Taft (formerly Moron, Moro, and Siding Number Two) is a city in the foothills at the extreme southwestern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, in Kern County, California. Taft is located 32 miles (51 km) west-southwest of Bakersfield, at an elevation of 955 feet (291 m). The population was 9,327 at the 2010 census. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.1 square miles (39.1 km2).
It was named for President William H. Taft in 1909.
The town began as Siding Number Two on the Sunset Railroad. According to a display at the West Kern Oil Museum, local residents asked the Southern Pacific Railroad if the station could be named Moro when the rails arrived in about 1900, but a railroad official declined because the name would be too easily confused with the coastal town of Morro Bay. Instead, the railroad directed the station be called Moron, a word which as yet had no association with stupidity. Pictures of local businesses, including the Moron Pharmacy, hang in the museum.
After a fire burned much of the town, the name was changed to Taft in honor of William Howard Taft.
Taft was once a sundown town that posted “No Colored Allowed” signs.
Taft and oil
1917 wooden derrick. This oil well produced into the 1980s, and the operator then donated the old derrick and three acres of land to found the West Kern Oil Museum.
Taft is situated in a major petroleum and natural gas production region in California, and is one of the few remaining towns in the United States which exist exclusively because of nearby oil reserves. The discovery of oil in the region occurred in the late 19th century near Maricopa, seven miles (11.27 km) south of Taft. Many other oil and gas accumulations were discovered around Taft during the early-to-mid-20th century, notably the Midway field (near Fellows, California), Sunset field (later found to be part of the same trend, accounting for the modern combined name of Midway-Sunset), and the Buena Vista. The town is built directly between these two huge fields. The operational activities within these fields, as well as Occidental Petroleum‘s Elk Hills Oil Field north of Taft, have been the economic lifeblood of the town for over 100 years.