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April 15, 1863: Kern River

April 15, 2013

Orange Grove 01

Orange grove near Bakersfield; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

[Today] we came on thirty-five miles to Kern River, the most barren and desolate day’s ride since leaving Fresno, and for thirty miles we saw no house. We continued among the low barren hills until we came near Kern River—here we had to leave the road and go down the river nine or ten miles to find a ford. We followed a few wagon tracks, left the hills, and struck down the plain. The soil became worse—a sandy plain, without grass, in places very alkaline—a few desert or saline shrubs growing in spots, elsewhere the soil bare—no water, no feed. We saw some coyotes (wolves) and antelope. Night came on, and still we found neither grass nor river ford. Long after dark, when we began to get discouraged and to fear we would have to stop without water or feed for ourselves or animals, we heard some dogs bark. Soon we saw a light and soon afterward struck a cabin. Here we found some grass, went into the house, made some tea, and then slept on the river bank. Here in a cabin lived a man, wife, and several children, all ragged, dirty, ignorant—not one could read or write—and Secessionists, of course.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2013 12:52 pm

    Your orange grove photo is much more flattering, but your readers might also enjoy exploring this GigaPan view of the Kern River (and the Kern River oil field) from the bluffs on its south bank at the present day location of Bakersfield College: I’d guess Brewer forded the river somewhere downstream of this vantage point, but this view does give a sense of the barren hills (now covered in pumpjacks) that they might have passed thru.

  2. William H. Brewer permalink*
    April 15, 2013 1:29 pm

    Wow, that is fantastic! Thanks for posting that.

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