Monday, December 22, 2008

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Well, It’s Done and It's A Beauty!

Local author Bill Allen has provided the Tulare County Historical Society with the much anticipated reprint of the Michael Mooney book. This is a limited reprint, so if you missed the first printing in 2002, don’t miss this one. It has beautiful red leather hard covers with gold print, and is autographed. The books are available through the Tulare County Historical Society, and for HH subscribers, you’re welcome to make arrangements for pickup in Visalia. $24.95 for the reprint or $39.95 for both volumes 1 and 2, plus tax. If you want it shipped, we can do that too. Call for more information (559) 732-5829. Still a couple of days left before Christmas, so don’t miss this one.

Prominent Arizona Man Loses His Daughter to Suicide

Some time back I asked a friend in Arizona about a pioneer family that was prominent in his home state. The family had a wayward daughter named Celia who came to Visalia and associated with a less than desirable crowd. She ended up taking her own life and is buried at the Visalia Cemetery (1892). Her story is interesting and tragic and is one that has been circulating here for quite a while. But a new wrinkle has surfaced. Some of Celia’s descendents are still alive and live near the family’s homestead in Arizona and probably do not know the fate of their unfortunate young relative. And likely don’t know the Visalia connection. Celia’s death was apparently not reported in the Arizona newspapers probably because of the family embarrassment it would cause. I have been asked to write an article about Celia and the circumstances surrounding her death, but I’m waiting to hear from historians of that area to make sure it’s not going to be uncomfortable for the living descendents. Cecil’s father is pictured at the left. I will fill you in on the details when I can share them.

History Sells!

On December, 13, 2008, local history books were flying off the shelves at the Visalia Costco store. Six local authors gathered to talk with fans and sign their books. Lots of Christmas wishes will be satisfied as result of that day, I’m sure. Rarely does one get an opportunity to have such a gathering in one location. Thanks Costco and especially Jon Carlton for making this nice event possible. After witnessing the event, it’s pretty clear to me—history is popular and it sells. [Shown left to right are: Robin Roberts, John Bergman, Bill Secrest, Ron Hughart, Chris Brewer, Jay O'Connell]

Visalia’s First Officer Killed in the Line of Duty

On November 5, 1946, Visalia Police Sergeant Charles “Hugh” Garrison was shot and killed by a stolen vehicle suspect in the alley by the Garden Street Plaza. He was the first Visalia police officer killed in the line of duty and for a long time there has been talk about placing a permanent plaque in his honor near the site of the shooting. Interest is building to make it happen. Details are being worked out, so please stay tuned. Were you a witness to any part of the incident, or did you hear family stories about this tragic event? I’d like to hear from you.


{{}} “Mystery Post” puzzle solved? David Miller, a Historic Happenings subscriber, believes the mystery post at Liberty and Main Street was probably a post that held a post office “collection box”. The metal box is gone; probably removed years ago. Thanks to David Miller, the mystery surrounding the post appears to be solved, and we appreciate his effort on this. One question I still have though, is why are there no more of these posts remaining? Well, Joseph, looks like the mystery is solved. Any more for us to work on?

{{}} In the last HH, I mentioned a group of local photographs that had surfaced. A couple depicted Gilmore Oil trucks at the CTC Battery Shop at 114 No. West Street. I shared these photos with the Gilmore Co. archivist in LA, and he was thrilled to add them to their collection. Gilmore oil and gas products were very popular here, and he sent a list of all the Gilmore stations in the area.

{{}} We are off and running! The new Tulare County agriculture and farm labor museum bid was awarded to Webb & Sons out of Porterville, so ground breaking cannot be far behind. Historical material is being sought from you and others that can help tell Tulare County’s agricultural story. If you have a family history in agriculture, we’d love to hear from you. Now is your chance to highlight your family and get them recognized in the museum.

