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Tehachapi, CA History...

Westward Ho!

As our ancestors bravely cut trails through the wild west, many pioneers instantly found California to be a remarkably plentiful area. There were beautiful mountains, meadows, trees, warm sun and nearby seashores. There was abundant fortuity for life; from the prosperity of available jobs to the raising of Families to the growing of different foods and the discovery of cool, fresh water. The resulting consequence enabled people to live happily all year 'round. The same experiences are sought-after and enjoyed today.

On or about the year 1849 there was a sudden profound expansion of new opportunities in California after gold was discovered in them thar hills; the same hills soon to be known as the Tehachapi Hills and on into the Mountains reaching northward to the Sierras.

In the 1860's the downtown area of Tehachai was first named 'Williamsburg' and another nearby part of Downtown was called 'Greenwich'.The excitement of new found wealth, jobs and optimism drew hordes of people to this territory. The people of Willamsburg built homes, opened businesses, joined on with local mining crews, created farms, grew crops and settled in to raise their Families.

Much of the activity centered around what we now call 'Old Town', and as the streets were named, one street was designated as 'Tehachapa street'; an Indian word meaning 'sweet water and acorns'.
Others claim the name Tehachapi is derived from the Indian word
'tah-eechay-pah', meaning 'Oak Flat with springs'.

Officially, in 1876, the names of Willamsburg and Greenwich were formally changed to the name of 'Tehachapi'.

The first Pioneers in Tehachapi?

The very first known permanent Pioneers who settled here were John Moore and Amanda Brite, after moving west from Texas in 1854. John and Amanda eventually staked claim to a peaceful valley 10 minutes west of downtown and known today as 'Brite Valley' and probably best known for Brite Lake. The Brite Family began a successful lumber business and utilized their inspiration for construction to build their own estate property, surrounded by barns and corrals. (a photo of their home can be found on the gallery section, here).

The importance of the Railroad

As the backbreaking work of the railway edged westward, Tehachapi continued along as a small, but active Town. However, when the Intercontinental Railroad work progressed to the point of linking the big City of San Francisco to Los Angeles through the Tehachapi Pass, this area grew even faster. Tehachapi was initially planned and mapped-out by the 'Western Development Company', owned in part at that time by the Railroad.

The railroad construction also brought world-renowned engineering fame to the Tehachapi area during construction of "The Loop".
While laying tracks from Bakersfield to Mojave, engineers needed to develop a plan to traverse the mountains at higher elevations and to devise a method for safely slowing the momentum of east bound trains as they carefully chugged down the mountain to Bakersfield.

The solution was to bring in thousands of workers (3000 from China alone) using picks, shovels and dynamite to create 18 tunnels as well as "The Loop". The Loop is a flat, graded area where an average 4000 foot long train will circle over itself, on both eastbound and westbound routes. Today, nearly 40 trains a day utilize this route in enabling the delivery of tons of product to all areas of California and throughout the Nation.

And, after more than 120 years The Loop continues to attract visitors from all over the World to marvel at the movement of the trains as they circle through The Loop. There is a viewing platform just a few minutes west of downtown Tehachapi (along Woodford-Tehachapi Road) and if you watch your step and have a lot of hiking energy, I very much recommend a hike down to The Loop to get a closer look.

More Loop information here!


-2019 - New Tehachapi Hospital
Photo credit: Adventist Health



Tehachapi Today is discussed in detail at the 'Areas' section of this site. See you there!

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