The Kern River Valley Historical Society has been in operation for over 40 years. Our mission is to preserve and communicate the rich and colorful history of this region. To achieve these goals we have established the Kern Valley Museum in downtown Kernville next to the Post Office.
Some Interesting Facts About the Movie Stagecoach

True West magazine is a publication about the history of the old west....

In their April edition, there is a great article about the filming of the movie Stagecoach (1939 ) written by Henry C. Parke titled “ Sink or Swim”.

Did you know that John Ford, the director of the movie, almost canceled the crossing of the Kern River with our mudwagon? He thought it was too dangerous.John Wayne brought his friend, Yakima Canutt, onto the movie set, to convince John Ford that it could be done safely.

Even so, it turned out to be the very last scene in the movie to be filmed. John Ford figured that if someone got hurt he would already have the rest of the film finished and they could skip that scene.

The logs they tied to both sides of our mudwagon were hollowed out. They tied a cable to the bottom of our mudwagon and pulled it across the Kern River. The chase scene of the Apaches chasing the stagecoach was filmed at the dry lake bed near Victorville, California. The day before the chase scene, Yakima paid a farmer to disc 15 to 20 acres of the dry lake bed to make it softer for him and others to fall on.

Yakima was John Wayne when he jumped to the lead horse after Buck (Andy Devine) was wounded. It was Yakima, who was the Apache that jumped on the lead horse, was shot by John Wayne (Ringo) and went down between the galloping horses and under the stagecoach.

All of this information and much more is in the article titled “Sink or Swim” in True West Magazine. My wife, Dianna, and I decided that the author, Henry Parke, needed to know that the stagecoach that crossed the Kern River is right here in the Kern Valley Museum. Dianna sent him an email telling all about our stage and pictures of it from several angles.

We didn’t hear anymore from him for a couple of weeks and then we got a phone call. He admitted that at first he was skeptical of our claim so he enlarged the film of the crossing about 50 times and compared the lines and angles of the stage crossing the Kern to a regular stagecoach and our mudwagon. Guess what, the lines and angles of the stage in the film and the pictures of our mudwagon matched perfectly. They did not match up with a regular stage.

He was excited to know that our stage still exists. He is going to try to do a follow up of his article. We are anxiously waiting. However, to our surprise, in the June issue of True West Magazine, on page 8, is Dianna’s slightly edited email that she sent to him titled “John Wayne’s Mud Wagon”.

Finally, I hope I’ve got enough of your interest to come to this month’s Movies Under The Stars. We will be showing Stagecoach starring John Wayne. 

—Ron Anderson 



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