Let’s Talk Clovis: A history of the Dallas McCabe Family from 1873 to 1982

Dallas McCabe (Photo courtesy of Clovis Museum)

Dallas McCabe was born April 30, 1873 in Milan, Ripley County, Ind. He was the seventh of 10 children who were raised on their parents’ farm. Dallas secured his teaching credential at the Versailles Indiana State Normal and taught one term. In 1893, he became a ranch hand on a farm near the Chicago, Illinois World’s Fair.

The opportunities of California received significant advertisement at the fair. Dallas decided to seek his fortune there. He became a ranch hand for William Helm in December of 1893.

William Helm (1837-1919) arrived in this area in 1865. He became the largest sheep/grain rancher by amassing 16,000 acres and 22,000 sheep. He would ship three wagons of wool drawn by 10 mules to Stockton. The round trip would require 12 days. CSU Fresno is located on land that he formerly owned.

Dallas worked eight years for Helm. He then joined an ice company in Fresno that retailed “natural ice.” The company would later manufacture “artificial ice.” Dallas became foreman of their delivery system and remained with Union Ice Company/Consumers’ Ice Company for nine years.

On May 2, 1904, Dallas married Miss Norma Wood. In 1859, her family settled in Fresno Flats, now known as Oakhurst. Norma’s family, traveling all the way to Sacramento, was instrumental in securing a bell for the town church. The bell remains in the little church at the Oakhurst cemetery.

Norma’s family had relocated to Clovis on the south side of Shaw Ave between Villa and Peach. We quote Robert Raymon: “Norma used to watch a dapper young man go by in his buggy, with a fine looking horse pulling it. His name was Dallas McCabe. She stated one of her happiest days is when he finally noticed her. One of their many outings was riding the stage coach up to Shaver Lake and riding the logging flume back down to Clovis.”

Dallas had purchased 20 acres of stubble field in the Colonial Helm Tract (Shaw, Bullard, Peach and Sierra) for $1 an acre. He settled there in 1909 and planted a vineyard.

The McCabes traveled to Anaheim and met Mr. Knotts, who was operating a successful berry farm. Dallas convinced Knotts to give him some boysenberry plants, which he planted on their Sierra farm. Dallas is credited with being the first to introduce the luscious berries to our valley.

The McCabes were noted for helping young immigrant women find work in this area and were active in the First Baptist Church. Norma volunteered her time doing missionary work at the Auberry Mission.

Their only child, William Wilson McCabe, graduated from Clovis High School in 1926 and served as president of his class.

Dallas joined the Earl Fruit Company and was foreman of their Clovis Glorietta & Melvin packing houses located north of the Herndon/DeWitt area. He was director and secretary of the Colonial Helm Ditch Company. He was a trustee of the Clovis Elementary School (1919-1934) and served as road overseer.

When Dallas suffered a stroke in 1940, they sold their farm and bought a house on the east side Clovis Avenue just north of Sierra Avenue. After his death, Norma, who was 79, married her childhood sweetheart, Ernest Hoskins.

Their son Wilson believed his mother lived “too far out of town” at the Clovis Avenue home, and purchased a house for her at 516 Fifth Street, which is now The Book Worm location. On Sept. 4, 1982 tragedy struck when a candle caught Norma’s bedroom curtains caught on fire and she lost her life.

The McCabes are a part of 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.