Skip to main content

The Woodville ghost town and the Stockton-Los Angeles

Woodville was the original Tulare County seat and was located along the Stockton-Los Angeles Road in the Four Creeks region of the Kaweah River Delta.  Woodville was settled during 1850 and had been selected as the original Tulare County during July 1852.  Despite losing the Tulare County seat to Visalia during 1854 the community of Woodville would remain on the mainline Stockton-Los Angeles Road for several decades.  During the 1880s the community was renamed as "Venice" and persisted into the twentieth century largely due to the presence of the 1898 Venice School House.  This blog will examine the history of the community of Woodville and the role it played along the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.  Woodville can be seen on the blog cover photo along the Stockton-Los Angeles Road on the 1857 Britton & Rey's Map of California. 

The history of Woodville and the Stockton-Los Angeles Road

When California became an American State on September 9, 1850, the lands now comprising Tulare County were part of Mariposa County.  Tulare County would split from southern Mariposa County during July 1852.  The original Tulare County Seat was located in the community of Woodville (not to be confused with the community of the same name in modern Tulare County) which was located near the Venice Hills between the Saint John's River and Kaweah River.  Woodville was named after John Wood.  John Wood was a settler from the Mariposa County mines who constructed a cabin what was to become Tulare County in 1850.  

Woodville had been selected as the Tulare County seat on July 10, 1852, at the so-called "Charter Oak" or "Election Tree."  The Charter Oak historic plaque can be found at the foot of the Venice Hills near the Saint John's River along Charter Oak Drive.  The Tulare County seat election at the Charter Oak was commanded by Major James D. Savage.

The remains of California Historical Landmark #410 can be found next to the Tulare County Historical Society sourced plaque.  The text of California Historical Landmark #410 was identical to the Tulare County Historical Society plaque.  The original California Historical Landmark plaque had been erected on July 10, 1949, whereas the replacement was erected on February 5, 2011.  

The Stockton-Los Angeles Road came into use after the 1853 Kern River Gold Rush began.  The Stockton-Los Angeles Road was a replacement of the earlier El Camino Viejo.  Unlike the El Camino Viejo the Stockton-Los Angeles Road avoided the dense Tule Marches in San Joaquin Valley.  The Stockton-Los Angles Road stayed close to the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills near the new claims on the Kern River watershed.  The corridor of Stockton-Los Angeles Road was also part of the 1858-61 alignment of the southern Butterfield Overland Mail Route.  

Woodville can be seen along the Stockton-Los Angeles Road east of Visalia on the 1857 Britton & Rey's Map of California.  Woodville is shown to be located in the Four Creeks region of the Kaweah River Delta.  Woodville served as the crossing point for the Stockton-Los Angeles Road over the Four Creeks region.  Woodville was located between Campbell's Crossing at the Kings River and Peter Goodhue's Tule River Station.  

Woodville when selected as the Tulare County seat wasn't much more than a collection of buildings surrounding John Wood's cabin.  During 1852 Nathaniel Vise from Kentucky had settled west of Woodville and constructed a fort.  The community which began to congregate around Vise's fort was named after his hometown of Visalia, Kentucky.  Visalia was noted in a letter written by Nathaniel Vise during November 1852 to have an approximate population of 60-80 settlers.  Woodville would ultimately lose the Tulare County seat to Visalia in 1854.  

Woodville would remain a relevant location during the heyday of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road due it to being a favorable crossing point of the Four Creeks region of the Kaweah River watershed.    During the late 1860s through the 1870s the prominence of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road would be usurped by the construction of Southern Pacific Railroad through San Joaquin Valley.  Woodville can be seen along the mainline Stockton-Los Angeles Road on the 1873 Bancroft's Map of California

The construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad brought frontages which brought the main corridor of travel west from Woodville into the middle of San Joaquin Valley.  Despite Woodville not being on a well-traveled highway by the 1880s the community did not fully disappear.  Woodville can be seen along a highway east of Visalia on the 1882 Bancroft's Map of California.  The 1882 Bancroft's Map displays the waning Stockton-Los Angeles Road mainline being relocated to Visalia towards Farmersville. 