There are a least twelve specimens of humanity in this town that have not done a day’s work in the past two years. It does not seem that it would be hard to convict them of vagrancy. Visalia Delta, February 28, 1892.

Friday, December 5, 2008

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Robin Fountain—Gateway to the Restored Children’s Library

As reported in an earlier edition of Historic Happenings (HH), the Robin Fountain at the library is being restored. This important Carroll Barnes sculpture was dedicated to the “Children of Visalia” in 1944. It was a gift to the community by Grace Eichmann and over the years the fountain has fallen into disrepair. Fundraising for the $6,000 restoration project is more than 80% complete, thanks to the most recent generous donation by Visalia Heritage. Restoration is being done through the local non-profit organization called First Arts. The re-dedication of this important piece of history and local art is being planned for the spring of 2009. We still need to find a vendor that is capable of assembling the pump system for the fountain. The internal plumbing has been restored, but the pump/filtering system needs to be installed. We have some funds to do this last phase, but we need a vendor. Suggestions for this possible provider would be appreciated. Artist Aaron Collins is now working on restoring the marble sculpture and he has noted damage from negative chemical reactions over the last 64 years. Please check out the video clip.

A Reader Shares Her Memories

Janet Moffett, a subscriber to Historic Happenings, shared recent comments about the Robin Fountain and Carroll Barnes. Janet lived in Visalia in her early years and attended school here all the way through COS. She now lives in Fresno and has allowed me to quote part of her email: “Every time I’d walk up the sidewalk to the library and see the bird fountain, I’d remember the day I was with a group of children and adults gathered around the fountain for its dedication [1944]. Little did I know then that 10 years later I would be with the group meeting at the Three Rivers studio of the same sculptor, Carroll Barnes, and accompanying him as he chose the redwood log he would use to carve the COS Giant. As president of the class that initiated and co-sponsored the COS Giant project, I returned to Visalia that winter to unveil the sculpture. Ours was a wonderful time and Visalia a wonderful place to grow up.”

Janet, thanks for sharing this and we want you back for the re-dedication of the Robin Fountain.

The Valley Oak—An Outing is Being Planned

Visalia human history is not our only history. Our Valley Oak trees, Quercus lobata, the scientific name to be exact, are an important part of our past and an oak tree outing is being planned for the spring of 2009. In 2005 fifty-five people gathered for an oak tree bus tour and there was so much interest the trip sold out quickly. On the tour we visited a number of large oak trees including the largest Valley Oak known to exist. It was at the Country Club and a whopping 23’ in circumference and estimated to be over 250 years old. It still stands today. Alan George (Mr. Oak Tree), Sandy Newman and I will lead another oak tree outing in the spring of 2009. Details are yet to be worked out, but Alan and Sandy assure me that they have found an even bigger Valley Oak. The monster that they will reveal is just outside the Visalia City limits. Stay tuned as the 2009 Oak Tree extravaganza develops. Other surprises will surely be included.

History and Food—Recipe for Success

Erin Capuchino, the Marketing and Tourism Coordinator for the Visalia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, is working on an interesting idea with a historic theme. She is developing a progressive historic dinner. No, she’s not talking about serving old food that has passed its expiration date, but instead is talking about serving dinner courses at historic buildings and restaurants in Visalia, maybe with transportation provided between eating spots. She has tentatively set the date for Saturday, March 7, 2009. She’s got lots of ideas and promises to share them with us when her plan is fully developed. Erin, if history is involved, you’ve got our attention.

Old Photographs Surface

Last week a native Visalian with deep family roots, contacted me and wanted to share some old Visalia photographs. I met with him, and his photos were some that I’ve never seen before. Of particular interest to me was the interior of the CTC Automotive Co. at 114 No. West Street. The building is gone and the site is now a bank parking lot. In this photo, a Willard Battery technician can be seen demonstrating how a battery completely frozen could still start a truck. Photo was taken about 1928 inside the automotive company. Rare photographs are still out there and occasionally do surface.

