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Featured Investigations


The Porterville Historical Museum

The Porterville Historical Museum was founded in 1965 and is housed in the old Southern Pacific train depot. The depot was constructed in 1913 and it operated as a train depot until 1941 when it became the Orange Belt bus depot.

The San Joaquin Valley has a long history of Native American habitation and the Porterville area was populated by Yokut Indians. Examples of Native American baskets, tool making and boat building are located in the museum. Representing the early pioneers of Porterville artifacts including saddles, branding irons, chaps and weapons can be seen. Early setllers and businesses are represented with furniture, dishes, clothing, toys and other necessities.

Visitors will find vehicles and equipment in the yard of the museum reminding them of the agricultural roots of the community. Also featured in the yard at the front entrance are mosaics of historical Porterville locations or events that were once embedded in the Main Street sidewalks until their removal in 1996.

The Porterville Historical Museum is located at 257 North D Street and is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Barn Theater

Most of us in PGS remember this place all of our lives. Some members have even taken part in the productions and the plays. Everyone has heard of theaters possibly having a resident ghost, the Barn Theater is no different. In operation since 1948 (and it honestly started out of a real barn), it was originally the brainchild of Peter Tewksbury, who later became well known in Hollywood as a director and actor. The newer building (with part of the original barn) was built on the present site in 1952.


Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park

Born into slavery, Allen Allensworth escaped as a runaway slave during the Civil War, joining the Union Army. In 1871, he became a minister, and in 1877 he met and married Josephine Leavel, a young school teacher and talented pianist and organist. In 1886, he accepted a commission in the Army as a Chaplain to serve in the all Black 24th Army Infantry. When he retired in 1906, he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was not only the highest ranking Chaplain in the Army, but the highest ranking Black officer of this time.


After his retirement from the Army, Colonel Allensworth, Professor William Payne, and three other Black men decided to establish a self-governed town for Black people. They envisioned a place where Blacks could own property and achieve their full economic potential free from the discriminatory laws and practices of the time.

In 1908 Allensworth and Payne incorporated the California Colony and Home Protection Association and started looking for the best possible location for their town. The site finally selected was midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and had plenty of inexpensive farm land and several artesian wells.

The new town grew rapidly as enterprising Black men and women - nurses, business owners, educator, farmers, ranchers, retired soldiers and crafts people - purchased town lots, started farms and built homes. It was not long until the prospering town had a school, church, library, and post office. Businesses included a hotel, machine shop, bakery, drug store, and barber shop.

In its heyday, Allensworth bustled with activity. The town was a railroad transfer point, providing a steady stream of customers for Allensworth's many businesses. The grain and cattle merchants of Allensworth used the railroad to move their products to market. While the town's shops and stores supplied day-to-day needs for living, the church and school provided for the spiritual and educational needs of the town's people. The women of Allensworth organized formal debates, concerts, plays, club meetings and other social activities that brought people together transforming the town into a closely-knit community.


In 1914, Colonel Allensworth was killed in an accident. During a business trip to San Francisco, he was hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street. The death of this dynamic leader was a severe blow to the town. While capable leaders stepped forward and kept things moving for a time, other problems doomed the community.

In the early years, access to plentiful supplies of good water was easy. As each year passed, growing agricultural demands increased up stream diversions and deep-well pumping throughout the San Joaquin Valley, lowering the natural water table. The result was a significantly diminished quantity and quality of water available to the people of Allensworth.

During these years, income associated with Allensworth railroad shipping business began to decline as trucks gradually replaced trains for transporting farm products to market. During the 1920s and 30s, many people were forced to seek work elsewhere. The needs of World War II called more of Allensworth's young men and often their families followed.


The downtown of Historic Allensworth is now preserved as Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. California's first historic park that recognizes the contributions made by Black pioneers to the development of California. The aim of the park is to perpetuate for public use and enjoyment of the township called Allensworth, dedicated to the memory and spirit of Colonel Allen Allensworth, a distinguished Black pioneer of California.



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