Tipton Lindsey - An Important Tulare County Pioneer


Last updated 3/2/2024 at 5:21pm | View PDF

This line drawing of Tipton Lindsey is one of the few images that exist of the man. This appeared on March 3, 1894, in the Daily Morning Delta and was part of his obituary.

There is a man in Tulare County history that contributed so much to make the county what it is today. His name is Tipton Lindsey. His name oftentimes creates confusion as he is not connected in any way to the Tulare County towns of Tipton or Lindsay as his name might imply, but instead the man with the unusual name can lay claim to being one of Tulare County's most important pioneers.

Tipton Lindsey was born in Delphi, Carroll County, Indiana on May 21, 1829. He was the product of an early public school education, and by age 20 he was already "reading law" under a prominent local Indiana attorney.

In 1849, he caught the gold bug and drove an ox team all the way to "Hangtown," now called Placerville. After he arrived on September 5, 1849, he mined for a year with moderate success then left for Santa Clara to pursue agricultural interests.

In about 1860, he purchased some cattle and drove them to Tulare County which was known at the time as great cattle country. Shortly after his arrival, he married Eliza Fine. They did well on homestead land near Goshen until 1864 when a devastating drought killed their entire herd.

The couple then moved to a house in Visalia on Cottonwood Street (now named Encina). While in Visalia, he completed his legal studies, was admitted to the bar and established his law practice.

The new lawyer was busy. He served in many public positions over the years including Receiver of the U.S. Land Office in Visalia, Visalia City Council and mayor, member of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors and member of the Visalia School Board of Trustees. For four years in the 1870s, he served as a California state senator.

While Lindsey was serving in the state senate, he faced one of the most important issues of the day...should cattle be allowed to roam free or should they be confined? Cattle ranchers in California enjoyed free range grazing for their herds. Farmers that grew crops complained that frequently wandering cattle destroyed or consumed their crops and ruined their business.

Senator Lindsey, once a cattleman, argued the cattle should be confined behind fences. Former Senator Thomas Fowler a cattleman who Lindsey had defeated in a recent election had argued for a no-fence requirement for herds.

After the Senate vote in 1874, the farmers had won the argument and cattle had to be kept behind fences. Senator Lindsey became a hero to the farmers but was regularly criticized by the cattlemen.

While Lindsey was on the Visalia School Board, his leadership in local education was well recognized. In 1890, a grammar school was built on the northwest corner of Oak and Locust streets. The upper floor served as Visalia's first designated high school.

In 1890 the Visalia Public Grammar School was built on the northwest corner of Oak and Locusts streets. After Lindsey's death, the school was renamed the Tipton Lindsey Grammar School in his honor. The building was demolished in 1919. (Post card circa 1895)

But his active lifestyle took its toll as reported by the Daily Morning Delta, "His close attention to business and advanced age, commenced to tell on his constitution."

In February 1894, Lindsey was diagnosed with having an aneurysm on a large blood vessel. The aneurysm was pressing against his liver causing organ damage. The doctor said his condition was incurable. After hearing the diagnoses, Lindsey began putting his business affairs in order and waited calmly for the end.

The end came on March 2, 1894, at 9:20 a.m. Lindsey peacefully died at the age of 64 at his ranch home just southwest of Visalia. The San Francisco Call newspaper reported on his death, "There was perhaps no man in the upper San Joaquin Valley better known or more highly respected than this pioneer who has joined his early comrades beyond the 'great divide.'"

Tipton Lindsey is buried in the Visalia Cemetery. After his death, the grammar school was renamed the Tipton Lindsey Grammar School in his honor.


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