Political Fix (7 December, 2017)

One Hundred Years and Counting

For a state that has only been around since 1850, and a county since 1852, it’s pretty impressive that the Tulare County Farm Bureau (TCFB) has been going strong for 100 of those years.

So the organization threw a party on November 30 for all those families who had been farming in Tulare County for the last 100 years. It was quite the shin dig, and a testament to the strength of the Farm Bureau and our farmers.

The celebration brought over 350 attendees to the International Agri-Center and all I could think of at the end of the evening was how TCFB Executive Director Tricia Stever and staffers Sandy Nixon, and Shirley Kirkpatrick must be happy it was over. Many other people helped organize the event but those were the three I worked with in regards to my family.

All of the state and local politicians sent their representatives or were there in person – Senator Dianne Feinstein, State Senator Jean Fuller, Congressman Kevin McCarthy and Congressman Devin Nunes all sent representatives.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis was there in person and skirted by my table, but strangely enough didn’t stop to say hello.

Visalia Mayor Warren Gubler, TC Ag Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita, and TC District Attorney Tim Ward were also there. I am sure there are some politicians I have missed.

My husband and I were there to represent the Doe family and to honor my grandmother, Florence Malloch Doe. She was involved in agriculture her entire life and helped the Farm Bureau build its current facility on Ben Maddox in 1956. Her grandmother, Sarah Kame, was also a local farmer, making our kids the sixth generation involved in agriculture.

There was a lot of history in the room that night as the farm bureau celebrated 42 families who had been farming in Tulare County since before 1917. Arriving in Tulare County in 1865, my family was not the oldest, but darn close.

For all the old-timers who enjoy a cup of coffee while reading local history, here are some of my family’s stories.

“Brewery Donald” or Donald Malloch was the first in our family to arrive and filled a need wherever he saw one, such as opening up saloons. Family lore is that he drank all his profits but that wasn’t true. He opened the Visalia Brewery in 1868, selling ginger beer as well as conventional lager, a business that went on successfully for the next 10 years and surviving the slow winter months when other breweries had failed.

His first brewery was located on Bridge and Main and many others followed. He was an adept salesman, giving away free samples and declaring his ale a “cure for all ailments in Tulare County” – a tall order for 19th century rural living.

Donald wrote back to his native Scotland and convinced his nephew, Peter Malloch, to join him at the Mineral King Silver mines. Peter endured an unpleasant trip via the Panama Canal and joined Donald in 1876. For the next four seasons they rode their pack mules up to Mineral King at the first signs of spring. Donald made nine claims and Peter, seventeen.

Peter and Donald managed to sell their claims before the general public realized there really wasn’t much silver in Mineral King and invested their money on the valley floor. Peter bought land in Goshen by the railroad tracks and Donald opened a livery stable and feed store in Visalia. Donald later headed to the new boom town of Traver to open another brewery.

The main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad was built right through Goshen and Visalia feared it would be the next railroad center and overtake Visalia in size and relevancy. In 1888 Goshen could boast of several stores, two hotels, a lumber yard, grain warehouse, a large depot, stock-yards, a blacksmith, restaurants and saloons.

Peter Malloch continued to buy farm land but Goshen did not grow, and some would say is less developed now than it was 140 ago.

But agriculture flourished.

Peter Malloch and his future in-laws, the Kames, had not yet met but were on the same trajectory.

Southern Pacific also finished their cross country rail line to San Francisco in 1872. Sarah Kame arrived in Visalia the following year with seven of her ten children. One of those children was Catherine Kame, Peter’s future wife.

The Kames left Columbus, Ohio, a bustling industrial center, for a dusty town with no paved streets and few modern conveniences. A middle-aged widower and accomplished midwife, Sarah decided to start her life over in Visalia. Some might have thought she was crazy, but Sarah was considered a Tulare County pioneer. A town short on doctors appreciated her medical skills and she became the first lady supervisor of the Tulare County Hospital in 1883.

In 1876, facing a malaria epidemic, Sarah packed the kids up and went to Sequoia National Park. They camped at Wygas Sawmill. The Centennial Exposition was being held in Philadelphia and Mr. Wygas cut a large Sequoia tree in sections and sent one of the sections to the fair as an exhibit. The slice of the Sequoia was called the Centennial Tree.

A house still standing in Mooney Grove was made from the wood of the Centennial Tree.

On the stump of the Sequoia the campers held a dance. Sarah’s youngest daughter, Juniata’s, favorite memory of this time was the ride from the Wygas Mill to the tree stump. They went by ox team “through many feet of snow and the beautiful red snow plants showed through.”

Sarah was also a farmer and bought 120 acres of Section 14 east of Goshen. Her son Jacob bought a parcel right next door to Peter Malloch’s land on Section six. That might have been how Catherine Kame and Peter Malloch met, because it wasn’t in church.

The Kames were active in the Methodist Episcopalian Church and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union that vigorously campaigned for prohibition. Conversely, Peter’s father had one of the best known whiskey distilleries along Loch Tay in the Scottish Highlands and Uncle Donald had one of the most successful breweries in town.

