Colonel Thomas Baker was the visionary founder of the city of Bakersfield and the source of its name. Bakersfield is a monument to his pioneer spirit, hard work and creativity. Baker, born in 1810 in Ohio, started his career as a lawyer but soon headed west for greater opportunities. After a distinguished stint as a state senator and colonel of militia in Iowa, he set off for a new life in the booming California of the 1850s.
After moving to Kern County and founding the city of Visalia, Baker began his greatest project. He reclaimed swamp land on the Kern River and began developing it into what he envisioned as “an important city.” To entice settlers, he planted an alfalfa field where travelers could refresh their livestock. Known as “Baker’s Field,” it gave its name to the burgeoning town. Colonel Baker is credited with having laid out Bakersfield’s streets. He also chose a prime piece of land for his final resting place, amid a breathtaking panorama of mountains and plains. He declared “Here at last I have found a resting place and here I expect to lay my bones.” Baker was laid to rest there in 1872, his gravesite marked by a striking stone obelisk.
When the city needed to build a new cemetery, it could find no finer place than the land surrounding Baker’s grave,
which became Historic Union Cemetery.
His gravesite is space 61-14.