ANNUAL EMPHASIS. . . .
This year the Ridge Route Communities Museum is commemorating the 175 th anniversary of the first recorded non-Indian burial in our mountain area. It seems that back in 1837, Peter Lebeck was in these mountains with a number of companions when he was involved in a fatal confrontation with a grizzly bear. Those traveling with Mr. Lebeck must have thought highly of him because they took the time to bury his mangled body below one of the huge oak trees in the future area of Fort Tejon , and to carve a substantial epitaph in the same tree.
Peter Lebeck defending himself from the grizzly bear
(Illustrated by Susan Sjoberg )
Through the years that followed that location, with its fresh flowing stream, became a popular travelers and teamsters rest stop along the roadway that had developed through these mountains. The skulls of many grizzlies were found there and Indians told of the man who was killed by one of them. Several journals recorded the carving on the tree until the noble oak repaired itself and covered the scar with new bark.
Over fifty years later, in 1889, a group of summertime campers made their annual trek to the site of old Fort Tejon to escape the heat of Bakersfield . One of the adventurers noticed a split in the bark of the old oak tree and when reaching in felt letters on the backside of the bark. When the bark was carefully removed a relief of the original carving was found even though the tree itself had been healed of the carving.
Relief of carving of the Lebeck epitaph
(Illustrated by Susan Sjoberg )
By the time the campers returned to Bakersfield they had a plan to get permission from the owners of the property to prove up the epitaph. Permission granted, the group returned the next summer and after much discussion and planning began the task of opening the grave so long sealed.
Several feet down, bones were discovered which proved the burial. With dirt carefully removed the entire frame was exposed. The left arm was folded across the chest, the right forearm was missing as were both feet and the left hand. It was determined that two ribs on the right side were broken and that the skeleton was nearly six feet long and “broad in proportions”.
After several photographs were taken, the surrounding earth was carefully worked over by hand in the hopes that something of a metallic nature, that even a button could be found, but there was nothing suggesting the man was probably buried in buckskins. Following the crude research, the grave was once again closed from human sight and the ladies of the group covered the mound with flowers. The crude research of this group of adventurers has benefited the generations to follow and Peter Lebeck's name continues on in the town named after him.
100 YEARS AGO. . . .
Following the days of Fort Tejon , one of the greatest influences on the growth of the Frazier Mountain area was the installation of oil and natural gas pipelines that were run through the mountain passes. The purpose of these lines was to carry those valuable products from the flourishing oil fields around Taft , California . Prior to the pipelines the oil and natural gas had to be transported by wagon or trucks to the railroad in Bakersfield , or along crude dirt mountain roads to the harbor in Los Angeles .
Lebec Pipeline Station at the foot of O'Neal Canyon in Lebec 1914
Midway Gas, later the Southern California Gas Company, was the first to put in a line and pumping plants. The first plant or station locally was at the base of Grapevine Canyon and on up the mountain a yard with warehouse, bunkhouse, office and homes was located just north of the present community of old Lebec. These buildings, updated in the 1930's, are still located near the Lebec exit off I-5. The Gas Company put in a 12" natural gas pipeline through the mountains from Kettleman Hills to Long Beach in 1912, a 20" pipeline in 1929 and a 26" line in 1931.
The Richfield Oil Company, first known as the Pan American Oil Company, began their oil pipeline at Lake Station near Taft, ran it on to Wheeler Ridge, on to Grapevine, up to Tejon or Lebec Station, and over the mountains to a station at Newhall, then down hill then to the Watson Refinery at Alameda & Willow in Los Angeles . At each of the stations it was necessary to heat the oil in the winter time to continue the flow. There were five employee houses at each station – three for families, one was a bunk house and one was a boarding house. All had wonderful porches that surrounded the homes for visiting and sleeping on hot summer nights. The Richfield Company also kept a beautiful picnic grounds at their station just north of Fort Tejon . These grounds were used by most all the major oil companies for their annual picnics until the highway was widened for Interstate 5.
The General Petroleum company, now know as Mobil Oil, set up their stations from the Taft fields first to a station called Pendelton , then to the San Emigdio Station, Rose Station, the Grapevine Pumping Station and from there on up to the Lebec Plant which sent it on to the Quail Lake Station.
The purpose of these stations or pumping plants was to heat the oil with exhaust steam and send it on to its next destination by steam-operated pumps. In the early days of the line the oil was sent from Quail Lake through a line along what became the Ridge Route Road, a road first created by power line construction and oil company employees. By the late 1920's most of the “ridge line” was discontinued and the oil was sent through a line down in the canyon to the west of there, though some oil lines are still in use along the old roadway. From the Quail Lake Station another line sent oil to the east to the Antelope Pumping Plant located in an open area north of the community of Fairmont . From there the oil was sent to the Willow Springs Pumping Station and then on to Mojave for use by the railroads and to be shipped by rail. This line was discontinued in 1949. The system was in operation twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, and the eight inch pipeline delivered 24,000 barrels of fuel during a twenty-four hour period. The pipeline was referred to as “the bank line” because the oil that ran through it was like money in the bank.
These oil pumping stations were in full service for thirty-eight years but when trains began using diesel fuel the plants were dismantled and some of the pipeline removed by the 1950's.