Christian Bohna

Christian Bohna;

First Bakersfield Resident

Christian Bohna, first to build a permanent home the area now known as Bakersfield, was born January 28 1805, in Germany. At 14 he began a four-year apprentiship as a blacksmith and at 18 joined the army where he spent three years. He was married soon after his discharge and because of family friction over having married "below his station," he brought his wife from Leipzig to America.

Bohna’s success as a blacksmith in New York soon permitted the couple to move to Chicago. As the years went by, the Bohna's and their two sons and their daughter pioneered in Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. Ha wife, Polly, died in Missouri in 1842.

Bohna then married Orfie Greene. They had three sons and three daughters. With part of his family, he crossed the plains to Calaveras County in California as captain of a wagon train in 1853. Returning to Arkansas in 1856 he learned that his wife had died. With his children of 11 he took up farming there.

Soon tiring of farming, he sold his farm, equipped wagon, and left Arkansas with his children and grand children to follow the Santa Fe Trail to California. The lone oxen-drawn wagon party spent nine months on the way. A granddaughter, Betty Snell, died of whooping cough en route and was buried in a little wooden casket near Eagle Springs. Arriving at El Monte, the exhausted travelers stayed with John and Mary Dotman, Bohna’s daughter and son-in-law, while the men worked in the San Gabriel Mines.

Pushing on again in search of less settled area, Bohna crossed the Tehachapi's and arrived at what was then known as Kern Island February 1, 1860, more than three years before Bakersfield’s founder, Colonel Thomas Baker, arrived here. Bohna gave up his search for gold after viewing the fertile soil and cleared Willows from 10 acres of land and planted corn. On a little bill just south of present 24th and P streets, he built a cottonwood log house with a Tule-thatched roof. Despite illness from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, the Bohnas managed to keep their corn cribs under the cottonwoods well filled. It is reported their crops produced 110 bushels to the acre.

In 1861 two of Bohna’s daughters married, Sarah to Dr. Sparrell Woody, after whom the town of Woody’ was named, and Caroline to George Brunk. Then in the spring of 1862, the families’ lives were suddenly changed by a disastrous flood along the Kern River. Nearly everything they had was washed away. Except for three daughters and their husbands who moved to higher ground at the foot of Blue Mountain northeast of Bakersfield, the malaria-stricken Bohna's moved to Oregon.

After mining and farming in Oregon and Idaho, Bohna returned to Kern County a few years later and reunited with his family at Woody where he lived with a daughter, Hannah Maltby, until his death September 16, 1872. He was buried in Linn’s Valley Cemetery near Glennville.

 

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