In 1903, Bakersfield was the scene of one of the great gun battles of the Wild West. James McKinney, a notorious and violent outlaw, had fled nearby Porterville in 1902 after a shooting spree that left one man dead and four wounded. Several posses tracked the desperado over the next year as he moved through Mexico and Arizona, killing several more men as he went.
On April 19, 1903, lawmen received a tip that McKinney and two accomplices were hiding out in a fortified Chinese joss house (temple) in Bakersfield. A cordon of officers surrounded the house and prepared to arrest him. Kern County Deputy Sheriff Will Tibbett and City Marshal Jeff Packard called for McKinney to surrender.
As they attempted to enter the building, McKinney opened fire with a shotgun, killing Tibbett instantly and mortally wounding Packard. Officers returned fire, and Bert Tibbet, Will’s brother, shot and killed McKinney. McKinney’s accomplices were smoked out of the joss house by fire, and later were almost lynched by a mob. The story was so sensational that it was reported by no less a newspaper than The New York Times.
Officers Tibbet and Packard were solemnly laid to rest in Historic Union Cemetery (spaces 132-3 and 135-3 respectively). Their graves are forever a reminder of Bakersfield’s colorful, if sometimes violent, past.
Solomon Jewett – Established the County’s First Bank
One of Bakersfield’s first business magnates, Solomon Jewett made his first fortune supplying wool for Union army uniforms in the Civil War. A descendant of the founders of the Plymouth Colony, Jewett was born in Vermont in 1835 on his family’s sheep ranch. In 1861, he and his younger brother, Philo, headed west to Colorado to mine for gold. On the way they learned that the opportunities were not good in the gold fields, and they decided to continue on to California, walking the entire distance of more than 2,000 miles.On arrival, Solomon went to work on a large sheep ranch. After about a year Solomon and Philo began a sheep ranch of their own near the future town of Bakersfield. They were among the earliest settlers, and their ranch was one of the first in the region.
The ranch prospered, and Solomon diversified into other businesses, opening a store in Bakersfield at the corner of 19th Street and Chester. In 1874 he opened the first bank in the county, the Kern Valley Bank.
In 1899 Solomon sold his sheep and turned to raising cattle. He began farming alfalfa and other crops on more than 1,000 acres of land. In the 1870’s he discovered oil and created his own oil company, which later traded in oil and asphalt. He was also the first to pave a street in Bakersfield, which created demand for more paving and a market for his asphalt and paving company.
Established as a major local business leader, Solomon became active in civic affairs as well. He served on the Kern County board of supervisors and was a member of the Masons and the Elks societies.
Jewett died in Bakersfield in 1905 and was buried in Union Cemetery space 72-5.