The community of Woodville came to be known as "Venice" during the 1880s due to the abundant number of streams in the area.  The Venice School House on Road 180 was constructed during 1898 and remained a public school until 1957.  The Venice School reopened as a private institution during 1996.  The 1898 Venice Schoolhouse is the last remaining structure from the original Tulare County seat.

Venice can be seen east of Visalia on the 1892 T.H. Thompson Survey Map of Tulare County.  Venice can be seen along the corridor of the Stockton & Tulare Railroad of the Southern Pacific Railroad.  The Stockton & Tulare Railroad had been constructed from Dinuba south towards Exeter by 1888.  

Township 18S, Range 26E of the 1892 T.H. Thompson Survey Map reveals a detailed look at the Venice School location and proposed irrigation reservoir in the Venice Hills.  

Below is a view facing south from the Venice School on down Road 180 towards the Stockton & Tulare Railroad and Kaweah River.  

Below is a northward view from the Venice School along Road 180 facing towards the Saint John's River and Venice Hills. 

The bridge over the St. John's River along Road 180 was constructed in 1956.  The street blade for Road 168B still displays it as Charter Oak Drive.  


Popular posts from this blog

Horace Wilkinson Bridge (Baton Rouge, LA)

Standing tall across from downtown Baton Rouge, the Horace Wilkinson Bridge carries Interstate 10 across the lower Mississippi River between West Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parishes. Unusually, the bridge is actually named for three separate people; three generations of Horace Wilkinsons who served in the Louisiana State Legislature over a combined period of 54 years. Constructed in the 1960s and opened to traffic in 1968, this is one of the largest steel bridges on the lower Mississippi. It’s also the tallest bridge across the Mississippi, with its roadway reaching 175 ft at the center span. Baton Rouge is the northernmost city on the river where deep-water, ocean-going vessels can operate. As a result, this bridge is the northernmost bridge on the river of truly gigantic proportions. Altogether, the bridge is nearly 2 ½ miles long and its massive truss superstructure is 4,550 ft long with a center main truss span of 1,235 ft. The Horace Wilkinson Bridge is one of the largest

Sunshine Bridge (Donaldsonville, LA)

Located about halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in southern Louisiana, the Sunshine Bridge spans the lower Mississippi River near the city of Donaldsonville as part of the longer Louisiana Highway 70 corridor, which connects Interstate 10 and Airline Highway (US 61) with US 90 in Morgan City. In the years following World War II, the only bridges across the lower Mississippi River in Louisiana were located in the area of the state’s two largest cities – Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Postwar agricultural and industrial development along the river in this region led to the planning of a series of infrastructure projects in southern Louisiana that were aimed at spurring this development and modernization of the Delta region. One of these projects was known as the Acadian Thruway and was developed in the 1950s as a toll road intended to connect greater New Orleans with Lafayette and points west while providing a high-speed bypass of the Baton Rouge metro area. The Thruway, which

Veterans Memorial Bridge (Gramercy, LA)

When we think of the greatest engineering achievements and the greatest bridges of North America, we tend to focus on those located in places familiar to us or those structures that serve the greatest roles in connecting the many peoples and cultures of our continent. Greatness can also be found in the places we least expect to find it and that 'greatness' can unfortunately be overlooked, due in large part to projects that are mostly inconsequential, if not wasteful, to the development and fortunes of the surrounding area. In the aftermath of the George Prince ferry disaster that claimed the lives of 78 people in October 1976 in nearby Luling, LA, the state of Louisiana began the process of gradually phasing out most of its prominent cross-river ferry services, a process that remains a work in progress today. While the Luling-Destrehan Ferry service was eliminated in 1983 upon completion of the nearby Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge, the ferry service at Gramercy, LA in rural St.