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  • Writer's pictureDerryl Dumermuth

Wooster Beach Cartmill

Wooster! What an unusual name for a little boy. I can easily imagine his schoolmates' reaction, the teasing. Wooster rhymes with rooster: "cock-a-doodle-do". Children can sometimes be so insensitive.

This article is the story of Wooster Beach Cartmill, who become known as "The Father of the Creamery Industry in Tulare."

In the spring of 1849, Wooster's father, Dr. William F. Cartmill, joined the thousands of "Argonauts" who made the hazardous trip to California to seek their fortune in the goldfields. Since he found little success in mining, he used his skill as a doctor for the miners and Indians and then acquired a partner to establish a general store. This venture proved to be a success, earning sufficient money to make the arduous journey back to Missouri to claim his promised bride, Sofia Barnes. Returning to Amador County in 1855, he found that the partner had absconded with everything.

Wooster was born there in that year, and his boyhood was typical for a pioneer boy of that time. In 1924, at age 69, he recalled two of the times he incurred his father's displeasure. Copying what he saw of the miners, he dug a mine into the side of a hill. Unfortunately, the tunnel collapsed, pinning him to the shoulders. His cries soon brought his father to the rescue. On another occasion, he was carrying a large watermelon from the garden to the house. When he set down his heavy load to open the gate, the melon rolled down the hill. He recalled that it was a spectacular sight.

In 1861, eleven years before Tulare's birth, William brought his family and the cattle that he had acquired to this area, buying a ranch about five miles northwest of the future town. Their shelter, sided with rough oak boards, with a dirt-floor and crude fireplace, provided little protection from the elements. The ranch eventually covered 520 acres.

Shortly after they arrived in the valley, it started to rain heavily on Christmas day and continued for days. The warm rain melted much of the snowpack in the Sierras and created one of the most significant floods ever in this area. The family abandoned their home and started walking to a neighbor located on higher ground. Six-year-old Wooster clung to his mother's skirts while his father carried his sister, Flora. Three more children were born to William and Sofia on the Tulare ranch, but Wooster was the only one to survive to maturity.

The closest school was too far away, at Goshen, nearly ten miles from the ranch. So every evening after supper William home-schooled his children. As a result, his father well-educated Wooster by the time he did attend school. He later bragged that he won every spelling bee.

As soon as he was old enough, William expected the boy to lend a hand in the ranch's operation. The cows that he milked produced the cream that his mother churned into butter. They then sold the butter for 50 cents a pound (a princely sum in those early days) to a man who transported it on mule-back to the goldfields, where he made a tidy profit. Later, Wooster herded free-range cattle and sheep, as far away as the future Tulare town-site. Still, after he worked for the railroad, then purchased a partnership in the butcher business, acquired a half interest in a Visalia creamery, and was employed as Deputy County Auditor. Each time he changed occupations, he returned to the home ranch.

In 1900 Wooster built the first Tulare creamery, located on the site of the future Adohr plant. Three years later, Wooster sold the creamery to the "Co-operative Creamery Company of Tulare," which listed Wooster Cartmill as the chief executive officer.

In 1922 the Warren Harding Administration appointed Wooster to serve as Tulare Postmaster. He retired in 1926 at age 69 and died 12 years later.

Today we have two reminders of the Cartmill family's contribution to Tulare's history - Cartmill Avenue at the northern edge of the city; and the little house at 304 West Tulare Avenue, built soon after the birth of Tulare in 1872. The home was much more convenient for Wooster's four children to attend Tulare school. Wooster's daughter, Mary, lived in the house most of her life until she moved to a convalescent home in 1984.

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