Mr. Oscar Overr
Mr. Oscar Overr is another person of whom too much cannot be said concerning his devotion and earnest work for the advancement of Allensworth. He came from Topeka Kansas, having lived in the state less than 15 years. He owned 24 acres of the colony and also 640 acres of owned government land located two and a half miles east of Allensworth.
Mr. Oscar Overr was one of the men with Colonel Allensworth that scouted the land that was to become the settlement of Allensworth. He was so impressed with it that he purchased twelve acres immediately, but soon sold his holdings for a handsome margin, which enabled him to make another purchase of twenty acres.
He owned a modern home. It was located on the 20 acre plot of land where he raised an abundance of chickens, turkeys and ducks and several cows. He loved Allensworth and, when asked for an opinion replied “It has passed the experimental and pioneering, and, while it is still in its infancy, for many reasons it is the best proposition ever offered to Negroes in the state.”
He also had a demonstration area where the agricultural potential of Allensworth was demonstrated to newcomers. The townspeople of Allensworth elected him Justice of the Peace in 1914 and became the first African American to be elected to that position in the State of California. Like most of the other town members he was a very strong believer in the notion of education and donated the lumber for the construction of the first school in Allensworth. Additionally, through his influence the Pacific Farming Company donated enough lumber to build the school house and the Alpaugh School District supplied the money for its teachers.
Mrs. Oscar Overr was a member of the first school board of the colony of Allensworth.
Image: Believed to be Oscar Overr in Allensworth. Courtesy of California State Parks.
The Singleton Family
Joshua W. Singleton and his wife, Henrietta Vera, moved to Allensworth from Winfield, Kansas with their three children, Van Virginia, and Henry, around 1910. Joshua had been a stone cutter in Kansas but had to give up that profession due to poor health. Henrietta was a practicing nurse and midwife. Her son, Henry, stated “She knew home remedies like asafetida. Asafetida is a bad smelling substance prepared from the juice of certain plants of the parsley family. It has been used in medicine as an antispasmodic. It had the worst smell. You’d make a plaster for carbuncles and bumps of all sorts. She cooked up her and stuff.” Following bankruptcy in 1915, the family moved to Sonoma. Henry graduated the next summer as the only black student who had gone to school in Sonoma. Mr. Singleton was the music teacher at Sonoma High School. In 1916 the family returned to Allensworth and reopened their store.
The Singleton store was in operation until Mr. Singleton died in 1928. Henry went to college between 1916 and 1919, only returning to visit. During the summer time, he worked for Louis Blodgett, The Colonel’s soon-in law. In 1919, he returned and was postmaster for a year. He left intermittently until 1923 or 1924 when he moved to Oakland where he worked as a lab technician at the University of California at Berkeley.
Besides running the store and serving as postmaster for four-and-and-a-half years, Joshua organized an orchestra, using his collection of stringed instruments. Practice took place in the back of the store or at Frank Milner’s barbershop. Sometimes in the Summer they would play outside in front of the store. Joshua also experimented with raising cotton. He planted twenty acres of Long Staple Pima near well number three, which did well.
Joshua died on May 4, 1928, in Tulare. He left everything to his wife, as stated in his handwritten will The property consisted of one building (the home and store) and the store’s stock. He also owned several pieces of property in Allensworth. His entire estate was worth $1500.
Professor William Payne
Professor William Payne is one of the founders of Allensworth. Payne was a highly respected member of the community. A well educated man; he was the first school teacher and principal of Allensworth. He also organized the Glee Club and arranged its tours. At school, Mr. Payne sat in his swivel chair to point things out. On Arbor Day the students planted trees. A Bible was kept in a drawer of Mr. Payne’s desk. Mr. Payne always gave his students lectures on Black history even though it was not contained in the California series of textbooks.
