The A. Brown Flour Mill is the oldest building standing in the Kern River Valley, it was built in the mid-1850’s by the Irish emigrant Andrew Brown. Brown was born in Ireland in 1829, and arrived in California in 1852. Like many emigrants that ended up in California at the time, Brown headed for the mines in hopes of finding his fortune. It didn’t take Brown long to realize that the money was to be made in selling goods to the miners, not actually mining. Brown opened his first mercantile business in Mariposa county. Some time later Brown moved on to Tulare county, and became a farmer and stock man, but soon moved on yet again, this time to Kernville. Eventually Brown would become owner of a Kernville mercantile, and after successfully operating it, had the opportunity to purchase an additional mercantile and farm in Weldon. Brown’s business steadily grew, which allowed him the finances to purchase additional farms in the area to raise cattle, horses, sheep and hogs.
Brown grew a large amount of wheat on his land, which he had to ship over the mountains to the railroad to have processed. It was because of this that Brown decided to build the mill at the ranch, to save both time and money. Once the mill was completed in September of 1878, he was able to grind the wheat into flour at his own facilities, and resell it in the local trade.
In 1901, Brown incorporated his many businesses as the A. Brown Company. In 1904, he would retire to Los Angeles, still the president of A. Brown Company. On October 12, 1909, Andrew Brown passed away. His wife Alice would see to the company after his death. The company remained in the Brown family until the 1970’s, when the heirs sold to the Kern County Land and Cattle Company.
The Nature Conservancy purchased 1,600 acres of the ranch, including the flour mill in 1979. The mill, and many buildings on the ranch still stand, however they are off-limits for visitation. The Nature Conservancy is now known as the Audubon Kern River Preserve, and is owned by the National Audubon Society.
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