Header Image 1
Places, Earth
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park
Header Image 2

State Parks, Historic Sites, and Museums need your help.

Throughout the country, state parks, historic sites, museums, and similar institutions are struggling to continue operating. Because of general financial problems, many of these institutions are operating on a reduced schedule or in danger of closing. Some are being forced to sell off artifacts and property. Many will not weather these hard times without your help.

Places Earth urges everyone to support these vital and important public resources any way you can. Please donate your treasure, time, and talent. Write to your governor and other elected officials telling them to find a way to keep state parks open. It will be your loss.


Public Service Announcement
Explanation.
This web site contains no paid advertising. Donations help.

Back Tulare County Main Page

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2004 - 2013.


Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, in the south side of Tulare County, is the only California town to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. Colonel Allen Allensworth lead a group of dedicated people to found a small farming community in 1908. Their goal was to improve the economic and social status of African Americans. The community flurished for only a short time before a drop in the area's water table, and other factores lead to the demise of the town. Located toward the southern end of the Great Central Valley of California, the park has an open feel as the remaining buildings are scattered about the site in a wide flat plane.

Colonel Allen Allensworth and William Payne were instrumental in establishing the community of Allensworth.

Allen Allensworth was born into slavery in Louisville, Kentucky, in April 1842. Despite laws forbidding the education of slaves, Allensworth learned to read and write. Allen made two unsuccessful escape attempts before finally succeeding in 1862. On April 3, 1863, he became a seaman, first class, of the Union Navy. He left the navy in April 1865 with the rank of first class petty officer.

Allensworth underwent a religious conversion and began to studied theology. He married Josephine Leavell and he preached in and around his native Louisville. Allensworth's success as a minister lead to political involvement and he was one of Kentucky's delegates to the Republic National convention in 1880 and 1884.

Allensworth persuaded President Grover Cleveland to appoint him chaplain of the 24th Infantry in April 1886 with the rank of captain. For 20 years, Allensworth ministered to the needs of his flock as the 24th moved from Fort Apache in the Arizona Territory to Camp Reynolds in California to Fort Missoula in Montana. He also worked to raise the overall educational level of the men.

Upon his retirement in 1906, Lt. Col. Allensworth and his family relocated to Los Angeles. Allensworth embarked on a speaking tour to inspire and educate blacks. It was during one of these tours that he met William Payne, a gifted teacher and university graduate living in Pasadena, California since 1906.

Payne and Allensworth were of like minds in the struggle to improve their race and they devised a plan for an all-black community of African Americans who could control their own destiny. The community of Allensworth, California countered the myth of African-American genetic inferiority by providing the opportunity for hardworking, orderly black Californians to establish a self supporting community. Allensworth also envisioned the community to be a home for the soldiers of America's four all-black regiments. He promised that the community would eventually possess a home for soldiers families where soldiers on hazardous overseas duty could leave their families "in a beautiful balmy California climate, surrounded by the very best environment."

On June 30, 1908, Allensworth and Payne created the California Colony and Home Promoting Association. Although Allensworth and Payne were the chief officers of the association, several others also played a significant role in the colony's founding, including John W. Palmer, a miner; William H. Peck, a minister; and Harry A. Mitchell, a real estate agent.

The association had difficulties in acquiring land. Finally the white-owned rural land development firm Pacific Farming Company offered the association prime land in Solito (or Solita, as it was spelled on Santa Fe Railroad schedules), a rural area in Tulare County 30 miles north of Bakersfield. Solito was a depot station on the main Santa Fe Railroad line from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the soil was fertile, the water seemingly abundant, and the acreage not only plentiful but also reasonably priced. It was renamed Allensworth in honor of the colonel. Once the deal was consummated, the association began to market the colony as a haven for conscientious blacks who desired fertile land and a community where their efforts would be appreciated. Within a year, the Tulare County Times reported that 35 families were residing in Allensworth. There was a floating population of people who would come and stay there three or four months and move on and many individuals purchased lots but lived in other areas, intending eventually to settle in Allensworth. By 1912, Allensworth's official population of 100 had celebrated the birth of Alwortha Hall, the first baby born in the town. The town had two general stores, a post office, many comfortable homes, such as the one Allen and Josephine Allensworth built in 1910, and a newly completed school. The 1912-1915 period marked the apex of Allensworth as a thriving community listing an array of occupations of colonists, including farmers, storekeepers, carpenters, nurses and more. The First Baptist Church held regular services while the first A.M.E. Zion membership worshiped in the school, and in 1916, plans were made to erect a structure for the Methodist congregation.

Along with the school, the library was the focus of many community activities. On February 2, 1912, residents petitioned the Board of Trustees of the Visalia Free Library "to establish a depot station at Allensworth." Although the request was approved, the space designated for the reading room was inadequate, so in 1913, Mrs. Josephine Allensworth, as a memorial to her mother, donated land and money to build a library that "would do credit to even a larger community." Completed in July 1913 at a cost of $500, the library had a book capacity of 1,000. When the Mary Dickinson Library was dedicated on the Fourth of July, Colonel Allensworth immediately donated his private library to the enterprise. The library became a hub of activity for Allensworth residents.

