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Did You Know Visalia Had A Fort?

| 01/15/2019 | Downtown Historical Walking Tour, Downtown Visalia

We asked local historian Terry Ommen if he would write an article for us about some facet of Visalia history. His topic is one that is very interesting and one that the City of Visalia may be digging a little deeper into soon. More on that later! Visalia is the oldest city between Los Angeles and Fish Camp (near Stockton) and was founded in 1852. California had just been admitted to the union in 1850 just after gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1848 (History of California) and things were pretty rough and tumble here in Visalia. Read on to see what Terry discovered about Visalia in the 1850's.


'Did You Know Visalia Had A Fort?'

By: Terry Ommen, Local Historian

When the first European settlers arrived here in the fall of 1852 they were concerned that the local Native Americans posed a threat. They built a log stockade for protection and it became known as Fort Visalia.

Believed to have been built somewhere on the block bounded by Garden, Bridge, Oak, and School streets, the enclosure was about 60 feet square with small extensions on each corner. It was built of oak logs that were split, placed in the ground vertically and stood side by side with the curved side of the logs facing the outer walls. The walls were about 14 feet high. Some say there was a tunnel dug under a wall which was used as the entrance/exit to the fort itself. A dozen or so families used the enclosure for security, primarily during the evening.

For an undetermined length of time settlers used the fort, but eventually decided the native people were no threat, so they left the fort and Visalia grew.

The City of Visalia owns the block on which the fort stood. I believe it is the city’s intention to sell the block. They are in the process of reviewing the historical background of the site to help determine the next course of action. Stay tuned!


More information:  If you want to learn more about this site and other Visalia locations of note take our self-guided Historical Walking Tour of Downtown Visalia.

About Terry:  

Terry Ommen has researched Tulare County history for something like 20 years and is considered ‘the’ Visalian historian. He has written many articles and books on local history including “Then and Now Visalia” and “Tulare County: Outlaws, Rogues & Rebels.” You can see Terry talking about Visalia history and his books by watching C-SPAN Cities Tour Visalia on ‘American History TV’ and ‘Book TV’ which airs on the C-SPAN channels Feb 2 and 3, 2019.

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P.O. Box 2734 Visalia, CA 93279
(800) 524-0303 : (559) 334-0141