A trip into the past.

Allensworth Travel Blog

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From Highway 43 southbound the sign leads us over the railroad tracks to the State Park.

We had a chance recently to visit this State Park and learn more of this unique town and what made it so famous.  It seems the right time to remember it with our election of the first African American President.

We drove through the community/park and read each of the Historic Markers placed in front of the restored and rebuilt buildings and homes, and visited the Visitors Center where we talked in length with the young man who oversees the park and maintains it.  He was very knowledgeable and happy to tell many stories and tidbits about the community.


So, here goes, the story as I learned it about Allensworth, California

Born into slavery April 7, 1842, Allen Allensworth loved to play school with his master’s son.

At the front is a self serve pay booth. Entry is $4.00 per vehicle.
  His mother encouraged him even though it was against the law for slaves to be educated.  At age 12 he was caught and sent away where he was punished severely.  He finally escaped imprisonment and joined the Union Amy in 1862.  After the Civil War he achieved his formal education that he had previously been denied.  During that time he also met and married Josephine Leavell, a schoolteacher, music teacher, and gifted musician, and they raised two daughters.  He continued his education and earned a doctorate in theology in 1886 and became the first black chaplain in the 24th Infantry, one of the few all black regiments.  When he retired in 1906 he had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, the highest rank attained by an African American to that date.  

Retirement found him lecturing throughout the country promoting Booker T. Washington’s philosophy of African American self-reliance.  They had settled in Los Angeles and the Colonel met Professor William Payne, an educator who had recently moved his family there.

The Hindsman Store.
  They soon found three others who were of like mind and created the California Colonization and Home Promotion Association.  In 1908 they purchased a 900 acre site along the Santa Fe railroad line in southern Tulare County from the Pacific Farming Company, and the town of Allensworth, the first town in California founded, financed, and governed by Black Americans  began.         

The 900 acre town site between Delano and Tulare in southern Tulare County began well with home sites, streets laid out, public buildings, a school, and three churches.  They organized an orchestra, a glee club, and even a brass band.  They even elected a black Justice of the Peace.  The school had to be expanded and the old school house became their library.  Education was high on Allensworth’s priorities.

Historic Marker for the Hindsman Store. They even included the floor plan.

In its heyday, Allensworth bustled with activity. The town was a railroad transfer point, providing a steady stream of customers for Allensworth's many businesses. The grain and cattle merchants of Allensworth used the railroad to move their products to market. While the town's shops and stores supplied day-to-day needs for living, the churches and school provided for the spiritual and educational needs of the town's people. The women of Allensworth organized formal debates, concerts, plays, club meetings and other social activities that brought people together transforming the town into a closely-knit community.

There were three churches in the town, The First Baptist Church, the Methodist Zion and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The Baptist Church held their services in a building on the corner of Stowe and Young streets; the Methodist church held theirs in the Allensworth School when a visiting minister came to town, and the Seventh Day Adventist church held their services in the home of Joshua Singleton.

Historic Marker for the Hindsman House.

Life was not easy for the folks in Allensworth.  A reasonable estimate of the population was from 300 to 500, and for twenty year the community thrived.  What had been good fertile soil began slowly drying with the expansion on the farms and dairies nearby and soon the dry dusty soil and dropping water table made farming difficult and brought on poor crop yields, and toxins, particularly Arsenic, seeped into the drinking water making things even worse.  Arsenic is natural toxin here in the valley and they had no way in those years of filtering it out.

Another blow to the community was in 1914 when the founding father LTC Allensworth was killed while crossing a street by a motorcycle ridden by two men in Los Angeles.  Slowly most settlers drifted away in the next couple of decades and Allensworth was reduced almost to a ghost town.             

During these years, income associated with Allensworth railroad shipping business began to decline as trucks gradually replaced trains for transporting farm products to market.

The Hindsman House.
During the 1920s and 30s, many people were forced to seek work elsewhere. The draft and enlisted men needs of World War II called more of Allensworth's young men and often their families followed.

The school house which is part of the State Historic Park (CASHP) was operable until 1972. This and other tidbits came out as history due to the many, and we do mean many, who were not famous, yet who lived in Allensworth over the years as regular folk - who shared their "Allensworth version" and gave credibility to what we have labeled Allensworth today, "The Town that Refuses to Die."

