Tulare County is
just south of the center of
California. When California became a state, the government
divided California into counties. One of the largest of these
was called Mariposa County. It covered the whole middle of the
state. It was so big that a man on horse would need several
weeks to go from one end to the other. In 1852 it was divided,
and the southern part was named Tulare County. Later Tulare
County was divided again, making Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Inyo
counties as well as Tulare County.
The name Tulare comes from the
tules (too-lees), a kind of plant that grows in wet areas.
There were many wet areas in Tulare County before people
started farming here. In fact, Tulare Lake, near what is now Pixley, was the second largest lake in the west. Now Tulare
Lake is dry and the bottom is used for farming except in very
Only one-third of Tulare County is
flat on the valley floor. The rest of Tulare County is in the
foothills and mountains, with the high Sierra Nevada Mountains
in the east part of the county. The snow that falls in the
mountains melts all summer long, giving water to the valley
Tulare County was where the old Indian trail crossed the
Kaweah River, about ten miles east of Visalia. In 1850, John
Woods and some friends built a bridge across the river and a
cabin there where travelers could stop. The town was named
Woodsville. Many people were going to mine gold in Northern
California and they followed this trail because it came from
the south where there was less snow in the winter, so the
mountains were easier to cross.
At that time, the Indians
who lived here were very angry about the settlers taking their land. In
December, 1850 the
settlers in Woodsville were attacked by
Indians. Only two men escaped. The United States Army was busy
fighting other Indian attacks and could not help the settlers.
In 1853, more people moved to Woodsville and built a hotel and
a post office for travelers.
time, Visalia, ten miles away, was growing larger. The land was
flat and it was not hard to build a good road through the
valley. There was a fort in Visalia for protection. Soon
Woodsville was a ghost town.
here to see larger map
Tule plants in Tulare Lake
Founder's Tree, near where
Tulare County started.