On August 16, 2002, el Río Reyes Trust helped to increase public awareness of Kings River history by monumenting an important site on the river. For many of today’s citizens the river is of so little importance that a bridge across it is a mere bump in their road to some other place. When the State of California was barely a year old and the European settlers and miners needed a land route for their trade goods between Stockton and the pueblo of Los Angeles, the Kings River was an obstacle. There were several ferry crossings across the river but John Poole’s ferry, located about two miles north of Reedley, was an important stop along the Stockton-Los Angeles Road. Livestock pulling heavily loaded wagons endured soft gravel and sand north of Poole’s location and steep bluffs or swamps to the south. There is also evidence to suggest that this location was used as an encampment and primitive trail and trade route by Native Americans for hundreds of years.
James Savage, who rode with John C. Fremont during the Bear Flag Revolt, and later discovered Yosemite Valley, was also a trader with the local natives. As a trader and agent he was drawn to Poole’s Ferry and the oak tree used by Poole as a ferry cable anchor. The giant old oak was known as a landmark and used as a polling place for the election to form Tulare County from a portion of Mariposa County. Several weeks following the election, Savage confronted the newly elected Tulare County Judge Walter Harvey about his lack of sympathy for the natives who were being murdered by the settlers. An argument ensued near the old oak tree and on August 16, 1852, Savage died from Harvey’s gunshot.
The oak tree survived until approximately seven years ago, when its root system was undermined and it fell into the river. El Rio Reyes recognized the importance of the tree and ferry crossing as a vanishing landmark to the river and California’s history. The dedication occurred on the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the murder of James Savage