Hale Dixon Tharp Discover of the Giant Forest
  Hale Tharp's Log House built from a hollowed out log in Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park, Tulare County California.

The Kaweah River region was a slow starter in the settlement patterns of California. Before 1862, there was little to entice settlers to the area. The entire Southern Sierra was a wilderness to the first Euroamericans who explored its foothills. The Spanish government was interested only in finding whatever escaped mission Indians and army deserters might be hiding in the secluded landscape. The first Americans in the area were interested in beaver pelts and routes across the mountains. The earliest miners stayed almost entirely to the north where gold deposits were a recorded fact and civilization lay closer at hand.

The first permanent American settler in the area was Hale Dixon Tharp, a young emigrant from Michigan and Illinois. He arrived in California in 1851 with an adopted family and tried mining in the northern gold country for several years. After mining began to affect his health without the benefits of reaping any riches, Tharp decided to try ranching instead. In the summer of 1856, during one of Californiašs greatest drought years, he headed south through the nearly uninhabited lands of Tulare County which had been formed just four years earlier. On reaching the fledgling community of Visalia, he turned east to investigate the Kaweah River's foothill lands.

Tharp found a small valley he liked below Three Rivers, at the confluence of the Kaweah River and Horse Creek, an area now damned and flooded to form Lake Kaweah. After befriending the local Wukchumni Indians, he erected a shake and brush shelter to establish a preemption homestead. Then he returned to the northern mines for two more years.

In 1858 Hale Tharp came again to his Kaweah homestead bringing with him his brother-in-law, John Swanson. Together they built a cabin and a barn and explored the surrounding area for summer pasturage for their cattle. The Wukchumni Indians led Tharp to the Sequoia groves of Giant Forest and Log, or Crescent Meadow, where he claimed summer grazing rights for years. In later years, he also claimed to have explored the Kaweah's East Fork in 1860, using an old Indian trail which led to the Mineral King Valley.

Hale Dixon Tharp came to Ca. before 1853. He married wife #2, Chloe Ann Smith Swanson (a widow) and they lived in Placerville. They moved to Wild Horse Creek in Tulare Co., before 1857. He is supposedly the first white man to see the giant Sequoia trees in what is today Sequoia National Park. He later grazed his animals in the sequoia's and lived in a hollow sequoia log ... still existing, known as Tharp's Cabin.

[William B. Tharp.ged]
ref: 329, p. 7
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