Friday , May 24 2024

Allensworth: Town started by African Americans, built on Freedom

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<br /><p class="MsoNormal">Allensworth ca,– The year was 1906, African American soldiers were returning from wars, a well-deserved retirement after fighting side by side to protect the freedom and values of the American way of life. Freedoms that some hadn’t known prior to enlisting. <o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Among the soldiers that would retire here in California was a man by the name of colonel Allen Allensworth.&nbsp; His name would adorn a place where African Americans would be not only allowed but encouraged to own their own property, start businesses and educate their families and members of the community. In a matter of just two years a bustling farming town of Allensworth would emerge in the center of California.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;Well hello come on in welcome to the Heinsman general store.&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">on a recent visit state park ranger Steve Tomey gave a first-hand look at their way of life from fashion<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;Everything from men’s clothing to men collars came separate from the shirts.&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">To main staples of life<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;You might buy a lantern …this is a paddle churn you would put your cream in and turn the handle and make your own butter&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Tomey says many other goods offered in the store came right from farmers in the town.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;A commercial railway stop provided jobs that were a considerable fuel for the local economy.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;The average work there was making 5 dollars a day loading grain&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;That was really good money because the average worker in California made 12 dollars a week.&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The town also contained a black smith shop, barbershop and a church.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">At its best the town of Allensworth provided the opportunity for freedom<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;He had a vision of freedom, not only physically free but also economically and socially free.&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">A goal he believed could be attained in his town through education.&nbsp; A measure of importance they displayed by the fact that the school was the largest building in the entire town.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">To get a true sense of why education was so important you have to first understand the man whose vision brought the settlement to life. <o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Sitting in a living space once occupied Allensworth we learned that colonel Allensworth was born a slave. During his youth he would learn to read before escaping later joining the union army in 1886 during the civil war.&nbsp; <o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">After a stint in the navy Allensworth went on to the army where he would work his way up to chaplain and eventually earn the rank of colonel.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">He was the highest ranking African American serving in the military at the time.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The husband and father of two wanting to pass on his knowledge and beliefs joined with several other professionals and birthed the town.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">They chose the area to settle because of its proximity to both San Francisco and Los Angeles. They also believed the ground would be good for farming.&nbsp; Locally people were accepting and bought into his dream. The town of Allensworth successful settlement gained national attention and at one point had grown to be inhabited by as many as 250 people.&nbsp;&nbsp; Home owners and entrepreneurs that were living, buying goods and using services that were the life blood of the city.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">After years of initial prosper the town would have to deal with a lack of water due to drought. A series of legal battles were won by the town but in<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">in 1914 it was dealt a tragic blow when colonel Allensworth was killed in an accident in southern California.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">During the decades that followed the town struggled to move forward, but they would continue to provide opportunities for working professionals like teacher George Finley <o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;they informed me there was a job open at Allensworth in 1954 and told me to go down and apply for the job.&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Finley not afraid of a little hard work would make the trip south to Allensworth<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;After cross the railroad tracks my changed the whole demeanor in my life seeing that school building.&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">From day one it was all about shaping young minds<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;I had the 4th through -8th grade students and it was hectic.&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Finley a Tuskegee graduate says preparing the majority of his students for college was the most rewarding thing about his 10 year career at the school.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">&quot;My students that have went on to get their master’s degree. I had quite a few teachers there during my time.&quot;<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Fruit of their success, &nbsp;independence &nbsp;grown from the seeds planted by one man’s vision for a self-reliance and independent for his people.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">In 1974 the California state parks purchased the land and it became Colonel Allensworth state historic park.<o:p /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Although some of the buildings have been rebuilt on the site, there is no doubt that the original vision of its founders will carry on his spirit for years to come.<o:p /></p></div>

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