Black settlements have appeared on the American landscape since the colonial era, an example of which is the community of Parting Ways in Massachusetts. Like Allensworth, Parting Ways and countless other all-black communities were a response to overt racism: they were heralded by the black press as "a positive step forward;" were greeted with distrust and at times hostility by the neighboring towns; were begun with enthusiasm and pride, but with little capital; and almost all have been forgotten.

The Hindsman House.

In 1974 then Governor Ronald Reagan authorized the department to establish the park. Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park was established on 240 acres and several of the buildings have been restored or rebuilt.  There isn’t a whole lot to see here but if you are interested in history, especially black history, this is worth the time, especially if you go during scheduled events and activities.


Below, I have copied the Historic Markers which were in front of each of the buildings and homes throughout the community.  I felt it worthwhile so that you could understand what the buildings were and see the floor plans in case the pictures weren’t large enough to read.

  1. Hindsman Store

Zebedee and Sarah Hindsman constructed the general store in 1911.

The Singleton Store.
  It became the largest store in Allensworth and the town’s longest lasting business, serving the community for over 35 years.  Items for sale included bulk and canned foods, clothing, tools, and small luxuries such as cookies, fruit and candy.

In addition to her work in the store, Mrs. Hindsman became custodian of the library’s collection in 1926.  These books were moved from the library in 1931 and shelved in the northeast corner of the store, until the library branch closed in 1943.  Mr. Hindsman used the loft at the back of the building for an office, where he worked on accounts for the store, his other business interests, and other civic responsibilities he undertook for the community.


  1. Hindsman’s House

Zebedee and Sarah Hindsman directed the construction of this house and the General Store in 1911.  Both husband and wife worked in the store, and early residents of the town recalled a well worn path connecting the house and the store.

The Historic Marker for the Singleton Store.

The Hindsmans were active in the community, and Mr. Hindsman became a member of the committee formed to guide to town of Allensworth after the death of Colonel Allensworth in September of 1914.  He also served the town as Justice of the Peace, and insurance agent, a realtor, and a notary public.


  1. Singleton Store

Joshua and Henrietta Singleton and their family arrived in Allensworth in 1910.  By September, they had constructed a store, with living quarters in the back of the building.  The Singletons operated the general store, selling canned goods, bulk staples such as rice and beans, men’s work clothing, and more luxurious items including coffee, cookies, and candy.

Mr. Singleton served as postmaster, taught music, organized a town band, and was president of Allensworth’s Progressive Society.

The Allensworth Hotel.
  Mrs. Singleton contributed to the community as a midwife and practical nurse.  Except for one year when they leased the store, Mr. Singleton ran the store until his death in 1928.  Mrs. Singleton continued to operate the store for a few years afterwards; she closed it in 1930.


  1. Allensworth Hotel

Elizabeth Dougherty, a wealthy Oakland business woman, purchased the property and financed the construction of the hotel in 1910.  The hotel was her investment in Allensworth, but she did not live here.  Miss Dougherty hired John and Clara Morris as the hotel’s first managers.

Early residents of Allensworth recall Mrs. Morris’ good cooking and the mechanical skills of John Morris, who repaired farm machinery on the hotel lot.

The Historic Marker for the Allensworth Hotel.
  The town served travelers, workers in the nearby grain warehouse, and families arrived to settle in the town.  The happiest memories of the hotel are young people’s social evenings in the dining room, with dancing to the music of a player piano.


  1. Smith House

In the spring of 1910, Frank and Laura Smith arrived in Allensworth where they built there home and planted “the best truck garden in the district.”  When Frank died the following year, Mrs. Smith was left with the property and a military pension of $12 a month. 

A resourceful and energetic woman, she continued to cultivate her vegetable garden, raised chickens for sale, and opened her home to boarders.  Her cow also provided milk for the household and cream for sale to the local dairies.   Mrs.

The Smith House.
Smith was a prominent member of the community, belonging to the Women’s Improvement Club and the Cemetery Association, and serving as president of the Allensworth Mutual Water Association.  


6.  Milner Barbershop

      Frank Milner arrived in Allensworth from the Bay Area in 1911 and set up his first barbershop in a small frame house just west of this location.  In 1914, with volunteers from the community, he constructed a concrete block structure similar to the reconstructed building on the site.  Milner’s Barbershop played an important part in early town life. 