‘What’s the Buzz’ About Mearle’s?

Mearle’s is one of the buildings/businesses that put Visalia on the map. It has fallen on hard times and continues to attract attention and discussion. Even Fresno is joining in. See veteran reporter Mike Scott’s blog (CBS.47, Channel 47—On Your Side) from November 28th:
Yesterday I talked with Tracy Robertshaw with the City of Visalia and she said that the owner of the building has been very cooperative with the city’s requests to clean up the property. Recently, the owner took the “auction” sign down, removed weeds, covered a hole in the roof and fixed the barrier cable around the property. Recently, the Ruby’s restaurant chain had been a serious candidate to take over the Mearle’s building, but I understand they have backed away. What Mearle’s needs is someone of the caliber of Mearle Heiztman, the namesake for this historic restaurant. Now, Mearle knew how to run a restaurant!


{{}} I forgot to mention in the last HH, that the photo of the brick building in the 400 block of East Main Street came from Sandy Newman’s collection. She took it in 1996. By the way, Steve Peck of the Mangano Co. is looking for any old photos of the buildings in the 400 block of E. Main.

{{}} In December 1941, Joe Link opened a store bearing his name, and so this month the Link’s clothing store is celebrating a birthday. Family owned and operated all these years, this is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations, Tom and Bob!

{{}} The Visalia Community Bank historic calendar for 2009 is out. Great photos again this year and the contest brought out some never before published photographs. VCB deserves credit for providing such a nice gift to the community. Stop by, say hi and pick one up.

{{}} To set the historical record straight, Leslie Caviglia, Deputy City Manager, wants everyone to know that Chief Deputy City Clerk, Donjia Huffmon, actually found the 1857 map in the vault. Thanks Donjia for your keen and perceptive Indiana Jones-like discovery. Anything else of historic value there?

{{}} The “mystery post” is still a mystery. No credible explanations for the post came in—sorry Randy, your explanation won’t “fly,” so to speak. The story of the post has got to be out there so we need to continue working on it. We need a good detective on this one.

{{}} Bill Allen’s Mooney book is scheduled to be shipped the week of December 8th, so we’re hoping to have them the following week, just in time for Christmas. Price for the reprinted hardback book is $24.95 plus tax, but a special rate of $39.95 plus tax is being offered for both volume 1 and volume 2. If you need shipping information or to arrange for pickup at the Ommen’s house, contact Lari Ommen at or call her at (559) 732-5829 for any questions. Proceeds go to the Tulare County Historical Society

{{}} Don’t forget the local author’s book signing event at Costco on December 13th. Scroll down to the previous HH for the details. It’s going to be a great event with displays and friendly author’s anxious to share their stories.

There is a tree in Tulare County so high that it takes two persons to see to its top. One person looks as far up the tree as he can, and the other begins where the first left off and looks to the top. Visalia Daily Morning Delta, March 4, 1896.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

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Just in time for Christmas

A new historical railroad book is about to hit the stores, just in time for Christmas. Local train historian, John Bergman, has written The Southern San Joaquin Valley: A Railroad History. In it he outlines the history of the railroads between Bakersfield and Fresno and includes 250 photos. Visalia trains and railroads are included. John is offering a very good pre-publication price if you purchase before November 30, 2008. For questions or to purchase, contact John at or at (559) 627-3291.

Speaking of books, there will be a local authors gathering at Costco coming up.
On Saturday, December 13, 2008 from 11:00am to 4:00pm at the Visalia Costco, the following authors will be present to sign and autograph their books:

John Bergman, The Southern San Joaquin Valley: A Railroad History
Chris Brewer, Official Historical Atlas Map of Tulare County
Ron Hughart, The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl
Jay O’Connell, Train Robber’s Daughter: The Melodramatic Life of Eva Evans
Robin Michael Roberts, Images of Hanford 1900-2000
William B. Secrest, Day of the Grizzly: The Tragic Story of the Mighty California Grizzly

Come by and pick up one or more of these books and get it autographed by the author—a great opportunity. A signed history book is always a great gift!

