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  • Ellen Gorelick

The Wright Family

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

Isaac Wright played a vital role in the growth and prosperity of Tulare. He was one of the organizers who built an irrigation system to irrigate his farm and farm neighbors. The ditch along Mooney Boulevard was a part of that system. He supervised the building of Tulare's first real schoolhouse, Central school, located on the Tulare Historical Museum site 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 crucial 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 Southern Pacific Railroad constructed the building as a Library Recreational Hall and Auditorium for its employees. Still, 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. The oldest, Victoria, was the first organist at the Church of The Redeemer and 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. Another child, 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 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 and graduated as valedictorian in 1894. 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 Woman's Club House. The Park contains one of Tulare County's most prominent trees, honey mesquite, 28 feet tall and 99 inches around. Alice Topham was one of the Tulare City Historical Society founders in 1980 and contributed to the opening of the Tulare Historical Museum in 1985.

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