Saturday, February 11, 2012

Kern County Museum

 I always inwardly groan when John suggests touring another museum. However, it never fails that I end up enjoying myself and gaining a lot of new information when I do dare to enter a museum. This was true again yesterday when we toured the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield. The museum has been a work in progress since 1941. Over the years it has accumulated 50 genuine and recreated structures and some 1,000 artifacts dating from the mid 1800s to the early years of the 1900s. The structures include an 1891 Victorian style home which once was owned by the County Auditor of Bakersfield. A 1898 board and batten farm house has also been moved to the grounds of the museum.
 With the coming of the railroad the community had to deal with many rowdy railroad workers. Southern Pacific Railroad donated to the museum their small jail which was built on skids so it could be move around as needed.  There is also a reproduction of a wood framed county hospital which was used in the 1870s. At that time the right to feed, nurse and even bury the dead went to the lowest bidder, consequently the care was usually substandard. Starting in the 1850s gold was discovered in Kern County. The Yellow Astor Mine became one of the most famous mines in California, producing millions of dollars worth of gold. In the late 1800s many immigrants flowed into the area to work in the mines or on the railroad. Among these immigrants were people from China. To serve the religious needs of those people a Chinese temple was built in 1870 in Bakersfield. Chinese temples were called Jost Houses. Below is a picture of a reproduction of that temple.
At the turn of the century oil was discovered in Kern County. There were 4 oil fields, making the county one of the top oil producing areas in the United States. Several oil boom towns sprang up in the county, including the town of Fellows. An immigrant woman from France provided room and board for the oil workers and their families at her hotel in the town. The hotel was donated to the museum in 1989.
Kern County's history in relation to to California and the nation is certainly most unique and fascinating . And it place in the pages of history continued in 1981. That was when the first space shuttle to orbit the earth landed at Edwards Air Force Base, which is located in eastern Kern County.

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