Historic Block in Escrow

Rumors have been flying about a pending sale for the last couple of weeks, and then the Valley Voice reported on it November 6, 2008. The 400 block of E. Main Street is now in escrow and the sale may happen as soon as January 2009. It is a historic block which at one time contained an old Chinese laundry, the California Hotel, Ramona Hotel, Automotive Parts Co., Dodge Brothers automobile dealership, Army Surplus, Wilson’s Cyclery, and Santa Fe Liquor to name just a few. The Mangano Co. is the buyer and according to Steve Peck, a company spokesman, the two-story brick building has severe structural problems. But when I talked to him about that, he indicated a more detailed inspection will be done. It’s certainly a historic area of Visalia and is one of the few remaining untouched brick structures in downtown. Most of them were removed in the 1960s and early 1970s as part of a revitalization effort. If you have any interesting anecdotes about any of the businesses that occupied that block or stories about the buildings themselves, please share them with us. As downtown moves east, I hope we can preserve the history of this historic block.

The Mystery Post—Need Help on This One

Visalia historian Joseph Vicenti recently passed along an interesting mystery. There is a concrete post embedded in the sidewalk near the curb on the northeast corner of E. Main Street and Liberty, directly across the street from the Uhl Tire Co. It stands a little over 4’ high and has “1948” stamped at the top. It must have served a purpose at one time, but what that was, no one seems to know. Joseph needs help on this one and it is a rather curious feature rising from the sidewalk. Drive by and take a look and if anyone knows something about this mystery post, please pass it on to us.

1936 Boy Scout Log Cabin Dedicated

On November 8, 2008, the Boy Scout cabin that stood on the south bank of Mill Creek near Sierra Vista School for many decades was given an official dedication at its new home in Mooney Grove Park. The restoration took close to a decade to complete, but it was worth the wait. Glen Drake, Jim Royall and Bob Ludekins deserve the lion’s share of the credit for this huge undertaking, however many were involved. It stands as a showcase for what can be done. The Boy Scouts have a right to be proud, Visalia does too. Thanks to Sandy Newman for this great event photograph.

New Agricultural Museum About to Get Underway

Bids are out and hopefully in a few short weeks ground will be broken for the new agricultural museum at Mooney Grove Park. Scheduled to be finished in 2009, the building will contain 10,000 square feet of useable feet, expandable to 17,000 square feet. It will house exhibits related to agriculture and farm labor history. The building will be built adjacent to the existing museum, but on the other side of Cameron Creek. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate county for an ag museum than Tulare County. The project will cost over $3 million.


{{}} The Grubstake Restaurant building on Walnut Ave just east of Mooney has been demolished and the materials hauled off.

{{}} I am told the much anticipated 2009 Visalia Community Bank historic photo calendar will be available to the public on about December 8th. Thanks to this civic minded organization for a great gift to the community.

{{}} The Annie R. Mitchell History Room at the Tulare County Library is open after about a 6-month remodel project. Come up – it’s bigger and better. Hours are 1:00-5:00pm Monday thru Thursday.

The man who took the stovepipe from the brick church is requested to bring it back. If not returned in a few days we will naturally conclude that he intends to steal it. Tulare Times, December 21, 1872.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Several weeks ago, Leslie Caviglia, Visalia Deputy City Manager, found an 1858 map of Visalia in storage. Endorsed by E. E. Calhoun, the Tulare County Clerk and Recorder at the time, the map is authentic and I believe it to be the first official Visalia street map. The town was 6 years old at the time it was made. How it has survived all these years is a mystery to me. Although faded, the detail on the map is amazing. Imagine Mill Creek being called Tiber and wide enough to have an island. Notice too, the hand drawn bridge over the Tiber at Bridge and Mill (now Main) streets. Efforts are underway to duplicate and preserve this wonderful piece of Visalia history. Good find Leslie.


