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and vegetables, only enough of these are raised for home consumption, the markets being too far distant to warrant their cultivation for sale.
There is a good deal of stock of nearly all kinds kept in this county, many beef cattle being raised here for market, and wool forming one of its staples of export. The value of the taxable property in 1867, exclusive of mines, was estimated at one million dollars. There are five saw-mills and one grist-mill in the county, all of moderate cost and capacity, and with the exception of one driven by water.
The population of this county numbers about three thousand. There are no towns of any magnitude in it; Millerton, the county seat and largest village, containing less than two hundred inhabitants. During the flood of January, 1868, this place was nearly all swept away—the San Joaquin river, on the bank of which it is situated, having risen at this point twenty feet higher than was ever before known, the water being at one time forty-six feet deep on the site of the town. Great damage was at the same time done nearly all over the county, in the destruction of fences, buildings, stock, etc., the land in many places also being seriously injured in having the soil covered up with sand and gravel, or in being entirely washed away.
Fort Miller, half a mile above the county seat, was, some years ago, when the Indians in this section of country were troublesome, garrisoned by several companies of soldiers. At present no troops are permanently stationed at this place, cutting off the market that before existed for many articles produced by the farmer.
Fresno City, located on the Tulare Lake slough, twenty-five miles above its junction with the San Joaquin, is a town with about half the population of Millerton, whence it is distant forty miles to the southwest. Small steamers come up to this place throughout the greater portion of the year, and there is little doubt but, keeping pace with the growth of the country, it will in time come to be a village of considerable size and importance.
The Chowchilla, Fresno, and San Joaquin rivers are all more or less auriferous, though their banks and the bars along them have never been extremely rich, nor the gold obtained of fine quality. They were, nevertheless, formerly much worked, as portions of them, more especially along the San Joaquin, are still the theatres of active operations. There are, however, no quartz mills in the county, vein mining for gold never having been attempted. Neither are there any canals for conducting water into the diggings, the miners depending on the high stages of the river for water to work their claims.
Several years since a great number of copper bearing lodes were discovered in various localities in this county. In many cases the surface ore, and in a number of instances also, that obtained at considerable depths upon these veins was extremely rich. A large amount of work in the aggregate was done, but not much applied at any one point; wherefore, the real value of these lodes remains undetermined, though the locators are generally satisfied of their permanence and richness—a few opened to the depth of a hundred feet or more, displaying in their estimation sufficient volume and wealth to warrant this conclusion.
In the extreme western part of the county, situated in the Coast Range of mountains, is the New Idria Quicksilver Mine. Having been opened some ten years ago under favorable auspices, and worked for several years thereafter with satisfactory results, this mine was closed by legal proceedings, and remained so until 1865, when work was resumed, and has since been steadily kept up upon it, the force of hands employed being between two and three hundred. The product for the year 1866 was 6,045 flasks, and for the year 1867, 11,500 flasks— the yield of the ore for the latter year having been seven per cent. of metal.
This county, deriving its name from the large lake occupying its northwestern corner, is the third in point of size in the State—only the counties of San Bernardino and San Diego being larger. It extends one hundred and thirty miles in a northwesterly and southeasterly direction, and has an average width of one hundred miles, giving it an area of eight million three hundred and twenty thousand acres. It is bounded on the north by Fresno, on the east by Inyo and San Bernardino, on the south by Los Angeles, and on the west by Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. A large portion of its surface is covered by the several chains of mountains that hem it in on three sides— the Coast Range on the west, the Sierra Nevada on the east, and the transverse group crossing its southern part and forming the connecting link between these two ranges. It thus takes the shape of a great basin, rimmed in on every side but the north, and while it does not differ widely in its topographical features from the valley counties further north, it has a hydrography essentially unlike these—all the streams flowing into Tulare lake, the common receptacle for the drainage of the county. Several of these streams are of large size—King's, the Kahweah, Tule, and Kern rivers, discharging, particularly in the summer, when the snow melts on the Sierra, immense volumes of water. That these streams, pouring into this lake such a constant tide, should not speedily so raise it as to inundate the adjacent country, has led to the suggestion that there may be a subterranean passage connecting it with the ocean through which a portion of these waters make their escape. The great expanse, however, of this lake—thirty-three miles long and twenty-two wide, and the broad area of the tule lands bordering it, which, with a slight rise above its ordinary level, are converted into immense lagoons, would seem to afford sufficient space for these waters to spread out until their volume can be reduced by evaporation—a process that goes on very rapidly in the hot and desiccated atmosphere that always prevails throughout this region in the summer.
All the streams mentioned, heading in the Sierra, flow through deep and precipitous canons until they reach the plains, when they meander through their broad and fertile bottoms—some of them separating into several channels, forming wooded islands, after the manner described in the case of King's river. The Kahweah is thus divided up into eight or ten branches—though, when first discovered, under the supposition that there were only four of these channels, the name "Four creeks" was given to them collectively—a term which they have in that sense ever since retained, though each has now an individual name of its own. By the same appellation the country adjacent to these creeks has also come to be known.
