Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The History of the Woodlake Area from Roy Lee Davis Part Two

In Part One we learned who settle around the Woodlake area then called Stringtown.  In 1867 Stringtown abruptly disappeared.

In the winter of 1867-68, it rained for 38 days! On December 20, 1867, a great landslide occurred on the South Fork of the Kaweah River, completely blocking it.  Three days later, on December 23rd, this barrier gave way, releasing a torrent of water into the already swollen Kaweah.  That night, "Stringtown" families were awakened by the rush of water.  Large logs were carried as far as Visalia and debris was scattered over the landscape.  At "Stringtown" not only were walls, fences, and buildings destroyed or damaged beyond repair, but the top soil was replaced with sand!  Only Reverend Blair's home, on a rise, escaped major damage.  As a result, E.T. Rangle moved his family one or two miles northeast into what later became known as the Naranjo district, and the JWC Pogues and the Cobles moved up to Dry Creek.  The preceding year, Reverend Blair and Reverend Gilliam had established the first church in the Woodlake valley area at the Hamilton School.

When Antelope School was established in 1870, Reverend Blair moved his church there.  It became known as the Antelope Valley Presbyterian Church.  Reverend Blair served as its pastor until his death in 1885 at the age of 81.  Long before that, Blair, who owned the land on both sides of Bravo Lake, had moved to the northwest side.  In 1881, his youngest son, James Henry Blair, born in northern California, gave the land at the present church site of a church, cemetery, and public school.  A real church building was erected there soon after.  However, the first school in the Woodlake area was not public.

By the end of the 1860s, the Colvins, Bacons, Barringtons, Fudges, and Reynolds had arrived in the Woodlake area.  Thomas Henry Davis had hired one John Hill to teach his sons and the Fudge and Barrington children on Davis Acres in a sheep shed.  The first public school was, of course, the Antelope School, which was located about a mile north of the present high school.  One of the early teachers at Antelope School was W.B. Wallace who later served our country as a superior court judge.  Other early teachers included Zillia Blair, the Reverend Blair's youngest child; E.B. Homery and several Swank daughters.  The school was moved to the Blair gift land in the early 1880s and, in 1895, a new schoolhouse was built with slate blackboards, two cloakrooms, a library room and a wide porch on which the students could play on rainy days.  In 1913, after the town was founded, D.B. Day built a brick school on the present high school site and the name was changed to Woodlake.  The high school was established on adjacent land one year later, in 1914.  Meanwhile in the early 1870s Kiln School and, in 1910, became Naranjo School.  The Swanks, at least four of whose daughters taught in these and other schools, arrived in the 1870s.
Other pioneers who arrived in the 1870s included:  the Browns, Garretts, Lewis Hones, the Roarks and Woodards.  The Waughs also came and they settled on what is now part of the Sentinel Butte Ranch.  For summer pasturage, Waugh owned what is now Sequoia Lake.  William Brotherton came with his wife and daughter Susan who married James Henry Blair and the young couple lived int he Blair home.  Brotherton purchased the land that had once been "Stringtown" but, by 1910, Brothertons were living at the north end of Bravo Lake on the south side of Naranjo Boulevard.  James Blair grew crops including Malega grapes.  In 1872, the Wuchumna Ditch was dug and by 1877 Watchumna Ditch Company had control of most of the water in Bravo Lake.  In 1878, JWC Pogue planted oranges and lemons in the bottom lands; in 1879 he moved to Lemon Cove which he founded.  Mrs. Thomas Davis brought the first orange seedlings to Davis Acres.  (In the 1890s Thomas Davis brought orange seedlings from Klink with a wagon and six horses).  One of the most important events of the 1870s was establishing the first Post Office in the area, Lime Kiln P.O. was opened in 1879.  (It later was moved to Lemon Cover - in 1898).  In the 1880s, agriculture in the Woodlake area received some important boosts.

To find out what boosted agriculture in the 1880s stay tuned for Part Three coming tomorrow.

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