On October 28, 2008, the 1936 Works Progress Administration (WPA) library building was rededicated. For many years the building was the pride and joy of the community, but for more than 3 decades it was relegated to storage facility status. It is again the pride and joy of the community! The dream of many was to see it restored and have it serve as a Children’s Library connected to the 1976 library building. Tulare County undertook the restoration project with substantial state funds and donations from individuals and groups alike. It was completed in 2008 and is an example of what a community can do when it is committed to keeping these classic old buildings. Visalia Heritage raised thousands of dollars to help make this project happen, and on their behalf Jane Nash was photographed as she made some appropriate remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony.


The Togni name has been in Visalia for over a century and up until the last year or so, the name has been part of Visalia’s business landscape since 1921. In that year, Charlie Togni and his brother-in-law Kenneth Branch began Togni Branch Stationary Store. In 1957 the partners sold the business to Charlie’s son Greeley, and in 1987 Greeley sold the stationary store to Pete and Dorothy Jungwirth. A couple of years ago, Greeley left Visalia due to health reasons and in 2007, the Togni Branch store closed its doors for good. It was sad to see the Togni name gone from Visalia after being a well known name for so many years here. Greeley passed away on October 22, 2008 in Folsom, California at the age of 86. Interment was at the Visalia Cemetery on October 30th.


In the 1930s, Visalia Boy Scouts built a log cabin clubhouse on the south bank of Mill Creek near Sierra Vista School. Over the years the old cabin fell into disrepair. Glen Drake, then an employee of the Visalia Unified School District, had a dream to bring it back to its glory days and he enlisted other scout “heavy hitters” to make it happen. The log cabin clubhouse was donated to the scouts and moved down Mooney Blvd. on July 27, 1999 to its new home in Mooney Grove Park. Local professional photographer and historian, Sandy Newman, snapped this once in a lifetime picture as the log cabin is trailored down Mooney Blvd.. On November 8, 2008 at 9:00am the restored log cabin will be dedicated at its new home. Come out and support the scouts and see a fine example of preserving the “old” for future generations to enjoy.


///Did anyone else hear that Mondo is no longer at The Depot Restaurant? Hard to imagine The Depot without Mondo at the front door to greet you.

///Sounds like work is progressing on a plan to connect Visalia and Tulare using the old Santa Fe Railroad route. It’s being called the Santa Fe Trail and I understand it will be open to pedestrians and bicycle traffic and I also understand it will connect to Mooney Grove Park.

///The Visalia Masons recently conducted a Cornerstone dedication program for three Visalia schools – Manuel Hernandez, Annie Mitchell and Cottonwood Creek. Laying cornerstones has been a long tradition for the Masons and I hear they were decked out in full uniform and looked good!

///Regarding the Grubstake drive-in, Peter Cowper, tells us that in the 1960s it was called Ken and Fern’s Grubstake and Art Browning confirmed it. But the last operators of the Grubstake were Walt and Peggy Sanders. The building is still standing, but its days are numbered.

“Young man, be careful how you live. Avoid the unhallowed labyrinths of vice, where the pebbles of sin are polished and the diamond of youth is dimmed.” Visalia Morning Delta, March 27, 1898.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008



On October 11, 2008, the Tulare County Historical Society hosted a 38 vehicle caravan retracing the 1858 Butterfield Overland Stage route through Tulare County. The tour finished at the Tulare County Museum at Mooney Grove Park and ended with a bang! An anvil salute was demonstrated to our tour participants and it was the same type of salute that greeted the first stage that came through Visalia in 1858. It was a way for the old timers to celebrate something exciting and it was re-created for us thanks to Bill Bennett. The salute consisted of two 100 pound plus anvils stacked one on top of the other, with black powder in between them. The black power was ignited and the explosion that resulted was thundering as it launched the anvil on the top into the air. Thanks to the photography of Dallas Pattee who captured the moment, we see the results of the explosion. All who witnessed the anvil salute at historic Mooney Grove came away with a great appreciation for the power of black powder. Folks don’t try this at home!


