, and there are still some operating mines in this vicinity.

Location: State plaque in front of Bodfish post office, northeast corner of Miller Street and Kern River Canyon Road, Bodfish; private plaque south side of 1866 county courthouse, Caliente-Bodfish Road, Havilah

5. Fort Tejon: This military post was established by the U.S. Army on June 24, 1854, to suppress stock rustling and protect the Indians in the San Joaquin Valley. Camels for transportation were introduced here in 1858. As regimental headquarters of the First Dragoons, Fort Tejon was an important military, social and political center. It was abandoned Sept. 11, 1864.

Location: Fort Tejon State Historic Park, on Lebec Road, 2.8 miles north of Lebec

6. Willow Springs: Willow Springs was visited by Padre Garces in 1776 while following the old Horse Thief Trail (later known as Joe Walker Trail). Fremont stopped here in 1844, and the famished Jayhawk Party of 1850 found water here while struggling from Death Valley to Los Angeles. Still later, Willow Springs was a stage station of the Los Angeles-Havilah and Inyo Stage Lines.

Location: From State Highway 14, go 6.8 miles west on Rosamond Boulevard, then north 0.7 miles on Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, then 0.6 miles northwest on Truman-Manly Road, Rosamond


The Kern River flows through Kernville after a light snow in the mountains, north of town.

7. Kernville: Called Whiskey Flat until 1864, Kernville was founded in 1860 when whiskey dealer Adam Hamilton moved shop here from more temperate Quartzburg, founded earlier that year. Both camps resulted from a discovery by Lovely Rogers, who found the Big Blue Ledge while tracking a stray mule from the earlier camp of Keyesville.

Location: Old Kernville Cemetery, Wofford Road, 2.7 miles southeast of Kernville

8. Sebastian Indian Reservation: The Sebastian or Tejon Indian Reservation was established in 1853 by Gen. Edward Fitzgerald Beale as one of several California reservations. The number of Indians quartered here varied from 500 to 2,000. Beale acquired title to the area under the Mexican land grant of 1843. In 1864 the U.S. government transferred the Indians to other reservations.

Location: Grapevine, northeast corner of Grapevine Road and D Street, 70 miles south of Mettler

9. Gordon's Ferry: Gordon's Ferry was an overhead cable-type of ferry operated during the 1850s by Major Gordon. An adobe station house was located on the south bank of the Kern River, just a few yards to the west of this marker, which also served as a station on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route from 1856 to 1860.

Location: Southeast side of the Kern River bridge, on China Grade Loop, 1,000 feet south of Round Mountain Road, Bakersfield

garces circle-667

Statue at Garces Circle

10. Garces Circle: This is the approximate site of the Indian rancheria visited by Franciscan friar Padre Francisco Garces on May 7, 1776. Garces named this spot San Miguel de los Noches por el Santa Principe.

Location: Center intersection of Chester Avenue and 30th Street, Bakersfield

11. Francisco Garces' Crossing of the Kern River: On May 1, 1776, Franciscan friar Francisco Garces crossed the Kern River one mile north of here. Searching for a shorter route from Sonora, Mexico, to Monterey, Calif., he was the first known explorer to describe this river, which he named Rio de San Felipe.

Location: Highway 178 at Rancheria Road, 11 miles east of Bakersfield

12. Top of Grapevine Pass, Where Don Pedro Fages Passed in 1772: In 1772, Don Pedro Fages passed this site, traveling from San Diego to San Luis Obispo via Cajon Pass, Mojave Desert, Hughes Lake, Antelope Valley, Tejon Pass, Canada de los Uvas (Grapevine Canyon), and Buena Vista Lake. He left the first written record of exploration in the south San Joaquin Valley.

Location: On Lebec Road, 0.6 miles north of Lebec

Kern River Oil Field Ca.JPG 150th

The discovery of oil brought hundreds of oil companies and thousands of people to the area.

13. Discovery Well of Kern River Oil Field: Oil was discovered at 70 feet in 1899, when Tom Means persuaded Roe Elwood and Frank Wiseman, aided by Jonathan, Bert, Jed and Ken Elwood, George Wiseman and John Marlowe, to dig here for oil. On June 1, 1899, 400 feet to the north, Horace and Milton McWhorter drilled this region's first commercial well.

Location: On Round Mountain Road, 0.7 miles east of China Grade Loop, 7 miles northeast of Bakersfield

14. Fages-Zalidea Crossing: In 1772, Don Pedro Fages, first recorded non-Indian to visit the southern San Joaquin Valley, crossed this spot on his way from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. Near this point crossed Father Jose Maria de Zalvidea in 1806, while accompanying the Ruiz expedition in search of mission sites.