Though the Methodist Episcopalian Church lamented that Visalia was only a town of 3000 souls but 30 bars, Catherine Kame and Peter Malloch’s paths crossed and their union persevered.

Peter started farming in earnest in 1880 and built his family home on the corner of Riggin Avenue and Rd 76. All of their children were born in the three-room home on the Malloch homestead along with my grandmother, in 1899.

Directly behind their home they harvested deciduous fruit trees and grape vines. In those days the grape vines crawled along the ground instead of being propped up on stakes–making them unrecognizable in old farming pictures.

Chinese laborers would arrive by train and pick the grapes and fruit and send it back on the train to San Francisco. Catherine and her daughters were in charge of feeding the work crews during the harvest. Catherine would cook the meat and toast the sandwiches on a large outdoor stove and the girls would hand them out to the workers.

As a little girl, Grandma took the horse and buggy north of Goshen with her sisters at night to watch the gas lights come out of the swamp. Everything was marshy in parts of the Valley floor before Terminus Dam, and Visalia had floods about every 20 years. In those days, Tulare Lake wasn’t just a far-off memory but a major body of water, 30 miles wide, where the Kaweah and Tule Rivers flowed.

Livestock, turkeys and horses were kept in the family barn to the north of their home on another part of Peter and Catherine’s ranch. A professional muleskinner, Barton, was in charge of training and caring for the family’s work animals. Tractors did not show up on the ranches until the 1930’s, so Barton was in charge of breaking the mules to pull the plows. He was from Canada and his only condition of employment was that no one asked about his past.

Goshen Elementary School went up to the eighth grade and that was when most farming kids’ education came to an end, including Peter and Catherine’s oldest son. That left Christine, the oldest daughter, in charge of getting the horses ready in the mornings and driving the buggy to Visalia High School. On the way to school Ruth and Christine, the two oldest Malloch daughters, would pick up their “neighbors,” the Hayes girls. Back then Visalia high was located at the Oval and a block away from the school was a stable where Christine secured her horses for the day.

Ruth and Christine ended up attending the University of California at Berkeley and the Hayes girls went on to college also.

Peter never did cultivate all of his land, possibly because of a lack of reliable water. Pumps to lift the water from the underground aquifer did not come into use until the 1890’s, and running the pumps depended on the availability of electricity. To secure a more reliable water supply, Peter and his neighbors built the Modoc and Goshen ditches. They organized them into ditch companies and secured water rights to the St. Johns River.

Although the youngest of five, my grandmother would be the one to run the ranch after her father passed away in 1927.

Through hard work and some very wise investments, grandma added about 1500 acres to what her father bought in the 1800’s. But she didn’t develop all of the land either, preferring to rent out the remainder for grazing.

When my dad took over managing in 1956 he put in wells, leveled the land, and planted all of Peter Malloch’s and his mother’s acreage. He thought if he were going to be stuck here he would make the ranches profitable so at least he could get away from the Valley fog to someplace warm in January and February.

Peter Malloch Ranches grew under my grandmother’s management and profited under my dad for 140 years, but doesn’t look like it will survive my stepmom. Unfortunately, his second wife has been unusually aggressive about selling off my family’s property.

The first casualty being the Malloch homestead.

Their three-room home, hitching post, and outhouse, encircled by a gnarled ring of olive trees, was razed last year in preparation for sale. A testament to the life of a Tulare County 1800’s farming family, and all the various artifacts that were scattered over the property like hidden treasure is now gone forever.

What would my grandmother and Peter Malloch think about the fate of their home? I guess my stepmother will find out if she reaches the Pearly Gates.

In the mean time, Tulare County farming is more resilient than the occasional greedy second wife. The biggest challenges facing local farming today are the shortage of farm labor and water. The average age of a farm laborer is 45, which is pretty scary when you think of the health problems soon to come after a lifetime of hard labor.

Concerning water, if the Central Valley is going to be forced to maintain a sustainable aquifer then some agriculture land might have to be retired, because a sustainable aquifer is not possible under the current conditions.

But that is another article.

Farmers have been hit by droughts, floods, freezes and pests and the TCFB has always been there for them. Individual farming families don’t have to fight for themselves because the Farm Bureau advocates for them as a group in Sacramento or in Washington.

As a result, Tulare County has consistently been ranked number one or two in ag production in the United States–and probably the world.That’s also why it was worth celebrating our first 100 years of Tulare County Farm Bureau, and why we all look forward to another successful 100 year celebration to be attended by our grandchildren.

One thought on “Political Fix (7 December, 2017)

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  1. Good story. I came to this area 20 Year’s ago from SANTA Barbara. Everyone always asked WHY. Because when I discovered three rivers, i was hooked. Then i started working at Tulare District Hospital. And hopefully will again soon. But seeing the fruit Trees put on their blossoms,the cotton balls popping,the corn growing strong and all those cows, I knew this was the real California! And living on this beautiful kaweah river. That was the icing on this great cake!

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