Searching for History
A Page of History
Searching for something to write a column about can be a slow process sometimes, and going through my mother Marion Deaver's files can be frustrating at best.
There is tons of material there, but some of it is her handwritten notes on a subject before she put the article together. Her handwriting is not always discernible and I tend to defer to her written copies of history that she recorded. When I run out of those I will have to begin the arduous task of copying those notes.
I recently found a carbon copy of what may be a transcript of a talk given by Tehachapi Pioneer Herb Force.
He tells the story of how he acquired two old tombstones which had once marked the graves of two infants, which were discovered in a forgotten corner of a friend's property.
He said that the neighbor, Otto Lamb, had his men burning weeds on the southwest corner of his property when they discovered two old tombstones. The man brought them to Force for safekeeping because he remembered how the Shields cemetery had been vandalized. He thought maybe they had come from that cemetery.
Force said the tombstones were from the graves of two infants, Albert Diers, born in 1879 and died May 31, 1881. The other was from the grave of Clarence Benjamin Campbell, who died August 12, 1890, age nine months and three days.
Force noted that the family names were not listed and that created a problem for tracing them.
Force turned to then Kern County Museum Curator Richard Bailey, who had his secretary search the county records to find that several Diers were recorded in the area, from 1879 to the 1890s, as were some Campbells. Force explained that he asked, "All the old-timers around here about it, but none of them had heard of either name." He had been pronouncing the name as "Dyers" so no one recognized it.
Then one day an elderly man came to Force's house, and introduced himself as Henry Diers Jr., even showing Force his driver's license. He pronounced his name as "deers". Force said that was why none of the old-timers recognized the name.
Force added that Mr. Diers said the newspaper office had sent him to Force. When Force showed him the tombstones Diers was much moved and cried, "My brother that I never saw!"
Diers' father, Henry Diers, had settled on the property later known as the Milo Sprinkle ranch in 1870. Henry Jr. was born in 1886, so when Force met him in 1966 he was 80 years old.
He asked if Force had ever heard of Aunt Tenny Smith, and Force said her granddaughter lived just across the street from him and his wife Ola Force.
He explained that Erma Heath Johnson, his neighbor, had spoken of Aunt Tenny many times. He added that Aunt Tenny and Amanda Brite, wife of John Moore Brite, were Tehachapi's first settlers in 1854 (and ancestors of my now deceased husband Ed Wiggins), and that the two women had delivered the first white child born in the Tehachapi Valley, and a few months later had prepared the body of the mother, Mrs. Alex Prewitt for burial in the old Shields Cemetery in 1858.
Mr. Diers also told Force that his mother's grandfather was Colonel Thomas Baker, who helped settle the town of Bakersfield.
As Force sat drinking coffee with Diers and Howard Fong, who had brought Diers to Tehachapi, he said that he told the other two how wonderful that the mystery had been solved so simply by meeting Diers.
Force said Fong claimed it was "an act of providence". Of course, as Paul Harvey used to say, we still need the "rest of the story".
This week I will speak with Heritage League members to determine if those little tombstones were placed in the Shields Cemetery, or if anyone knows where they went. Any news that I obtain will be in a future column.
I must admit I was in that cemetery recently for Dia De Los Muertos, and saw some infant grave markers but did not note the names.
Time for another visit.