History of Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield, CA located on the Kern River, is geographically near to the southern end of the San Joaquin River at the base of the San Joaquin Valley. It’s location has been the site of many generations of Native Americans and became home to the first settlers in 1851. The settlers were attracted to the area because of it’s natural features and the discovery of gold. Active mining and panning found gold in the surrounding hills, but a large majority was found at the bottom of the Kern River.

As you can imagine, the town grew quickly with the word of gold and it became a necessity to lay out the plans for its residents. The task was given to Colonel Thomas Baker and by 1869 he successfully completed the layout for the booming town. The choosing of the name of the town was the next step and it was decided that it should be derived from a noted source in the town itself. Baker decided that, because he had developed the plans for the town layout, he should look in his own ‘backyard’ for a name. Baker decided to name the town after his own alfalfa field, creating the name of Bakersfield.

Bakersfield continued to see growth thru the Gold Rush years. But the gold became less prevalent with the huge amount of mining and needed the next step in its growth of commerce. In 1874, the major rail lines found its way to Bakersfield which allowed it to become a center of trade and distribution.

Bakersfield residents also took advantage of the diverse landscape in the surrounding area. Farmers developed the Kern River irrigation system that led to a major increase in the farming of grain, alfalfa and bringing water to livestock ranches.

If the gold rush wasn’t enough for this town, the town’s development took a wide turn when oil was discovered in 1899. This discovery was yet another major boom to the area and the petroleum industry skyrocketed. Petroleum in Bakersfield paved the way for the manufacturing industry to largely increase their production.

The city is home to the California State University-Bakersfield, built in 1970, and a junior college that provides a fine education. Also in Bakersfield, is Maric College and Golden State College.

Bakersfield is also home to many museums, including the Bakersfield Museum of Art, Kern County Museum, Buena Vista Museum of Natural History, and the California Living Museum.

Live entertainment in the area can be found at the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, Bakersfield Community Theatre, Bakersfield Fox Theater and the Phoenix Theater.