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Geology, Paleontology, Flora & Fauna, Archeology, History
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The history of an area as small as the approximate four square miles covered by Terminus Reservoir of necessity must be related in terms of the surrounding countryside. Undoubtedly the future reservoir area was traversed by early Spanish expeditions, but such was not detailed by the Spanish diarists.

Don Pedro Fages, Lieutenant of Catelonian Volunteers, was the first white man to penetrate the portion of the Central Valley that is now known as Tulare Lake Basin. He was looking for deserters when he entered the valley from the south by way of Tejón Pass in the fall of 1772. He did not advance into the Kaweah River country, but visited the Indian village called Tulamniu on Buena Vista Lake.

In 1773, Commander Tagus came into the Tulare Lake Basin looking for army deserters. He traveled far and wide in the region and found a large lake that he named Laguna de las Tules, but did not find any deserters.

Missionary explorer Father Garcés was the first to explore into what is now Tulare County. He entered the valley by way of Tejón Pass in 1776 and traveled northerly, possibly as far as the Visalia country. His purpose in exploring this area was to find native converts to Christianity. "Although Father Garcés failed to convert many of the natives, he made a lasting impression upon them because of his kindness and willingness to share their humble hospitality." [27]

In colonizing California, the Spanish intended that the missions exist as such for about 10 years. After that time, the Spanish believed

... the Indians would be able to take care of themselves. Then the mission would become the parish church and the settlement would become a pueblo. When the time came to make the change, the missions not only had fulfilled their religious purpose but they were also in control of the material wealth of the province. Then there were the Indians. The Padres had converted many of them and taught them to lead a better life, but many... who came to the missions resented any degree of discipline. [They] deserted by the hundreds and fled to the Tulares* where they promptly forgot the teaching of the... Padres and listened to the renegades who filtered into the vastness of the Tulares. There is little doubt that some of the Padres were cruel to the Indians [and some of them were used] as virtual slaves on the missions ... [28]

*Early Spanish name for the San Joaquin Valley.

Thus, in many areas there was friction between the Spanish and the Indians. Runaway Christian Indians influenced the more unsophisticated Indians of their home and other tribes when they returned to the interior valleys. Many Indians became accomplished horse thieves and occasionally raided for horses. In his report of 1818-1819, Father President Mariano Payeras said "the Tulare Indians are inconstant. Today they come, tomorrow they are gone, not on foot as they came, but on horseback [and] having crossed the Tulare Valley and the mountains that surround it, they kill the horses and eat them." Father Payeras referred to Telame (principal village of the Telamni tribe located immediately to the northeast of present-day Visalia) as "a republic of hell and a diabolical union of apostates." [29]

Others followed Father Garcés and there were numerous official and unofficial journeys, mostly unrecorded, into the Tulares during the period 1780-1800. In November 1805, Father Juan Martín journeyed into the Tulares because the natives of the region, through neophytes at Mission San Miguel, had expressed a desire that he visit them. Because of a disagreement with the Spanish Governor on establishment of missions in the Tulares, his expedition was without official sanction. Father Martín visited the rancherias of Bubal and Sumtache on Tulare Lake. He had gathered together "no fewer than 200 children" to take back to the mission, but:

It happened that the Chief was not at this place.... It was necessary for me to send for him, for I did not venture to take [the children] away without his sanction. There arrived a heathen whom I took to be the Chief. As the reason for my coming was made clear to him, which was to make them sons of God, my request affected him very badly. He began to rail against the soldiers and their weapons in such a crazy fashion that the poor people who had given me their children, probably scared, fled in a body and I was left with no one. The following day I condemned as vigorously as I could his wicked way of acting and was even tempted to order him punished. However, thank God, I satisfied myself with what I had done, in consideration of the fact that one of the soldiers was the commander of the garrison [at the mission] and that both priest and soldiers might expect a just reprimand if any injury resulted. I relaxed my determination not to return home without visiting [other villages] and without taking with me as many small children as they would give me. Finally I went home quite disappointed at having lost, because of one villain, such a harvest for heaven. [30]

A period of active exploration into the interior valleys began in 1806. These expeditions were primarily for discovering potential mission sites, capturing or punishing runaway neophytes, or bringing converts to the Padres of the coastal missions.

The first of these expeditions, which the governor called "civilizing missions," left Mission Santa Barbara on July 19, 1806 under the leadership of Lieutenant Francisco Ruiz and Father é María Zalvidea. This party visited Buena Vista Lake, Tulare Lake, the Kings River country in the vicinity of present-day Kingsburg, and on the 4th of August was in an oak forest in the vicinity of present-day Visalia. The party probably camped in or near what is now Mooney Grove. Father Zalvidea was impressed with the oak grove and believed it would be a suitable mission site.

