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SOUTH END OF “MURRY HILL” PORTERVILLE, CALIFORNIA, EARLY YOKUTS VILLAGE SITE

 

In the year 1800 a Spanish expedition led by Gabrial Moraga and recorded by Fry Munoz visited this area, they named the river the “Rio de San Pedro” and said the Indian village there was called “Koyeti” and had some 400 occupants. It was further said that the river above this point was found to carry sufficient water to support a mission but below here lost its water in the sand. Also there was found pine and redwood in the sierra.

 

We now know they were on the Tule River at the old north south main Indian trail crossing, of Tule River, at a village called “Choc-ko-way-sho” and the Yokuts (people) were called Koyeti. Stories hard from early area settlers told of many Indian burials being exposed, just south of the Porterville municipal golf course, after the flood of 1862. The reason the golf course is used to indicate the site is that J.P. Murry’s house was just north of where the course clubhouse is today. The Visalia paper said in 1862, just after the flood that” the floodwaters on the Tule River were in the yard of J.P. Murry’s house” and so these burials would have been just to the south of the golf course and to the east of Murry Hill. The Yokuts burials were usually very near their villages.

 

So now we have a river crossing of a very early main trail established and used by the natives prior to European intrusion. A high vantage point immediately adjacent to this crossing point and outcrops of rock to use as milling bases for grinding the various foods gathered, and providing a hard rock bottom for crossing the river, a great spot for the women to gather and chat while working and keeping an eye around. The mortar holes in the rocks here number something over 125 not surprising when you remember Spanish had said they counted 400 people (Yokuts) and this not counting those around the present day private homes, to the north, on the hill.

 

During the ensuing years more and more whites (American, Spanish, etc.) would move through by this main north-south route because water and feed could always be found along the base of the hills.  At first these seem to be guardedly friendly encounters then in the 1830’s and 40’s accounts of travel along this route through these villages speak of seeing signal fires on the hill tops preceding them and finding the villages empty save a few armed men,

 

Accounts of Spanish soldiers “looking for runaways”, Mountain men with “fur brigades” (actually gathering wild Spanish horses as well as fur), among these Kit Carson, Ewing Young, Joe Walker, John C. Fremont and many others. If you have read any early journals kept by these parties you will know they had little fear or regard for our native California peoples. They were used to a hundred or so, war painted, men mounted as well as they were challenging their arrival, not people who ran and hid from them. You will have to admit, when vividly described by someone at that time, the mental picture of these intruders does not look very friendly and they intended it that way, this was a wild unsettled land and they probably felt “easy took”.

 

There is more to be said but briefly told this is what you can see if you go to top of this little knoll at the south end of Murry hill and listen for a time at just about day light when it is very quiet. You may hear the coyote’s kiying their last at the nights end, you may hear the thudding of the pestles in the bed rock mortars and the ladies work songs and the village sounds just below you. Or you may hear the creaking of the lather and the hooves on the rocky bottom of the river crossing, the course shouts of 40 or 50 men as they keep their 300 or 400 head of wild horses and pack animals moving in controllable groups while the outsiders scout for “hostiles” or more horses. Yes you can still smell it and hear it, with a little “Imagineering", but like smoke it soon blows away with the breeze and the sound of car horns and sirens.

 

 

More to come, Bill Horst