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Porterville History, California

Porterville, CA began as a village in the early-mid 1800’s.  At the time, it was swamp-land and completely over-looked by the Spanish.  There were a few Native American tribes in the area. 

After the California Gold Rush began in 1848 fortunes seemed to change for the area in which Porterville and other agricultural communities in the San Joaquin Valley lie.  Between 1849 and 1852, wagon trains that were heading for the gold mines in Northern California passed through the area.  Some of them found that the land surrounding the little village was quit rich and fertile and they settled in the area.  By 1856 there was one store.

Four years later, Royal Porter Putnam settled in the village and gave it his name.  He chose to name the village Porter instead of Putnam because there were already some Putnam’s in the area.  After his arrival, he purchased 40 acres in order to begin raising cattle, hogs, and horses.  He also had a two-story hotel and store built on a plot of land that is now near the center of town. 

In 1862, Porterville underwent some major changes which led to its development into an actual town.  A heavy rain caused the course of the Tule River, which now runs near the center of town, to change.  Many of the swampy areas drained and Porter Putnam had his lands surveyed.  He had lot lines laid out and even planned some streets.  Settlers in the area were given a “buy one get one free” deal on the lots.

At the same time, residents of California were growing short on food due to the fact that the population was rising so quickly.  This caused a need for permanent developments on rich farm land, including the San Joaquin Valley where Porterville is situated.  That summer was long and hot and so irrigation was required for the crops.  The land in and around Porterville and other parts of the valley are still irrigated today.

The Southern Pacific Railway was extended to Porterville from Fresno in 1888.  Less than twenty years later, Porterville became an official town in 1902.  At the same time, the area began to be mined for magnetite ore.  The Porterville Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1907. 

Today, the town is a city and has many community aspects.  It has also grown into an agricultural center for a large area that farms citrus, livestock, soybeans, and many other types of crops.

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