FARMERSVILLE, California - Last year we brought you the story of Edmond Wysinger, the man responsible for desegregating California schools. While here at the Visalia cemetery a towering tombstone in the distance caught our attention. It was the final resting place for a man named Wiley Hinds. Our search to learn about this man revealed an important chapter in our area’s hidden history. Hinds was a freed slave who came to California at the age of 22.
“He arrived with his cousin who was a white man in 1858,” said Curator Susan Anderson.
Anderson spends her days collecting stories of African-Americans for her museum in Oakland, California.
Recently we learned she had some information on hinds that could help in our search. Anderson tells us that Hinds bought his first property in Tulare county in 1858. He would become quite successful and wealthy. Eventually, he relocated his family to Oakland.
“Oakland was a growing city at the time it had an established African-American community in 1901,” Anderson stated.
To learn more about that land purchased by Hinds, we set up a meeting with the Tulare county assessor's office.
“The prospect of property, they knew the area was going to grow.” Assessor Clerk-Recorder Roland Hill explained.
Hill is surrounded in his office by history.
“The old Kiawah post office building is still there on the north fork,” Hill said.
He described the early days of Tulare county which was established in 1852.
“It was a rough and tumble place. The middle one is Farmersville.” He said while pointing to a framed photograph hanging over his shoulder.
Farmersville is where Hinds would initially settle. After beginning his business there, he expanded into a part of the Yohol Valley called Jordan Flat. Later he expanded into Goshen where Hinds operated the Grangeville Fruitland company.
“In 1912 everything was done by ledger by hand.” Hill described a stack of books on the table in his office.
It quickly became clear to us finding details on the property Wiley owned was no easy task. but after searching these handwritten notes page by page, and there it was.
“There is a Sarah E Hinds there is a Wiley Hinds and that is the guy you're looking for,” Hill explained while guiding us through the historic documents. An exciting experience as these hundred-year-old documents revealed what we came to find.
“Wiley Hinds and all the properties that we had assessed for that year would be listed. Goshen, Deep Creek, Farmersville, Three Rivers ” Hill said.
In total records revealed that hinds owned 10 properties totaling over 3200 acres. The land alone carried a value of over 30 thousand dollars at the time, roughly $750,000 in today's dollars.
You may ask what did he do with his wealth? During the course of our research, we learned that Hinds purchased this home in Oakland in 1901. Finding better educational and music opportunities for his daughter pearl played a big role. During those years, Hinds split time between Oakland and Farmersville. In between visits, his daughter would look forward to shipments of fruit and other products from the Central Valley.
“She remembers the Wells Fargo stagecoach showing up at their house with boxes sent by their father from the ranch.”
Photos show the couple on the steps of two-story nearly 4,000 square foot home in 1915. Hinds wealth also allowed him to send his daughter to Oberlin college. Something very few African-American did at the time.
“This family story is really an important window on a history that often is excluded from the stories that we hear about in California's past,” Anderson explained.
If you are interested in looking into your family's background Annie Mitchell History room at the Tulare County library. Records are also available in the Heritage Center located in the Fresno County library as well.