Saturday, November 19, 2011

Local History 101

Saturday November 19, 2001 @ 11am.....Local History Lecture Series: Local History 101.....Do you have a local history project and don't know where to start? This workshop will cover the basics of using Local History Room Resources. Tejon Room, 2nd Floor

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Local History Lecture Series

It’s been a while since our blog has been updated; that’s because we have been real busy working with the historical collection. Some of you may already know that in the past year we “reacquired” a large collection of historical records that were previously housed in the basement at the “Old Beale” Library. Thanks to the help of the Bakersfield High School Archiving Class we were able to move the records in one day.

It has taken us a year to inventory this collection and we are nearing completion. Soon there will be a finding aid accessible from the Kern County Library website.

We have also brought back the “Local History Lecture Series.” The Local History Lecture Series is discussion forum that provides speakers and seminars to stimulate knowledge and discussion about Kern County History.

Here is the spring line-up:

Saturday February 19, 11am
African American Women Trailblazers: A Celebration of Africa’s Gift to Kern County presented by author Fred Haynes. The author will share his insights regarding these remarkable women who triumphed over racism and sexism and highlight their contributions to Kern County. Discussion and book signing, FREE. Beale Memorial Library, Tejon Room, 701 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, (661) 868-0745.

Saturday March 26, 11am
¡Sí, Se Puede! Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker’s Movement in Kern County presented by Oliver Rosales, Ph.D Candidate University of California Santa Barbara
Oliver Rosales is well versed in the urban civil rights history of Kern County. This seminar will provide an overview of the United Farm Workers (UFW), their impact on national and local civil rights, as well as the controversy surrounding the UFW in terms of their legacy in Kern County and the United States. FREE. Beale Memorial Library, Tejon Room, 701 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, (661) 868-0745.

Saturday April 23, 11am
Kern County’s Wild Blue Yonder: The Making of Edwards Air Force Base
Presented by Lt. Col. David Smith USAF (Ret)
Stealth Bombers, Space Shuttles, and the Blue Angels….Have you ever wondered how one of our country’s most important Air Force Bases got its start? Join Lt. Col. David Smith (Ret) as he traces the history of this Kern County icon. FREE. Beale Memorial Library, Tejon Room, 701 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, (661) 868-0745.

Saturday May 14, 11am
100 Years of Excellence: The History of Bakersfield College presented by Gilbert Gia
Part of an ongoing project celebrating Bakersfield College, Mr. Gia will trace the early history of our community’s first institution of higher education. FREE. Beale Memorial Library, Tejon Room, 701 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, (661) 868-0745. FREE. Beale Memorial Library, Tejon Room, 701 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, (661) 868-0745.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tales from the Vault #2

Marie Beale & Decatur House

This edition of Tales brings us to one of the most interesting of Kern County’s pioneer families. We have all heard of the remarkable stories about General Edward Fitzgerald Beale, Mexican/American War Hero, and friend of Kit Carson, gold smuggler, Indian Agent, and land holder. We have also heard as many stories about his son Truxtun Beale. The focus of this tale is on Marie Beale, Truxtun’s wife who was just as intriguing as her husband and her father-in-law.

Born about 1881, Marie Oge married Truxtun Beale on April 23, 1903. The only witnesses present were Marie’s mother and Truxtun’s sister. Soon after the wedding they set sail for Europe aboard the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm II built in Stettin, Germany.[1] The Wilhelm II was seized April 6, 1917 by the United States Government after it entered the Great War. Some notable passengers on the same voyage were Fremont Older, the San Francisco reporter who exposed the corruption of Abe Ruef, and newspaper millionaire William Randolph Hearst.

Although Marie Beale married into one of America’s preeminent families, she too, came from a family with its own claims to historical fame. Philander Chase (December 14, 1775-September 20, 1852), founder of Kenyon College in 1824, was a great grandfather . Philander’s nephew, Salmon P. Chase, was a U.S. Senator, Governor of Ohio, U.S. Treasury Secretary (under Abraham Lincoln), and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

After Marie’s marriage to Truxtun, they moved into the historic Decatur House on Lafayette Square in Washington D.C. The Decatur House, built in 1818, was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and was home to a variety of historical figures including Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, and Edward Livingston. Edward F. Beale gained ownership of this magnificent abode in 1872 and soon remodeled it in Victorian Style.[2] Mary Beale (Truxtun’s mother) occupied the house after her husband’s death in 1893. At first, Marie and Truxtun lived part of the time in California (Tejon Ranch) and part of the time in Washington D.C. It seems, however, that her fondest moments were spent at the Decatur House. She shares those memories and its history in her book Decatur House and Its Inhabitants (1954).