      The pioneer women of the community stated that the men would meet here to discuss “all manner of agreements and disagreements.

The Historic Marker for the Smith House.
  The community band, organized by Joshua Singleton, also practiced in the shop.  By 1922, Frank Milner had closed his business and moved to Tulare, California, where he opened another barbershop.  His new business continued for another 25 years.  Many of his Allensworth neighbors came to Tulare as customers.


7.  Scott-Gross Store

      William Scott and Mrs. Mary Gross established a drug store on this site in 1911.  Mrs. Gross set up her living quarters in the back of the building, but later moved to a small house just east of the store. 

      As a trained nurse she provided medical care for many of the town’s early residents.

The Milner Barbershop.
  Mrs. Gross’s business partner, William Scott, owned the lot and building and assisted in running the store.

      The Scott-Gross Drug Company offered a variety of items unavailable in Allensworth’s general stores, including patent medicines, toothpaste, newspapers and magazines, and stationery.  Among the “women’s things” Mrs. Gross’s store sold were perfume, cosmetics, jewelry, and some clothing.  After Mrs. Gross’s death in 1918, briefly ran the store, but closed it the following year. 


8.  Dickerson Library

      Mrs. Josephine Allensworth purchased the town’s first school building and had it moved to it this location in 1913 to serve as a branch of the Tulare County Library system.

The Historic Marker for the Milner Barbershop.
  Abraham Stockett, a local carpenter, was employed to enlarge and modify the structure after the move.

      Mrs. Allensworth stated that her gift of the library to the town was to honor her mother, Mary Dickerson: to serve the community; and to provide employment to “a worthy young woman”.  The library immediately became a popular source of reading material for information and for enjoyment.  Early in the 1930’s the library books and magazines were moved to Hindsman’s Store, where the branch continued to function until 1943.    


9.  Schoolhouse

      This two-room schoolhouse was built in 1912, replacing the smaller schoolhouse that Josephine Allensworth purchased and had remodeled to become the town’s public library.

The Scott-Gross Store.
  The children on Allenworth’s community attended school here through the eighth grade.

      Graduation included impressive ceremonies and was a major event for the town.  The building also served as the community center, assembly hall, polling place and church.  The restored Allensworth school is now a museum, open on request to the public.


10.  Phillips House

      Sergeant James Phillips, and his wife Birdie and their four children arrived in Allensworth in 1911.  Colonel Allensworth invited soldiers from his regiment, the 24th Infantry, to enjoy the community; Sergeant Phillips was one of the soldiers to accept the offer.

The Historic Marker for the Scott-Gross Store.
  His family moved into a “portable” or sectional house.  At least five of these homes were constructed here.  The Phillip’s youngest child, Irene, was born in Allensworth in November of 1911.

      Sergeant Phillips was unable to settle here with his family while still in service.  In 1917, he retired from the Army in San Francisco, but was seriously ill and died a few months later after retiring.  Members of the Allensworth community signed affidavits to help Mrs. Phillips obtain her widow’s pension.  She went on to become the custodian of the Allensworth Public Library from 1919 to 1926, when the family moved to Porterville, California.



The Historic Marker for the Dickerson Library.
  Allensworth House

      Colonel Allen Allensworth, one of the five founders of the town, and his wife, Josephine, purchased a prefabricated house for this lot.  The building’s sections were delivered by railroad and assembled in 1911.  With his ongoing promotion of the town, the Colonel and his family divided their time between their home in Los Angeles, California and the rural life of the Allensworth community. 

      Colonel Allensworth was born a slave in 1842.  He escaped and gained his freedom during the Civil War.  He was commissioned as a chaplain in the 24th Infantry of the U. S. Army in 1886.  When he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1906, he held the highest rank achieved to date by an African-American army officer.

The Dickerson Library.
  The town of Allensworth was his dream.  The restored Allensworth home is now a museum, open on request to the public.


12.  Ashby House

      The first residence built in Allensworth was the Ashby House.  John Ashby, his wife, Vena, and their son Louis moved here in 1909.  Mr. Ashby worked as a section boss for the Santa Fe railroad.  He also ran a small dairy with 10 or 12 cows.  A dairy barn was built on this property to accommodate this business.  The Ashbys lived in this house until 1915 when they moved to the town of Bowles, near Fresno, California.

Signage and the Visitors Center.

