Allensworth, CA

Allensworth State Historic Park

Colonel Allen Allensworth was born into slavery on April 7, 1842 in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1854, he was sold for attempting to learn to read and write. During his lifetime, he owned restaurants, trained as a racehorse jockey, joined the US Navy and US Army, became ordained as a minister, certified as a teacher, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Army. During his time he achieved the highest rank ever by a U.S. Army Chaplain and was the highest ranking Black officer of his time. During his military career, he served in the Spanish/American War and the Philippine Liberation. Under suspicious circumstances, Colonel Allensworth was killed by a motorcyclist in 1914.

The historic Black town of Allensworth was founded on 3 August 1908 by Colonel Allen Allensworth and the California Colony and Home Promoting Association. Allensworth was dedicated to improving the educational, economic, and social status of African Americans. The town attracted farmers, businessmen, retired soldiers, educators, nurses, and engineers from around California. They build homes and started farms. On over 800 acres, they grew alfalfa, sugar beets, grain, and raised Belgian hares, turkey, chickens, and dairy cattle. The town was a transfer point for the railroad. The town also had a school, three churches (Baptist, Methodist Zion, Seventh Day Adventist), library, post office, hotel, and stores.

At its peak, Allensworth population reached 300 families and was alive with culture. The town’s residents formed several organizations including the Allensworth Progressive Association, Debating Society, Theater Club, Women’s Improvement League, Brass Band, Orchestra, and Girls Glee Club. Several of the streets were named after prominent African Americans such as Colonel Charles Young of the US Colored Troops and a professor at Wilberforce University, Frederick Douglass, and Paul Laurence Dunbar.

The town’s demise was primarily due to loss of leadership caused by the unexpected death of Colonel Allensworth, inadequate water supply and the political defeat of a proposed vocational school for African Americans. During the 1920s and 1930s, many residents were forced to find work elsewhere. In 1966, dangerous quantities of arsenic were found in the drinking water, which forced the few remaining residents to leave.

Various civic groups and legislators succeeded at getting Allensworth designated a California State Historic Park in 1976, thus preserving its history and many of its buildings.

CAMPING

The visitor center is open everyday from 10am to 4pm. Call ahead to make arrangements to view the “Spirit of Allensworth Video”. The 29-minute video narrated by Greg Morris and filmed in the 1970s gives an excellent overview of the town’s history. The visitor center also provides brochures, historical photos of town‚s founders and significant people in Allensworth history. For more information on the visitor center, call 661-849-3433 or 661-634-3795; http://parks.ca.gov/DISTRICTS/sjoaquin/cashp341.htm

There are seperate Park Entrance Fees for cars and buses. Fifteen campsites that accommodate Recreational Vehicles or tents can be reserved. Each site includes a picnic table and camp stove. Toilets are nearby. To make a reservation, call 800-444-PARK or go to Reserve America (http://www.ReserveAmerica.com/usa/ca/cola/).

Those who prefer not to camp overnight can make reservations at hotels and motels available in nearby Bakersfield, CA; http://bakersfieldcvb.org.

HISTORIC SITES

The town is undergoing a major renovation, with several notable buildings available for entry and viewing. Other historical sites in the town are designated by a marker only at this time.

Allensworth School
Built in 1912, the school had two classrooms, two dressing rooms and one stage area; it was the center of activity for the Allensworth community; school activities included Debating Society, Theater Club and Glee Club; the school closed in 1972.

Allenworth House
Built in 1911 for Colonel Allen & Josephine Allensworth, the interior of the home can be viewed upon request; the house contains items from Colonel Allensworth’s military and ministry service.

Hindsman’s General Store
Opened in 1911 by Zebedee and Sarah Hindsman.

Singleton’s General Store & Post Office
Opened in 1910 by Joshua and Henrietta Singelton. The store sold a variety of merchandise and served as a weigh station for wagons.

Allensworth Hotel
Opened in 1910 by Clara and John Morris; the hotel had 8 guestrooms and charged 75 cents per night. No longer in use.

Smith House
Owned by Laura Smith who was a school trustee and President of the Women’s Improvement League.

Grosse’s Drugstore
Owned by Mary Grosse from 1912 to 1918. The store sold a variety of medicines and cosmetics.

Mary Dickenson Memorial Library
Prior to becoming a library, this was the site of the first school in Allensworth; the library is named after Mrs. Allenworth’s mother. The library received a monthly allotment of books from the Tulare County Free Library and donations from the community.

Allensworth Christian Church
Sunday worship begins at 10:45a

First Baptist Church
The original building burned down, so this one is under construction. The church congregation is still very active.

EVENTS

For more information on the events listed below, call 661-849-3433 or 661-634-3795.

February

Black History Month Celebration
Celebration featuring open house tours, music, food, and lectures by guest historians; 661-849-3433 or voicemail 661-634-3795

March

African American Women’s Victory Day
Sponsored by the Allensworth Women’s Auxiliary; honors descendants of prominent Allensworth families; live entertainment, guest speakers, health fair, petting zoo, tours, children’s pavilion; 661-849-3433 or voicemail 661-634-3795

Aril

Gospelfest
Festival featuring two stages of over 20 visiting choirs from around California; enjoy the fellowship, food, tours, and uplifting music; 661-849-3433 or voicemail 661-634-3795

May

Old Time Jubilee
Sponsored by the Friends of Allensworth; this festival features gospel, jazz and blues; it attracts over 2500 people; 661-849-3433 or voicemail 661-634-3795

June

Juneteenth Celebration
On or around June 19; Allenworth’s biggest event attracts over 3,000 visitors; it features live music and dance, soul food; 661-849-3433 or voicemail 661-634-3795.

August

Founders Day
August 12; Honors the founding of the town and contributions of the pioneers; lectures are given by historians and descendants of the town; 661-849-3433 or voicemail 661-634-3795

October

Annual Town Rededication
Mid-October; Festival featuring music, games, arts, crafts, Soul Food and tours; 661-849-3433 or 661-634-3795

Tours walk you through the interior of the buildings and Allensworth history. A 3-week advance reservation is required for group tours. Tours for individuals are available on specific dates and require advance reservation. To schedule a tour, call 661-849-3433 or 661-634-3795.

Allensworth State Historic Park is located just off State Route 43 in the San Joaquin Valley. It is a 40-minute drive north from Bakersfield airport.

Return to BLACK TOWNS

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.