History Moment By William “Doc” Halliday

The Mussel Slough Tragedy

history moment 1When I was young I thought I was taught the difference between a pond and a lake; a lake has water flowing into and out of it whereas a pond is a confined body of water. I was taught incorrectly. Over the decades I have stepped in puddles, and crossed oceans by both ship and plane. I have learned about many bodies of water. For this article you will recall that a slough is a wetland that is often a backwater to a larger body of water.

Most readers will recall the gunfight at the OK Corral. In 1881 three men were killed and another three men were wounded in that incident. About eighteen months earlier seven men were killed in the Mussel Slough Tragedy. Why one gunfight is well remembered and the other is a footnote in history remains an unanswered question in my mind.

History momemt 2The Mussel Slough area derived its name from the slough that ran from the Kings River to Tulare Lake in what is now Kings County in California. The land in the area wasn’t good for very much, just cattle ranching. That was changed in 1866 when Congress authorized building a railroad through the area. When the rail line was laid out, lots of one square mile each were plotted along the track. The incentive for the railroad to build was the gift of the odd numbered lots along the line. The even numbered lots were given by the government to homesteaders. Once the rail line was complete the value of the railroads lots would increase in value.

Southern Pacific Railroad printed and…

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