A couple of weeks ago I received a call from Visalia native Art Browning. He was very excited and told me he had been reading Jay O’Connell’s latest book Train Robber’s Daughter. As he read the part about the shootout in the 1890s at the Evans place near Houston Ave., he remembered as a young boy he found an old rusted 45-caliber pistol near his home also by Houston Ave. He wondered, “Could that old gun have been connected to Chris Evans or the lawmen hunting them down?” Hum, I wonder!


Susan and Rick Mangini were invited recently to attend a Visalia Heritage meeting and word has it there was lots of excitement in group about doing something in support of the re-creation of the fort. I haven’t heard anything recently about the Fort Visalia block . Anyone hear anything? What’s the status of the sale?


After reading in Historic Happenings some time back about the history of the Visalia Fair Mall, I received an email from Russ Dahler who shared that Visalia’s Gottschalks had the first and only escalator in Tulare County in 1964. He said a visit to it “was a must-do fieldtrip for Visalia Unified Schools.” at the time. Russ worked for Gottschalks at the time and remembers the excitement created around the escalator.


Thanks to Supervisor Phil Cox, County Director of Tourism Eric Coyne, and TulareWorks Supervisor Marlene Cardoza, many of us had a nice guided tour of the old 1935 art deco courthouse building. It contained nice wood trim and features plus beautiful old art deco light fixtures. We all got to see the “secret” old tunnel access door, too. It was a great tour of this neat old solid building and all the tourists are appreciative of all who made it happen. Recently I received an email from David Weinstein who is a member of the Art Deco Society and he encouraged preservation of the old courthouse as he indicated Ernest Kump, the courthouse architect, was well known and that he was regarded as one of California’s most important architects.


Recently I drove past the old Mearle’s Drive-In and it looked like the glory days at the old eatery. The parking lot was jammed with cars and it looked like they were open for business. But, unfortunately it was not open and was not serving great food. The cars parked in the parking lot were just occupying space, while the drivers were in class at COS. Other than the packed parking lot , not much else seems to be happening there. But the building seems to be aging rather quickly. How long can/should this go on??


I received a couple of emails regarding the precise date that Bill Allen’s book on Michael Mooney will be re-printed and available for purchase. I contacted him recently and he indicated it looks like it will be available for purchase about November 15, 2008, just in time for Christmas. The Tulare County Historical Society will be offering it for sale and when it is available you will be notified in Historic Happenings.


Recently, I drove by the old hamburger stand that was the Grubestake for many years. It looks like the old building is getting ready to be demolished. As you recall it was the hamburger stand on Walnut Ave, just east of Mooney Blvd. The building has been vacant for years, and according to reliable sources, it will be leveled and will be a bare lot until a master plan is developed for the sight. A lot of nostalgia there. Anyone know who last ran this fast food business there? I do.

Dakota Sioux tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, dismount.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Old Courthouse Tour

Sorry for giving such short notice on this information, but it just came up.

In the last two issues of "Historic Happenings" I have included information about the old Tulare County Courthouse located on Court Street between Oak and Center. Arrangements have just been made to tour the old courthouse interior on Monday, September 29th at 2:30pm. You are all invited to participate. For many of you this will be the first time inside the building and I understand there are some interesting features for us to see.

If you are interested in this tour, be at the old courthouse at 2:30pm on Monday. Great opportunity! Any questions please comment below, email or call me at 901-3227.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Historic Happenings Newsletter Under Construction

Great News! Rare Michael Mooney book is going to be reprinted!

