Annie R. Mitchell (July 10, 1906 - August 15, 2000)

By Maureen Anderson

 

Annie MitchellAnnie R Mitchell was a true pioneer -- both as member of a pioneer family and as a pioneer historian, she has preserved the history of the area in which her family settled. Her grandfather, Levi Mitchell was an early settler of California and Tulare County. A merchant in the Gold Rush, he was a storekeeper in Millerton, and in 1854 in Visalia, before moving to a mining camp in the White River-Kern River gold rush. In 1855 he opened a general store in Tailholt. In 1860 he built the White River House, a hotel later managed by Miss Mitchell's parents. It was there that Annie was born.

After graduating from Fresno State College and the University of California at Berkeley, Annie began teaching in Ducor in 1927 and in the Visalia area in 1931. She taught at all levels in Visalia before beginning her long career at the Visalia Union High School (later Redwood High) including, teaching English, counseling students, and serving as the Dean of Girls until her retirement in 1964.

Dedicated to education as well as local history, Miss Mitchell published her first book, King of the Tulares in 1941. The well-received work pictured life in the Tulare Valley from 1772 to 1852 (when Tulare County was formed and Visalia was settled) and was told through the life of James Savage. She published a more complete study of Major Savage in 1957 in Jim Savage and the Tulareno Indians. Her other four books: Land of the Tules; Visalia: Her First Fifty Years; The Way It Was: The Colorful History of Tulare County; and Sites to See: Historical Landmarks in Tulare County have dealt more specifically with the history of Tulare County and Visalia. In addition, since the 1940's, many of her articles have appeared in statewide publications, as well as area newspapers and newsletters. "Golden Memories," a series about local history in the Visalia Times Delta, was so popular it was rerun in the newspaper and later reprinted as a collection.

A highly respected member of the community, Miss Mitchell received numerous awards including being named Visalia's first "Woman of the Year" in 1974 and Tulare County's "First Woman in History" in 1983. As one of the founders of the Tulare County Historical Society, Annie served in various offices and as editor of Los Tulares, the Society's newsletter. She also was instrumental in the development of the Tulare County Historical Museum. In 1989 the new library building at Redwood High School was named after her.

Although her contributions were widely varied, the main focus of Annie's career was preserving local history. Author/historian Joseph Doctor described Annie Mitchell "as Tulare County's top historian, whose contributions are priceless." Miss Mitchell has brought Tulare County's heritage to a wide audience and, in doing so, has interviewed countless early settlers, preserving their experiences and recollections. Without her efforts, so much local history would have been lost completely. Fortunately, she shared her knowledge generously, both through her writings and her support and encouragement of other historians, from neophytes to established authors. Many believe that without Annie's contributions, there would be little, if any, local history recorded in Tulare County.

 




 

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