Location: On Highway 166, 5.5 miles west of Mettler

15. Rose Station: From 1853 to 1875 this site, originally a vaquero camp of the Sebastian Indian Reservation, was known as Rancho Canoa (trough). In 1875, Wm. B. Rose built an adobe stage station on the site of the Overland Mail way station established 1858. Rose Station was a stockmen's headquarters, post office, and polling place.

Location: Northeast corner of Grapevine Road and D Street, 70 miles south of Mettler

16. Outermost Point in the South San Joaquin Valley (Visited by Padre Garces in 1776): Padre Garces, first recorded non-Indian to visit this locality, came in April of 1776, seeking a new route from Mexico to California. His epic journey covered more than 2,000 miles of uncharted wilderness, opening trails that later became highways and railroads.

Location: Courtyard of Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, 350 E. Bear Mountain Blvd, Arvin

17. Tulamniu Indian Site: The old Yokuts village of Tulamniu was named Buena Vista by Spanish Commander Fages in 1772. Father Zalvidea again recorded the site in 1806. This village was occupied for several centuries, and in 1933-34 its site was excavated by the Smithsonian Institution.

Location: 300 feet southeast of Block House #BV4, 1.1 miles north of Buena Vista pumping station, 8 miles east of Taft

18. California Standard Oil Well 1: This well was one of the early wells that in 1899 started a new oil field called the McKittrick Field. The well pumped about 150 barrels of oil per day for the first six months -- its last production was in April 1929.

Location: McKittrick Field, 400 feet north of Well #CS-54, 0.4 miles north of Highway 50, one mile south of McKittrick

Col. Thomas Baker

Col. Thomas Baker, for whom Bakersfield is named

19. Col. Thomas Baker Memorial: In 1863 Baker, friend to all travelers, came here to found "Bakers Field." His motto was, "Time will justify a man who means to do right." This civic center is his dream come true.

Location: City Hall, southwest corner of Truxtun and Chester avenues, Bakersfield

20. Indian Wells: After five days' travel from the Argus Range, the Manly-Jayhawker parties of 1849 found their first water at this Indian waterhole on the Joseph R. Walker Trail of 1843. During the 1860s, this was the site of a stage and freight station for traffic between Los Angeles and the Coso and Cerro Gordo Mines.

Location: Indian Wells Lodge, 4.9 miles north of Freeman Junction (Highways 14 and 178) on Highway 14

21. Desert Spring: This spring was on an old Indian horse thief trail and later (1834) Joe Walker Trail. The famished Manly-Jayhawk Death Valley parties (1849-50) were revived here after coming from Indian Wells through Last Chance Canyon. This was also a station on the Nadeau Borax Freight Road.

Location: Southeast corner of Pappas Ranch, on Pappas Road, then walk a quarter mile west toward trees, 0.5 miles south of Valley Road, 3.7 miles east of Cantil post office

K.C._Museum_Lakeview Gusher

The Lakeview gusher of the Midway-Sunset Oil Field flowed out of control for 18 months, producing an estimated 9 million barrels of oil.

22. Lakeview Gusher 1: America's most spectacular gusher blew out here on March 14, 1910. Initially 18,000 barrels per day, the flow later reached an uncontrolled peak of 100,000 barrels per day, destroying the derrick. This Union Oil Company well produced 9 million barrels of oil in 18 months.

Location: Petroleum Club Road between Kerto and Cadet roads, 1.5 miles north of Maricopa via Highway 33

23. Buttonwillow Tree: This lone tree, which gave the town of Buttonwillow its name, served as a landmark on an old trans-valley trail. An ancient Yokuts Indian meeting place, it later became the site of settlers' stock rodeos. Miller and Lux established their headquarters and store here about 1885.

Location: On Buttonwillow Drive, 0.5 miles north of Highway 58, Buttonwillow

24. Glennville Adobe: This is Kern County's oldest residence, built before the Civil War by Thomas Fitzgerald as a trading post at the junction of two Indian trails. The present Greenhorn Road follows the east-west trail (later the McFarland Toll Road) to the Kern River mining districts. The town was named in 1857 after James Madison Glenn, an early settler.

Location: Kern County Fire Department, Glennville Substation, on Highway 155, Glennville

25. McKittrick Brea Pit: Located one-eighth mile west of here is an ancient asphaltum seepage in which hundreds of Pleistocene Age (15,000-50,000 years ago) birds and animals were trapped. The site was first explored in 1928 by the University of California; excavation was completed in 1949 by the Los Angeles and Kern County museums.

Location: Southwest corner of Highways 33 and 58, 0.5 miles south of McKittrick

26. Buena Vista Refinery: Eight miles due west of this marker stood one of California's first commercial oil refineries. Between August 1864 and April 1867, approximately 4,000 gallons of illuminating oil produced there was shipped to San Francisco by the Buena Vista Petroleum Company. Refining operations terminated due to excessive transportation rates.

