History of Allensworth, CA

Allensworth was created to provide Afro-Americans an opportunity to develop a town that was free of discrimination. Its emphasis was the development of a community that was governed, financed and operated by Afro-Americans.

Following reconstruction in the late 1800's, many black/Afro-American institutions were being created. As many people started to migrate to the Los Angeles area, they discovered the same vestiges of discrimination thought to have been left behind.

Upon retirement from military service, Colonel and Mrs. Allensworth resided in Los Angeles (near 30th & Hoover). As discussions to created a town became serious, thus a group was developed called the California Colony and Home Promoting Association. The Colonel was named president and in August 3, 1908 the official filling with Tulare County took place.

In addition to Colonel Allensworth, other leaders of the organization were Professor William Payne, John W. Palmer (miner) , William Peck (minister from First A.M.E.) and Harry Mitchell (real estate professional). There were numerous individuals responsible for the town development as it became a thriving and successful place. It dispelled the myth that "colored citizens" could not develop a successful town, as well as govern themselves in a peaceful setting.

Why the Colonel
The Colonel was a well-known figure, and not just among Afro-Americans. The success of any venture is contingent of having a known spokesperson. Through his reputation, when a call was made that Allensworth was being created many people were motivated to join. As a matter of fact, many people purchased property in Allensworth "sight-unseen" because of the faith of the Colonel and the notion of Afro-American freedom. This is an important fact as many families inherited property from their ancestors who purchased property in Allensworth, and who never lived there.

Documentation supports Allensworth was a township. This is important because at first glimpse Allensworth seems like many rural developments with a few home scattered here and there. Keeping the projected growth of the town in perspective, the founders needed land the accommodate their vision. In specific terms, a township is the equivalent of approximately 20,000+ acres.

A key person responsible for the marketing of Allensworth was Oscar Overr, who also held the distinction of owing the most property. Overr was remarkable as part of his strategy was to showcase to new settlers how they could use the land to benefit them financially and sustain a living. Farming was a critical business component of Allensworth so it is not surprising of the building makeup when you visit Allensworth State Historic Park today (i.e., train stop, hotel, general store, bakery, etc.).

Allensworth literally outgrew itself and as water and other resources were needed to continue development of the town, suppliers grew reluctant as what started as a "wild dream" was quickly turning into factual evidence of what determined people could achieve.

Of historical importance, the Colonel had a very successful friendship with Booker T. Washington and as Tuskegee was being developed there was much discussion of Allensworth being the Tuskegee of the West. Also, while there were many successful Afro-Americans who migrated to California in the early 1900's, the fact that Allensworth was an official and recognized town, attributed to many town people becoming the "first Afro-American in California" to hold official positions.

As Allensworth developed, the Colonel's death was perhaps the most significant blow to its. Following the inability to obtain sufficient water, many people left Allensworth in the 20's. Nevertheless, there was enough people who remained to keep Allensworth operating. Transforming itself into a migration community, Allensworth lived on throughout the years - 30's, 40's, 50's, although without the glitter of its historic founding.

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."

editorial note - there are many interpretations to the Allensworth creation and development. This version is our interpretation as supported by various documentation. Additionally, as you explore the Allensworth history, migration history, California history, reconstruction history, etc. you gain a better frame of why/how Allensworth's place in history will be eternal. Throughout the United States there where/are many Allensworth's, but few to have the organizational structure to be classified as mainstream.

some of the factual material mentioned was excerpted from Allensworth "An Eduring Dream" pub. 1987
and Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park General Development Plan pub. 1976


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