The Kern River Valley Historical Society is celebrating over 50 years of operation! Our mission is to preserve and communicate the rich and colorful history of this region. The Kern Valley Museum in downtown Kernville, next to the Post Office, welcomes visitors to explore our rich history.

Location

49 Big Blue Road
PO Box 651
Kernville, CA 93238

(760) 376-6683

 

************  NOTICE **************

THE MUSEUM AND ANNEX ARE CURRENTLY CLOSED THROUGH THE END OF APRIL DUE TO THE CORONA VIRUS SITUATION.

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USUAL HOURS (WHEN THE MUSEUM REOPENS):
10 am to 4 pm
Thursday through Sunday

We are regularly closed:
New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


Admission is Free

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What's Happening in APRIL 2020 - Please see CALENDAR

Romantic Heritage of Kern River Valley  from Trail Blazer, Gold Seeker and Pioneer Settler to Modern Developers

This small 14-page booklet is a beautifully illustrated overview of 130 years of the Kern River Valley's colorful past, including the little-known history of our local telephone systems. The historic black & white drawings make it a collector's item. Forty small, but exquisite b&w drawings depict Onyx, Keyesville, Old and New Kernville, Weldon, Bodfish, Old and New Isabella, both Scovern and Miracle Hot Springs, and the iconic Apalatea-Burlando House. Eight historic plaques of the Kern River and Lake Isabella, the Kernville Golf Course, Shirley Meadows Ski Area, and hunting and fishing, are all drawn as they appeared in the 1960's. The detailed, hand-drawn map inside the front cover locates communities of the KRV, from Havilah to Walker Pass to Johnsondale.

One of my favorite of Wendell Neely's 40 b&w drawings is of New Kernville. A station wagon; a couple of big sedans with upright tail fins; and a VW bug are parked in front of the shops, on the bridge side of Circle Park. The two-story, false front building that is, in 2020, the Saloon, and the two buildings to its right, are all meticulously depicted in photographic detail. The contours of the shoulder of Powers Peak, define the skyline in the background.

Highlights of the wonders of the KRV, beginning in 1834 with Joseph R. Walker and ending in 1969 include: the Gold Rush Days with 6,000 miners and Big Blue Mine in 1860; Old Kernville built on the site of a Tubalatubal- Bankalachi village named Tulonoya; Old Isabella built on the Bankalachi village of Pitnamiu; Ashbury Harpending, the KRV's first subdivider in Havilah in the 1860’s; Irven Wofford, one of the largest land owners in the KRV, who founded Wofford Heights and promoted lots of westerns filmed here; George Bodfish, who ran a tavern, near where the Bodfish Post Office was established in 1895; William Weldon, who starting in 1857, supplied Keyesville miners with beef; the freight route that headed from Weldon, through Kelso Valley to meet the Owens Valley freight lines via Jawbone or Butterbredt Canyons, and onto Los Angeles; and Lake Isabella, dammed in 1953, one of Southern California's largest lakes. It's a quick refresher on KRV history.

The last two pages of this information-packed booklet tell the history of the KRV's telephone systems. Around 1912, John Dannier installed the first telephone in Old Isabella. Dannier ran a single, uninsulated wire to connect Old Isabella with Old Kernville, Weldon and Onyx. About 1915 the A. Brown Co. connected their scattered ranches and general stores, flour mill, and stage line to Caliente, with a magneto system run out of a switchboard in Old Kernville. In 1920 G.W. Bandy bought both Dannier's and Brown's systems and then sold them in 1933 to the J.A. Greens, who renamed them the Kernville Telephone Co. The Greens sold to Orian Campbell in 1941; then D.F. Gouldins; and in 1958 to the Continental Telephone Co. bought the system. Continental had telephone offices in New Kernville, Isabella, and Weldon. Between 1958 and 1969 the number of telephones in the KRV increased from 235 to 3,865.

Romantic Heritage was a series of seven booklets, published by California Interstate Telephone Co., between 1959 and 1969. This community service was to promote the mountain and desert counties of southeastern California that they served. The book was probably written by Lawrence Burr Belden, artist Wendell P. Neely, California Interstate (Continental) Telephone Co., 1973. The KRV Museum has some of the few-remaining copies of the Romantic Heritage of Kern River Valley.

           Linda