Bakersfield, California is one of the many historic places in the United States. What started out as a disease infested swamp became one of California’s loveliest areas. It is located in the southern end of the Central Valley of California and near the Kern River Basin. It is positioned directly in the middle between Fresno and Los Angeles California.
After the Spanish came to the area in 1778, a missionary by the name of Father Francisco Graces explored the area. Seventy-five years later, in 1851, gold was discovered in the Kern River, just south of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Even though the river contained riches, it was prone to flooding. The flooding also created swamps which brought deadly mosquitoes carrying malaria. Also the only thing that grew was tulle reeds. Despite bouts of malaria, pioneers managed to make log cabins using the reeds to help build their homes.
In 1863, retired California state senator Colonial Thomas Baker moved to Kern Island. He was an honest, hospitable man that helped develop what is now Bakersfield. He was a strong believer of land reclamation and an accomplished surveyor. One of his well known contributions to the town was his large alfalfa fields. Baker grew the alfalfa for travelers visiting the area to have feed for their horses. His generosity was boasted as far away as San Francisco where newspapers told travelers to stop at Baker’s field.
As the area continued to grow, Colonial Baker used his own money to develop the swamps into housing. To help the area’s residents he built saw mills for the public to use for free. He surveyed a plot of land for a new town after another flood from the Kern River struck the area. In 1869, to their gratification the people dedicated the new town to the Colonial and called it Bakersfield.
The Santa Fe railroad arrived in Bakersfield in 1898 and helped to stimulate growth. The population boomed with the total number of residents reaching over twenty-five hundred in 1890. Unfortunately floods continued to plague the region as well as two major fires, one in 1889 and another in 1919. As people in the Great Plains, located in the central United States region, experienced terrible droughts and dust storms in the 1930s, they began to migrate to Bakersfield and other parts of California.
As the population in Bakersfield increased so did the tensions between residents. Oil was a booming business in the area and there were lots of people who needed work. On July 21, 1952, a major earthquake, 7.3 on the Richter scale, struck the surrounding areas of Bakersfield. Even though the people of Bakersfield were spared any major structural damages or loss of life, they were worried that they would be flooded by the Kern River again. Sadly on August 22, another earthquake struck in the most densely populated of the San Joaquin Valley, killing 4 people and destroying several of Bakersfield’s historic buildings. Today Bakersfield is a beautiful area and an amazing 308,000 residents. It barely resembles the old swamp land that Colonial Baker encountered.