The Glorious Past of Stockdale Country Club

(Abbreviated Version)
For An Unedited Version, Ask For A Copy In The Club Office.

Two brothers-in-law from Kentucky had a great love for horses and -- fortunately for them -- the gold mining business. Each made a fortune grubstaking miners in the Black Hills of South Dakota through their company, Homestake Mining Company.

They eventually settled in San Francisco where one, Lloyd Tevis, became the first President of Wells Fargo Bank. With his brother-in-law, James Ben Ali Haggin, they began to acquire land in 160-acre parcels around Bakersfield. They worked within the provisions of the Desert Land Act signed into law by President Grant during his last days in office. They were required to provide irrigation to transform "desert" land into no less than global leadership in agriculture.

Their efforts evolved into a major legal battle over water rights (irrigation vs. riparian rights) to the Kern River in 1881. Tevis and Haggin opposed Henry Miller and Charles Lux. After a lower-court trial and an appeal to the state supreme court -- including some degree of "vote buying" in the state legislature, the parties ultimately decided to share the water.

This led to the formation by Tevis and Haggin of what was to become California's largest landholder, Kern County Land Company. Their headquarters were at Bellvue Ranch where the City of Bakersfield now has created RiverView Park on the north side of Stockdale Highway.

In 1896, Lloyd and Susan Tevis's son, William Tevis, purchased a 300-acre parcel of land from Kern County Land Company. There he built their 9,000 square foot, 2-1/2 story mansion. It was surrounded by trees and shrubs collected by Mrs. William Tevis (Mabella -- daughter of California's first Hispanic governor, Romualdo Pacheco). She collected not only object d'art in her extensive world travels, she also shipped home a great variety of trees ranging from Italian Cypress that mark the entrance to our present Clubhouse but also the Monkey Puzzle tree from Burma on what is now our 18th green.

In 1920, the mansion was moved to an area just south of what is now the 10th green. This home was demolished when George Nickel (grandson of Henry Miller!) and his wife Dodo built a home at that site. Then William and Mabel Tevis constructed a fabulous mansion at the original site (where our Clubhouse is now located). When a business venture failed, William lost his fortune and returned to San Francisco.

In about 1922, William sent his son, Lloyd P. Tevis to Bakersfield to see what he could do with the abandoned ranch. He decided to develop a golf course. So he completed the mansion and re-landscaped the grounds to begin construction of a nine-hole golf course. The course opened for play on February 18, 1923. It was named "Stockdale Country Club" after Sir Edmond Stockdale who became Lord Mayor of London, England, and who married a Tevis relative.

Dues were $5.50 per month. A round of golf for non-members cost $1.00.

Only 13 months later -- on March 11, 1924 -- the new mansion / Clubhouse was totally destroyed by fire. This was a devastating blow to Lloyd P. Tevis. So much so, he sold 112 acres to a local group of aggressive young businessmen. They formed Stockdale Holding Company and filed incorporation papers on January 20, 1925.

Surviving the fire were the golf course, the exotic and varied trees throughout the course (including the stately Italian Cypress trees at the Clubhouse entrance) and the impressive wrought iron gate at the entrance (completed in 1900). On September 28, 1929, the Club borrowed $35,000 to begin construction of a new Clubhouse. Despite the advent of the Great Depression just a month later, construction continued to completion.

In February of 1930, the back nine was completed and opened for play to create an 18-hole golf course purported to be the finest setting in the San Joaquin Valley.

During this time, wives of members began to play golf and were granted course privileges on each Tuesday -- with a specific proviso that men were always to be allowed to play through. The ladies conducted their own lunches under Stockdale's trees and soon thereafter formed the Club's Women's Organization.

A mission statement for the Club was adopted in 1935 -- and is unchanged to this day.

On July 10, 1940, the Clubhouse once again caught fire and was totally destroyed. Undaunted, members voted to have plans drawn for a new Clubhouse. $25,000 was available for the project but the lowest bid was for $55,000. Some changes were made and the Clubhouse was rebuilt for $33,500.

During WWII, caddies were still available. Also, a new above-ground (round) swimming pool was constructed near the then famous "bamboo forest". Slot machines were in the basement and the Grill Room. Subsequently, they were "spirited away" in the middle of the night to Nevada to avoid any adverse outcome for the Club or its members.

In 1950, the round pool was condemned by public health officials -- so a new 30 x 60 foot pool was approved and constructed immediately behind the west end of the Clubhouse.

The first Silver Invitational Tournament was during April 1949. Golf carts didn't replace caddies until the 1950s.

This concludes the abbreviated history of Stockdale CC. For more details -- with some real intrigue with guns and other adventures -- as well as more current history, ask for a copy of the Club history in book form in the Club office.
- John G. Pryor, Club Historian