"The Wright Family"

By Ellen Gorelick, Executive Director-Chief Curator
Tulare Historical Museum

The City of Tulare was first settled by Isaac Newton Wright and Charlotte Augusta Wright in 1870. Mr. Wright pre-empted 160 acres of land and built Tulare's first house, a two room cabin, at what is now 457 South "H" Street in the City of Tulare. This cabin was later relocated to a section just Southwest of the original homestead in order to make way for the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1872.

Isaac Wright played a key role in the growth and prosperity of Tulare. He was one of the organizers who built an irrigation system to irrigate his farm and the farms neighbors. The ditch along Mooney Boulevard was a part of that system. He personally supervised the building of Tulare's first real schoolhouse, Central school, which is located on the site of the Tulare Historical Museum and the Tulare Public Library. This two story Schoolhouse served the community from 1884 until 1959. He chaired the first meeting to plan and organize the Dairyman's Cooperative Creamery Association in 1909.

Charlotte Wright also played a key role in Tulare. She organized and ran the first lending library in Tulare from her home. It consisted of precious books brought West by early settlers. She continued as Tulare's unofficial librarian until 1882 when Library Hall, later the Tulare Woman's Clubhouse, on West Tulare Avenue was dedicated. The building had been constructed by the Southern Pacific Railroad as a Library Recreational Hall and Auditorium for its employees, but it was made available for the use of the entire town. Isaac and Charlotte worked together to help organize Tulare's first church, the Church of The Redeemer, later to become known as the First Congregational Church.

The Wright family consisted of four children, Victoria, George, Alice, and Harriet. Victoria was the first organist at the Church of The Redeemer and one of Tulare's first school teachers. She married Andrew Neff on New Year's Eve in 1876. Neff was the engineer who brought the first Southern Pacific train into Tulare on July 25, 1872. George W. Wright also became a railroad engineer. He was the engineer for the Tulare-Visalia runs and later worked for the Sierra Railroad.

Alice Lottie Wright was the first white child born in Tulare in 1870. She became a partner with her brother-in-law, W.J. Higdon, and helped to run the Wright Ranch where they raised pure breed Holstein cattle. Harriet, the youngest of the children attended Central School and San Jose Normal School where she graduated as valedictorian in1894. She taught at Central School for ten years before her marriage to W. T. Higdon in 1904. She was a charter member of the social and literary Lorelei Club which became the Woman's Club of Tulare in 1912.

Alice Higdon Topham Park, formerly Railroad Park, is named after Isaac and Charlotte Wright's granddaughter the late Alice Topham. It is located on Tulare Avenue, just West of "J" Street and across the street from the Woman's Club House. The Park contains one of Tulare County's biggest trees, a honey mesquite, 28 feet tall and 99 inches around. Alice Topham was one of the founders of the Tulare City Historical Society in 1980 and contributed to the opening of the Tulare Historical Museum in 1985.

For additional information, visit the Tulare Historical Museum, 444 West Tulare Avenue, Tulare California 93274 or call (559) 686-2074.