With all the attention being focused on Mooney Grove Park, now and in the near future, it is great to hear local historian and author, Bill Allen will be reprinting the Michel Mooney history book. The first edition in 2002 is sold out (only 200 copies were printed) and the very good news is that Bill is going to reprint it and provide all the copies to the Tulare County Historical Society for sale. Thanks for your generosity Bill. History in more hands is good!

Famous Visalian Remembered

Michael Smith of Tulare has initiated the replacement of a headstone on the grave of African American pioneer Edmund Wysinger at the Visalia Cemetery. He is buried there in an unmarked grave, so with funds from Michael and other contributors a new headstone will be placed on the grave. Ironically, while checking the cemetery grounds around the Wysinger grave, cemetery personnel found a piece of the previous Wysinger headstone. That piece had the Wysinger name on it and has been incorporated into the new headstone. The placing of the headstone will happen Thursday, September 11th at 10:00am. Arthur, Wysinger’s son, was refused entrance into Visalia High School because of his race. His father protested and carried the case all the way to the California Supreme Court and won. Thanks Michael for preserving this important part of Visalia history.

Another Visalia First?

Deputy City Manager Leslie Caviglia was recently told that the Visalia Fair Mall, may well have been the first enclosed shopping mall in California. The Visalia Fair Mall officially opened February 25, 1964. Other enclosed malls in the state opened about that same time. Anyone know if this is another Visalia first?

Join the Caravan! Join the Fun!

In 1858 the Butterfield Overland Stage rumbled through Tulare County and made history. All the way from St. Louis, Missouri, it passed through our county on its 2,700-mile journey to San Francisco. On Saturday, October 11, 2008, the Tulare County Historical Society as part of the Butterfield sesquicentennial celebration is retracing the Tulare County route. It is going to be historic, informative and fun. Surprises await those who join in this free event. The caravanning and event ends in Visalia in the afternoon.

Stranger Slips In and Out of Visalia

A few days ago a stranger from Prescott, Arizona named Parker Anderson slipped into town. He was looking for information on a Visalia bad man named Fleming Parker. Fleming was born and reared in Visalia in the 1800s and later went to Arizona where he was hanged in 1898 for crimes committed there. Parker Anderson is writing a book on the bad man which will include his early crimes in Visalia. Visalia has its share of old west characters.

More on Fort Visalia

Recently I received an email from Eleanor Moore Bergthold regarding Fort Visalia. She gave me permission to distribute this to everyone:

“My dad, 101 year old Visalia resident Ralph Moore, shared your recent article on Fort Visalia with me yesterday when we were in Visalia. The Ed Reynolds you mentioned in your article was a first cousin to our early grandfather James Reynolds, who led a 15 wagon party to Visalia in 1853. Unfortunately, James died one day two years later at age 23 while returning to Fort Visalia. A couple of years later his widow, Nancy, married another early resident, Dr. John Cutler. From that union came the entire Cutler clan, Cutler Park, etc. John cutler also helped raise Nancy and James’ two young daughters. My dad’s grandfather, Henry Moore, who arrived in Visalia in 1863, later married one of those daughters, Amelia Reynolds.

I would strongly urge the City of Visalia, the Tulare County Historical Society and others to jump on the golden opportunity to purchase the historic Fort Visalia block that is now up for sale. What a great chance to preserve such an important piece of Visalia’s history! The location is also well-suited since it is within walking distance of downtown, the convention center, the Chamber of Commerce, and Visalia’s transportation hub.

