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  • Writer's pictureDerryl Dumermuth

The History of the Written History of Tulare

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

During the first 136 years of Tulare's city, only three authors chronicled the history of Tulare County. It wasn't until 2002 that authors began publishing books to tell the unique story of our town.

In 1892, just twenty years after Tulare's birth, Thomas Hinkley Thompson published his monumental "Official Historical Atlas Map of Tulare County, California." In its 147 pages, he printed hundreds of full-page maps and illustrations showing all parts of the county, the boundaries of farms, and the landowners' names. The book contained 24 pages of county history, but only one page telling the tale of Tulare - after all, the town had been in existence for only two decades - how much history could it have accumulated? The standard fee for having a half-page lithograph of a person's property was $125, payable in gold coin. This particular atlas sold for $15 gold coin.

Thompson served as a captain of Union infantry during the Civil War. After mustering out in 1864, he started publishing historical atlases in the Midwest, earning the nickname "The Atlas Man." December of 1884 found him in Tulare, living at 129 North N Street, now demolished, with his atlas print shop in the basement. In addition to publishing, Thompson operated a real estate and insurance business at the southwest corner of Kern Avenue and K Street for many years. Thompson's Tulare County Atlas has been reprinted recently and is now available at the Tulare Genealogy Library for $95.

Kathleen Edwards Small was born in Visalia in 1891. In 1926 she published a massive two-volume set entitled "History of Tulare County California."

The first volume narrated the county's history, with only nine of the 518 pages devoted to the story of the city of Tulare. The 504 pages of the second volume featured over 200 biographical sketches, some with portraits, prominent county residents, or at least those willing to pay for the inclusion of their bio in the tome.

Highly regarded as a vocalist, Miss Small studied music at Northwestern University. She earned her journalistic experience as a writer for the Visalia Daily Times.

By any measure, Annie Mitchell was the most knowledgeable Tulare County historian. The granddaughter of an 1850's Tulare County pioneer merchant, she spent all her life in the county. For many years, the Dean of Girls at Redwood High School in Visalia, her hobby, was researching the county's history. She wrote numerous newspaper articles and several books - all dealing with her favorite topic, the history of the county of her birth.

Miss Mitchell's most comprehensive work, "The Way it Was," was published in 1976. Five of its 165 pages, including six photos, tell a partial story of Tulare's first 104 years.

As we entered the twenty-first century, my wife, Wanda, and I embarked on a project to tell a complete history of our favorite town. The result was "A Town Called Tulare," published in 2002. Its 156 pages and 256 photos attempt to demonstrate what makes Tulare such a special place. Two years later, we published "Tulare Legends and Trivia from A to Z," a collection of 128 historical essays, all the way from the Adohr cow-and-milkmaid-statue to the Zumwalt family. That book's 260 pages feature 450 historic photos.

The publication of either book would have been more difficult without the generosity of many Tulareans. Fifty individuals or businesses contributed a total of $22,250 to underwrite the printing of the two books. The contribution of Jeff Killion of Gainsborough Studio receives special mention. He spent many hours digitizing all 706 photos. Wanda and I wrote both books as fund-raisers for the Tulare Historical Museum - every time a book is purchased, it results in a 100% profit for the museum.

Each book sells for $39.95 and is available for purchase from the museum's gift shop.

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