Location: Northeast corner of Highway 33 and LoKern Road, 10 miles north of McKittrick

Get into the loopAbout 40 trains a day snake through tunnel of famed Tehachapi Loop

A train snakes through the Tehachapi Mountains just east of the Tehachapi Loop off of Highway 58.

27. Tehachapi Loop: From this spot may be seen a portion of the world-renowned loop completed in 1876 under the direction of William Hood, Southern Pacific railroad engineer. In gaining elevation around the central hill of the Loop, a 4,000-foot train will cross 77 feet above its rear cars in the tunnel below.

Location: On Old State Hwy, 3.2 miles east of Keene exit, 6.5 miles west of Tehachapi

28. Posey Station of Butterfield Overland Mail Lines: Two and one-half miles east of this point stood the Posey Station on the Butterfield Overland Stage route that ran from St. Louis, Mo., through present-day Kern County to San Francisco during 1858-61, until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Location: Northeast corner of Bakersfield-Glennville Road and Round Mountain Road, 11 miles northeast of Bakersfield

29. Sinks of the Tejon: Six miles east of this point was the site of the Butterfield Stage Line station Sinks of Tejon. Operating through present-day Kern County during 1858-61, this famous line ran from St. Louis to San Francisco until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Location: Southwest corner of David and Wheeler Ridge roads, 6 miles northeast of Mettler

30. Well, 2-6: Near an area of small 40- and 50-barrel wells, it blew in over the derrick top Nov. 27, 1909, with a production of 2,000 barrels a day and started one of the greatest oil booms California ever experienced. Well 2-6 was located as a wildcat, on June 1, 1909, by Fred C. Ripley.

Location: 100 feet west of Fellows Fire Station on Broadway, Fellows

31. Kern River Slough Station: Just south of this point stood the Kern River Slough Station on the Butterfield Overland Stage route. Operating through present-day Kern County during 1858-1861, this famous line ran from St. Louis to San Francisco until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Location: On Panama Road, 3.1 miles west of Lamont

32. Mountain House: One and one-half miles north of this point stood the Mountain House Station on the route of the Butterfield Stage.

Location: Dry Creek, on Bakersfield-Glenville roads, 6.3 miles southwest of Woody

33. Garces Baptismal Site: Three miles north of this point was the site of the first recorded Christian baptism in the San Joaquin Valley. On May 23, 1776, Padre Francisco Garces baptized an Indian boy whom he called Muchachito at a Yokuts Rancheria in Grizzly Gulch.

Location: On Highway 155, 7.7 miles west of Woody

34. Old Town Tehachapi: The oldest settlement in Tehachapi Valley, known as Old Town, was established here during the 1860s. Long an important station on the road between Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, the community began to decline when residents gradually moved to nearby Greenwich, later renamed Tehachapi, after completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876.

Location: Northeast corner of Old Town Road and Woodford-Tehachapi Road, 1.3 miles north of Highway 202, 2.5 miles west of Tehachapi

35. 20-Mule-Team Borax Terminus: Just west of this point was the Southern Pacific terminus for the 20-mule-team borax wagons that operated between Death Valley and Mojave from 1884 to 1889. The route ran from the Harmony Borax Mining Company works, later acquired by the Pacific Coast Borax Company, to the railroad loading dock in Mojave over 165 miles of mountain and desert trail. A round trip required 20 days. The ore wagons, which hauled a payload of 24 tons, were designed by J. W. S. Perry, Borax Company superintendent in Death Valley, and built in Mojave at a cost of $900 each. New borax discoveries near Barstow ended the Mojave shipments in 1889.

Location: 16246 Sierra Highway, Mojave

Jedediah Strong Smith 150th

Jedediah Strong Smith

36. Point on the Jedediah Smith Trail: About Feb. 1, 1827, Jedediah Strong Smith, first American to reach Mexican California overland, passed near this spot with his party of fur trappers. From San Gabriel Mission, the group was en route north to a land reported teeming with "plenty of beaver." Smith and his men were trailblazers whose exploits soon led to the American conquest of California.

Location: Southeast corner of Old Bena and Tower Line roads, 3.6 miles east of Edison


The site of the town of Garlock

37. Site of the Town of Garlock: In 1896, Eugene Garlock constructed a stamp mill near this spot to crush gold ore from the Yellow Aster Mine on Rand Mountain. Known originally as Cow Wells by prospectors and freighters during the 1880s and early 1890s, the town of Garlock continued to thrive until 1898, when water was piped from here to Randsburg and the Kramer-Randsburg rail line was completed.

