Dr. William Ferguson Cartmill was born in Ohio in 1822. He gave up his medical practice in 1849, crossed the plains with a team of oxen, and joined the hordes of gold-seekers, but like so many others, found very little of the precious metal. Cartmill arrived in Sacramento on Sept. 8, 1850, one day before The United States admitted California to the Union. For the next eleven years, he and a partner operated a general store in Amador County. In 1855, Cartmill made the arduous trip to Columbia, Missouri, to claim his bride, Sophia Barnes.
Upon his return to California, he discovered that his partner had sold the store and disappeared. He practiced medicine among the Indians and miners and owned and operated a cattle ranch along Sutter Creek, accumulating cattle.
In 1861, he discovered good grazing land about five miles northwest of Tulare's future site and brought his 100 cows and heifers to his new ranch. The ranch house that he built for his family still stands, much altered in size and appearance. The farm eventually grew to more than 1200 acres.
In 1873, just one year after Tulare's birth, the doctor built a home at 304 W. Tulare Avenue so that his children could attend school in town. People generally consider the house to be the oldest surviving building in Tulare.
William and Sophia Cartmill had five children, but the only one to survive infancy was the eldest son, Wooster Beach Cartmill, born April 3, 1857, near Volcano in Amador County. Wooster came with his parents to Tulare when he was only five years old. During his early years, Wooster worked on his father’s ranch, riding after cattle or herding sheep, sometimes grazing the animals over Tulare-to-be's site. Milk from the Cartmill cows was sold to a creamery in Visalia, a plant that he eventually owned.
In 1900 he established the first creamery in Tulare, an enterprise located on north J Street where the cow and milkmaid sculpture appropriately proclaim, “This is Dairy Country!” This first creamery had an output of 500 pounds of butter daily. People rightfully consider Wooster Cartmill to be “The Father of Tulare’s Dairy Industry.”
After selling the creamery in 1903, Wooster returned to the home ranch. For a while, he worked in the County Auditor's office as a deputy, and in 1922 he was appointed postmaster of Tulare by the Harding administration, a position he held until his retirement in 1926.
Dr. W. F. Cartmill died in 1906 at the age of 84 on the day before he and Sophia celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary. Wooster Cartmill died in 1938, but we remember their contribution to Tulare's history whenever we cross the avenue named in their honor.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, today, Tulare County leads California and the nation with $1 billion in milk production. The statewide value for milk is about $4 billion. California has been the leading dairy state since 1993 when it surpassed Wisconsin in fluid milk production, and it produces more than 20 percent of the nation’s milk supply.