For years people have been trying to piece together the story of Peter Lebeck, but what people in Kern County also don’t know is that they are driving right by him when they drive on interstate five and pass Fort Tejon Historical Park.
“Different little facts that stand alone on themselves seem to point in a general direction that gives us a little more insight into who Peter Lebeck might have been,” State Park Interpreter one at Fort Tejon Historical Park, Michael Deagon said.
Some say Lebeck was one of the first recorded Kern County pioneers, but others like Deagan and his team at Fort Tejon Historical Park beg to differ, saying Native Americans and others were there before Lebeck. Based off the circumstances surrounding Lebeck’s burial site it also showed more about why he was roaming around in the forest in the first place.
“Whoever buried him there carved into the tree his grave marker and the grave marker says Peter Lebeck killed by an x bear October 17 1837,” Deagan said.
According to Deagan there were many fur trappers in this area in the 1830’s who hunted for animals to sell their fur on the market, “The story seems to point that he was probably a French fur trapper. They found him about four feet down and they said that he was about six feet tall, he had broad proportions, he was missing his right forearm, both of his feet and his left hand and they said there were broken ribs on the left side and other bones were badly mauled. Which seemed to be consistent with what his grave marker says you know killed by an x bear.”
Although the exact type of bear responsible for Lebeck’s death is still unknown many continue to speculate. Several stories were also apparently found in journal entries and tales from other people about their time at the grave marker, according to Deagan. However, there is still no definite proof of Lebeck’s identity.
Either way, after he was buried his legacy lived on in Kern County, “He’s the guy the town of Lebec all through here, through the grapevine pass is now named for,” Deagan said.
His legacy is not just the town label, but his roots are also now preserved in the Kern County Museum and of course the Fort Tejon Historical Park visitor center, “These are artist renditions of Peter’s demise by the x bear,” Deagan said while standing in front of the statue at the Fort Tejon Historical Park visitor center.
Peter may have been killed by a bear and may be one of the earlier pioneers but we still don't know his full story.
The Fort Tejon Historical Park also hosts a Peter Labeck ghost night every October 17 for people to learn more about his story.