Mohave County memories

Fern Lord has seen a lot of change in Mohave County over the past 85 years.

She was born in Drumright, Okla. Her parents, Leroy and Edith Wheeler, moved here in 1922 when she was three months old.

"My family came west with the building of the railroads," Lord said. "My great grandfather and grandfather both worked laying track, first for the Atlantic Pacific and later for the Santa Fe Railroad.

"My father was a member of a deep well drilling gang for the Santa Fe and later became section foreman. He was 36 when he died in an accident (in 1936)."

After his death, Edith Wheeler worked four years at the Beale Hotel. She cooked, waited tables and made up rooms, Lord said.

Her mother never liked Kingman and moved to Los Angeles when Fern turned 18.

Lord remained here and began working in restaurants and motels.

"I went to Barstow for a time to take care of my mother," Lord said. "I was a receptionist at Mojave Senior Complex (in Barstow) for three years."

Edith Wheeler died in 1991 at age 89.

Lord said her brother, Carl Wheeler, worked 30 years for the Santa Fe Railroad at its depot in Boron, Calif. He began as a telegrapher and later became station agent.

Lord was married to Carl Lord for more than 40 years. He did sand, gravel and rock work. In addition, he was engaged in construction on Hoover and Davis dams, she said.

"We moved to Simms Street in 1943, when there were very few houses here," Lord said. "Ours was a one-bedroom house, which had been moved up here from Katherine Mine. "Dr. Paup owned a big red barn across from our house. He also built the apartments over on Louise that are still there."

Lord owned the house on Simms until selling it two years ago. It was then razed.

The first paved road in the area was on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, although Lord could not recall the year it was put down. All other roads were dirt.

Most businesses in Kingman were located downtown in the 1940s.

"Babbitt's Grocery Store was at the corner of Fourth and Beale until it burned down," she said.

"Central Commercial handled most everything and was the place people went to buy things. There also was an ice plant along Beale."

Lord said she began working for the Department of Economic Security at age 65. She began as a social worker and later was a receptionist, retiring in May 2006 after 17 years with the agency.

She now enjoys reading, quilting and crocheting.

Lord was asked if she feels the many changes she has seen have bettered the community.

"I hope they'll stop building along Stockton Hill Road," she said. "It seems like every time you turn around a new business is going in there."