Marie was the quintessential Washington socialite as she frequently entertained American Statesmen and foreign diplomats. Hers was one of two places to be in Washington D.C. She notes that "as in its first days, guests now came to only two places in La Fayette Square--the President's Mansion and Decatur House--which somehow symbolized the completion of a long cycle." [3] In 1938, Life magazine paid tribute to Marie Beale in the article "Life Goes to a Party with high Washington Society at Mrs. Truxtun Beale's historic Decatur House." The article included fourteen photographs of notable figures including the Belgian Ambassador, Mrs. Patrick J. Hurley, the Yugoslavian Minister, the German Ambassador, Lady Lindsay, Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers, the Rumanian Minister, and, of course, our esteemed hostess Marie Beale. The article noted that she was "one of Washington's topflight hostesses, has been giving her post-Diplomatic Reception party ever since the War. An affair so exclusive that even guest lists do not appear, it has never before been photographed." [4] The article goes on to note that the reception in question would quite possibly be the last, as she was looking to liquidate the estate.[5] This must of been bad news for those who attended her receptions.

Sadly, Marie Beale died in 1956 while visiting in Zurich, Switzerland. Thanks to her efforts she was able to get Decatur House to become a national shrine. It is managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Of Decatur House, Marie had this to convey and is worth quoting at length:

Like a prim dowager, Decatur House serenely overlooks the park that grew up in its front yard, preserving unchanged its original simplicity. During more than 130 years of intimate connection with the main stream of American history Decatur House has been the inner sanctum of La Fayette Square. Few houses have witnessed such a panorama of events. Here the dying Decatur suffered out his last hours. Here foreign Ministers represented the power and policies of other nations. Henry Clay struggled here for the Good Neighbor Policy and the Presidency, attaining one but not the other. The "gorgeous hussy" Peggy Eaton quarrelled here with the wife of the Chief of Staff, and the astute Van Buren moved on to the White House and subsequent defeat. In this house the jurist Livingston had averted the first secession threat by South Carolina. The gaudy Gadsby lived here, the unimpeachable Dallas, and the benevolent Appleton. Two leaders of the Confederate cause, Cobb and Benjamin, walked these floors as they reached the most momentous decision of their lives, and renounced their country. After the interim of the Civil War years, a General and a President, Ulysses S. Grant, came here for friendship and counsel from General Beale, himself one of the architects of the American West, a "pioneer in the path of empire." Through the tumultuous period that followed, Truxtun Beale preserved the historic role of Decatur House in the life of Washington. Residents of Decatur House have occupied the Presidency and Vice Presidency; they have been Cabinet members, military leaders, Congressmen; they have been foreign diplomats and American envoys to other nations; the roster includes Confederate Statesmen, a jurist and an inn-keeper. By all of them Decatur House was valued, and perhaps beloved.[6]

This story and many others are waiting to be told. If you want to learn more about Marie Beale and the distinguished Beale Family, the Local History Room has many sources at your disposal. The original Marie Beale Papers are kept safe in the vault, however, there are copies to be found in the Vertical Files; just ask the librarian for access. There are also numerous files and books concerning the Beale family, all of which can be found in the Local History Room.

Come on down to the Jack Maguire Local History Room; you never know what you will discover!

--Chris Livingston

[1]The Bulletin, April 23, 1903.
[2]Decatur House on Lafayette Square,
[3] Marie Beale, Decatur House and Its Inhabitants, (Washington D.C.: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1954), 136.
[4] Life Goes to a Party," Life, January 3, 1938, p.58.
[5] ibid.
[6] Beale, 134.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tales from the Vault #1

Picture yourself being put in charge of some of Kern County’s most valued treasures. You're nervous because, while you do know a little about Kern’s rich local history, the focus of your history degree was in Nineteenth Century French Antisemitism. You don’t fear handling the material, however, you need to understand it so that you can make it available to the public. That was me just six short months ago.

In December 2008, I was put in charge of the Beale Memorial Library’s Special Collections which includes the Jack Maguire Local History Room. Since this time I have been immersing myself in the collection and the history that surrounds it. The room was named for the major benefactor Jack Maguire (1913-1985) and houses “over 20,000 books, pamphlets, periodicals, newsletters, vault materials, and vertical files on over 900 subjects.”1 Some of the room’s most renowned holdings include Bakersfield City Directories dating from 1899, Kern County telephone books dating from 1940, and various area school yearbooks. Some of the items date as far back at the early 1800s.

In order to organize a special collection you must first get acquainted with it. I began with the Vault.

My first task was to organized the space more efficiently. This really meant shifting boxes and files to different shelves. One day while moving a box of photos to a new location a large ledger type of book caught my eye. As I picked it up to examine it I noticed that it was the District Attorney's Register of Action, 1872-1888. This is a record of the criminal and civil action by the Kern County D.A.

This source gives the names of defendants and claimants, criminal charges, disposition of the case and final sentence. Register columns include: Title of cause ; When and in what court instituted (District, County, and Justice's Court) ; Character of cause (civil, criminal) ; Mode of prosecution and nature of demand or crime ; Stage of proceedings, and nature and amount of judgment (date of conviction or acquittal, date of sentence, amount of fine or time of imprisonment in County Jail, time of imprisonment in State Prison) ; Title of court and memorandum of final judgment on appeal.

