Let’s Talk Clovis: 1917 Fresno County and Clovis

This photo collage features a school, library, church and farm from 1917. (Clovis Museum)

We want to share information that was published by the Fresno County Chamber of Commerce in 1917. It was titled, “Fruitful Fresno, The Superlative County of California.”

The foreword: “The average home seeker demands certain conditions in the district in which he desires to establish his new home. A pleasant situation, good climate, excellent soil, educational facilities for his family, churches and fraternal orders, because in probably no other country in the world is the spirit of fraternal more rampant than it is in these United States.

45 years ago, Fresno County was an arid place. Wheat growing, or rather, wheat gambling, was the rule, so uncertain were the returns at low ebb. Land was held in great tracts, and the only form of agriculture was wheat raising. With the coming of irrigation, a new era sprang up. It ushered in the dawn of a new day.

Vineyards and orchards were planted. Alfalfa fields became a big factor in the development of stock raising and dairying, great ranches were subdivided, small holdings were introduced, intensive farming became the rule, and better profits were realized by the rancher on small holdings in proportion than were those of the big landowners.”

The article listed that in 1890 there were 1,936 farms and by 1900, the number had increased to 2,771. Fresno ranked as the leading peach district of the world (2,277,304 production). The assessed valuation of Fresno County was $92,263,872, the property within the cities totaled $26,318,938 and property outside of cities was listed at $56,784,913. Individual wealth was described as one of every third family had a bank account.

There were 1,237 grade schools in the county system, 12 high schools, over 600 teachers with a total enrollment of 18,000 in grade school and 2,000 in high school.

The 1916 assessed evaluation of the county was $108,000,000. The top assessed categories: mineral production of the county was $14,000,000 (Coalinga oil), lumber and timberland production ($5,000,000) dairy butter and cheese, milk and cream ($3,353,000) peaches, apricots, etc. ($3,000,000) and horses ($2,583,205).

We are providing a critique of the seven county towns and eight other towns that were in the report.

Coalinga: The second largest city in Fresno County that is surrounded by oil fields that produce one-thirtieth of the world’s oil supply. There were over 1,100 buildings and a modern fire department with a telephone alarm system. The city supplied distilled water piped into its homes.

Reedley: A population of 2,500, library with 1,100 volumes, two weekly papers, gravelled streets, rich in diversified farming and described as a prosperous community.

Selma: A population of 3,000, 14 churches, business streets are paved, 15 miles of cement sidewalks and due to its intensive fruit farming it had the largest cannery in the world.

Sanger: A population of 2,500, ships $1,200,000 of fruit a year, the only city which sends out green fruit, lumber flume (56 miles) from Hum (redwood and pine) with an enormous planing and finishing mill and nurseries that shipped 50,000-60,000 orange and lemon trees per year.

The report lists “other towns.” Cascada and Auberry, destined to be a apple growing district; Mendota, rich grain lands of the Fresno Slough also dairy and hog raising; Firebaugh, an important town in the irrigated district of Fresno Slough; Friant, terminus of the Clovis Southern Pacific RR; Huron, good grain fields with a new town of Henrietta near by; Parlier, a shipping point of fruit, number of packing houses and good stores; Del Rey, up-to-date and prosperous; Kerman, a city of pretty homes, packing houses, variety of fruits raised and a creamery that had a  capacity of 7,000 pounds of butter daily and Tranquility, a little town on the west side line of SPRR.

Early Fresno County pioneers recognized the need for a strong work ethic, good schools, libraries, churches and unified families to turn this arid land into the “Fruitful Superlative County of California.” The “Clovis Way of Life” evolved from our rich heritage.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.