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History of the Kern County Historical Society
By: George Gilbert Lynch

Topics: local history, Kern County Historical Society, George Gilbert Lynch
Posted by citizenjournalist Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:14:03 PST
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One hundred and fourteen years ago, March 22, 1894, a determinded group of Kern County pioneers assembled at the residence of the promanent town doctor, L.S. Rogers and wife, for the purpose of organizing a society of pioneers. The objects were social and to preserve the early records and history of Kern County, "while there was still time". These were the men and women and sons and daughters of those pioneers who transformed a Valley of swamp land and tules into an agricultural marvel. The names of the movers and shakers who formed this society are legend in Kern County history; Jewett, Brundage, Jastro, Mills, Scribner, Fish, Canfield, Tracy, Wible, Houghton to name but a few. The Honorable Judge Ben Brundage drafted the origional charter with the following words; "We the undersigned, who resided in Kern County prior to January, 1875,  do hearby agree to organize ourselves into a society to be known as "The Valley Pioneers", for the purpose of socializing and for the preservation of the friendships and history of former years."

This Valley Pioneers group along with the historically oriented organizations, The Native Sons and Native Daughters Of The Golden West, gathered and protected much of our historical documents, books and artifacts, storing them in librarys, the courthouse, their garages and barns. Although the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West could count on a growing membership potential, the passing-on of our senior Pioneers brought about a decline in the Pioneer Society's membership.

Two events happening within the month of May, 1931, brought about the creation of a new historical preservation group. Kern County Union High School principle H.A. Spindt was an avid historian. ( The H.A. Spindt Honor Award is still awarded to B.H.S. honor roll students). Principle Spindt was interested in all phases of history especially central california and local. In his studies he learned of a new discovery in Mexico which revealed previously unknown personal papers of Don Pedro Fagas, the first Spanish explorer to travel into the San Joaquin Valley and named the Buena Vista Lake. Mr. Spindt took advantage of every opportunity to speak of this Fagas paper's discovery at numerous club, business men's and teachers meetings and dinner parties, while also spearheading the movement for the formation of a new local history preservation group.

The second event that influenced the forming of a historical Society was; The California State Chamber of Commerce called upon Kern County to provide them with the locations of historically important places in Kern County to assist in their installation of historical markers. This call finally rallied a group of history oriented citizens, led by Mr. Spindt and Alfred Harrell, to meet together, their goal; To form The Kern County Historical Society, as the Pioneer group stated back in 1894, "while there is still time".

Mr. Spindt, along with local newspaper publisher Alfred Harrell, spearheaded the movement to to revive the waning Valley Pioneer's Society, however instead of rebuilding that Pioneer Society, they and several history buffs decided it was of more benefit to form an entirely new group, "The Kern County Historical Society".

The fledgling organization's first meeting was held in May, 1931 at the El Tejon Hotel. The meeting was arranged by chairman H.A. Spindt.  Main Speaker was Dr. Herbert E. Bolton Head Of the history department at Cal State Berkeley and author of numerous text books on history. Dr Bolton gave an address on the the new found papers of Don Pedro Fagas. The remainder of the meeting was used to elect officers to head the new Society and draft procedures and bylaws.

Alfred Harrell was elected president; Dwight Clark, Vice President; Mrs. Julia Babcock, recording secretary; Mrs. Hugh Allen, corrosponding secretary and Jesse Stockton , curator. The new Society was christened with the credo ; To collect, preserve, and disseminate historical information, the same goal of the founding Pioneer Society but with membership open to everyone.

Four years later the Society published their first book: "In The South San joaquin Ahead Of Garces" by Dr. Herbert E. Bolton.  This book led to an extensive publication program over the next 72 years. This non-profit organization uses the proceeds from the sales of it's publications to finance more books thus keeping a full inventory for sale.

The Society constantly petitioned  the County Board of Supervisors to fund a Museum in which the the enormous amount of material they had collected could be stored and displayed for the public to appreciate. Due to a lack of a proper, permanent repository for these priceless artifacts, they were accumulating in County offices, librarys and in the damp County Courthouse basement. In 1941 the Society helped bring the "Kern County Museum" into existence, a building in which these artifacts could be protected.  Later on, in  1949, construction began on  "Pioneer Village", a 16 acre virtual pioneer community displaying 58 historic structures ranging from 1868 through 1936.

The Kern County Historical Society is today fulfilling it's intended purpose of preserving Kern County's heritage. This non profit organization is self supporting through membership dues and the sale of books and pamphlets, mostly written by past members such as Dr. Harland Boyd, Curtis Darling, Richard Bailey, Artis Walker and many other great local historians. These publications are invaluable for their information about the early day life and activities in Kern County. The Society is involved in sponsoring, placing, and maintainence of many historical markers throughout the County and cooperating with the boards of trade and chambers of commerce to help insure high standards in publicity pamphlets. We are also proud to be the parent sponsor of The Kern County Museum. The Society has worked with the State Division of Parks and Recreation in the restoration of Fort Tejon.

Unlike the founding " Kern Valley Pioneers" in 1894, which limited it's membership to  Pioneers and their families, todays Historical Society membership is open to everyone. Our membership includes persons from many varied occupations, long time residents as well as new comers. We are supported by membership dues and contributions. This Society is devoted to collecting, preserving, publishing and distributing information related to the history of Kern County. Our large selection of historical books are on sale at the Kern County  Museum store.

The Kern County Historical Society has many interesting field trips and speakers scheduled this year and our President, Lori Wear, has many volunteer opportunities available .  The Society's website is complete with all information about activities and membership.

                                (C)  By George Gilbert Lynch, Aug. 29, 2007
This article was read and approved by Lori Wear, President of The Kern County Historical Society on Aug. 30, 2007.

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