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ALLENSWORTH: ‘The town that refused to die’

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ALLENSWORTH: ‘The town that refused to die’

A school house.

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POSTED October 12, 2012 10:40 p.m.

ALLENSWORTH — A century has passed since the founding of this unique town dedicated to the dignity of the human spirit. Although the centennial celebration is now a part of history, there are still plenty of opportunities to come learn about Colonel Allen Allensworth and the courageous group of black families and individuals who believed they could create their own version of the “American Dream.”

Experience the inspiring story of the people who came to an isolated spot in the southern San Joaquin Valley to build a place of their own—a place where hard work, dedication, and faith would allow them and their children the opportunity to control their own discrimination-free destiny.

Colonel Allensworth SHP is a bike-friendly park. It includes a number of restored  buildings and nearby campgrounds.



Allensworth history

In August 1908, Colonel Allen Allensworth and four other settlers established a town founded, financed and governed by African Americans. Their dream of developing an abundant and thriving community stemmed directly from a strong belief in programs that allowed blacks to help themselves create better lives. By 1910 Allensworth’s success was the focus of many national newspaper articles praising the town and its inhabitants.

An unavoidable set of circumstances made it impossible for the residents of this tiny town located 30 miles north of Bakersfield to achieve their founders’ dreams over the long term. But the town did remain home to a handful of families and individuals throughout the 20th century, and true to the courage and resolve of its founders, the town has survived and persevered, earning the well-deserved title “The town that refused to die.”

In 1974 California State Parks purchased land within the historical townsite of Allensworth, and it became Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. Today a collection of lovingly restored and reconstructed early 20th-century buildings—including the Colonel’s house, historic schoolhouse, Baptist church, and library—once again dots this flat farm country, giving new life to the dreams of these visionary pioneers.

With continuing restoration and special events, the town is coming back to life as a state historic park. The park’s visitor center features a film about the site. A yearly rededication ceremony reaffirms the vision of the pioneers.

The park has a visitor center and tours are available by making arrangements with the park in advance. The visitor center features a video presentation, “Allensworth: A Piece of the World,” which is available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily.

The most important building, historically and in the memory of Allensworth pioneers, is the schoolhouse. It was in use until 1972 and is furnished as it would have been on a school day in 1915. An audio presentation is available on site.

Also important to the education of Allensworth’s citizens was the Mary Dickenson Memorial Library, about 200 yards north of the school.

Colonel Allensworth’s residence is furnished in the 1912 period. It contains items from the colonel’s life in the service and the ministry. A small display of farm equipment is a reminder of the Allensworth economic base.

Camping

Fifteen campsites, open all year, will accommodate RVs or tents. Each site includes a picnic table and a camp stove; flush toilets are nearby. Facilities for disabled people are available. Turf, trees, and shade ramadas are other features. A nearby picnic area is shaded by 75 large trees, planted by the California Conservation Corps.

More campgrounds are available near Porterville which is about 40 miles north of Allensworth.

• Rocky Hill Campground - 108 sites, primitive.

• Army Corps of Engineers - Success Lake, east of Porterville.

• Tule Recreation Area -- 104 sites, disposal station, flush toilets, showers.

• KOA Campgrounds - 5-miles east of Porterville on Highway 109. Also, 13-miles north of Bakersfield, via Highway 99 on Lerdo Highway.

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