The most of these bottoms, as well as portions of the plains lying between them, are covered with scattered oak trees of large size, and which, though they are not worth much for making lumber, are servicable for fencing and supply an abundance of good fuel. All that part of the county lying west and southwest of the lake is destitute of timber, though the entire slope of the Sierra Nevada is covered with majestic forests of coniferous trees, even to its very summit.
About forty-six miles northeast of Visalia, and at an elevation of between six thousand and seven thousand feet, occur great numbers of "BigTrees," not standing in groups and isolated groves, as in Calaveras and Mariposa counties, but scattered throughout the forests all the way from King's river to the Kahweah, a distance of over forty miles, and perhaps much further, the area over which they extend not having been fully ascertained. From measurements made by the members of the State Geological Survey, who visited this forest, the largest tree standing so far as they had opportunity to observe, was one hundred and six feet in circumference at the base, and two hundred and seventysix feet high. It had, however, been partially burnt away, and was judged to have originally had a girth of between one hundred and fifteen and one hundred and twenty feet. The body of a prostrate tree has been burnt out to such an extent that it admits of a man riding into the hollow trunk for a distance of seventy-six feet, where he has room to turn his animal without difficulty. At a distance of one hundred and twenty feet from the butt, this tree is thirteen feet in diameter inside the bark. There is a large number of these trees in this neighborhood, many being, to all appearance, nearly as large as the one just described, while those varying from ten to fifteen feet in diameter are quite common.
Within the limits of this county, or standing on the line between it and Inyo, are some of the highest and wildest peaks in the Sierra Nevada. Here are the Dome mountains 9,825 feet high, remarkable for the regularity of their outline; Mt. Williamson, still more striking and lofty; Mt. Kahweah, 14,000 feet high; Mt. Tyndall, 14,386 feet high; and, finally, Mt. Whitney, 15,000 feet above the level of the sea—the highest peak in this range, and, probably, the most elevated land on the continent of North America.
The population of Tulare is estimated at about six thousand, the greater portion of whom are engaged in agricultural pursuits. Visalia, the county seat, contains about one thousand inhabitants. It occupies a handsome site on one of the branches of the Kahweah river, the land being level, fertile, and covered over, for many miles around, with large oak trees. It is surrounded with gardens, orchards, vineyards, and well cultivated fields, the soil here being well adapted to the production of almost every fruit or plant grown in California, and remarkably prolific. The means for irrigation, generally necessary where the soil is light and sandy, are never failing and ample. On the heavier adobe soil crops of grain can be made, if properly put in, without this aid. Visalia contains besides its public schools, a well conducted and flourishing seminary, a handsome court-house, several halls, churches, and other public edifices, many fireproof stores, and a large number of tasty cottages and mansions, nearly all occupying large lots planted with trees, vines, and flowers. Being centrally situated, and the only town in the county of any size, it enjoys an active trade, which is every year expanding as the country around it fills up with settlers.
From the assessor's reports for 1866, it appears that the taxable property of the county was that year valued at $1,299,379; the amount of land enclosed was 24,939 acres; under cultivation, 7,139 acres ; in wheat, 3,092 acres, yielding 51,581 bushels; and 2,400 in barley, which yielded 49,642 bushels. Of these grains there were sown the following year, 3,448 acres of wheat, and 3,035 of barley. In the year 1866, 5,945 bushels of Indian corn were raised, 240 of buckwheat, and large
quantities of fruits and vegetables; 7,425 pounds of butter, 4,070 of cheese, 156,650 of wool, and 7,500 of honey were produced. The county contained 7,694 horses, 287 mules, 70,152 sheep, 166 goats, 8,802 hogs, and 31,597 head of neat cattle.
This is an excellent section of country for sheep, swine and cattle raising. Owing to the heat of the climate in the summer, remoteness from market, etc., dairying is not extensively carried on—the most of the cattle raised being intended for the shambles. Wool growing, however, is increasing rapidly; while it is doubtful if swine can be raised and fattened in any other part of the State with the same facility as here. These animals being marked with the owner's brand, after the manner of sheep and cattle, are suffered to run at large in the tule swamps, where they not only grow, but soon become extremely fat, feeding on the roots of these plants and on fresh water mussels found in great quantities about the margin of the lake. Swine thus left, being thereafter little cared for, and rarely seeing human beings, soon become quite wild, making it necessary for the owner to shoot them when he wishes to secure the carcass. Cattle thrive in this region the year round without housing or fodder, being rarely ever pinched by hunger or suffering from cold.
Tulare contains two grist mills, carrying each two run of stone, and having a capacity to grind 130 barrels of flour daily; the one is driven by water, and the other by steam—their aggregate cost having been about $25,000. The flour ground in 1866 amounted to 10,250 barrels. There are three saw mills in the county, carrying five saws, and capable of cutting 20,000 feet of lumber per day.
The only mining carried on in Tulare consists of operations in quartz, the business being mostly confined to the vicinity of White river. There are four mills at this place, carrying in all twenty-five stamps, and costing in the aggregate $40,000. They have all been running with a good average degree of success; the lodes at this place, though not large or numerous, being compact, and carrying a good body of fair grade ore.
No water ditches have been constructed in the county except such as are designed for bringing water upon the land. Of this class, there are about fifty, all of limited capacity—the area of land irrigated amounting to 4,900 acres.