I will be watching this unique situation with interest.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Test Blog Post

Hi Everyone,

It has come to my attention through various ways that you have an interest in local history in some fashion. Certainly, in some case we have talked about some aspect of local history. As a means of getting the historical word out or at least stimulating historical discussion, I am using this email to accomplish that. I know we all get inundated with email and keeping up with them is difficult, but unless you tell me to not include you, I will send out via email periodic and occasional notices about “Historic Happenings” in and around Visalia. Please don’t be shy. If you would rather not get them that is OK just tell me. If you know others that would like to be included please have them email me indicating interest. My email address is

For now emails will be sent out blind until I hear from each of you indicating that you don’t mind your email address openly displayed. Ideally an open email list is desirable so dialogue can take place between individuals on the list. As I mentioned this will be an occasional email that will focus on historical things occurring in the community, many of which will involve old buildings, activities connected to history, and historical programs. Its purpose is to inform, raise questions, solicit information and share in matters in which we all ( or many of us ) have an interest. Much of the information presented in Historic Happenings will be rumblings or rumors, but by learning and sharing, it is hoped that solid information can be obtained, so we can be better informed. In the past, many have indicated an interest in knowing what is happening historically and hopefully this will be a forum to help get the word out. I think by posing questions and /or providing information, a forum for discussion can be started about these historical topics. Initially if you would like to add something to the discussion let me know via email and I will include it in the next Historic Happenings. Again, I want to emphasize, much of the time, the material emailed to you will not be based on good solid factual information , but rather will fall into the category of the “word on the street.” I’ll try and make it worthy of your time but please forgive any grammar, punctuation or style problems.

Robin Fountain: The Robin Fountain or Birdbath restoration at the Tulare County library grounds is moving forward. For those of you not familiar with the project, Mrs Eichmann in 1944 commissioned local artist Carroll Barnes to create a marble water feature on what was then the site of the Visalia City Library. For many years it was in disrepair and it is now being restored. The plaque on the Robin Fountain reads “To the children of Visalia”. First Arts is coordinating organization with local art expert Aaron Collins taking the lead. The effort to restore the fountain is about 2/3 done. Still a little more fundraising to go. It is about a $6000 project. If you go to the East side library entrance, take a look at the birdbath in its permanent location. You can’t miss it is sure to become the Gateway to the restored children’s library. Many argue Visalia needs more public art. Here we have professional art with a historic Visalia connection.

Kathe Home Restoration: Just as a point of information, an out of the area building contractor ( although I think he grew up close by ) is restoring the old Kathe home located on the NW corner of Encina and Oak streets– directly across the street from the restored library. The contractor is interested in preserving the original structure as best he can. He has been asking about colors and so on, but unfortunately, no old photos exist showing any kind of coloration on the home. But if anyone has an information on that old house, I’ll pass it on to the contractor. Looks like it was built about 1910 and has been a triplex for a number of years and is going to be a home ( continue as a triplex ) for special needs Housing Authority tenants, I believe. The house is being “gutted” and should look super when the job is finished. You’ll know the house when you drive by. Should be very nice.

Fort Visalia: Susan Mangini has raised the question of rebuilding a replica on Fort Visalia on the lumber yard site at Garden and Oak streets. This is the site of the 1852 Fort ( birthplace of Visalia ) and it has been her desire for many years to build a replica on that site. Her recent comments to the Visalia City Council have brought the subject to the surface and it seems to have the community buzzing The block is apparently up for sale so she sees this as a golden opportunity to do something creative with Fort Visalia. Lotsa talk about that block either for sale or coming up for sale. Let’s see what happens to the site and if any more ideas surface about resurrecting old Fort Visalia. Go Susan! I’m sure Susan would love to know about other creative ideas that might be considered for that very historic site.

Old Courthouse Square: There has been recent talk about the status of the old courthouse building on Court Street between Oak and Center streets. Historically that block has been known as Courthouse Square. I am told the old WPA Courthouse building ( Finished in about 1935 ) located on Court Street is now totally vacated by county workers. The newer building on the Square still is being used. This property is owned by the county and speculation has it that the building and the surrounding grounds will come up for sale. This is a very historic site and seems to provide an opportunity for an investor. Great location! Anyone hear anything about it? Any investor groups out there? The old building has some problems but also has a lot of potential.

And then there’s Mearle’s?

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"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on coming."
On the tombstone of Bill McDonald, Texas Ranger