Here are a few entries to whet your curiosity:

Santos Francisco, April 8, 1874, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Held

John Doe Tarran, April 25, 1874, Selling Liquor to Indians, Dismissed

W. Cross, 1873, Murder, Charge Dismissed

William H. Johnson, 1878, Murder, Convicted March 30, 1878, Sentenced June 3, 1878 Ten Years Manslaughter

Joseph Fitzgerald, 1878, Assault to Commit Murder, Indictment November 12, 1878, Convicted November 20, 1878, Fine $150, Committed until fine paid.

Come on down to the Jack Maguire Local History Room; you never know what you will discover!


Monday, June 1, 2009

A Look Back: The Beale Memorial Library Local Author Fair

On May 23, 2009 the Kern County Library hosted its Inaugural Local Authors' Fair in the Beale Memorial Library Auditorium. The purpose of the event was to get as many local authors together as possible for the opportunity to meet with their fans, talk about their experiences, and network.

In attendance were Nick Belardes, Lords Part I, Sara Burns, Daughters of Juno, George Thomas Clark, Hitler Here, Joe Gottlieb, Come Down from the Pole Joey, Arlene Harman, Baptism by Fire, Jim Magwood, Sanction, Kevin Morrison, Frank is a Chihuahua, Loren John Presley, The Anastassia Project, Jack Schuetz, The Adventures of Charlee Rae and Billy True, Rick Van Horne, Friday Night Heroes, and Pastor Donald Wesson, A Date With Grace. Carola Enriquez, Director of the Kern County Museum stood in place of Jeff Nickell who was unable to attend.

Click here to see pictures of the event.

Planning is already underway for the next Fair. If you would like to participate in the planning please contact me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Look Back at the Local History Lecture Series May 2009

The Inaugural Local History Lecture Series is, as they say, in the books. It was a great experience and all those who attended came away with a richer knowledge of Kern County and California History. I know I certainly did.

Some have asked me where I came up with this idea. The idea didn't just hit me...well, not right away anyway. The seed was planted when I was asked to contact Mark Arax about having him come to the Beale Memorial Library to speak about his book West of the West. I took down his phone number and called him and the rest is history.

Now that I had booked my first big author, I started brainstorming ideas. Then it came to me. While I was working on my B.A. and M.A. in History at California State University Bakersfield I frequently attended the "History Forum" sponsored by the CSUB History Department. The topics as well as the speakers varied and I always came away satisfied with some new found knowledge. I wanted to recreate this experience for those in our community who are interested in Local History. Instead of having only one speaker per year as CSUB did I thought I would expand it to include four speakers in a month and make it an annual event.

At this point I set out to find people to present. Because I serve as a liaison to the Kern County Historical Society I thought I would look there to fill the venue. I contacted Camille Gavin, Gilbert Gia, and Jeff Nickell who, as you know, agreed.

So, for those who missed any or all of the presentations I offer some brief summaries:

Jeff Nickell, Chronicles of Kern County: Jeff gave a very interesting talk about the Curtis Darling Post Card Collection. His presentation allowed us to see a different image of Bakersfield and Kern County and how the city has changed over the years. He also shared with us a little about the forthcoming book about the Bakersfield Sound.

Gilbert Gia, Steve Strelich Boxing Promoter
: Gilbert Gia is currently President of the Kern County Historical Society. As Gilbert noted, Steve Strelich was a very colorful individual. It was his love of wrestling that made Strelich a successful promoter here in Bakersfield. Gilbert's manuscript is based on interviews with Strelich.

Mark Arax, The Last Okie of Lamont
: Mark's book, West of the West, is illustrates the story of California. His stories take place all over California "but what holds them together," he notes, "is my own family." The book is about the dream of California, but while the dream is the same, Mark points out, the promise has changed. Mark kept the audience thoroughly engaged with readings from West of the West and In My Father's Name and stories about J.G. Boswell, Stuart Resnick, and California in general. When asked what the single theme was in West of the West he replied "the myth and reality of the California Dream."

Camille Gavin, Dear Cora: Camille's presentation was a great way to end this year's Local History Lecture Series. Before her presentation we had a few minutes to talk. I asked her how long it too her to research and write this book. She revealed that she had began her research in 1989 at the urging of Harland Boyd. Camille shared her memories of her grandmother Cora Bender and the letters her grandfather wrote to Cora beginning in 1888. The book is a must read for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of Bakersfield during the last part of the nineteenth century.

What are your memories? Please Share!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Local History Authors Lecture Series

Join us on Thursday May 28 @ 7pm for Camille Gavin as she presents Dear Cora: A Personal History of Bakersfield's Early Days.

Formerly a children's librarian, Camille Gavin has been a professional journalist since 1974 and currently writes a weekly column for The Bakersfield Californian. Ms. Gavin has taught journalism and public relations at CSUB and is the author of numerous books: Biddy Mason: A Place of Her Own; Dear Cora: A Personal History of Bakersfield's Early Days; How Roadrunner Got His Red Spots; Yokuts Uses of Native Plants; and Kern's Movers and Shakers.