      The house was rented to Norvin Powell, his wife and baby for about a year.  A fire destroyed the house. Fortunately the Powell family escaped the blaze.


13.  Dotson House

      William and Louise Dotson and their four children, moved to Allensworth from Oakland, California.  Upon arrival, Mr. Dotson supported the family working at various jobs.  In 1914, they opened a restaurant in the front part of their home.

      Expanding from their restaurant business, Mr.

The Visitors Center and the nice young man who was helpful in telling about Allensworth.
Dotson purchased Elmer Carter’s livery service in 1915 and built a large barn to the north of his house.  He also constructed a blacksmith area where an itinerant smith provided minor services, such as horseshoeing and repairing ironwork on farm equipment and vehicles for the town folk. 

      Dotson’s timing for his livery service, however, was unfortunate.  Railroad freight was a major source of business for Allensworth, but a spur line to Alpaugh, constructed in 1914, took most of the traffic.  

      Mr. Dotson and his wife continued their commitment to the community.  He was elected as Allensworth’s first constable in 1914.  Mrs. Dotson served as custodian of the Allensworth public library from 1916 to 1919, when they moved to Fresno, California.



Allensworth's Schoolhouse.
  Stockett House

      Abraham and Ida Stockett arrived in Allensworth in 1910.  They built their home and later that year Mr. Stockett helped their neighbor, James Hackett, construct his house. 

      In 1913, under the direction of Mrs. Allensworth, he remodeled the town’s first school building for use as the Allensworth public library.  Mr. Stockett was known for his skills as a carpenter, painter, repairman and mechanic.  He was an active member of the community and served as secretary for both the Allensworth Chamber of Commerce and the Allensworth Mutual Water Association.

      In December of 1932, a fire destroyed both the Hackett and the Stockett homes.  Instead of rebuilding in Allensworth, Mr.

Allensworth's Schoolhouse.
and Mrs. Stockett moved to Delano, California.


15.  Hackett House

      James Hackett, his son Arthur, and Abraham Stockett constructed the house in 1910, although the Hackett family continued to live in Alameda, California.  The house first served as a temporary school for the Allensworth community and then functioned as the Hackett’s vacation home.  It was not until 1916 ��" 1917 that James and Alice Hackett, their son Paul, and their three youngest daughters moved here.  The family kept their place in Alameda, but entered fully into the community life at Allensworth.  They grew extensive gardens, and kept chickens, a horse, and a cow.

The Historic Marker for the Schoolhouse.

      Mr. Hackett also ran a small business from the barn, selling building materials and other goods.  The original house and neighboring Stockett home were destroyed by fire in December of 1932.


16.  First Baptist Church   

      Colonel Allensworth donated this property for a church to the Northern California Baptist Convention in August 1914.  The Colonel’s tragic death a month later spurred the community to build the church.  Construction began in 1915, under the direction of Reverend J. L.

The Phillips House.
Allen, a missionary pastor the Baptist group.  Reverend Allen led an impressive dedication of the completed church in March of 1916.

      Prior to the building’s demolition in 1967, the First Baptist Church had served its congregation for over forty years, providing a place of worship and a gathering place for graduations, wedding, and funerals.


17.      Howard House

Wiley Howard bought two lots here and built a small house in early 1915.  Many of the Allensworth residents recalled that the house served mainly as a temporary lodging.  Some of the occupants were newcomers to the town waiting for their homes to be built.

Historic Marker for the Phillips House.
  Others “would come and stay for a week or a month, and would be gone.”

Wiley Howard sold the property to L. C. Robinson in 1945.  The Robinsons moved into the house and constructed an additional room to the east for their growing family.  The Robinsons lived here until 1970, when California State Parks bought the property.  The house was in poor condition and was reconstructed on its original site.  All materials which could be salvaged from the original home have been incorporated into the new structure.


18.      Johnson Bakery

Isaac and Mattie Johnson built their house in Allensworth, and by 1913 had opened a bakery in the front room.

The Allensworth House.
  The next year, Mr. Johnson entered government service as a cook, and Mrs. Johnson became the sole proprietor of the bakery.

“Mrs. Johnson conducts a bakery and short order lunch business, owns her own property, and has about twelve acres of good land beautifully located in the rural district which is utilized for the cultivation of alfalfa and grain for the large flock of chickens, ducks and turkeys she successfully handles.”

