Bakersfield is a city in Kern County, California, United States. Bakersfield is the largest city and county seat of Kern County. The city covers about 151 sq mi (390 km2) near the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, which is located in the Central Valley region.
Bakersfield’s population as of the 2020 census was 403,455, making it the 48th most populous city in the United States of America and the 9th most populous city in California. The Bakersfield–Delano Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Kern County, had a 2020 census population of 909,235, making it the 62nd largest metropolitan area in the United States.
Bakersfield is a significant hub for both agriculture and energy production. Kern County is the most productive oil-producing county in California and the fourth most productive agricultural county (by value) in the United States. Industries in and around Bakersfield include natural gas and other energy extraction, mining, petroleum refining, distribution, food processing, and corporate regional offices. The city is the birthplace of the country music genre known as the Bakersfield sound.
In 1861, disastrous floods swept away the original settlement founded in 1860 by the German-born Christian Bohna. Among those attracted to the area by the California gold rush was Thomas Baker, a lawyer and former colonel in the militia of Ohio, his home state. Baker moved to the banks of the Kern River in 1863, at what became known as Baker’s Field, which became a stopover for travelers. By 1870, with a population of 600, what is now known as Bakersfield was becoming the principal town in Kern County.
In 1873, Bakersfield was officially incorporated as a city, and by 1874, it officially replaced the town of Havilah as the county seat. Alexander Mills was hired as the city marshal, a man one historian would describe as “… an old man by the time he became Marshal of Bakersfield, and he walked with a cane. But he was a Kentuckian, a handy man with a gun, and not lacking in initiative and resource when the mood moved him.” Businessmen and others began to resent Mills, who was cantankerous and high-handed in his treatment of them. Wanting to fire him but fearing reprisals, they came up with a scheme to disincorporate, effectively leaving him without an employer. According to local historian Gilbert Gia the city was also failing to collect the taxes it needed for services. In 1876, the city voted to disincorporate. For the next 22 years, a citizen’s council managed the community.
The city reincorporated on January 11, 1898.