Modernizing the nation’s infrastructure doesn’t mean forgetting the past, and such is the case with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to modernize Isabella Lake Dam in Kern County.
The project area for the Isabella Dam modernization is located on the former rangeland and home ranch of three generations of Isabella ranchers. Prior to construction, USACE archaeologists and historians examined the former ranch site in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act. Ranch buildings, farm equipment and oral histories from family descendants demonstrated the heritage of Isabella, best known as a ranching town from the late 1800s through the 1980s.
The story of the Neill Silicz Mulkey family ranch began in the late 1880s when local business owners John and Annie Neill began to farm and raise cattle near Lake Isabella. Neill’s daughter, Dora, took the reins of the family ranch after her marriage to Alex Silicz in 1910. Dora’s daughter Mernie, and her husband Burel Mulkey, operated the ranch from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Explore the history below.