Location: 74 miles west of Highway 395 on Garlock Road, 13.4 miles northeast of Cantil post office

38. Lavers Crossing: In 1854, John C. Reid filed a squatter's claim on this spot -- the same year Kern County's first school class was held here. In 1859, David Lavers, with his father and brother, John, built a hotel and stage barn on the old Bull Road. The crossing was the principal community in Linn's Valley until about 1870.

Location:Northeast corner of White River and Jack Ranch roads, 1.1 miles west of Glennville

39. Site of the Last Home of Alexis Godey: Near this site stood the home of Alexis Godey, frontiersman and scout, who lived here from 1883 until his death on Jan. 19, 1889. Born in St. Louis in 1818, he acted as guide for John C. Fremont's expedition through the Kern area in 1843-44, and was honored for his services at the Battle of San Pasqual in 1846.

Location: 414 19th St., west of Union Avenue, Bakersfield

40. Site of the home of Elisha Stevens: Near this spot stood the last home of Elisha Stevens, noted American pathfinder and scout. Born April 5, 1804, he learned blacksmithing during his youth -- then, drifting west, he became a trapper on the upper Missouri for more than two decades. In 1844 he led the 50-member Murphy-Townsend wagon train safely from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Sutter's Fort. During the Mexican War he served as an ordnance mechanic under Commodore Stockton. For a time he lived in Santa Clara County, then settled here on a 38-acre tract, the first permanent settler in the Bakersfield district. He died Sept. 9, 1887, and is buried in Union Cemetery.

Location: Northwest corner of West Columbus and Isla Verde streets, Bakersfield

41. Bealville: Edward Fitzgerald Beale, serving under Commodore Stockton in 1846, established his home here on Rancho le Libre in 1855. He also engaged in mining and became superintendent of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada, and minister to Vienna.

Location: On Bealville Road, 0.9 miles north of Highway 58, 1.3 miles south of Caliente

Edward M. Kern 150th

Edward M. Kern

42. Campsite of Edward M. Kern: Near this spot at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Kern River, the Theodore Talbot party of Captain John C. Fremont's third expedition to the west camped for several weeks during December 1845 and January 1846. Fremont named the river in honor of Edward M. Kern, topographer for the expedition.

Location: Entrance to Old IsabelIa Road Recreation Area, on Highway 178, 2 miles north of Lake IsabelIa


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.

43. Caliente: Originally known as Allen's Camp after Gabriel Allen, who in the 1870s had a cabin and stock pasture near here, the settlement was named Caliente when railroad construction reached this point in April 1875. The town became a railroad terminal for about 16 months while a force of up to 3,000 men, most of them Chinese, labored on the heavy railroad construction on the mountain.

Location: 2.3 miles north of Highway 58 on Bealville Road, Caliente

44. Freeman Junction: Explorer Joseph R. Walker passed this junction of Indian trails in 1834 after discovering nearby Walker Pass. After their escape from Death Valley, '49er parties split here to go west and south to the California gold fields. Here the bandit Tiburcio V·squez preyed on stages and freighters traveling between the Kern River mines and Los Angeles and the mines of Bodie and the Panamints.

Location: On Highway 178, 0.2 miles west of the junction with Highway 14

Gossamer Condor

The Gossamer Condor

45. Site of the Flight of the Gossamer Condor: This plaque at Shafter Airport commemorates the world's first man-powered flight to complete the Kremer Circuit, Aug. 23, 1977. The circuit, a figure eight around two pylons one-half mile apart, was completed in six minutes, 22 seconds. The plane was designed by Dr. Paul MacCready Jr. and flown by Bryan Allen. A cash prize of 50,000 pounds was awarded by the Royal Aeronautical Society, London.

Location: Entrance to Shafter Airport, Lerdo Highway, 5 miles east of Shafter

Hoist House at Yellow Aster.jpg

The Hoist House of the Yellow Aster Mine, the major gold producing mine in the Rand Mining District, circa 1898.

46. Rand Mining District: The Yellow Aster, or Rand, mine was discovered in April 1895 by Singleton, Burcham and Mooers. The town of Randsburg quickly developed, followed by the supply town of Johannesburg in 1896. In 1907, Churchill discovered tungsten in Atolia, used in steel alloy during World War I. In June 1919, Williams and Nosser discovered the famous California Rand Silver Mine at Red Mountain.

Location: Kern County Desert Museum, Butte Avenue, Randsburg

47. Shafter Cotton Research Station: The Shafter Cotton Research Station, established here in 1922 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, developed the acala varieties that were exceptionally well-suited to the San Joaquin Valley. The quality of the acala cottons and the marketing advantage of the one variety cotton district, created in 1925, resulted in premium cottons with a worldwide demand. Through the continued vision and cooperative efforts of growers and researchers, production of acala cotton became one of California's largest agricultural enterprises.

Location:17053 Shafter Ave., Shafter

Source: California Office of Historic Preservation

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

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