Experience History & Heritage
Tulare County is rich with history. When it was established in 1852, the early settlers found a wild and beautiful land with great potential.
The high country provided water, timber, and a place to escape the summer heat. The valley floor provided abundant game and rich soil for crops and cattle grazing; all the ingredients to start a new life. Since its beginning, the county has witnessed so much history, including the arrival of the railroad, mining of precious metals, discovery of the Giant Sequoia trees, and proliferation of irrigation canals; all coming together to create an amazing countywide history classroom.
Nestled against the foothills of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains and flowing west to the quilt-patterned farmland, lies Porterville, a quaint community of over 60,000. The town is an enchanting, restful alternative to the hustle and bustle of big cities. Country charm mixed with a casual outdoor lifestyle makes Porterville an ideal place to visit.
The community’s inviting downtown area offers a number of attractions such as unique boutique-style retailers, antique stores, restaurants, a multi-cultural art center, murals and historic sites. Main Street is home to numerous special events such as Friday Night Music on Main Street, car shows, and annual parades. Many other events are offered throughout Porterville year-round, including a community-supported country fair and various occasions.
Porterville is the gateway into the Sequoia National Forest and the Sequoia National Monument with its magnificent giant sequoias, rivers, and lake. Nearby, visitors will enjoy a host of recreational activities at Lake Success; hiking, camping, and fishing in Sequoia National Forest and other areas; gaming at Eagle Mountain Casino; and, riding at the OHV park.
We invite you to visit our historic treasures, including:
In 1858, Tulare County settler Hale Tharp visited the Giant Sequoias in what is now called Giant Forest within Sequoia National Park. In Log Meadow, you can see a fallen Giant Sequoia that was hollowed out and made into living quarters. The name “Tharp” can be seen carved into it.
About seven miles east of Visalia stands a large Valley Oak tree that, according to legend, was used as shade for the first voters in Tulare County. The election was held on July 10, 1852, and rather than vote in John Wood’s cabin, officials moved the polling place under this tree to escape the heat.
The foothills of Tulare County are dotted with many sites containing Native American rock art. Hospital Rock is an overhanging boulder in Sequoia National Park that served as a hospital for some early area inhabitants. It contains nice examples of pictographs dating back thousands of years.
This old gold mining community is now a ghost town with little evidence to show for its active past. The gold mining camp, later called White River, began about 1856 and has two cemeteries—one called Boot Hill—where the remains of the community’s ruffians lie today. For more information, visit: ohp.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=21533
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park
In 1908, a group of African Americans, led by Colonel Allen Allensworth, founded a town that would combine pride of ownership, equality of opportunity, and high ideals. Today, the California Department of Parks & Recreation is committed to the town’s renaissance as a living example of the American spirit. A modest but growing assemblage of restored and reconstructed buildings marks the location of Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. A schoolhouse, a Baptist church, businesses, homes, a hotel, a library, and various other structures symbolize the rebirth of one man’s dream of an independent, democratic town where African Americans could live in control of their own destiny. Special events include an annual rededication and Old Time Jubilee. http://parks.ca.gov/?page_id=583
Kaweah Post Office
In 1910, a little post office was built in the Kaweah settlement near what is now Three Rivers. About 10’ by 12’ in total size, this rustic building is one of the smaller operating post offices in the United States. It continues to serve the community, and its beginning can be traced to the Kaweah colonists who lived in a utopian community nearby.
Lindsay Museum & Gallery
The Lindsay Museum & Gallery is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of Lindsay’s rich cultural arts and history. You can view their Facebook or Twitter page to see current and upcoming exhibits and events.
Exeter Historical Museum
From sports figures to outlaws, the Exeter Historical Museum, at the corner of Pine and B streets, draws history buffs to its inviting displays. The interactive museum, complete with flat screen televisions showing historic photographs and video, is staffed by volunteer docents every weekend, Sat., 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun., 12 p.m.- 4 p.m.. The museum invites the public to tour its varied exhibits highlighting the people, places, and events in Exeter, Lemon Cove, Yokohl Valley, and Mineral King. ExeterHistoricalMuseum.com
Porterville Historical Museum
Housed in the old Southern Pacific depot, the museum is a historical walk through time, containing some of the region’s finest examples of Yokuts and other American Indian artifacts. These items used by the first pioneers and settlers to the region, and snapshots of various time periods throughout the past 100 years. A large oil painting of a stagecoach by a Porterville High School student dominates the main room. The sizable collection of decorative arts and crafts include china, dolls, quilts, and more. PortervilleMuseum.org
Tulare Historical Museum
Founded in 1985, the Tulare Historical Museum has been preserving and showcasing the history of Tulare since its inception. As you stroll through the halls of the museum, you will find pieces that convey the agricultural heritage – especially dairy – that built the community of Tulare. TulareHistoricalMuseum.org
Visalia Historical Walking Tour
Take this self-guided 45-minute stroll through old downtown Visalia for a history lesson and some good exercise. Along the way, you’ll discover old churches, the little white schoolhouse, early hotels, and the famous Fort Visalia. VisitVisalia.org
Antique Farm Equipment Museum
This museum pays tribute to past generations of California farmers and dairymen, showing the tools and technology they used to create a garden from a desert. By today’s standards, the early settlers used fairly primitive equipment. Horse-drawn farm tools, fully-restored antique tractors, steam-driven harvesters, old-fashioned milking machines, a collection of barbed wire, and homemaker’s tools are on display. There is even a restored 1920s crop duster airplane. The museum is easily accessible to all adults and children, and can be found at the International Agri-Center. Self-guided tours are as simple as reading the printed descriptions that tell the story of each piece on display. VisitVisalia.org
The White House is a 1912 Dinuba family home (which was later used to house teachers after WWII and the Depot Museum) and the Southern Pacific Railroad office built in 1888 (when the railroad extended its route from Fresno to Visalia and used by SPR until 1978) are two of the structures that house cultural and historic artifacts of the Alta District (northeast Tulare County). The Rutan Brothers Aviation Exhibit and Rose Ann Vuich’s parade car (California’s first female Senator), are among the collections that tell the story of the Alta District by blending history, culture, and art. AltaDistrictHistoricalSociety.org
The Tulare County Museum
Three Rivers Historical Museum
The Native American village is a permanent outdoor exhibit consisting of a summer home, a winter home, and an acorn granary on a raised platform. Built by Johnny Sartuche, his father, Eddie Sartuche, and his brother, Gary Sartuche, in 2011, the village is located adjacent to historic bedrock mortars and pestles, on the grounds of the Three Rivers Historical Museum. Inside, the museum displays Yokuts Indian artifacts, including an infant’s cradle, musical instruments, cooking implements, and decorative baskets. 3RMuseum.org
The Tule River Historical Museum
The Tule River Historical Museum houses the first residence to be built in Springville, the Murphy House, along with early farming, mining, and logging equipment, photographs, diaries, and early recordings. The Murphy House was disassembled and stored for years until a site was created for the Museum. Then it was reassembled on the Museum grounds and appointed with authentic old-time furnishings, including linens and dishes. On the first Sunday in December, the Tule River Historical Society holds an open house where visitors are treated to old time craft demonstrations like weaving, forging, dutch oven cooking, and guided tours of the Museum. The Museum is located just south of Springville and is entered through the Rodeo Grounds.