Colonel Allen Allensworth State Historic Park captures a unique social experiment that took place in the San Joaquin Valley in the early 20th century.
The Park has restored an Black American community that was founded by Colonel Allensworth whose personal history makes remarkable reading.
He was born a slave in Louisville, Kentucky in 1842. Despite laws that prohibited the education of slaves he learned to read and write and during the Civil War joined the U.S. Navy and left it as a Petty Officer. After the war he completed his education and became a minister and then joined the U.S. Army as chaplain for the 24th Infantry, the Black Buffalo Soldiers. He retired as a Lt. Colonel the first Black American to achieve that rank.
So he founded Allensworth in 1906 by purchasing 800 acres along the railroad in San Joaquin Valley. At first the town prospered but a steadily dropping water table resulted in a serious water shortage which then worsened when arsenic was discovered as well. So people moved away.
The State Park was established in the last 1970s to restore and preserve the buildings of the town.
This demanded investigation by this Writer while en route to Northern California. We took Highway 43 from I 5 and soon arrived at the Park.
There we met Jerelyn Oliveira, a State Park Ranger who is interpreter for the District. She pointed out some of the restored buildings which include the school, church, hotel, library, restaurant, barber shop, retail stores and individual homes.
The Park also includes a campground and picnic area.
For more information on the Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park call 661 849-3433, on the web at www.parks.ca.gov.