- Born in west Virginia in 1879
- Grew up in Ohio where his father worked as a coal miner
- Graduated from Denison University, Granville, Ohio in 1906
- Worked as a professor of English at west Virginia Colored Institute until 1904
- Moved to Pasadena, California in 1906
- Worked as a janitor between 1906 and 1908 because local districts refused to hire Negro teachers
Image: Professor William Payne
Mr. Frank and Mrs. Laura Smith
It was reported in the Negro Trailblazers in 1917, that Mrs. Frank A. Smith moved from Colorado to Allensworth in May 1910. The Smiths, according the Beasley, were among the first families to settle in Allensworth. Frank, an ex-slave and native of North Carolina, was the first Smith to make the westward trek. He later persuaded several of his brother’s, (Joe Smith) children to relocate to Colorado. But only one, Winmark, followed him west to Allensworth.
In Colorado Springs, Frank operated a successful trash and ash collection business. The first of his nephews moved to Colorado Springs because his growing bsuiness needed additional laborers. Winmark Smith Sr., a native of Clinton Mississippi and the son of an ex-slave, arrived in Allensworth and moved into Frank’s home, in 1912 with his two young sons, Paul and Winmark. Winmark made the move after his wife Sarah’s death. Before relocating, Winmark visited Allensworth, probably sometime in late 1911. When he returned with his family in the Fall of 1912, his Uncle Frank had died. Winmark Sr. found work in Tulare leaving his sons with their great-grand Aunt Laura.
During the seven years the boys lived in Allensworth, they spent the summer with their dad in Tulare. For about two school terms toward the end of the decade, Winmark Sr. made arrangements for the boys to board with Mrs. Gross. At the end of the 1919 school term, when the boys were 11 and 13, their dad moved them to Tulare and assumed responsibility for their full time care. Frank resided in Allensworth less than two years before his death on November 8, 1911. For at least six months of his residence, he was under a physician’s care for a cardiac disorder.
Nothing is known about the life of Mrs. Laura Smith, Frank’s wife, before her time in Allensworth. She was a resident and active community member until 1935/ For a period around 1914, she served as president of the Women’s Improvement League. She held a four-year appointment as school trustee. As a member of the Allensworth Cemetery Community, she helped create a protected cemetery district and went on record in 1918 as one of the District’s three trustees. The cemetery district established by Laura Smith and her colleagues has been a protected property for sixty-five years.
MR. WILLIAM SCOTT
Mr. William Scott
William Scott came to Allensworth from San Francisco and bought Lot 6 of Block 41 from the Pacific Farming Company in 1910. After the Gross Store was built, he assisted Mary Gross in running the store, taking over when she was out of town.
Scott lived in a little house between the Gross Store, Frank Milner’s house and barber shop. Scott also worked at times at the ranch owned by Mr. Hysick, a white man. Scott bought additional property at Allensworth. He bought the east one-third of Lot 20 and 21 of Tract 9 from the Pacific Farming Company, the deed being recorded on October 18, 1913. At some point, he also acuired lots 3 and 4 of Tract 7 and lots 4 and 5 of Block 48. After Mary Gross’ death, Scott ran the store, though it is not known for how long, Scott was apparently ill for some time prior to his death on February 8, 1930. Mrs. Josie Coachman made a claim against his estate for $52,000 for nursing and feeding him between November 1, 1929 and February 5, 1930, and for caring for his property from the time of his death until April 1, 1932. Scott left an estate worth $500.00 and no will. The only known heir was MRs. Ada Gross of Fulton, Missouri. Ada Gross was probably a relative of Mary Gross either by blood or marriage. When the Gross family was contacted regarding the disposition of Scotts’ estate, Helen Gross, age 24 of Fulton, Missouri, stated that Ada Gross, Scott’s heir and her mother, had died on December 2,1932. Ada had two daughters, Helen Margaret Gross and Mary Elizabeth Gross, both are now deceased.
Image: At the funeral of pioneer Jane Hall, 1939. From left: Ernestine Herring, Elizabeth Hall and Henry Hall. Front: Dorothy Ruth Herring. Courtesy of Josephine Triplett.