Gabriel Moraga and Father Pedro Muñoz led an expedition that visited the Kaweah River country in a search for new mission sites. In October 1814, Master Sgt. Don Juan de Ortega and Father Juan Cabot "went to Bubal where... there were 700 souls ripe for missionary harvest.... The party visited Sumtache and then marched across the plains to Rio San Gabriel, which provided a suitable mission site." [31] Ortega visited the region again in 1815 and explored around present-day Visalia and up Kaweah River to about Lemon Cove. In 1816 Father Luís Antonio Martinez visited Buena Vista Lake, and in 1819 Lieutenant José María Estudillo led a military force into the oak grove near Visalia.

The Moraga-Muñoz expedition of 1806 was one of the most significant to the Kaweah River region because several days were spent in the oak forest near present-day Visalia. This party left Mission San Juan Bautista on the 21st of September 1806. It traveled in land to enter the San Joaquin Valley in the vicinity of San Luis Creek, thence generally north as far as the Calaveras River. From the Calaveras River, the party proceeded south easterly and on October 14-16 was exploring upstream and downstream on the Kings River from a camp in the vicinity of present-day Sanger or Centerville. On October 18th, the 28th day of the expedition, scouts reached the great oak forest in the Kaweah River delta at or near Visalia. Father Muñoz recorded that: [32]

On this day a small group of soldiers was sent in search of water and grass. Having traveled some 3 or 4 leagues they found only a few pools in a great oak forest and even they were inadequate. Here it was decided to spend the following day.

On the following day:

... the party moved toward the spot discovered yesterday. Having penetrated the oak forest a short distance, we halted at the pools previously discovered. The water was rather bad but since the day was nearly gone we were obliged to make camp until the following day. We went into a village which might contain 600 souls, where 22 persons were baptized. The Chief is called Gucate. Several other villages were encountered but all the people had disappeared at our arrival...

On the 20th of October:

... [on] seeing that the oak forest was full of arroyos without water, we went in search of their origin. After traveling a league we came upon a big village but all its people had hidden in the nearby willow thickets. From here we continued easterly and at about a league and a half we encountered another village, named Cohochs, its Chief called Chumueu. We were received with much satisfaction by these poor people. All of them, after being instructed concerning God and the welfare of their souls, want to be baptized and have a mission. Following in the direction of the mountains we came upon a fine river, already discovered by [an earlier expedition]. The great extent of sand which it has is damaging in its effect, for only at the time of the melting of the snow or in the rainy season does water fill copiously all the stream beds in the oak forest. Nevertheless it would be easy to get water if a mission were established. For this oak forest, which contains about 3,000 souls who want baptism and a mission, is the most suitable for a mission of all that we have explored. There are fine lands for cultivation and great meadows in many parts of the oak forest which are green all the time. There are also good stocks of saltpeter and alkali. The river is known as the San Gabriel. It divides into two branches, one of which we call the San Miguel, and the latter sends its water into several other branches. [A mission in this place], in case the King, our Lord, whom God protect, grants its establishment, could have available pine and redwood timber and fine lands for crops. After having explored all this area we returned to the camp.

For the 21st of October, Father Muñoz recorded that:

Today a scouting party went to the east and found a river already discovered by the [earlier expedition] already mentioned. It is called the San Pedro [Tule River]. Because that portion which was examined was found to be without water we were forced to move the camp to the village of 600 souls mentioned above, called Telame, where water was scarce but good pasturage was obtainable. Here we pitched camp.

The Moraga party remained in the vicinity of the oak forest until the 26th of October when it traveled southeasterly to the Tule River and out of the valley by way of Tejón Pass.

The last important expedition of the pioneering period was that of Estudillo. Subsequent expeditions were purely punitive military raids and campaigns against the Indians and it was generally concluded that presidios as well as missions were needed if the San Joaquin River Basin were ever to be colonized. With reference to the lower Kaweah River region, the degradation of the Indian population, which began essentially with the first Spanish contact, is characterized by Cook: [33]

[Telame] had originally been a very large village but the disturbances caused by the Spanish expeditions had substantially destroyed it. The heavy mortality and great famine mentioned by Ortega were undoubtedly due to the continuous state of [fugitivity], severe exposure to the weather, and inability to gather and store the customary stocks of food such as acorns and fish. No specific epidemic was recorded [but] no fulminating epidemic was necessary to produce the mortality. Starvation, exposure, and respiratory diseases would be quite adequate.

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Last Updated: 08-Sep-2008