Almost immediately after its founding, the Allensworth colony faced several crises that led to its eventual decline. In 1914, the Santa Fe Railroad, never a supporter of this black community, built a spur line to neighboring Alpaugh, thus allowing most rail traffic to bypass Allensworth and depriving the town of the lucrative carrying trade. The Santa Fe's decision was the culmination of a series of conflicts between Allensworth and the railroad along with racial prejudice. Initially, the rail line refused to change the name of the depot from Solito/Solita to Allensworth. "The corporation refused to hire African Americans as the manager or as ticket agents of the station located in the colony and, restricted black people to menial labor,

As part of the initial purchase, the Pacific Farming Company had agreed to supply sufficient water for irrigation, regardless of how large the town grew. As early as 1910, the Pacific Farming Company was failing to honor its commitment. The community eventually gained control of the Allensworth Water Company but by then it was an outdated water system and had massive unpaid taxes. By 1918 the community able to pay the taxs and began to upgrade the pumping machinery, but by then the water table had dropped too low and the equipment was ineffective.

While in Monrovia to speak at a church, Colonel Allensworth was struck by a speeding motorcycle while crossing the street. He died the following morning, September 13, 1914. After funeral services at the Second Baptist church of Los Angeles, with a military honor guard of both races, Colonel Allensworth was interred at the Rosedale Cemetery on September 18, 1914. Payne and Overr assumed the leadership of the colony, but no one could replace the colonel. Without Allensworth's spiritual guidance and leadership, the community began to decline. By 1920, Josephine Allensworth returned to Los Angeles to live with her daughter, Nella and William Payne had accepted a teaching job at El Centro. In 1966, arsenic was found in the water supply which made the situation even worse for the few remaining residents.

Beginning in 1969, various community organizations, led by Ed Pope and Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay, expressed interest and support in creating a state historic site at Allensworth. By 1973, the state had acquired the land, and the advisory committee, under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Goode, began its work. In May 1976, the state Department of Parks and Recreation approved the plans to develop the park, and on October 6, 1976, the park was dedicated.

Other Black settlements have been established and almost all have been forgotten. Allensworth, California was unique. It had a sense of mission and widest possible national circulation. Allensworth is sometimes refered to as "The Town That Refuses to Die" because approximately 300 families still live in a section of town just south of the State Historic Park. This community is not generally know to exist and tourists rerely visit. This rural setting is home to several retired African Americans.

Continuing restoration efforts are slowly preserving this important historical site for future generations. Now operated as a California State Historic Park, several annual events celebrate the rich history of this almsot forgotten community. Unfortunately, budget does not allow full time staffing of the Visitor Center which was closed the first time I visited. Anual events when buildings are open and staff is available are: Black History Month in February, Old Time Jubilee in May, Juneteenth Celebration in June, and a Rededication in October. Check with the park for exact dates of these events.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m daily.
The park Visitor Center and tours are available by making arrangements with the park in advance.

Location - Directions:

Mailing Address:
Colonel Allensworth SHP
Star Route 1, Box 148
Earlimart CA 93219

The park is north of Bakersfield; 20 miles north of Wasco on Highway 43; seven miles west of State Highway 99. East of Interstate 5.

Directions (going north from Los Angeles), From I-5 take 99 North; 30-miles past Bakersfield look for the Delano exit -- but Exit at Cecil Avenue and keep going until the road dead-ends. Turn right (on Highway 43)for about 6-miles to Palmer Avenue. Turn left and cross over the railroad tracks to the Park. The park is the the right, the remaining town to the left. There is a small booth to pay the small fee (bring ones).

Amtrak's San Joaquin trains will stop at Allensworth for group travel with advance reservations.

Seasons/Climate Recommended Clothing:
The Central Valley, is hot in summer and mild in winter. Rain falls from October through April. Winter temperatures below freezing can bring frost, but snow is rare. Summer temperatures above 100 degrees are part of the normal pattern.

Personal observation: I have been to Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park five times. The first visit, on November 27, 2004 in the afternoon, was quite, cold, and windy and it had just stopped raining. My second visit, on Christmas morning 2004, was obscured by dense fog and ice was forming on my car. The following day, I stopped again in the afternoon and it was a bit warmer. It was getting dark and started to rain as I left. I stopped again on Good Friday in 2005 when the weather was perfect and later in May for the Jubilee.

Main Page | Allensworth Hotel | Allensworth House | Ashby House | Barber Shop | Blacksmith Shop | Carter House &: Livery | Church | Dodson House | Equipment | Gross' Drug Store | Hackett House | Hindsman's General Store &: House | Johnson's Bakery | Library | Phillips House | Railroad Depot | Robinson House | School | Singleton's General Store | Smith House | Stockett House | Visitor Center
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park Map
Map of major builidngs at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. Click for a larger map.


Entrance sign and Johnson's Bakery. Photo date: 12-25-04.

Johnson's Bakery.


Looking west from entrance. Photo date: 12-26-04.

