History comes to life at Visalia cemetery

Visalia Public Cemetery and McKellar Family Farms host “Wild West Cemetery Tour Sept. 27

By Stephanie Barraza
Special to the Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – The Visalia Public Cemetery is not only a place to pay respect to past loved ones, but it’s also a place to learn about the Central Valley’s rich history first hand.

On Thursday, Sept. 27, Valley residents will have a chance to experience a one-of-a-kind “Wild West Cemetery Tour,” a project presented by McKellar Family Farms and the Visalia Public Cemetery.

“The tour will connect residents of Visalia to the rough and tumble founders that came before,” said Rosalinda Verde Alexander, the director of development at McKellar Family Farms.

According to the cemetery’s web site, the first burial at the cemetery was recorded on Sept. 7, 1860, just before the start of the American Civil War.

Since then, the cemetery has housed many early settlers and notables, including Wiley Hinds, a freed slave who worked his way from Arkansas to California and settled in Farmersville in 1858. Hinds went on to buy thousands of acres of land for farming and raising cattle throughout Tulare County, including land in Yokohl Valley.

“We have several people buried from the 1800s that played a pivotal role in Visalia,” said Cindy Summers, district manager of the cemetery. “This is a first attempt to have a tour to learn about the people that formed Visalia.”

The tour will include two wagon rides provided by McKellar Family Farms, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the pavilion inside the cemetery. The cemetery’s sexton, Ron Greenlee, will share stories of Tulare County during the ride. The tour will conclude at the cemetery’s marbled mausoleum, where members of Visalia Opera Company will sing two arias.

“I really hope people leave proud of the Central Valley—of the land and of its people,” said Alexander. “I think we often forget what a true jewel the Valley is. Visalia has an incredible history and I want people to leave with a sense of pride.”

The Wild West Cemetery Tour will be held on Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Visalia Public Cemetery from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Visit www.mckellarfamilyfarms.com or call 559-731-7925 for more information.

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