Avenal, California

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Avenal is a city in Kings County, California, United States.[1] Avenal is located 35 miles (56 km) southwest of Hanford,[2] at an elevation of 807 feet (246 m).[1] It is part of the HanfordCorcoran Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA Code 25260), which encompasses all of Kings County. In area, it is the largest city in Kings County. The Zip Code for this community is 93204, and telephone numbers use the sequence (559) 386-XXXX. The population was 15,689 in the 2000 census. 7,062 of these residents were inmates at the Avenal State Prison, the first prison actively solicited by a community in the state of California. Many of the remaining residents largely either work at the prison or in the agriculture industry. The prison provides approximately 1,000 jobs to residents. The California Department of Finance estimates that the population of Avenal had grown to 16,236 as of January 1, 2010.[3]

The city's motto is "Oasis in the Sun".


Early history

The City of Avenal was named by Spanish soldiers and explorers. "Avena" means oats or oatfield in Spanish. This area was covered with wild oats, "waist high," that looked like golden silk and covered the Kettleman Plains.

Early American settlers arrived in the Kettleman Hills during the 1850s with dreams of raising cattle and farming. Oil, however, would bring fame, fortune and people to the area. Indians had always known oil was in the hills, with natural seepage around Coalinga and Tar Canyon. The first Kettleman Hills well was drilled in 1900, followed by countless unproductive efforts.

On March 27, 1927, the Milham Exploration Company began work on Elliot No. 1. The crew toiled for 19 months, drilling past the 7,000-foot (2,100 m) mark. On October 5, 1928, the well blew out with a roar which was heard 20 miles (32 km) away, spewing forth an oil so fine that its color was white, and could reportedly be used unrefined as gasoline in automobiles.

The discovery of oil transformed Avenal into a boomtown. In 1929, Standard Oil surveyed the current site of Avenal to build a town. Makeshift houses were hauled in from Taft to take the place of the tents. A water line was laid and later a sewer plant was installed, a post office replaced a cigar box in the general store, a fire department was organized and a community grew. Standard Oil Company built the residents a 600-seat theater and a hospital.

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