View from Entrance sign looking north. Robinson House at far right, Singleton's Store at center. Photo date: 12-26-04.
Fromj Highway
This is the view from the highway, with the railroad tracks hiding the town.

Through these (railroad cross) gates lies the jewel of Allensworth State Historic Park. Photo date: 12-25-04.

Amtrak train. Amtrak will stop at Allensworth for groups by prearrangement. Hindsmans General Store at center. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Hindsmans General Store. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Hindsman House. Photo date: 11-27-04.
Johnson Bakery
Johnson's Bakery. Photo date: 11-27-04.
Robinson
Robinson House. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Gross' Drug Store, 1912-18, Mary Gross operated. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Singleton's General Store; 1910. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Smith House; Laura Smith. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Allensworth Hotel, 1910. Photo date: 11-27-04.
Barber Shop Interior
Barber Shop, interior. Photo date: 12-25-04.
Mary Dickinson Memorial Library (Tulare County Free Library)
Mary Dickinson Memorial Library (Tulare County Free Library). Photo date: 12-26-04.

First Baptist Church. Photo date: 11-27-04.

School. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Colonel and Mrs. Allensworth House. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Phillips house.

Bunch Rake. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Carter House and Livery.

Stockett House. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Hackett House. Photo date: 12-25-04.

Ashby House, Dairy Barn, and Milkhouse. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Blacksmith Shop. Photo date: 12-26-04.


Overr's Experimental Garden. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Bickers

Smith House, Barber Shop, Gross' Drug Store. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Campground, left and Library, right. Viewed from Visitor Center. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Photo date:

Photo date:

Looking west into farmland. Photo date: 12-26-04.

East toward entrance. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Looking toward northeast.

Looking west from Railroad Depot, toward Allensworth Home, School, and Blacksmith Shop. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Looking west from Railroad Depot, toward Hackette and Stockette Homes, Hotel, Singleton's Store. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Looking west toward Carter House and Livery. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Looking west toward Carter House and Livery. Photo date: 12-26-04.

Looking east toward First Baptist Church. Photo date: 11-27-04.

First Baptist Church at left, school in distance. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Looking northeast toward Grosse's Drug Store, Hotel, Barber Shop. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Hackett House, Church, School, Grosses Drug Store right. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Photo date:

Photo date:



School and Visitor Center. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Looking south on Young Road. First Baptist Church at right. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Looking west across farmland. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Photo date:

Photo date:

Photo date:

Photo date:


Looking west from entrance. Photo date: 11-27-04.



Looking west from entrance. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Looking west from Railroad Depot. Bakery at far right. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Photo date:

Photo date:

Palmer Avenue looking west. Photo date: 12-25-04.

Barber Shop. Photo date: 12-25-04.

Photo date:

Photo date:

Looking east along Sojurna Avenue. Allensworth Home at right, Blacksmith Shop and Dodson House at left. Photo date: 12-25-04.

Hackett House and Stockett House. Photo date: 12-25-04.

From Hackett House. Photo date: 12-25-04.

Stockett and Hackett Houses and out buildings from east. Photo date: 12-25-04

Photo date:

Photo date:

Photo date:

Photo date:

Looking north from entry. Photo date: 12-25-04.

Railroad crossing gates, looking east. Photo date: 12-25-04.
1691
1746
Photo date:
1749
Photo date:
1783
1893
1803

1866
1891
1884
1887














Note the angle of this tree. It can be very windy in Allensworth.
1903



6911

6921

6957
6937

6989
1752

Surrounding fields.

Surrounding fields.

Leaving Allensworth State Historic Park. Photo date: 11-27-04.

Looking back at the railroad. Photo date: 5-14-07.




The residents of Allensworth still strugles to maintain a community.



Arriving.

Leaving.







Top Back to Earth Back
Tulare County Main Page

This page last updated: Saturday, 06-Jul-2013 14:26:10 EDT

Note:This is not the official site for any of the places shown in Places Earth. Places Earth is not responsible for accuracy of the information. Hours of operations, prices, exhibits, and sometimes locations are subject to change without notice.

Support this Web Site

I hope that you find this web site helpful. It started because of my love for Architecture and interest in History. I don't allow paid advertising (but this may change). This web site is for your benefit and enjoyment and I make no profit on it. For ten years it has been supported primarily from my regular paycheck as a Set Designer and there haven't been many the last few years. I can no longer run it without help. Alternative funding is needed. A non-tax deductable donation helps cover the cost of operating this web site and may be made to Kesign Design Consulting through PayPal.

Buy my Photographs or Art.
My Art

Or donations can be mailed to the address on the contact page.
If you are in the need of a designer, please see my portfolio site www.kesigndesign.com.
Kesign Design Consulting
or Set Design Portfolio.

Links

Web Design This site maintained by Kenneth A. Larson.
Copyright © 2004 - 2013, Kenneth A. Larson. All Rights Reserved.
Website content including photographic and graphic images may not be redistributed for use on another website.
Please Don't Pirate Videos
Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional Valid CSS