(The California Eagle, October 3, 1914)

Mrs. Johnson operated the bakery until 1917 or 1918.  After Mr. Johnson’s death in the 1920s, Mrs. Johnson moved from town to their rural property in Allensworth and rented out the house.


19.      Railroad Station

The placement of the original railroad station near the tracks was a major factor in the decision to establish Allensworth at this location.

The Historic Marker for the Allensworth House.
  The station connected the people of Allensworth with the outside world.  Trains brought friends and relatives, mail, supplies, and building materials to the developing town.

Initially, freight shipments supported the town’s economy.  However, as railroad spur, built in 1914 by the neighboring town of Alpaugh, took $4,000 to $5,000 worth of business away from Allensworth every month.  By 1929, railroad shipments had significantly declined; the highest monthly earnings were $13.61.  In 1930 the station closed.



Larrys says:
Very interesting story. It took great courage for a black man to accomplish so much during the early 20th century. Thanks for taking the time to share the story.
Posted on: Apr 16, 2009
Andy99 says:
Interesting story and find!
Posted on: Dec 09, 2008
eglp says:
Great blog, so much history to learn :)
Posted on: Nov 11, 2008
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From Highway 43 southbound the sig…
From Highway 43 southbound the si…
At the front is a self serve pay b…
At the front is a self serve pay …
The Hindsman Store.
The Hindsman Store.
Historic Marker for the Hindsman S…
Historic Marker for the Hindsman …
Historic Marker for the Hindsman H…
Historic Marker for the Hindsman …
The Hindsman House.
The Hindsman House.
The Hindsman House.
The Hindsman House.
The Singleton Store.
The Singleton Store.
The Historic Marker for the Single…
The Historic Marker for the Singl…
The Allensworth Hotel.
The Allensworth Hotel.
The Historic Marker for the Allens…
The Historic Marker for the Allen…
The Smith House.
The Smith House.
The Historic Marker for the Smith …
The Historic Marker for the Smith…
The Milner Barbershop.
The Milner Barbershop.
The Historic Marker for the Milner…
The Historic Marker for the Milne…
The Scott-Gross Store.
The Scott-Gross Store.
The Historic Marker for the Scott-…
The Historic Marker for the Scott…
The Historic Marker for the Dicker…
The Historic Marker for the Dicke…
The Dickerson Library.
The Dickerson Library.
Signage and the Visitors Center.
Signage and the Visitors Center.
The Visitors Center and the nice y…
The Visitors Center and the nice …
Allensworths Schoolhouse.
Allensworth's Schoolhouse.
Allensworths Schoolhouse.
Allensworth's Schoolhouse.
The Historic Marker for the School…
The Historic Marker for the Schoo…
The Phillips House.
The Phillips House.
Historic Marker for the Phillips H…
Historic Marker for the Phillips …
The Allensworth House.
The Allensworth House.
The Historic Marker for the Allens…
The Historic Marker for the Allen…
The Ashby House.
The Ashby House.
The Historic Marker for the Ashby …
The Historic Marker for the Ashby…
A look across town. Only a few bui…
A look across town. Only a few bu…
Much of the land is barren and dry…
Much of the land is barren and dr…
The Dotson House.
The Dotson House.
The Historic Marker for the Dotson…
The Historic Marker for the Dotso…
The Dotson Barn.
The Dotson Barn.
The Stockett House.
The Stockett House.
The Historic Marker for the Stocke…
The Historic Marker for the Stock…
The Hackett House.
The Hackett House.
The Historic Marker for the Hacket…
The Historic Marker for the Hacke…
The First Baptist Church
The First Baptist Church
The Historic Marker for the First …
The Historic Marker for the First…
The replaced stained glass window …
The replaced stained glass window…
The Howard House.
The Howard House.
The Historic Marker for the Howard…
The Historic Marker for the Howar…
The Johnson Bakery.
The Johnson Bakery.
The Historic Marker for the Johnso…
The Historic Marker for the Johns…
The Railroad Station.
The Railroad Station.
The Historic Marker for the Railro…
The Historic Marker for the Railr…
The entry signage for the Colonel …
The entry signage for the Colonel…
Allensworth Sights & Attractions review
A piece of Black History in California
Allensworth, California was the only all Black town in California’s history. Founded, financed, and governed by Black Americans. Begun back in 190… read entire review
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