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History of Visalia, California: Wikis

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For the main article, see Visalia.

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European and Native American Conflicts

The Spanish were reluctant to settle in this area because of climate and the danger they perceived from the local native American population. An influx of European trappers, traders, explorers, miners and settlers affected the lifestyle of the native Yokuts since the Europeans brought a non hunter-gatherer culture as well as diseases to which the Yokuts had no resistance. Following the discovery of gold in California in 1848, settlers flooded into the San Joaquin Valley and carried out a campaign to drive the Yokuts off their land. In his December 20, 1849 Inaugural Address, the first governor of California Peter Hardeman Burnett remarked "That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected" [1]. Between the years of 1851-1854, the total amount of claims submitted to State of California Comptroller for Expeditions against the Indians (by militias) was $1,293,179.20.[2] As a consequence of 18 unratified (and highly controversial) treaties between California Indians and the United States government, the Yokuts were removed from their lands and a reservation system was eventually established for them.[3] A few surviving groups can be found in area rancherias and reservations.

Early European Settlements

When California achieved statehood in 1850, Tulare County did not exist. The land that is now Tulare County was part of the huge Mariposa County. In 1852 some adventuresome pioneers settled in this area, then called Four Creeks. The area got its name from many watershed creeks and rivers flowing from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. All the water resulted in a widespread swampy area with a magnificent oak forest. The industrious group of settlers petitioned the state legislature for county status and on July 10 of that same year Tulare County became a reality.

The first building constructed by European settlers was a log stockade called Fort Visalia. One of the first inhabitants of a fort built by the settlers, unnecessarily as it turns out; to protect themselves from Native Americans was Nathaniel Vise. Nathaniel was responsible for surveying the new settlement. In November 1852 he wrote, "The town contains from 60-80 inhabitants, 30 of whom are children of school age. The town is located upon one of the subdivisions of the Kaweah (River) and is destined to be the county seat of Tulare.” In 1853, Visalia became the county seat of Tulare County, then an extensive County encompassing parts or all of Madera, Fresno, Kings and Kern Counties. Visalia was named after Visalia, Kentucky, a place to which Nathaniel Vise can trace his family ancestry.

Early Visalian history indicates that a school and a Methodist Church were established the same year and the following year a grist mill and a general store were built. Visalia has been called a one-time "capital" of the buckaroos or vaqueros, the California cowboys.[4]

California Gold Rush and Population Boom

In 1858 Visalia was added to John Butterfield's Overland Stage route from St. Louis to San Francisco. A plaque commemorating the location can be found in front of Togni Branch Stationers at 116 East Main Street. Included in the early crop of citizens were some notorious and nasty individuals who preyed upon the travelers along the Butterfield Stage route. Many saloons and hotels sprouted up around the stage stop downtown and commerce was brisk if a bit risky.

The next memorable event was the arrival of the telegraph in 1860. Visalians then could get timely information of the events taking place on the East Coast which would ultimately develop into the American Civil War.

During the American Civil War many of citizens of Visalia couldn't decide whether Visalia should stand on the side of the North or the South, so they simply had a Mini Civil War of their own on Main Street.

No one really knows the outcome of the war, but apparently it was concluded to the satisfaction of the participants and life returned to normal.

The federal government however, was not so easily convinced and reacting to concern about sedition banned Visalia’s pro-south Equal Rights Expositor newspaper and established a military garrison. On June 24, 1862, Camp Babbit[5] was established by two companies of the 2nd California Cavalry, one mile from the town of Visalia. It was intended to maintain order in the area, where pro Confederate partisans were creating unrest, and in putting down Indian uprisings in the Owens River Valley. It was abandoned in 1866.

During these Civil War years, Visalia was incorporated which gave the town new rights. The second incorporation in 1874 moved Visalia into city status with a common council and an ex-officio Mayor and President.

Underground Visalia

There are underground tunnels in Downtown Visalia under The Double L Steakhouse.[6]

Oak tradition

Enjoying and caring for oak trees has been a Visalia tradition for nearly 100 years. City neighborhoods lined with these graceful trees show the foresight of early community leaders. When Visalia was founded in 1852, it was located in the largest valley oak woodland in California. Nourished in the fertile soils of the Kaweah River delta, valley oaks covered a 400-square-mile (1,000 km2) area. As Visalia's population grew, more trees were cut down for firewood and to make room for new crops. Fewer trees remained. In the 1890s, Visalians saw the oak tree as a renewable source of community pride and identity that deserved preservation. Community leaders worked together to protect the valley oak. In 1909 they proposed that Tulare County accept the donation of 100 acres (0.40 km2) of oak trees on Mooney Ranch and preserve the land as a park in perpetuity. Mooney Grove Park is still one of the largest valley oak woodlands in California. In 1922, local groups started the first tree planting program, putting into the ground the oak sentinels now lining Highway 198. In 1971, the city passed an ordinance requiring a permit to remove an oak tree. In 1974, maintenance and preservation guidelines were added. Removing a Valley oak tree without a permit can be a $1,000 fine.

The End of the Trail

Visalia was home to the original The End of the Trail statue by James Earle Fraser and its companion piece, The Pioneer, from 1920 to 1968. The city acquired them when they found that the famous statues were being discarded by San Francisco city officials after having no means to display them once the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition was over. Today the original statue of The End of the Trail is at the National Cowboy & Western Museum in Oklahoma City, OK. Before it was moved for good, a true-to-scale bronze replica was made and placed near the same spot in Mooney Grove Park where the original had stood for 48 years. The Pioneer statue was in too poor a condition to similarly preserve and remains in pieces in the Visalia area.

References

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