No doubt the people of Visalia, California, will remember for years to come the late George Birkenhauer, who for
thirty four years was an active participant in the industrial, civic and fraternal life of the city. He was born
in the state of New York, January 21, 1861, but while still a young man went to Lockhaven, Pennsylvania. Having
graduated in a school of pharmacy, he began his business career as a clerk in a drug store. His uncle in Lockhaven
was engaged in the manufacture of cigars and after a time George gave up the drug business to learn the trade of
cigar maker with his uncle. He became an expert in this occupation and when he was about twenty seven years old
he decided to try his fortune on the Pacific coast.
On August 1, 1888, Mr. Birkenhauer arrived in Visalia and, liking the appearance of the town, settled down to become
a permanent resident. With a rather limited capital he opened a cigar factory in the Palace Hotel annex on Court
street. As this was the first cigar factory in Visalia, and one of the first in the San Joaquin valley, it attracted
no little amount of attention. Being a good workman and a thorough judge of tobacco, Mr. Birkenhauer's cigars quickly
found a market and the demand for them grew as their quality became known to smokers. The result was that he prospered
and invested some of his earnings in a ranch on the Tulare road. After some years he disposed of his cigar factory
and devoted all his time to fruit growing on his ranch, where he had one of the most productive orchards in the
Mr. Birkenhauer, from the time he came to Visalia in the summer of 1888 until his death on June 17, 1922, manifested
a consistent interest in the affairs of Tulare county and his adopted city. As a democrat he was influential in
the councils of his party, rejoiced with other democrats over a victory at the polls, but was never seriously cast
down when his party ticket was defeated. While not an office seeker, he was three times elected to the Visalia
city council, and was at one time a member of the board of supervisors of Tulare county. It is worthy of note that
in his candidacy for supervisor he ran on an independent ticket and was triumphantly elected over two opponents.
No better evidence of his personal popularity and the esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens is necessary.
As supervisor he always tried to apply the same principles to county affairs that he had applied and proved in
his private business. Progressive and public spirited, he believed in public improvements that would be of general
benefit to the community, but he also believed that the county should receive value to the amount of 100 cents
for each dollar of the public fund expended in making such improvements.
In the fraternal organizations of Visalia few men were better known than George Birkenhauer. He was a thirty second
degree Mason in the Scottish Rite and about a year before his death, when sixty years of age, he was made a member
of Islam Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, of San Francisco. As one of the charter members of the Visalia Lodge,
Fraternal Order of Eagles, he was one of the organizers of the Lodge and its first presiding officer. He also belonged
to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Visalia Lodge No. 1298, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
On December 14, 1879, in Flemington, Pennsylvania, Mr. Birkenhauer and Miss Jessie Slenker, a native of Pennsylvania,
were married. Mrs. Birkenhauer accompanied her husband to California and is still living in Visalia, where she
is active in the work of women's clubs and civic orders. She recently headed a subscription list with one thousand
dollars for the erection of a new Masonic temple as a memorial to her late husband. She owns seventy two and one
half acres of prunes, peaches and plums, and the ranch is being handled by William Brown.
History of Tulare County, California
By: Kathleen Edwards Small
Kings County, California
By: J. Larry Smith
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
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