Almost nothing remains of ghost town Kingston, but it lives on in history largely because of an event that broke the a quiet of a Christmas season evening nearly 140 years ago.
The settlement, on the south bank of the Kings River near present-day Laton, was founded around 1855 by pioneer L.A. Whitmore, who set up the river's first toll ferry.
With the increasing settlement of the area, Whitmore's ferry grew in importance. When the Butterfield Overland Stage opened its line from St. Louis to San Francisco in 1858, a station was placed at the crossing, signaling a boom.
In early 1859, he was shot and killed while defending his Yokut Indian wife from abduction by white settlers. Later that year, his ferry operation was sold at auction. The settlement was given a new name: Kingston.
Oliver Bliss took over the ferry business and built a temporary bridge out of two ferry boats and planking. A permanent bridge was completed in 1873.
All was well until Dec. 26, 1873, when outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez and his gang paid a visit just after sundown. Vasquez had terrorized the central part of the state, including numerous robberies and stage holdups. He and his gang of about 10 men split in to three groups, posted guards at the stores and hotel, and proceeded to pillage the town at gunpoint. In about five minutes, around 35 townsfolk were tied and robbed of money, jewelry, with safes and money drawers emptied.
As the gang finished up with their take of about $2,500, a shot rang out. In Spanish, one of the bandits cried, "I am shot!" Rancher John Sutherland, who was alerted of the raid, shot him in the thigh. Sutherland and others gave chase. All but one of Vasquez's men escaped.
News of the raid sent the state into high alert. After a few more robberies, Vasquez's luck ran out. On May 14, 1874, he was severely wounded in a fierce gunbattle with Los Angeles County sheriff deputies. He was hanged for his crimes May 18, 1875.
Kingston lasted a few short years after the raid, until the arrival of the Central Pacific Railroad that bypassed Kingston. The site of Kingston, on Douglas Avenue, south of Laton, rests in a now-closed Kings County park, where a historical landmark sits, and nearby farmland.