Last Name: Lewis
First Name : Joseph
Subject's City: Porterville
Subject's State: CA
Subject's County: Tulare
Subject's Country: United States
Type** : PRT
Comments: Joseph Lewis (Nee: ) | Porterville CA United States | 1851-1900 | Comments: Joseph Lewis was born in Shelby Co., Kentucky Oct. 17, 1823, before his parents, Samuel and Elizabeth Flood Lewis left with many of their siblings and cousins for Missouri. They initially settled in Pike County, but within a decade moved to Lynn County, in northwest Missouri, in a section later to be split from Lynn County, to become Sullivan County. Their property was near St. Joseph, Missouri, a propitious locale for events to follow later. At about the same time, a family from Scioto County, Ohio, who had also moved to the east-central part of Missouri, moved into the newly developing Lynn County, and became Lewis neighbors. They were the William and Sarah [Worley} Allen family. Several Lewis children married their children, and Joseph Lewis married two of their daughters, Louisa, and later, Martha Ellen.
In 1843, Joseph Lewis married Louisa Allen. Over the next 6 years, they had two daughters. In 1849, gold was discovered in California, and St. Joseph, Missouri became a large but disorganized city, whose entire purpose in being was to serve as the staging site for 100's of wagon trains being formed to go to the gold fields. Joseph Lewis and some of his male relatives left for California near the beginning of this exciting event. It is not known exactly when he arrived in California, but by the time for the taking of the 1850 census for Sullivan County, Missouri, that census reveals that he had gotten there, started working, but had returned having received word that his wife, Louisa, had died. He was counted in his father's household, as were his two daughters, and gave his occupation as 'Cal. gold digger'. Not long thereafter, he married Louisa's younger sister, Martha Ellen, and soon after that, had a child with her. In the meantime, the Lewis', Allen's, Flood's, Pendergast's and other neighboring families caught Joseph's gold mining enthusiasm and decided to go the California Gold fields. Joseph Lewis' parents, Samuel and Elizabeth Flood Lewis emigrated with this group, while Martha Ellen Allen Lewis' parents remained in Sullivan County, Missouri. In 1852, tthe emigrees went west as a large family group. Joseph and Martha Ellen Lewis buried their first child, a three month old, somewhere on the trip west. They subsequently settled in Calaveras County and mined for several years, but were not succressful. Several children were born to them there, most surviving, but some dying in infancy in the gold camps.
The clan as a whole decided to leave gold prospecting and return to farming/ranching, an endeavor they knew they could succeed at, and looking for open, unclaimed land, found it in Tulare County, California on the banks of the Tule River, where plenty of water was to be had, delivered to their river bed adjacent farms by the reliable Sierra snowpacks. They arrived in Tulare County in 1857. In 1861, my great grandmother, Emma Jane Lewis, was born, and a few months later, the greatest flood so far recorded in this area, hit the great San Jaoquin Valley, when a heavy snowpack was deluged with warm tropical rains, and melted sending torrents of snowmelt into the Tule and all Sierra Nevada rivers. The Lewis', Allen's, Flood's and Pendergast's had settled on adjacent homesteads on either side of the Tule. The great flood washed all their properties away. Joseph and Martha Ellen, made rafts as the river was rising, and piled their goods on them. They put baby Emma Jane and one her infant siblings in a washtub and tied it to the side of the raft. Somehow, in the dark and rain, as the raft was being directed to higher ground, the washtub containing the Lewis infants came untied, and the baby's were lost on a great flood lake, Tulare Lake. They were missing through the night and for several hours the following day, but were found, and rescued, unharmed. However, the Tule River had deserted them.
The Tule River shifted 6 miles south, and flows today in its 1861 banks. The Lewis family clan farms were, as a consequence, left without the water they need to farm in the San Joaquin Valley. They attempted to survive by forming 'The Pioneer Ditch Company', a company which survives to this day. It's purpose was to form a ditch in the old Tule Rive bed large enough to supply water to the farms the river had abandoned. While the ditch was built, and still brings water to the area, the volume of water was insufficient, and the Lewis family clan disbanded. Elizabeth Flood Lewis died in 1867, still on the farm and Samuel, less than a year later. Joseph and Martha moved their family into the newly formed Porterville, Porter Putnam having come to the area about 4 years after the Lewis Clan had arrived. By 1888, Joseph and Martha Ellen moved 10 miles east of Porterville, in the Sierra foothills, into the Success Valley, their new farm again on the banks of the Tule River. Some of the Allen's went to Santa Cruz and Santa Clara. Two of Joseph's brothers went to Woody, in Kern County, and farmed there until they died. Some sisters went to Fresno County, and Madera County, and one to Siskiyou County. Details of this split-up were not recorded and I am interpreting some of this history based on my grandmother's and her sister's stories, and part from descendents of Joseph Lewis's siblings who make contact with me occasionally, sharing my interest in this family's fascinating history.
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