|Population: 271,000 people|
The Bakersfield city, stretched on the banks of Kern River, is a seat of the Kern County, which is located in the very middle of the Southern California, and at the same time at the southern end of San Joaquin valley. This gave the city the cause to receive the proud motto: "Bakersfield, The Heart of the Golden State".
The first Europeans settled here as early as in 1851 in hope to find gold in the riverbed of Kern; in 1869, Colonel Thomas Baker, an owner of a small alfalfa field, established the town. It began to grow when South Pacific Railroad arrived. In 1873, Bakersfield, named after its founder, became seat of the county and first time (but only for another three years) acquires city status. It finally became a city in 1898, and year later oil was found nearby.
These three factors, oil, railroad and fertile soil, predestined the future of Bakersfield and of the whole county for many decades. In time Bakersfield became one of the biggest industrial, agricultural, transport and trade centers of California. Still, the most prominent figures, facts and events in the life of Bakersfield have to do with oil. 33,000 operating oil wells are located in the county, 5 oil processing plants, and more than 80% of all California oil is extracted. The sale of the federal government’s 78 percent interest in the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve to Occidental Petroleum Corp. for $3.65 billion in 1998 was the largest private acquisition of federal property.
For all that, Bakersfield, being the 13th largest city in California, covering 110 square miles, still manages to maintain an atmosphere of small town hospitality. Friendship, cooperation, compassion, and optimism reign there. Maybe that’s why in 1990, the citizens of Bakersfield received the National Civic League's stamp of approval through the designation of an “All-America City” for proactively dealing with the needs of its citizens. Hallmarks of the Bakersfield community continue to be a high quality of life, a strong family orientation, and the fact that people care.