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Colonel Thomas Baker Narrative

Colonel Thomas Baker was from a family of pioneers. His ancestors moved to the colonies in America from England before the Revolutionary War in 1776. A colony is a settlement ruled by a far away country. His grandfather, also named Thomas Baker, fought in the Revolutionary War, also called the War for Independence. This war was between the colonists, people living in America, and England. The colonists wanted to have a say about the laws in the colonies. England wanted to make the laws for the colonists.

Baker's father traveled to the Ohio territory before it became a state. The land in Ohio was part of Virginia before it became the state of Ohio. His father was also a soldier in the War of 1812. This war was also fought against England.

baker young - small: Colonel Baker

Colonel Baker

Thomas Baker was born on November 5, 1810 in Zanesville, Ohio. He was the second son in a family of five children. They lived on a farm. When he was younger, Thomas studied surveying and the law.

Mr. Baker was interested in the laws that decide who owned different lands. He was also a soldier in the Ohio State Militia. The militia protected the people of the state. He soon became a colonel in the militia. When he was only 19, he became a lawyer in Ohio

Like his father and grandfather, Colonel Baker enjoyed adventure and being a pioneer. In 1830, Colonel Baker moved to Illinios. He was one of the first settlers to cross the Mississippi River to eastern Iowa. He made friends with the Indians in this area by treating them fairly and honestly. His Indian friends warned him that he needed to leave this dangerous territory during an Indian War. Colonel Baker didn't want to leave but his Indian friends helped him pack his belongings and leave with his family. When Colonel Baker returned, he found his cabin burned and many other settlers killed. He was lucky to have such good friend

While he lived in Iowa, he worked very hard in the courts. When Iowa became a state in 1846, Colonel Baker was elected to the first legislature. The legislature is part of the government that makes the laws. He worked very hard in the state and became the first lieutenant governor of Iowa.

Colonel Baker married Mary Featherstone and had four children. When his wife died, Colonel Baker packed up his children and set off for California. Gold had been discovered in California and Colonel Baker wanted to try his luck in the gold fields. He traveled overland first to Benecia, California and then south to Stockton.

In 1852 Colonel Baker traveled to the newly created county of Tulare. At this time, the land in Kern County was part of Tulare County. He was one of the cofounders of the city of Visalia with a man named Vise. He met his second wife in Visalia. Her name was Ellen Alverson. He was elected state senator from Tulare and Fresno counties and served in the legislature in 1861 and 1862.

While he was living in Visalia, Baker took time to ride his horse south over the plains to Kern Island. Colonel Baker thought that someday a great city would be built in this area. He dreamed about the railroad crossing the Tehachapi Mountains. On September 9, 1863 Thomas Baker brought his family to live on the north side of the Kern. This area was known as Kern Island. After much searching, Mr. Baker found Mr. Gordon's ferryboat and took his family across to the foot of China Grade.

He met Christian Bohna, an earlier settler on the island. He bought a shack and 160 acres for $200 from Christian Bohna. Christian Bohna was one of the earliest settlers in Kern County. This shack was the only shelter around. The sides of the house were made with cottonwood logs standing on end in a trench. Earth was filled in around the logs, holding them tightly in place. The roof was made of tules.

small thatch: small thatch

1st house in Bakersfield

The Baker family went to work. They brought reed matting which they tacked four feet high around the small three-room building. They built a brush shed to give them a kitchen and dining room. The Bakers lived in this house for the next two years. This house was located on the comer of Nineteenth and N Streets

Mrs. Baker wanted to make friends with her neighbors She had the only sewing machine in the community so she invited her neighbors to a weekly sew and potluck lunch. Together the women sewed quilts and clothes for their families. There were many challenges facing the Bakers. Mrs. Baker made soap from grease and alkali. Salt was leeched out of the earth, candles were hand made and honey took the place of sugar. Sometimes there was no coffee and Mrs. Baker would slice sweet potatoes, bake them in the oven, and pour boiling water over them. They added a little honey and drank this instead of coffee. Imagine what that must have tasted like.

Mrs. Baker also worried about educating the children in the town. Mrs. Baker opened a school in her home for her children and her neighbors' children. This was the first school in Bakersfield. She cut letters from paper and taught the students how to read, write, and do math. Can you make up some activities to use to teach someone to read?

Colonel Baker bought a patent, or land grant, which would let him drain 400,000 acres of swampland. This included land along the Kern River. Mexicans, settlers, and Indians from the Tejon reservations helped him drain the swampland. He now owned over 80,000 acres of very good land. The tiny settlement was beginning to grow.

small sheep feed: sheep feeding

Sheep feeding

Colonel Baker built a pole fence around 30 acres of land, along what is now Truxtun Avenue. Knowing how much travelers needed good feed for their animals, he planted ten acres of alfalfa. This was the first alfalfa grown in Kern County and was used to feed the animals of travelers passing through the settlement. "Baker's field" became the place to stop and graze your animals. Colonel Baker said to all his visitors, "Help yourself, but don't waste anything." Horses were always taken care of and hungry and tired men were never turned away. Philo Jewett, another pioneer in Kern County, raised sheep. He suggested the city name of Bakersfield.

Baker started to give small pieces of land to any person who would come and start a business. He set up a gristmill so that local farmers could grind their wheat and corn for free.

Baker believed that a better road was needed between Havilah and Bakersfield. Colonel Baker was the official county surveyor. He used his surveying experience to build a road between the two settlements. It was called Baker Grade. This road made it faster and easier to travel between the old county seat of Havilah and the growing city of Bakersfield.

small baker: Colonel Baker

Colonel Baker

In 1866, Colonel Baker began to design the city of Bakersfield. He thought that one day Bakersfield would be an important city in California. He mapped the town with streets that were 82 1/2 feet wide. and avenues that were 115 feet wide. Baker had looked at streets in other cities and he thought that the usual 66 feet was too narrow for carriages. Baker also set aside land for a civic center

In 1866 only 600 people lived in Bakersfield. Baker was already selling his land for $1.00 an acre to attract people to the new town. He only kept 80 acres of land for himself.

Baker believed that a great city would grow along the Kern. He worked hard to make this happen. He had a motto; "Time will always justify a man who means to do right." This was the code Colonel Thomas Baker lived by Colonel Baker did not live to see the railroad arrive in Bakersfield or the county seat move to Bakersfield. He died on November 24, 1872 of typhoid and pneumonia.


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