The site of Buttonwillow was originally a Yokuts Indian dance ground. The Yokuts were a simple nation of unimpressive accomplishments by the standards of others, but of sufficient talent to sustain themselves frugally on the valley plain, along the shores of Buena Vista and Kern lakes and along the streams that run into the valley. A lone button bush (Rubiaceae Cephalanthus occidentalis) which resembles the willow tree was used as a meeting place where hunts were planned and rites were observed for members of the tribe who had died. They called it Hahlu, the Yokut word for buttonwillow. In later years, stockman used the “Buttonwillow Tree” (state registered landmark 492), as a rendezvous spot along a trans-valley trail.
Miller and Lux established their ranch sub-headquarters and store in the vicinity about 1885. The town site of Buttonwillow was originally laid out in 1895 and was proposed to be named “Buena Vista” as Miller and Lux had called the settlement. “Buena Vista” was also the name chosen by the McKittrick Asphalto railroad branch line when the line from Bakersfield passed through the area in 1893. However, the name “Buttonwillow” prevailed, with another town site map developed in 1921. The present town site map was laid out by C. E. Houchin and recorded in 1927. The railroad serves several industries along the way, however, no longer exists west of Buttonwillow.
Buttonwillow has evolved into a well-planned, compact community with very little urban sprawl. Housing, commercial and industrial uses have been well-placed and the surrounding agricultural areas provide vistas of open spaces. With opportunities for everyone, we are currently pursuing programs of town beautification, improvements and redevelopment that give the community a sense of peace and well-being while highlighting it’s most important attribute, the friendliness of the people of Buttonwillow, far away from the rat-race of Los Angeles and Bakersfield.
It was inevitable that Buttonwillow should evolve to intensive agricultural use, since availability of water was excellent. The Kern River drainage basin provided an abundance of water. Although this natural supply has diminished with the construction of Isabella Dam, the completion of the California Aqueduct has stabilized the availability of water for the present. The soil in the area are of the “Merced series” with approximately 88,000 acres of this soil located around Buttonwillow and the Kern Lake area which is a high producing soil for field crops. The high water-holding capacity and level of native fertility contributes to the very successful cotton culture in the Buttonwillow area.
The exceptionally strong agricultural economy is sustained by small family-owned farms producing fruits & vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, corn, onions, garlic, kiwi, potatoes, lettuce and such crops as cotton, alfalfa, wheat, almond & pistachio trees. Agriculturally oriented businesses in Buttonwillow and throughout the county and state distribute these products around the world.
It is the aim of Buttonwillow to prosper in a controlled manner, all the while maintaining that small-town atmosphere, suppressing any bad elements that try to take hold, but encouraging commercial, retail and residential development.